The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km 2 (1,728,099 sq mi), and an estimated population of over 510 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within the internal market,  enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade,  agriculture,  fisheries, and regional development. Within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished.  A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established, respectively, by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome. The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities, were the Inner Six; Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. The Communities and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. While no member state has left the EU or its antecedent organisations, the United Kingdom enacted the result of a membership referendum in June 2016 and is currently negotiating its withdrawal. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union in 1993 and introduced European citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.
The European Union accumulated a higher portion of GDP as a form of foreign aid than any other economic union.
After the fall of Rome in 476, several European States claimed to be the successors (translatio imperii ) of the defunct Empire. The Frankish Empire (481–843) of Charlemagne as well as the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) were attempts to resurrect the Empire in the West. In the Eastern regions of Europe, the Russian Tsardom (1547–1721) declared Moscow to be Third Rome as inheritor of the Byzantine tradition after the fall of the second Rome, Constantinople, in 1453.
Ideals of European unity re-emerged during the 19th century after the demise of Napoléon's Empire (1804–1815) and the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski, Giuseppe Mazzini or Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski.  The term United States of Europe (French : États-Unis d'Europe) was famously used at that time by Victor Hugo during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849, when he favoured the creation of "a supreme, sovereign senate, which will be to Europe what parliament is to England". [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]]
One of the first to imagine of a modern union of the European nations was Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, who wrote the Pan-Europa manifesto in 1923 before founding the Pan-Europa Movement. His ideas influenced his contemporaries, of whom the Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 8 September 1929, the later gave a famous speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, ancestor of the United Nations.
After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated the continent.  In a speech delivered on 19 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill postulated the emerging of a United States of Europe during the 20th century.  The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe's future leaders would live and study together.  1952 saw the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe."  The supporters of the Community included Alcide De Gasperi, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and Paul-Henri Spaak.  These men and others are officially credited as the Founding fathers of the European Union.
In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and established a customs union. They also signed another pact creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958. 
The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC, although they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly.
During the 1960s, tensions began to show, with France seeking to limit supranational power.
In 1973, the Communities were enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Communities in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom.  Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held. 
Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986.  In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states.  In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC  and the Single European Act was signed.
In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Communities as part of a reunified Germany.  A close fiscal integration with the introduction of the euro was not matched by institutional oversight making things more troubling. Attempts to solve the problems and to make the EU more efficient and coherent had limited success. With further enlargement planned to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. The expansion of the EU introduced a new level of complexity and discord.
The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty —whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand —came into force on 1 November 1993.  The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred as such before the treaty. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.
In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states.
In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. The same year, Slovenia adopted the euro,  followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, by Slovakia in 2009, by Estonia in 2011, by Latvia in 2014 and by Lithuania in 2015.
On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and reformed many aspects of the EU. In particular, it changed the legal structure of the European Union, merging the EU three pillars system into a single legal entity provisioned with a legal personality, created a permanent President of the European Council, the first of which was Herman Van Rompuy, and strengthened the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 
In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe."   In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member. 
From the beginning of the 2010s, the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues, including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from the Middle East and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.  A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held on 23 June 2016, with 51.9% of participants voting to leave.  This is referred to in common parlance throughout Europe as Brexit. The UK formally notified the European Council of its decision to leave on 29 March 2017 initiating the formal withdrawal procedure for leaving the EU, committing the UK to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. 
The following timeline illustrates the integration that has led to the formation of the present union, in terms of structural development driven by international treaties:
The EU's member states cover an area of 4,423,147 square kilometres (1,707,787 sq mi). The EU's highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level.  The lowest points in the EU are Lammefjorden, Denmark and Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands, at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level. 
The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is 65,993 kilometres (41,006 mi) long.
Including the overseas territories of France which are located outside the continent of Europe, but which are members of the union, the EU experiences most types of climate from Arctic (North-East Europe) to tropical (French Guiana), rendering meteorological averages for the EU as a whole meaningless. The majority of the population lives in areas with a temperate maritime climate (North-Western Europe and Central Europe), a Mediterranean climate (Southern Europe), or a warm summer continental or hemiboreal climate (Northern Balkans and Central Europe). 
