European Union

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states which are located primarily in Europe. Committed to regional integration, the EU was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 upon the foundations of the European Communities. With over 500 million citizens, the EU combined generated an estimated 28% share of the nominal and about 21% of the PPP gross world product in 2009.

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, and ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, including the abolition of passport controls by the Schengen Agreement between 22 EU and 3 non-EU states. It maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the eurozone.

As a legal personality the EU is able to conclude treaties with countries and enacts legislation in justice and home affairs. It has devised the Common Foreign and Security Policy, thus developing a limited role in European defence and foreign policy. Permanent diplomatic missions of the EU are established around the world and representation at the World Trade Organization, G8, G-20 major economies and at the United Nations is maintained.

As an international organisation, the EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. In certain areas, decisions are taken by independent supranational institutions, while in others, they are made through negotiation between member states. Important institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Central Bank. The European Parliament is elected every five years by member states' citizens, to whom the citizenship of the European Union is guaranteed. 

 
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