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Last edited 30 Jun 2016
The European Union (EU) is a partnership between 28 European countries which aims to create ‘an ever closer union between the peoples of Europe’. With the original intention of improving economic stability, the European Union has subsequently expanded its role to play a significant part in many policy areas.
The European Union was created after the Second World War to ensure there was economic unity in the hope that the countries would trade together and would therefore avoid conflict. In 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed which established the European Coal and Steel Community which was joined by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
In 1958, under the Treaty of Rome, the same six countries formed the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community, to work alongside the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1967, the three separate communities joined to form the European Communities (EC) with a predominant focus on economic and agricultural affairs.
In 1993, the European Economic Community was renamed the European Union following the Maastrict treaty. Since its creation, the organisation has diversified significantly with policy areas ranging from the environment to development aid. The introduction of European Union citizenship allows people from member countries to move freely between the member states. Maastrict also established the timeframe for monetary union and determined the economic criteria that allowed member states to join.
 Current member states
The current member states of the European Union (2015), together with their year of entry are:
- Austria (1995).
- Belgium (1958).
- Bulgaria (2007).
- Cyprus (2004).
- Croatia (2013).
- Czech Republic (2004).
- Denmark (1973).
- Estonia (2004).
- Finland (1995).
- France (1958).
- Germany (1958).
- Greece (1981).
- Hungary (2004).
- Ireland (1973).
- Italy (1958).
- Latvia (2004).
- Lithuania (2004).
- Luxembourg (1958).
- Malta (2004).
- Netherlands (1958).
- Poland (2004).
- Portugal (1986).
- Romania (2007).
- Slovakia (2004).
- Slovenia (2004).
- Spain (1986).
- Sweden (1995).
- United Kingdom (1973).
Other candidate or potential countries include:
- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A series of legal treaties have been signed between member states and these form the basis of the union. The draft Constitution for Europe was produced in 2003 and was designed to replace all the treaties as the single legal document for governing the operations of the European Union. However, the Constitution was rejected in a series of referendums and the Lisbon Treaty was drafted as a replacement in 2007 which was ratified by all member states in 2009.
The European Union is composed of Institutions that are responsible for forming laws, managing projects, distributing funds and determining the direction of development.
The most powerful body is the European Commission which has a variety of responsibilities. It is the sole institution responsible for proposing new European Union laws and for enforcing them.
Laws are passed to the Council of the European Union and European Parliament. The Council is composed of ministers from the member states, is led by a President and meets four times a year to discuss the direction of European Policy.
The European Parliament is the sole directly elected institution and has no powers to propose legislation but can discuss and vote on laws proposed by the Commission.
The Court of Justice of the European Union is made up of 28 judges assisted by 9 advocates-general. A General Court deals with cases brought by private individuals and competition law cases. The European Union Civil Service Tribunal rules on disputes between the European Union and its employees.
The European Union is influential in a variety of policy areas. With regards to economics, it is responsible for the Euro, external trade negotiations, managing the single market, competition policy and the European Union budget.
The European Union operates a number of funds including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It is also responsible for many areas of justice and home affairs, social and foreign policies and health and safety, and provides regulations in relation to issues such as the environment and consumer protection.
 The Euro
The Euro was introduced as a common currency by a number of member states in 1999. Denmark, Sweden and the UK decided not to join. In 2002, the currency was fully implemented with euro notes and coins issued and the phasing out of individual member state currencies began.
On 23 June 2016, The United Kingdom voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union in a nationwide referendum. There is some uncertainty about how the 'Brexit' process will take place, and to what extent the UK will remain a part of the European single market.
From the point at which the UK triggers Article 50, there will be 2 years of negotiations before the actual exit.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Buildings of the EU.
- EU Referendum - Environmental and climate change consequences for the built environment.
- European Union Procurement Directives.
- European Union Timber Regulation.
- Official Journal of the European Union.
- UK construction industry.
- United Kingdom.
- What does Brexit mean for construction?
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