The EU's population is highly urbanised, with some 75% of inhabitants living in urban areas as of 2006. Cities are largely spread out across the EU, although with a large grouping in and around the Benelux. 
In 1957, when the EEC was founded, it had no environmental policy.
European policy-makers originally increased the EU's capacity to act on environmental issues by defining it as a trade problem.
Initially, EU environmental policy focused on Europe.
Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in future, 20% of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels.  The EU has adopted an emissions trading system to incorporate carbon emissions into the economy.  The European Green Capital is an annual award given to cities that focuses on the environment, energy efficiency and quality of life in urban areas to create smart city.
As of 1 January 2016, the population of the European Union is about 510.1 million people (6.9% of the world population).
In 2010, 47.3 million people who lived in the EU were born outside their resident country.
The EU contains about 40 urban areas with populations of over one million, including the three megacities (cities with a population of over 10 million) of London  , Paris  , and the Rhine-Ruhr.  In addition to large agglomerations, the EU also includes several densely populated polycentric urbanised regions that have no single core but have emerged from the connection of several cities and now encompass a large metropolis. The largest of these polycentric metropolis include Rhine-Ruhr with approximately 11.5 million inhabitants (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad with approx. 7 million (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt Rhine-Main with approx. 5.8 million (Frankfurt, Wiesbaden et al.), the Flemish Diamond with approx. 5.5 million (Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven, Ghent et al.), and Øresund with approx. 3.7 million (Copenhagen, Malmö). 
The European Union has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish. Important documents, such as legislation, are translated into every official language and the European Parliament provides translation for documents and plenary sessions.   
Due to the high number of official idioms, most of the institutions use only a handful of working languages.
Even though language policy is the responsibility of member states, EU institutions promote multilingualism among its citizens.   English is the most widely spoken language in the EU, being understood by 51% of the EU population when counting both native and non-native speakers.  German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (spoken by 16% of the EU population.) More than a half (56%) of EU citizens is able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.
Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, represented by the Balto-Slavic, the Italic, the Germanic, the Hellenic, and the Celtic branches. Some European populations though, namely the Hungarians, the Finns, the Estonians (all three Uralic), the Basques (Vasconic) and the Maltese (Semitic) do not share an Indo-European language.  The three official alphabets of the European Union (Cyrillic, Latin and modern Greek), all derive from the Archaic Greek scripts. 
Besides the 24 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people.  Catalan, Galician, Basque, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh are not recognised official languages of the European Union but have semi-official status: official translations of the treaties are made into them and citizens have the right to correspond with the institutions in these languages. [[CITE|-1|https://books.google.com/books?dq=Catalan%2C+Galician%2C+Basque%2C+Scottish+Gaelic+and+Welsh+european+union&hl=fr&id=BWK4BAAAQBAJ&lpg=PA1&ots=HnRcUO9dSi&pg=PA1&sa=X&sig=Bug9Ou7apwKmy5ne6I8hM0wLpBY&source=bl&ved=0ahUKEwiKjqvDvt_UAhVLLMAKHe4VCjAQ6AEISjAE#v=onepage&q=Catalan,Galician,%20Basque,%20Scottish%20Gaelic%20and%20Welsh%20european%20union&f=false]]  The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by most EU states provides general guidelines that states can follow to protect their linguistic heritage. The European Day of Languages is held annually on 26 September and is aimed at encouraging language learning across Europe. [[CITE|-1|https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?BackColorInternet=9999CC&BackColorIntranet=FFBB55&BackColorLogged=FFAC75&Language=lanEnglish&Ref=776%2F7.1&Sector=secCM&Ver=original]]
The EU has no formal connection to any religion.
The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe".  Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or God, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped. 
Christians in the European Union are divided among members of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern Rite), numerous Protestant denominations (Anglicans, Lutherans and Reformed forming the bulk of this category), and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million,  and an estimated Jewish population of over a million.  The other world religions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism are also represented in the EU population.
According to new polls about religiosity in the European Union in 2015 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union, accounting for 71.6% of the EU population. Catholics are the largest Christian group, accounting for 45.3% of the EU population, while Protestants make up 11.1%, Eastern Orthodox make up 9.6% and other Christians make up 5.6%. 
