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This page was last updated on 19 September, 2006

Map of European Union

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    European Union Top of Page
Preliminary statement:

The evolution of the European Union (EU) from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today's supranational organization of 25 countries across the European continent stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history. Dynastic unions for territorial consolidation were long the norm in Europe. On a few occasions even country-level unions were arranged - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were examples - but for such a large number of nation-states to cede some of their sovereignty to an overarching entity is truly unique. Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is far more than a free-trade association such as ASEAN, NAFTA, or Mercosur, and it has many of the attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, anthem, founding date, and currency, as well as an incipient common foreign and security policy in its dealings with other nations. In the future, many of these nation-like characteristics are like ly to be expanded. Thus, inclusion of basic intelligence on the EU has been deemed appropriate as a new, separate entity in The World Factbook. However, because of the EU's special status, this description is placed after the regular country entries.
Definition Field Listing
Following the two devastating World Wars of the first half of the 20th century, a number of European leaders in the late 1940s became convinced that the only way to establish a lasting peace was to unite the two chief belligerent nations - France and Germany - both economically and politically. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed an eventual union of all Europe, the first step of which would be the integration of the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. The following year the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, signed the Treaty of Paris. The ECSC was so successful that within a few years the decision was made to integrate other parts of the countries' economies. In 1957, the Treaties of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the six member states undertook to eliminate trade barriers among themselves by forming a common market. In 1967, the institutions of all three communities were formally merged into the European Community (EC), creating a single Commission, a single Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament were initially selected by national parliaments, but in 1979 the first direct elections were undertaken and they have been held every five years since. In 1973, the first enlargement of the EC took place with the addition of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The 1980s saw further membership expansion with Greece joining in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht laid the basis for further forms of cooperation in foreign and defense policy, in judicial and internal affairs, and in the creation of an economic and monetary union - including a common currency. This further integration created the European Union (EU). In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU, raising the membership total to 15. A new currency, the euro, was launched in world money markets on 1 January 1999; it became the unit of exchange for all of the EU states except the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark. In 2002, citizens of the 12 euro-area countries began using the euro banknotes and coins. Ten new countries joined the EU in 2004 - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia - bringing the current membership to 25. In order to ensure that the EU can continue to function efficiently with an expanded membership, the 2003 Treaty of Nice set forth rules streamlining the size and procedures of EU institutions. An EU Constitutional Treaty, signed in Rome on 29 October 2004, gave member states two years to ratify the document before it was scheduled to take effect on 1 November 2006. Referenda held in France and the Netherlands in May-June 2005 rejected the proposed constitution. This development suspended the ratification effort and left the longer-term political integratio n of the EU in limbo.
   Geography    European Union Top of Page
Definition Field Listing
Europe between Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, southeastern Europe, and the North Atlantic Ocean
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 3,976,372 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
less than one-half the size of the US
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
total: 11,214.8 km
border countries: Albania 282 km, Andorra 120.3 km, Belarus 1,050 km, Bulgaria 494 km, Croatia 999 km, Holy See 3.2 km, Liechtenstein 34.9 km, Macedonia 246 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Norway 2,348 km, Romania 443 km, Russia 2,257 km, San Marino 39 km, Serbia 151 km, Switzerland 1,811 km, Turkey 206 km, Ukraine 726 km
note: data for European Continent only
Definition Field Listing
65,413.9 km
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
Definition Field Listing
cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south
Definition Field Listing
fairly flat along the Baltic and Atlantic coast; mountainous in the central and southern areas
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: Lammefjord, Denmark -7 m; Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands -7 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m; note - situated on the border between France and Italy
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
iron ore, arable land, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, hydropower, uranium, potash, fish
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
other: NA
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
131,250 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
flooding along coasts; avalanches in mountainous area; earthquakes in the south; volcanic eruptions in Italy; periodic droughts in Spain; ice floes in the Baltic
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
Environment - international agreements:
Definition Field Listing
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 82, Tropical Timber 94
signed but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds
   People    European Union Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
456,953,258 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 16.03% (male 37,608,010/female 35,632,351)
15-64 years: 67.17% (male 154,439,536/female 152,479,619)
65 years and over: 16.81% (male 31,515,921/female 45,277,821) (2006 est.)
Median age:
Definition Field Listing
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
0.15% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
10.1 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
1.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
at birth: NA
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and older: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 5.1 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total population: 78.3 years
male: 75.1 years
female: 81.6 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.47 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
Definition Field Listing
Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish
Definition Field Listing
Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish; note - only official languages are listed; Irish (Gaelic) will become the 21st language on 1 January 2007
   Government    European Union Top of Page
Union name:

conventional long form: European Union
abbreviation: EU
Political structure:

a hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization
Definition Field Listing
name: Brussels (Belgium)
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: the Council of the European Union meets in Brussels, the European Parliament meets in Strasbourg, France, and the Court of Justice of the European Communities meets in Luxembourg
Member states:

25 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK; note - Canary Islands (Spain), Azores and Madeira (Portugal), French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion (France) are sometimes listed separately even though they are legally a part of Spain, Portugal, and France; candidate countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey
Definition Field Listing
7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the EU); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)
National holiday:
Definition Field Listing
Europe Day 9 May (1950); note - a Union-wide holiday, the day that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of an organized Europe
Definition Field Listing
based on a series of treaties: the Treaty of Paris, which set up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951; the Treaties of Rome, which set up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957; the Single European Act in 1986; the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) in 1992; the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997; and the Treaty of Nice in 2001; note - a new draft Constitutional Treaty, signed on 29 October 2004 in Rome, gave member states two years for ratification either by parliamentary vote or national referendum before it was scheduled to take effect on 1 November 2006; defeat in French and Dutch referenda in May-June 2005 caused a suspension of the ratification process
Definition Field Listing
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
chief of union: President of the European Commission Jose Manuel DURAO BARROSO (since 22 November 2004)
cabinet: European Commission (composed of 25 members, one from each member country; each commissioner responsible for one or more policy areas)
elections: the president of the European Commission is designated by member governments; the president-designate then chooses the other Commission members; the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a five-year term; election last held 18 November 2004 (next to be held 2009)
election results: European Parliament approved the European Commission by an approval vote of 449 to 149 with 82 abstentions
note: the European Council brings together heads of state and government and the president of the European Commission and meets at least twice a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the major political issues relating to European integration and to issue general policy guidelines
Legislative branch:
Definition Field Listing
Council of the European Union (25 member-state ministers having 321 votes; the number of votes is roughly proportional to member-states' population); note - the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU; European Parliament (732 seats; seats allocated among member states by proportion to population); members elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term
elections: last held 10-13 June 2004 (next to be held June 2009)
election results: percent of vote - NA%; seats by party - EPP-ED 268, PES 202, ALDE 88, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 36, UEN 27, independents 28
Judicial branch:
Definition Field Listing
Court of Justice of the European Communities (ensures that the treaties are interpreted and applied correctly) - 25 justices (one from each member state) appointed for a six-year term; note - for the sake of efficiency, the court can sit with 11 justices known as the "Grand Chamber"; Court of First Instance - 25 justices appointed for a six-year term
Political parties and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left or EUL/NGL [Francis WURTZ]; European People's Party-European Democrats or EPP-ED [Hans-Gert POETTERING]; Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE [Graham R. WATSON]; Group of Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Monica FRASSONI and Daniel Marc COHN-BENDIT]; Independence/Democracy Group or IND/DEM [Jens-Peter BONDE and Nigel FARAGE]; Socialist Group in the European Parliament or PES [Martin SCHULZ]; Union for Europe of the Nations Group or UEN [Brian CROWLEY and Cristiana MUSCARDINI]
International organization participation:
Definition Field Listing
European Union: ASEAN (dialogue member), ARF (dialogue member), EBRD, FAO, IDA, OAS (observer), OECD, UN (observer), WTO
European Commission: Australian Group, CBSS, CERN, G-10, NSG (observer)
European Central Bank: BIS
European Investment Bank: EBRD, WADB (nonregional member)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador John BRUTON
chancery: 2300 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500
FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
chief of mission: Ambassador C. Boyden GRAY
embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: same as above
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2222
FAX: [32] (2) 512-5720
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
on a blue field, 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle, representing the union of the peoples of Europe; the number of stars is fixed
   Economy    European Union Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
