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Introduction European Union
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 likely 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.
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 - and in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined, bringing the current membership to 27. 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 integration of the EU in limbo.
Geography European Union
Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean in the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to the east
Map references:
total: 4,324,782 sq km
Area - comparative:
less than one-half the size of the US
Land boundaries:
total: 12,440.8 km
border countries: Albania 282 km, Andorra 120.3 km, Belarus 1,050 km, Croatia 999 km, Holy See 3.2 km, Liechtenstein 34.9 km, Macedonia 394 km, Moldova 450 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Norway 2,348 km, Russia 2,257 km, San Marino 39 km, Serbia 945 km, Switzerland 1,811 km, Turkey 446 km, Ukraine 1,257 km
note: data for European Continent only
65,992.9 km
Maritime claims:
cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south
fairly flat along the Baltic and Atlantic coast; mountainous in the central and southern areas
Elevation extremes:
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:
iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, uranium, potash, salt, hydropower, arable land, timber, fish
Land use:
arable land: NA%
permanent crops: NA%
other: NA%
Irrigated land:
168,050 sq km (2003 est.)
Natural hazards:
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:
Environment - international agreements:
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
486,642,177 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
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:
Population growth rate:
0.15% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
10 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
10.1 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: NA
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female
Infant mortality rate:
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:
total population: 78.3 years
male: 75.1 years
female: 81.6 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.47 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish
Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish; note - only official languages are listed
Government European Union
Union name:
conventional long form: European Union
abbreviation: EU
Political structure:
a hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization
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 Brussels and Strasbourg, France, and the Court of Justice of the European Communities meets in Luxembourg
Member states:
27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, 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: Croatia, Macedonia, Turkey
7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the EU); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)
National holiday:
Europe Day 9 May (1950); note - a Union-wide holiday, the day that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of an organized Europe
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
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of union: President of the European Commission Jose Manuel DURAO BARROSO (since 22 November 2004)
cabinet: European Commission (composed of 27 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:
Council of the European Union (27 member-state ministers having 345 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 (785 seats (as of 1 January 2007); 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; note - as of 1 January 2007, seats by party - EPP-ED 264, PES 200, ALDE 90, Bulgarians and Romanians 53, UEN 44, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 23, independents 28
Judicial branch:
Court of Justice of the European Communities (ensures that the treaties are interpreted and applied correctly) - 27 justices (one from each member state) appointed for a six-year term; note - for the sake of efficiency, the court can sit with 13 justices known as the "Grand Chamber"; Court of First Instance - 27 justices appointed for a six-year term
Political parties and leaders:
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:
European Union: ASEAN (dialogue member), ARF (dialogue member), IDA, OAS (observer), UN (observer), WTO
European Commission: Australian Group, CBSS, CERN, FAO, EBRD, G-10, NSG (observer), OECD, UNRWA, ZC (observer)
European Central Bank: BIS
European Investment Bank: EBRD, WADB (nonregional member)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
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:
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:
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
Economy - overview:
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 $9,000 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 and 2007, the EU admitted, respectively, 10 and two central and eastern European countries that are, in general, less advanced technologically and economically than the other 15. Twelve established EU member states introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999, but the UK, Sweden, and Denmark chose not to participate. Of the 12 new member states, only Slovenia has adopted the euro (1 January 2007). The others may choose to adopt the currency when they meet the EU's fiscal and monetary criteria and the other euro states so agree.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.82 trillion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$13.62 trillion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.8% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$29,300 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.1%
industry: 27.3%
services: 70.5% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
221.5 million (2005 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 4.4%
industry: 27.3%
services: 67%
note: the remainder is in miscellaneous public and private sector industries and services (2002 est.)
Unemployment rate:
8.8% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line:
see individual country listings
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 25.4% (1995 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
32 (2003 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.2% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
20.4% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, wine, grapes; dairy products, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry; fish
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:
2.8% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
2.98 trillion kWh (2004 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
2.77 trillion kWh (2004 est.)
Electricity - exports:
278.7 billion kWh
Electricity - imports:
277.1 billion kWh
Oil - production:
3.172 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - consumption:
14.7 million bbl/day (2004)
Oil - exports:
5.318 million bbl/day
Oil - imports:
15.74 million bbl/day
Oil - proved reserves:
7.335 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
238.1 billion cu m (2004)
Natural gas - consumption:
507.4 billion cu m (2004)
Natural gas - exports:
78.89 billion cu m
Natural gas - imports:
347.7 billion cu m
Natural gas - proved reserves:
3.219 trillion cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
Current account balance:
$1.33 trillion; note - external exports, excluding intra-EU trade (2005)
Exports - commodities:
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:
US 23.3%, Switzerland 7.6%, Russia 5.2%, China 4.8% (2005)
$1.466 trillion; note - external imports, excluding intra-EU trade (2005)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, vehicles, aircraft, plastics, crude oil, chemicals, textiles, metals, foodstuffs, clothing
Imports - partners:
US 13.8%, China 13.4%, Russia 8.2%, Japan 6.2% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
Currency (code):
euro, British pound, Bulgarian lev, Cypriot pound, Czech koruna, Danish krone, Estonian kroon, Hungarian forint, Latvian lat, Lithuanian litas, Maltese lira, Polish zloty, Romanian leu, Slovak koruna, Slovenian tolar, Swedish krona
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 0.79669 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004), 0.886 (2003), 1.0626 (2002)
Fiscal year:
Communications European Union
Telephones - main lines in use:
238 million (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
466 million (2005)
Telephone system:
note - see individual country entries of member states
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 930, FM 13,655, shortwave 71 (1998); note - sum of individual country radio broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Euroradio)
Television broadcast stations:
2,700 (1995); note - does not include repeaters; sum of individual country television broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Eurovision)
Internet country code:
.eu (effective 2005); note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes
Internet hosts:
50.5 million (2005); note - sum of individual country Internet hosts
Internet users:
247 million (2006)
Transportation European Union
3,393 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
2,020 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
1,373 (2006)
100 (2006)
total: 235,199 km
broad gauge: 28,327 km
standard gauge: 198,913 km
narrow gauge: 7,936 km
other: 23 km (2005)
total: 2,294,641 km (including 61,522 km of expressways)
paved: 1,809,821 km
unpaved: 584,820 km (2005)
52,332 km (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Antwerp (Belgium), Barcelona (Spain), Braila (Romania), Bremen (Germany), Burgas (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Galati (Romania), 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), Tulcea (Romania), Varna (Bulgaria)
Military European Union
Military - note:
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 forces. The remaining groups are to be formed by 2007. (2005)
Transnational Issues European Union
Disputes - international:
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 12 new member states that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 eventually are expected to participate in Schengen, following a transition period to upgrade their border controls and procedures

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007