Eurostat's Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52% of EU citizens believed in a God, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18% had no form of belief.  Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years.  The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16%) and the Czech Republic (19%).  The most religious countries were Malta (95%, predominantly Roman Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90% of citizens professing a belief in God. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, older people, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 or 16 and those "positioning themselves on the right of the political scale". 
Basic education is an area where the EU's role is limited to supporting national governments.
There are now similar programmes for school pupils and teachers, for trainees in vocational education and training, and for adult learners in the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013. These programmes are designed to encourage a wider knowledge of other countries and to spread good practices in the education and training fields across the EU.   Through its support of the Bologna Process, the EU is supporting comparable standards and compatible degrees across Europe.
Scientific development is facilitated through the EU's Framework Programmes, the first of which started in 1984. The aims of EU policy in this area are to co-ordinate and stimulate research. The independent European Research Council allocates EU funds to European or national research projects.  EU research and technological framework programmes deal in a number of areas, for example energy where the aim is to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy to help the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels. 
Although the EU has no major competences in the field of health care, Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms that "A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities". The European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumers seeks to align national laws on the protection of people's health, on the consumers' rights, on the safety of food and other products.   
All EU and many other European countries offer their citizens a free European Health Insurance Card which, on a reciprocal basis, provides insurance for emergency medical treatment insurance when visiting other participating European countries.  A directive on cross-border healthcare aims at promoting co-operation on health care between member states and facilitating access to safe and high-quality cross-border healthcare for European patients.   
The European Union operates according to the principles of conferral (which says that it should act only within the limits of the competences conferred on it by the treaties) and of subsidiarity (which says that it should act only where an objective cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states acting alone). Laws made by the EU institutions are passed in a variety of forms. Generally speaking, they can be classified into two groups: those which come into force without the necessity for national implementation measures (regulations) and those which specifically require national implementation measures (directives).
Through successive enlargements, the European Union has grown from the six founding states (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) to the current 28. Countries accede to the union by becoming party to the founding treaties, thereby subjecting themselves to the privileges and obligations of EU membership. This entails a partial delegation of sovereignty to the institutions in return for representation within those institutions, a practice often referred to as "pooling of sovereignty". 
To become a member, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 meeting of the European Council in Copenhagen. These require a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country's fulfilment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council.  No member state has yet left the Union, although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985. [[CITE|-1|http://eu.nanoq.gl/Emner/EuGl/TheGreenland%20Treaty.aspx]] The Lisbon Treaty now contains a clause under Article 50, providing for a member to leave the EU.
There are six countries that are recognised as candidates for membership : Albania, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey,  though Iceland suspended negotiations in 2013.  Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates,  with Bosnia and Herzegovina having submitted a membership application.
The four countries forming the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are not EU members, but have partly committed to the EU's economy and regulations: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are a part of the single market through the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, which has similar ties through bilateral treaties.   The relationships of the European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican include the use of the euro and other areas of co-operation.  The following 28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the European Union: 
EU policy is in general promulgated by EU directives, which are then implemented in the domestic legislation of its member states, and EU regulations, which are immediately enforceable in all member states. The EU's seven principal decision making bodies—known as the Institutions of the European Union are:
- the European Council , which sets the general political directions and priorities of the Union by gathering together its member states'heads of state / government (elected chief executives). The conclusions of its summits (held at least quarterly) are adopted by consensus.
- the European Commission , the "Guardian of the Treaties" consists of an executive cabinet of public officials, led by an indirectly elected President. This College of Commissioners manages and directs the Commission's permanent civil service. It turns the consensus objectives of the European Council into legislative proposals.
- the Council of the European Union is an executive meeting of ministers of member states governments' departments, which meets to amend, approve or reject proposed legislation from the Commission. It forms the upper house of the EU's essentially bicameral legislature. Its approval is required for any proposal to enter into law.
- the European Parliament consists of 751 directly elected representatives, forming the EU's lower house of its bicameral legislature. It shares with the Council of the EU equal legislative powers to amend, approve or reject Commission proposals for most areas of EU legislation. Its powers are limited in areas where member states' view sovereignty to be of primary concern (i.e. defence). It elects the Commission's President, must approve the College of Commissioners, and may vote to remove them collectively from office.
