European Union countries
In 1951, six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) founded the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1958, this became known as the European Economic Community (EEC), and its name was changed to the European Union in 1993.
Over the years, 22 more countries joined the original 6.
On 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom left the EU.
The EU currently has 27 member countries, and has 24 official languages.
Countries that use the euro
The euro is the official currency of 20 EU countries. These countries are known as the euro area.
Members of the Schengen area
Since 1985, the Schengen area allows people and businesses to travel and operate without border checks. It began in June 1985 with 5 countries. Today it contains 23 EU countries and 4 non-EU countries.
Schengen countries have also strengthened security at their common external border.
Kosovo*: This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
EU budget and spending
The EU budget is funded by a percentage of each member country’s gross national income, as well as other sources. EU countries decide the size of this budget, and how it is financed.
‘Own resources’ (such as duties, levies, VAT and national contributions) account for approximately 98% of the EU’s budget. The remaining 2% of budget revenue comes from other sources of income.
The long-term budget sets out the EU’s long-term spending priorities and spending limits. It finances areas such as employment promotion, regional development, education, research and the environment. It is decided jointly by the European Commission, Council and Parliament. The European Commission is responsible for spending this budget.
Members of the European Parliament
The European Parliament consists of 705 members (MEPs) elected in all 27 EU countries. MEPs are elected for a five-year term. Elections are by proportional representation, and seats are based on the population of each country.The European Parliament holds its committee meetings in Brussels and its plenary sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg. The Parliament’s administration is located in Luxembourg. The Parliament also sends delegations to regions outside the EU.