Domestically, the European Union attempts to lower trade barriers, adopt a common currency, and move toward convergence of living standards. Internationally, the EU aims to bolster Europe's trade position and its political and economic power. Because of the great differences in per capita income (from $15,000 to $56,000) and historic national animosities, the European Community faces difficulties in devising and enforcing common policies. For example, since 2003 Germany and France have flouted the member states' treaty obligation to prevent their national budgets from running more than a 3% deficit. In 2004, the EU admitted 10 central and eastern European countries that are, in general, less advanced technologically and economically than the other 15. Twelve EU member states introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999, but the UK, Sweden, and Denmark do not participate. The 10 new member states may choose to adopt the euro when they meet the EU's fiscal and monetary criteria and the othe r euro states so agree.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$12.18 trillion (2005 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
Definition Field Listing
$13.31 trillion (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.7% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$28,100 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 2.2%
industry: 27.3%
services: 70.5% (2004 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
218.5 million (2005 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 4.4%
industry: 27.2%
services: 67.2%
note: the remainder is in miscellaneous public and private sector industries and services (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
9.4% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Definition Field Listing
see individual country listings
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
Definition Field Listing
lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 25.5% (1995 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
Definition Field Listing
32 (2003 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2.2% (2005 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
19.6% of GDP (2005 est.)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, wine, grapes; dairy products, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry; fish
Definition Field Listing
among the world's largest and most technologically advanced, the European Union industrial base includes: ferrous and non-ferrous metal production and processing, metal products, petroleum, coal, cement, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, construction equipment, industrial equipment, shipbuilding, electrical power equipment, machine tools and automated manufacturing systems, electronics and telecommunications equipment, fishing, food and beverage processing, furniture, paper, textiles, tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.3% (2005 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2.925 trillion kWh (2002 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2.711 trillion kWh (2002 est.)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
282.6 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
281.2 billion kWh (2002 est.)
Oil - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.424 million bbl/day (2001)
Oil - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
14.59 million bbl/day (2001)
Oil - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
5.322 million bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
15.69 million bbl/day (2001)
Oil - proved reserves:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.294 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
239.2 billion cu m (2001)
Natural gas - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
465.6 billion cu m (2001)
Natural gas - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
78.1 billion cu m (2001)
Natural gas - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
297.8 billion cu m (2001)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.256 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)
Current account balance:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$1.318 trillion; note - external exports, excluding intra-EU trade (2004)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery, motor vehicles, aircraft, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, fuels, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, wood pulp and paper products, textiles, meat, dairy products, fish, alcoholic beverages.
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
US 24.2%, Switzerland 7.7%, China 5%, Russia 4.7% (2004)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$1.402 trillion; note - external imports, excluding intra-EU trade (2004)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
machinery, vehicles, aircraft, plastics, crude oil, chemicals, textiles, metals, foodstuffs, clothing
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
US 15.3%, China 12.4%, Russia 7.8%, Japan 7.2% (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
Currency (code):
Definition Field Listing
euro, British pound, Cypriot pound, Czech koruna, Danish krone, Estonian kroon, Hungarian forint, Latvian lat, Lithuanian litas, Maltese lira, Polish zloty, Slovak koruna, Slovenian tolar, Swedish krona
Exchange rates:
Definition Field Listing
euros per US dollar - 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002), 1.1175 (2001)
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
   Communications    European Union Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