- the Court of Justice of the European Union ensures the uniform application of EU law and resolves disputes between EU institutions and member states, and against EU institutions on behalf of individuals.
- the European Central Bank is responsible for monetary stability within member states.
- the European Court of Auditors investigates the proper management of finances within both the EU entities and EU funding provided to its member states. As well as providing oversight and advice, it can refer unresolved issues to the European Court of Justice to arbitrate on any alleged irregularities.
Beyond the EU institutions is the Council of Europe (CoE) which is a wider international organisation with 47 member states whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Its legislative principles are promulgated by the European Convention on Human Rights and its judicial agent is the European Court of Human Rights. These ethical institutions are distinct from the legislative European Union institutions mentioned above, although ECHR decisions are enforcable upon the EU institutions and upon the several judiciaries of sovereign member states of the EU 
The Venice Commission formally The European Commission for Democracy through Law provides advise regarding constitutional matters in order to improve functioning of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights in member states of the Council of Europe
Apart from the national political structures within member states and the directly elected European Parliament the EU also encourages citizen participation via development projects such as CORDIS (the EU Community Research and Development Information Service) and the ERASMUS (The European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students).
The Five Presidents (in 2017) were led by:
- the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, indirectly elected by EU citizens via the European Parliament for a 5-year renewable term following European Parliamentary elections, together with,
- the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who chairs the gatherings of the EU's 28 national heads of government/state and is elected by them for a 2.5 year once renewable term,
- Eurogroup President, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs informal meetings of finance ministers from EU member states that use the euro as their currency, and is elected from amongst them, by them, for a 2.5 year renewable term,
- the European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, elected de facto by the European Council members who represent eurozone states, for an eight-year non-renewable term,
- the European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, elected from amongst the 751 directly elected Members of the European Parliament, by them, for a 2.5 year renewable term.
By working together, they seek provide a forward policy consideration nucleus for the various European "think-tanks" which discuss various possible future social and economic scenarios that will eventually require ratification by the EU electorate. 
The classification of the EU in terms of international or constitutional law has been much debated.
The organisation has traditionally used the terms "Community" and later "Union" to describe itself.
The European Union has seven institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. Competence in scrutinising and amending legislation is shared between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, while executive tasks are performed by the European Commission and in a limited capacity by the European Council (not to be confused with the aforementioned Council of the European Union). The monetary policy of the eurozone is determined by the European Central Bank. The interpretation and the application of EU law and the treaties are ensured by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The EU budget is scrutinised by the European Court of Auditors. There are also a number of ancillary bodies which advise the EU or operate in a specific area.
The European Parliament forms the other half of the EU's legislature. The 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years on the basis of proportional representation. Although MEPs are elected on a national basis, they sit according to political groups rather than their nationality. Each country has a set number of seats and is divided into sub-national constituencies where this does not affect the proportional nature of the voting system.  The European Union council, the Council of Ministers, and the Commission fulfilled the duties as the executive for the parliament.
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union pass legislation jointly in nearly all areas under the ordinary legislative procedure. This also applies to the EU budget. The European Commission is accountable to Parliament, requiring its approval to take office, having to report back to it and subject to motions of censure from it. The President of the European Parliament (currently Antonio Tajani) carries out the role of speaker in Parliament and represents it externally. The President and Vice-Presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years. 
The European Council gives political direction to the EU.
The European Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies.
Tasks for the President of the European Council are ensuring the external representation of the EU,  driving consensus and resolving divergences among member states, both during meetings of the European Council and over the periods between them.
The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent of the EU based in Strasbourg.
The Council of the European Union (also called the "Council" and the "Council of Ministers", its former title)  forms one half of the EU's legislature. It consists of a government minister from each member state and meets in different compositions depending on the policy area being addressed. Notwithstanding its different configurations, it is considered to be one single body.  In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. The Commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It operates as a cabinet government, with 28 Commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state, though Commissioners are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state.
