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Introduction to the EU

The European Union is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries and has delivered over half a century of peace, stability and prosperity. 

The EU and Irish flags

The European Union (EU) has delivered more than half a century of peace, stability and prosperity; helped raise living standards for European citizens; and launched a single European currency: the Euro.  What began as an economic union has evolved to span diverse policy areas, from climate and environment to external relations and security.

The EU is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries. It was first created in 1958 as the European Economic Community (EEC) by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a further 22 countries have joined to make up what is, since 1993, known as the European Union. The United Kingdom left the EU at the end of 2020.

The EU is based on the rule of law – everything it does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by all member countries.

The goals and values of the EU

Current and aspiring EU countries

EU facts and figures

EU institutions

The EU has a unique institutional set-up. Broad priorities are set by the member governments in regular summits, and decision-making involves a range of institutions, although the 4 main ones are:

More on EU institutions, bodies and agencies

The EU’s decision making processes (a new, more complete section will be published in Q3 2021)

Nobel Peace Prize

In 2012, the European Union received the Nobel Peace prize for the stabilising role it has played in transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace; advancing the causes of reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.