238,763,162 (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
314,644,700 (2002)
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
note - see individual country entries of member states
Radio broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
AM 866, FM 13,396, shortwave 73 (1998); note - sum of individual country radio broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Euroradio)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
2,791 (1995); note - does not include repeaters; sum of individual country television broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Eurovision)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
.eu (effective 2005); note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes
Internet hosts:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
22,000,414 (2004); note - sum of individual country Internet hosts
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
230,097,055 (2005)
   Transportation    European Union Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3,115 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
1,863 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
Definition Field Listing
1,252 (2006)
Definition Field Listing
93 (2006)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 222,293 km
broad gauge: 28,438 km
standard gauge: 186,405 km
narrow gauge: 7,427 km
other: 23 km (2003)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 4,634,810 km (including 56,704 km of expressways)
paved: 4,161,318 km
unpaved: 473,492 km (1999-2000)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
53,512 km
Ports and terminals:
Definition Field Listing
Antwerp (Belgium), Barcelona (Spain), Bremen (Germany), Copenhagen (Denmark), Gdansk (Poland), Hamburg (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain), Le Havre (France), Lisbon (Portugal), London (UK), Marseille (France), Naples (Italy), Peiraiefs or Piraeus (Greece), Riga (Latvia), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Stockholm (Sweden), Talinn (Estonia)
   Military    European Union Top of Page
Military - note:
Definition Field Listing
In November 2004, the European Union heads of government signed a "Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe" that offers possibilities - with some limits - for increased defense and security cooperation. If ratified, in a process that may take some two years, this treaty will in effect make operational the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) approved in the 2000 Nice Treaty. Despite limits of cooperation for some EU members, development of a European military planning unit is likely to continue. So is creation of a rapid-reaction military force and a humanitarian aid system, which the planning unit will support. France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Italy continue to press for wider coordination. The five-nation Eurocorps - created in 1992 by France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Luxembourg - has already deployed troops and police on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August 2004. Eurocorps directly commands the 5,000-man Franco-German Brigade, the Multinational Command Support Brigade, and EUFOR, which took over from SFOR in Bosnia in December 2004. Other troop contributions are under national command - commitments to provide 67,100 troops were made at the Helsinki EU session in 2000. Some 56,000 EU troops were actually deployed in 2003. In August 2004, the new European Defense Agency, tasked with promoting cooperative European defense capabilities, began operations. In November 2004, the EU Council of Ministers formally committed to creating thirteen 1,500-man "battle groups" by the end of 2007, to respond to international crises on a rotating basis. Twenty-two of the EU's 25 nations have agreed to supply troops. France, Italy, and the UK are to form the first three battle groups in 2005, with Spain to follow. In May 2005, Norway, Sweden, and Finland agreed to establish one of the battle groups, possibly to include Estonian force s. The remaining groups are to be formed by 2007. (2005)
   Transnational Issues    European Union Top of Page
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
as a political union, the EU has no border disputes with neighboring countries, but Estonia and Latvia have no land boundary agreements with Russia, Slovenia disputes its land and maritime boundaries with Croatia, and Spain has territorial and maritime disputes with Morocco; the EU has set up a Schengen area - consisting of 13 EU member states that have signed the convention implementing the Schengen agreements (1985 and 1990) on the free movement of persons and the harmonization of border controls in Europe; the Schengen agreements ("acquis") became incorporated into EU law with the implementation of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam on 1 May 1999; member states are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden; in addition, non-EU states Iceland and Norway (as part of the Nordic Union) have been included in the Schengen area since 1996 (full members in 2001), bringing the total current membership to 15; the UK (since 2000) and Ireland (since 2002) take part in some aspects of the Schengen area, especially with respect to police and criminal matters; the 10 new member states that joined the EU in 2004 eventually are expected to participate in Schengen, following a transition period to upgrade their border controls and procedures

This page was last updated on 19 September, 2006

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