One of the 28 is the President of the European Commission (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) appointed by the European Council. After the President, the most prominent Commissioner is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is ex-officio a Vice-President of the Commission and is also chosen by the European Council. The other 26 Commissioners are subsequently appointed by the Council of the European Union in agreement with the nominated President. The 28 Commissioners as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.
The EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013,  representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03% of GDP. 
In the 2010 budget of €141.5 billion, the largest single expenditure item is "cohesion & competitiveness " with around 45% of the total budget.  Next comes "agriculture " with approximately 31% of the total. "Rural development, environment and fisheries " takes up around 11%. "Administration" accounts for around 6%.  The "EU as a global partner" and "citizenship, freedom, security and justice" bring up the rear with approximately 6% and 1% respectively. 
The Court of Auditors is legally obliged to provide the Parliament and the Council with "a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions".  The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions.  The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission's handling of the budget.
The European Court of Auditors has signed off the European Union accounts every year since 2007 and, while making it clear that the European Commission has more work to do, has highlighted that most of the errors take place at national level.
EU member states retain all powers not explicitly handed to the European Union.
That a particular policy area falls into a certain category of competence is not necessarily indicative of what legislative procedure is used for enacting legislation within that policy area. Different legislative procedures are used within the same category of competence, and even with the same policy area.
The distribution of competences in various policy areas between Member States and the Union is divided in the following three categories:
The EU is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties.  These are power-giving treaties which set broad policy goals and establish institutions with the necessary legal powers to implement those goals. These legal powers include the ability to enact legislation which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants.  The EU has legal personality, with the right to sign agreements and international treaties. 
Under the principle of supremacy, national courts are required to enforce the treaties that their member states have ratified, and thus the laws enacted under them, even if doing so requires them to ignore conflicting national law, and (within limits) even constitutional provisions.
The Court of Justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions, and cases referred to it by the courts of member states.  The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts,  and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service.  Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law. 
The treaties declare that the EU itself is "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities... in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."
In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty gave legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The charter is a codified catalogue of fundamental rights against which the EU's legal acts can be judged. It consolidates many rights which were previously recognised by the Court of Justice and derived from the "constitutional traditions common to the member states." The Court of Justice has long recognised fundamental rights and has, on occasion, invalidated EU legislation based on its failure to adhere to those fundamental rights. 
Although signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership,  previously, the EU itself could not accede to the Convention as it is neither a state  nor had the competence to accede.  The Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the ECHR have changed this: the former binds the EU to accede to the Convention while the latter formally permits it.
Although, the EU is independent from Council of Europe, they share purpose and ideas especially on rule of law, human rights and democracy.
The main legal acts of the EU come in three forms: regulations, directives, and decisions. Regulations become law in all member states the moment they come into force, without the requirement for any implementing measures,  and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions. Directives require member states to achieve a certain result while leaving them discretion as to how to achieve the result. The details of how they are to be implemented are left to member states. When the time limit for implementing directives passes, they may, under certain conditions, have direct effect in national law against member states.
Decisions offer an alternative to the two above modes of legislation.
Since the creation of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of freedom, security and justice, initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism.
Furthermore, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition,  family law,  asylum law,  and criminal justice.  Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties.  In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation.  By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.
Foreign policy co-operation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the common commercial policy.  Steps for a more wide-ranging co-ordination in foreign relations began in 1970 with the establishment of European Political Cooperation which created an informal consultation process between member states with the aim of forming common foreign policies. It was not, however, until 1987 when European Political Cooperation was introduced on a formal basis by the Single European Act. EPC was renamed as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the Maastricht Treaty. 
The aims of the CFSP are to promote both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole, including the furtherance of international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The CFSP requires unanimity among the member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP sometimes lead to disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq. 
The coordinator and representative of the CFSP within the EU is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy and defence matters, and has the task of articulating the positions expressed by the member states on these fields of policy into a common alignment. The High Representative heads up the European External Action Service (EEAS), a unique EU department  that has been officially implemented and operational since 1 December 2010 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.  The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union. 
