What is the EU?

What is the European Union?

The European Union

The European Union, as we know it, began with the Treaty of Rome that was signed on March 25, 1957 by the heads of state of France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

In creating the European Community, as it was first called, the signatories included among their objectives:

  • to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,
  • to ensure economic and social progress by common action to eliminate the barriers that divide Europe,
  • to improve the living and working conditions of the peoples of Europe,
  • to strengthen the unity of the economies of Europe by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions,
  • to contribute to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade,
  • to pool resources so as to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts,

Since it began in 1957 the European Union has grown and now consists of 27 member states, including since 2004 countries that were formerly part of the central and eastern European communist bloc. The UK became a member in 1973. Following a referendum in June 2016 it left the EU on January 31, 2020.

Click on the flag below or here to see how the EU has grown since 1951.

Click on the flag here to see how the EU has grown since 1951

The number of stars on the EU flag has nothing to do with the number of Member States. There are 12 stars because the number twelve is traditionally the symbol of perfection, completeness and unity. However many states join the EU, the flag remains unchanged.