The European Union's relations with the rest of the world have also become important. The EUnegotiates major trade and aid agreements with other countries and is developing a Common Foreignand Security Policy.
The Single Market: banning the barriers
It took some time for the Member States to remove all the barriers to trade between them and to turntheir "common market" into a genuine
goods, services, people and capital
could move around freely. The Single Market was formally completed at the end of 1992, thoughthere is still work to be done in some areas - for example, to create a genuinely single market infinancial services.During the 1990s it became increasingly easy for people to move around in Europe, as passport andcustoms checks were abolished at most of the EU's internal borders. One consequence is greater mobility for EU citizens. Since 1987, for example, more than a million young Europeans have takenstudy courses abroad, with support from the EU.
The Single Currency: the euro
In 1992 the EU decided to go for economic and monetary union (EMU), involving the introduction of a single European currency managed by a European Central Bank. The single currency -
- became a reality on 1 January 2002, when euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in
of the 15 countries of the European Union (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy,Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland).
The growing family
The EU has grown in size with successive waves of accessions.
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973
followed by Greece in 1981,
Spain and Portugal in 1986 and
Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995.
The European Union welcomed ten new countries in 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic,Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Finally, Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.Croatia and Turkey began membership negotiations in 2005. To ensure that the enlarged EU cancontinue functioning efficiently, it needs a more streamlined system for taking decisions. That is whythe Treaty of Nice lays down new rules governing the size of the EU institutions and the way theywork. It came into force on 1 February 2003. It will be replaced by the new EU Constitution - if allEU countries approve this.
THE EUROPEAN UNION KEY INSTITUTIONS
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by the citizens of the European Union to represent their interests.Its origins go back to the 1950s and the founding treaties, and since 1979 its members have been directlyelected by the people they represent.Elections are held every five years, and every EU citizen who is registered as a voter is entitled to vote.Parliament thus expresses the democratic will of the Union's citizens (more than 455 million people), and itrepresents their interests in discussions with the other EU institutions. The present Parliament, elected inJune 2004, has 732 members from all 25 EU countries