Besides the emerging international policy of the European Union, the international influence of the EU is also felt through enlargement. The perceived benefits of becoming a member of the EU act as an incentive for both political and economic reform in states wishing to fulfil the EU's accession criteria, and are considered an important factor contributing to the reform of European formerly Communist countries. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.1080/13501760802133328]] : 762 This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power". 
The predecessors of the European Union were not devised as a military alliance because NATO was largely seen as appropriate and sufficient for defence purposes. 22 EU members are members of NATO  while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality.  The Western European Union, a military alliance with a mutual defence clause, was disbanded in 2010 as its role had been transferred to the EU. 
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United Kingdom spent $61 billion on defence in 2014, placing it fifth in the world, while France spent $53 billion, the sixth largest.  Together, the UK and France account for approximately 40 per cent of European countries' defence budget and 50 per cent of their military capacity.  Both are officially recognised nuclear weapon states holding permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
Following the Kosovo War in 1999, the European Council agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO". To that end, a number of efforts were made to increase the EU's military capability, notably the Helsinki Headline Goal process. After much discussion, the most concrete result was the EU Battlegroups initiative, each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 personnel. 
EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from middle and northern Africa to the western Balkans and western Asia.  EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, European Union Satellite Centre and the European Union Military Staff.  Frontex is an agency of the EU established to manage the cooperation between national border guards securing its external borders. It aims to detect and stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration. In 2015 the European Commission presented its proposal for a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency having a stronger role and mandate along with national authorities for border management. In an EU consisting of 28 members, substantial security and defence co-operation is increasingly relying on collaboration among all member states. 
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2012, its budget amounted to €874 million, 51% of the budget went to Africa and 20% to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific, and 20% to the Middle East and Mediterranean. 
Humanitarian aid is financed directly by the budget (70%) as part of the financial instruments for external action and also by the European Development Fund (30%).  The EU's external action financing is divided into 'geographic' instruments and 'thematic' instruments.  The 'geographic' instruments provide aid through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI, €16.9 billion, 2007–2013), which must spend 95% of its budget on overseas development assistance (ODA), and from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which contains some relevant programmes.  The European Development Fund (EDF, €22.7 bn, 2008–2013) is made up of voluntary contributions by member states, but there is pressure to merge the EDF into the budget-financed instruments to encourage increased contributions to match the 0.7% target and allow the European Parliament greater oversight. 
However, five countries have reached the 0.7% target: Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom.
The European Union has established a single market across the territory of all its members representing 511 million citizens. In 2016, the EU had a combined GDP of $20 trillion international dollars, a 17% share of global gross domestic product by purchasing power parity (PPP).  As a political entity the European Union is represented in the World Trade Organization (WTO). EU member states own the estimated largest net wealth in the world, equal to 30% of the $223 trillion global wealth.
19 member states have joined a monetary union known as the eurozone, which uses the Euro as a single currency. The currency union represents 340 million EU citizens. The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar.   
Of the top 500 largest corporations in the world measured by revenue in 2010, 161 have their headquarters in the EU.  In 2016, unemployment in the EU stood at 8.9%  while inflation was at 2.2%, and the current account balance at −0.9% of GDP. The average annual net earnings in the European Union was around €24,000  in 2015, which was about 70% of that in the United States. 
There is a significant variance for GDP (PPP) per capita within individual EU states.
Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds are supporting the development of underdeveloped regions of the EU. Such regions are primarily located in the states of central and southern Europe.   Several funds provide emergency aid, support for candidate members to transform their country to conform to the EU's standard (Phare, ISPA, and SAPARD), and support to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme. EU research and technological framework programmes sponsor research conducted by consortia from all EU members to work towards a single European Research Area. 
Two of the original core objectives of the European Economic Community were the development of a common market, subsequently becoming a single market, and a customs union between its member states. The single market involves the free circulation of goods, capital, people, and services within the EU, and the customs union involves the application of a common external tariff on all goods entering the market. Once goods have been admitted into the market they cannot be subjected to customs duties, discriminatory taxes or import quotas, as they travel internally. The non-EU member states of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in the single market but not in the customs union.  Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU. 
Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries.
The free movement of persons means that EU citizens can move freely between member states to live, work, study or retire in another country. This required the lowering of administrative formalities and recognition of professional qualifications of other states. 
