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Facts About the European Union (EU)

What was Brexit? The Schengen Area? The Maastricht Treaty? All this and more on our EU Facts page.

  1. There are 27 members countries in the EU (European Union). Formerly, there were 28 members until the United Kingdom left the EU.
  2. In 2014, there was an estimated 507 million people living within the European Union.
  3. Croatia became the newest member of the EU in July 2013.
  4. All 27 EU members are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
  5. In 1957 six countries founded the European Economic Community (the EU's predecessor). These were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxemburge, Netherlands, and Germany.

  6. The Schengen Area (named after the Schengen Agreement) are the EU countries that have abolished border and passport controls at their mutual borders - for travel purposes it functions as one country. At present , 22 of the 28 EU member states participate, with a remaining four (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) legally obliged to join. The UK and Ireland maintain opt-out agreements.
  7. Schengen is a village in Luxembourg near to where the Schengen Agreement was signed.
  8. European parliamentary debates are translated into each of the EU’s 24 official languages.
  9. The EU anthem, called 'Anthem of Europe' and played on official occasions, is based on the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony ’Ode to Joy’.
  10. Applying in 1969 were Britain, Ireland, Denmark, and Norway. Norway, however, declined to accept the invitation to become a member when its electorate voted against it. The other three countries joined in 1973.
  11. In 1987, Morocco applied to join the EU – its application was rejected as it was not considered a country in Europe.
  12. Britain has had a previous referendum! In 1975, the British people were asked if they wanted to remain in (what was then called) the Common Market - 67% voted yes. The referendum question was: ‘Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?’
  13. No country has withdrawn from the EU (as of 2015). However, the territory of Greenland decided to do so after gaining home rule from Denmark in 1985.
  14. Switzerland applied to join the EU in 2002 but stopped its application due to opposition from voters. Also, Norway has applied more than once but each time its voters rejected its membership.
  15. As of 2016, there are 751 members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The UK has 73 MEPs. The best known British MEP is Nigel Farage – MEP for South East England since 1999.
  16. The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for ‘contributing to the advancement of peace, democracy and human rights in Europe’.
  17. On the 1st of January 2002, the euro were launched in 12 countries. There are now 19 members of the euro zone currency area. These are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

  18. The largest denomination of euro banknote is the 500 euro note. The notes will be redesigned every seven or eight years - a new series, ‘the Europa series’, started to be released in 2013. In March, 2016, the euro was worth 77 pence (March 14, 2016).
  19. The euro is divided into a hundred cents.
  20. The EU flag features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. They stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe. The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of EU members. Arsne Heitz designed the flag and claims that the number 12 stood for completeness and perfection in ancient (and biblical) symbology.
  21. In 1992, ‘The Treaty on the European Union’ is signed in Maastricht in the Netherlands and comes into force in November 1993. It created the European Union and the single European currency, the euro.
  22. In 2009, ‘The Treaty of Lisbon’ came into force; it amended the main treaties of Nice, Amsterdam, the ‘Maastricht Treaty’, and the ‘Rome Treaty’ of 1957.
  23. For the first time in 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon made it possible for a country to leave the EU.
  24. Some landmark dates include 1973 when Ireland, Denmark, and the United Kingdom became member countries. Greece joined in 1981, and in 1985 Spain and Portugal followed. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.
  25. On April 30, 2004, a ceremony is held in Dublin marking the expansion of the EU to 25 members. These 10 new members are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
  26. Bulgaria and Romania join in 2007. And Croatia join in 2013 bringing the total number of EU members to 28.
  27. In 2013, the EU agrees to a new round of membership negotiations with Turkey. Other present candidate countries are Albania, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
  28. In 2015, the UK paid a net 8.5 billion pounds of contributions, making it the third biggest contributor. Germany in the biggest with France second.
  29. The EU is the world's largest economy.
  30. What is Brexit? Brexit is a new political buzz word derived from ‘British exit.’ The landmark Brexit referendum was on the 23rd of June. Nearly 52% (or 17,410,742) voted to leave the European Union.