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Search GovSpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers | Did you know?  
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European Union

Trade barriers and changing currencies are things most Americans don't have to think about. But across the Atlantic Ocean, several countries have established the European Union to link themselves together economically and politically. Now in its late stages of development, the European Union will dramatically change the lives of many Europeans.

While most Americans ignore the European Union, it represents a very real economic competitor with the United States. The 1999 GDP of the United States was $9.3 trillion, according the CIA World Factbook. The combined 1999 GDP of the 15 European Union nations is about $8 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world.

History and Institutions

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Winston Churchill and other European leaders advocated forming a "united states" of Europe. If European countries were united economically, these leaders thought, they would be less likely to go to war with each other again.

The European Union formed in 1957 as a coalition between France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. With the addition of Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Sweden there are now 15 nations in the EU. Read a year-by-year account of the History of the European Union to learn more. Norway and Switzerland are the only two western European nations that have not joined the EU.




The EU has three governing bodies, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. These three groups determine the economic policies of the EU. To find out more about their functions, read the Institutions of the European Union.

The goals of the union are to establish a common market, a common currency and a European citizenship that would complement national citizenship. The Common Market, launched in 1968, allows free trade between the nations in the union.

However, some skeptics of the union fear that European countries will lose their separate cultural identities with economic integration.

Expansion

The EU is now preparing to expand to include countries such as Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Applicant countries must meet certain requirements, such as a stable economy and a working democracy, to join the union. These requirements encourage countries to make economic and social reforms. Read news and reports about the Enlargement, including profiles of the 13 applicant countries.

Euro

A single currency is one of the last steps in the process of unifying the countries' economies. While most EU nations accepted the currency, known as the euro, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden decided to observe the euro for a few years before joining.

One euro is worth about 88 cents. The euro was launched in 1999 for business and credit card transactions. Euro currency and coins became legal tender Jan. 1, 2002. The nations' separate currencies were phased out within two months. To learn more about the euro, read the Frequently Asked Questions and browse the euro conversion rates. You can see the design of euro bank notes at the European Central Bank.

News

For news on the EU economy, read The Economist, EUbusiness and EU Integration News.




   --- J. Britten

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