The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member states to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis.
The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the European Economic Community in 1969. In 1992, having negotiated the structure and procedures of a currency union, the member states signed the Maastricht Treaty and were legally bound to fulfil the agreed-on rules including the convergence criteria if they wanted to join the monetary union. The states wanting to participate had first to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
In 1999 the currency union started, first as an accounting currency with eleven member states joining. In 2002, the currency was fully put into place, when euro notes and coins were issued and national currencies began to phase out in the eurozone, which by then consisted of 12 member states. The eurozone (constituted by the EU member states which have adopted the euro) has since grown to 19 countries.  [[CITE|-1|http://uk.fm.dk/Portfolio/Internationalcooperation/EU%20economic%20and%20political%20coordination/ERM2.aspx]]
The euro, and the monetary policies of those who have adopted it in agreement with the EU, are under the control of the European Central Bank (ECB).  The ECB is the central bank for the eurozone, and thus controls monetary policy in that area with an agenda to maintain price stability. It is at the centre of the European System of Central Banks, which comprehends all EU national central banks and is controlled by its General Council, consisting of the President of the ECB, who is appointed by the European Council, the Vice-President of the ECB, and the governors of the national central banks of all 28 EU member states.
The European System of Financial Supervision is an institutional architecture of the EU's framework of financial supervision composed by three authorities: the European Banking Authority, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority and the European Securities and Markets Authority. To complement this framework, there is also a European Systemic Risk Board under the responsibility of the ECB. The aim of this financial control system is to ensure the economic stability of the EU. 
To prevent the joining states from getting into financial trouble or crisis after entering the monetary union, they were obliged in the Maastricht treaty to fulfil important financial obligations and procedures, especially to show budgetary discipline and a high degree of sustainable economic convergence, as well as to avoid excessive government deficits and limit the government debt to a sustainable level.
In 2006, the EU-27 had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe).  Around 46% of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54% was imported.  In these statistics, nuclear energy is treated as primary energy produced in the EU, regardless of the source of the uranium, of which less than 3% is produced in the EU. 
The EU has had legislative power in the area of energy policy for most of its existence; this has its roots in the original European Coal and Steel Community. The introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was approved at the meeting of the European Council in October 2005, and the first draft policy was published in January 2007. 
The EU has five key points in its energy policy: increase competition in the internal market, encourage investment and boost interconnections between electricity grids; diversify energy resources with better systems to respond to a crisis; establish a new treaty framework for energy co-operation with Russia while improving relations with energy-rich states in Central Asia  and North Africa; use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing renewable energy commercialisation; and finally increase funding for new energy technologies. 
In 2007, EU countries as a whole imported 82% of their oil, 57% of their natural gas  and 97.48% of their uranium  demands. There is a strong dependence on Russian energy that the EU has been attempting to reduce. 
The EU is working to improve cross-border infrastructure within the EU, for example through the Trans-European Networks (TEN). Projects under TEN include the Channel Tunnel, LGV Est, the Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Öresund Bridge, the Brenner Base Tunnel and the Strait of Messina Bridge. In 2010 the estimated network covers: 75,200 kilometres (46,700 mi) of roads; 78,000 kilometres (48,000 mi) of railways; 330 airports; 270 maritime harbours; and 210 internal harbours.  
Rail transport in Europe is being synchronised with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), an initiative to greatly enhance safety, increase efficiency of trains and enhance cross-border interoperability of rail transport in Europe by replacing signalling equipment with digitised mostly wireless versions and by creating a single Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems.
The developing European transport policies will increase the pressure on the environment in many regions by the increased transport network.
The Galileo positioning system is another EU infrastructure project. Galileo is a proposed Satellite navigation system, to be built by the EU and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Galileo project was launched partly to reduce the EU's dependency on the US-operated Global Positioning System, but also to give more complete global coverage and allow for greater accuracy, given the aged nature of the GPS system. 
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the long lasting policies of the European Community.  The policy has the objectives of increasing agricultural production, providing certainty in food supplies, ensuring a high quality of life for farmers, stabilising markets, and ensuring reasonable prices for consumers.  It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s, the policy accounted for over 60% of the then European Community's annual budget, and as of 2013 accounts for around 34%. 
