European Union refers to a political and economic union comprising of 28 member states located in Europe. This union operates via a supranational system of independent institutions as well as intergovernmental decisions that are negotiated by member states. Among the institutions of the European union are the European Commission, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Justice of the European Union, European Parliament and the Court of Auditors. European Union citizens elect the European Parliament after five years.
The origin of the European Union can be traced back to the era of the steel and coal community in Europe as well as the economic community that was formed by inner six nations. The steel and coal community was formed in 1951 while the economic community was formed in 1958. Following accession of more member states, these communities have grown in their size to include the current members. Addition of areas covered by the European Union policy has increased the power of the union.
The Maastricht treaty of 1993 established the current European Union with its name. Treaty of Lisbon that became effective in 2009 made several amendments to the constitution of the Union. European Union has a single market that was developed through installation of standardized laws system that applies in every member state. There are no passport controls in the Schengen area. The policies of the European Union are aimed at ensuring that people, services, capital and goods move freely in the region. They also ensure that legislations are enacted in home and justice affairs while maintaining common policies in agriculture, trade, regional development and fisheries.
In 1999, European Union established a monetary union. This union became effective in 2002 and it comprises of 18 members states. Members of this union use Euro as the legal tender. European Union has also established a role in defense and external relations through common security and foreign policy. European Union has diplomatic missions that are permanent across the world. It also has representatives at the WTO, United Nations, G-20 and the G8.
The union has a combined population of more than 500 million inhabitants. This is equivalent to 7.3 percent of the global population. In 2012, the European Union generated nominal gross domestic product of US$16.584 trillion. This implies that the European Union contributed about 23 percent of the nominal GDP globally as well as 20 percent in terms of purchasing power parity.
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