The policy's price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction. These were intervention stores of products bought up by the Community to maintain minimum price levels. To dispose of surplus stores, they were often sold on the world market at prices considerably below Community guaranteed prices, or farmers were offered subsidies (amounting to the difference between the Community and world prices) to export their products outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers outside Europe, especially those in the developing world.  Supporters of CAP argue that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living. 
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the CAP has been subject to a series of reforms.
The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market. The Commission as the competition regulator for the single market is responsible for antitrust issues, approving mergers, breaking up cartels, working for economic liberalisation and preventing state aid. 
The Competition Commissioner, currently Margrethe Vestager, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations.  For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (GE and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority.  Another high-profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action. 
Cultural co-operation between member states has been a concern of the EU since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty.
Association football is by far the most popular sport in almost all European countries.   The other sports with the more participants in clubs are tennis, swimming, athletics, golf, gymnastics, equestrian sports, handball, volleyball and sailing. 
Sport is mainly the responsibility of the member states or other international organisations, rather than of the EU.
The Treaty of Lisbon requires any application of economic rules to take into account the specific nature of sport and its structures based on voluntary activity. This followed lobbying by governing organisations such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, due to objections over the application of free market principles to sport, which led to an increasing gap between rich and poor clubs.  The EU does fund a programme for Israeli, Jordanian, Irish, and British football coaches, as part of the Football 4 Peace project. 
The flag of the Union consists of a circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background. The blue represents the West, while the number and position of the stars represent completeness and unity, respectively.  Originally designed in 1955 for the Council of Europe, the flag was adopted by the European Communities, the predecessors of the present Union, in 1986.
United in Diversity was adopted as the motto of the Union in the year 2000, having been selected from proposals submitted by school pupils. Since 1985, the flag day of the Union has been Europe Day, on 9 May (the date of the 1950 Schuman declaration). The anthem of the Union is an instrumental version of the prelude to the Ode to Joy , the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's ninth symphony. The anthem was adopted by European Community leaders in 1985 and has since been played on official occasions. 
Besides naming the continent, the Greek mythological figure of Europa has frequently been employed as a personification of Europe. Known from the myth in which Zeus seduces her in the guise of a white bull, Europa has also been referred to in relation to the present Union. Statues of Europa and the bull decorate several of the Union's institutions and a portrait of her is seen on the 2013 series of Euro banknotes. The bull is, for its part, depicted on all residence permit cards.
Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne (Latin : Carolus Magnus) and later recognised as Pater Europae ("Father of Europe"),    [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]] has a symbolic relevance to Europe. The Commission has named one of its central buildings in Brussels after Charlemagne and the city of Aachen has since 1949 awarded the Charlemagne Prize to champions of European unification. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]] Since 2008, the organisers of this prize, in conjunction with the European Parliament, have awarded the Charlemagne Youth Prize in recognition of similar efforts by young people. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]]
Benedict of Nursia ( c. 2 March 480 – 543 or 547 AD) is a patron saint of Europe, venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches.  Pope Benedict XVI said that he "exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture" and helped Europe to emerge from the "dark night of history" that followed the fall of the Roman empire. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]] The influence of St Benedict produced "a true spiritual ferment" in Europe, his followers spreading his Rule across the continent to establish a new cultural unity based on Christian faith. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]] In 1997, Polish-born Pope John Paul II canonised Poland's 14th-century monarch Jadwiga as Saint Hedwig, the patron saint of queens and of European unification [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]] There are five other recognised patron saints of Europe, declared so by Pope John Paul II between 1980–1999 : Cyril and Methodius, Saint Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. [[CITE|-1|http://doi.org/10.2307/23537320]]
Media freedom is a fundamental right that applies to all member states of the European Union and its citizens, as defined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.  : 1 Within the EU enlargement process, guaranteeing media freedom is named a "key indicator of a country's readiness to become part of the EU". 
The vast majority of media in the European Union are national-oriented.
The MEDIA Programme of the European Union intends to support the European popular film and audiovisual industries since 1991. It provides support for the development, promotion and distribution of European works within Europe and beyond.