Basic facts about the European Union
This page provides useful facts about, for example, Member States, eurozone countries and candidate countries. On the chronology of enlargements and the EU treaties, and on the official languages of the EU and the symbols of the Union.
The European Union has 27 member countries (on 31 January the United Kingdom left the European Union):
France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia,Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta,Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.
The European Economic Area (EEA) covers 27 member countries and 3 EFTA countries: Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
The EEA Agreement entered into force on 1 January 1994.
Switzerland is a member state of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) but has notbecome a member of th e European Economic Area due to a negative referendum on the matter.
The EEA Agreement covers the four freedoms of the EU internal market: the free movement ofgoods (except certain fish and agricultural products), persons, services and capital.
- Turkey (negotiation talks on accession were opened on 3 October 2005)
- The Republic of North
- Macedonia (in October 2009 the European Commission recommended that negotiations for accession to the EU should be opened)
- Montenegro (the opening of accession negotiations took place on 29 June 2012)
- Serbia (applied for the candidate country status on 22 December 2009, candidate country status was granted on 2 March 2012, accession negotiations opened on 21 January 2014)
- Albania (candidate country status was granted on 27 June 2014)
- Iceland (on 17 June 2010 a decision was passed to open accession negotiations but in May 2013 the Icelandic Government put the negotiations on hold)
1952 – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands established the European Communities.
1973 – Ireland, Denmark, United Kingdom
1981 – Greece
1986 – Spain, Portugal
1995 – Austria, Finland, Sweden
2004 – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czechia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Malta, Cyprus
2007 – Romania, Bulgaria
2013 – Croatia
The single currency euro is used by 19 member countries out of 27:
France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Austria, Ireland (euro banknotes and coins came into circulation in 12 countries as of 1 January 2002)
Slovenia (1 January2007)
Malta and Cyprus (1 January 2008)
Slovakia (1 January 2009)
Estonia (1 January 2011)
Latvia (1 January 2014)
Lithuania (1 January 2015)
Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom kept their national currency.
Romania, Poland, Czechia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia are not members of the euro-area as these countries do not meet the required criteria.
Countries or territories using the euro without a formal agreement: Andorra, Kosovo, Montenegro.
Overseas territories using the euro: French-administered territories Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Mayotte; Madeira and the Azores, the autonomous regions of Portugal; the Canary Islands, the autonomous community of Spain.
The presidency of the Council of the European Union dates back to 1958 and rotates among the EU member states every 6 months according to a previously fixed schedule.
As of 2007, the presidency has been arranged as trio-presidency or troika with an 18-month agenda, supplemented by the national agenda of each country of presidency.
The rotating trio-presidency takes into account both the size and geographical location of the country, as was decided by the Council in September 2006 (this was also stipuletd by the Tr eaty establishing a Constitution for Europe which was never ratified).
The Presidency of the Council has an important role in organising the work of the institution, in particular initiating legislative and political decisions. The Presidency is responsible for preparing and chairing Council meetings, including the meetings of the Working Parties, and mediating compromises.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, the European Council which meets as a rule 4 times a year, is chaired by its president. The president of the European Council is elected with qualified majority for a term of two and a half years and can have a maximum of two terms. The first president of the European Council was Herman von Rompuy.
Presidency of member states: January – June and July – December.
2016 Netherlands, Slovakia
2017 Malta, Estonia
2018 Bulgaria, Austria
2019 Romania, Finland
2020 Croatia, Germany
See the schedule of Presidency until 2030 (Council Decision 2016/1316).
Source: Council of the European Union
Goal of the Schengen agreement: allowing the freedom of movement of persons in the Schengen area. Member states of the Agreement have no border control on their internal borders, and the possible negative impact of the abolition of internal border checks is reduced by compensatory measures.
The Schengen area covers 26 countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands (first signatories, acceded on 14 June 1985), Italy (27 November 1990), Portugal, Spain (25 June 1992), Greece (6 November 1992), Austria (28 April 1995), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland (19 December 1996), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (21 December 2007), Switzerland (12 December 2008), Liechtenstein (19 December 2011).
Non-Schengen Countries are: Ireland and the United Kingdom (the latter left the European Union on 31 January 2020)
Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia have acceded to the Schengen Agreement and are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area.
Prerequisite for implementing the Schengen rules: abolition of control and barriers on internal borders, availability of sufficient compensational measures and police cooperation, sufficient control of external borders, dividing Schengen and non Schengen travellers at airports and readiness to implement the Schengen Information System.
- Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, Paris (signed on 18 April 1951, entered into force on 23 July 1952. The Treaty expired on 23 July 2002)
- Treaties of Rome
The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, Rome (signed on 25 March 1957, entered into force on 1 January 1958)
The Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, Rome (signed on 25 March 1957, entered into force on 1 January 1958)
- Single European Act (1986, entered into force on 1 July 1987)
Major amendments brought to the treaties with the adoption of the Single European Act, which:
1) set the concept of the European Single Market with the term of establishing the single market (1992);
2) created foundations for the Court of First Instance of the European Communities;
3) extended areas where the Council of the European Communities acts by the majority;
4) enhanced the powers of the European Parliament in legislative processes by introducing the cooperation procedure;
5) provided a contractual and thus legal basis for the structural, environmental, research and technology policies of the European Communities;
6) provided a legal basis for European political cooperation.
See also the European Parliament fact sheet “Developments Up to the Single European Act”.
- The Merger Treaty (signed on 8 April 1965 in Brussels, entered into force on 1 July 1967)
- Treaty on European Union, Maastricht (signed on 7 February 1992, entered into force on 1 November 1993)
This treaty took the European integration „to the next level“:
1) established the European Union;
2) introduced the structure of three pillars of the EU: the European Communities, the Common Foreign and Security Policy; judicial cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs;
3) established basis for European Economic and Monetary Union – adoption of the euro, establishment of the European System of Central Banks and European Central Bank;
4) set out principles of exclusive and non-exclusive competence, subsidiarity and proportionality;
5) formalised the role of the European Council in the EUs institutional process;
6) formed the European Committee of the Regions;
7) enhanced the role of the European Parliament and established a new type of procedure – co-decision procedure;
8) established the position of the European Ombudsman at the European Parliament;
9) the EU was given new competencies, e.g in the field of culture, European networks and industry;
10) the new version which more clearly distinguished the competencies, set out the area of social policy, vocational training and youth, economic and social cohesion, environmental policy;
11) public health and consumer protection were to form a separate chapter in the treaties, a new chapter was to be added on development cooperation and association of the overseas departments and territories;
12) EU citizenship was to be established.
See also the European Parliament fact sheet “The Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties”.
- Treaty of Amsterdam (signed on 2 October 1997, entered into force on 1 May 1999)
The Treaty of Amsterdam made the following substantial changes:
1) judicial cooperation (including visa, asylum, immigration and other policies regarding the free movement of persons) would be transferred from the third pillar to the first pillar, thus leaving to the third pillar police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters;
2) an area of freedom, security and justice would be established;
3) the Schengen acquis would be incorporated into the EU legal framework;
4) the co-decision procedure of the European Parliament would be considerably extended;
5) the maximum number of members of the European Parliament would be set at 700;
6) a legal basis would be provided enabling member states to establish closer cooperation that would institutionalise the multi-speed EU (i.e some member states can take cooperation further than others if they are ready while others would follow later);
7) the position of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be established for shaping and carrying out the EU foreign and security policy;
8) a number of editorial amendments were made, e.g the treaties would be renumbered and letters in the reference to the Treaty on European Union would be replaced with numbers.
However, the Amsterdam Treaty did not make any substantial institutional changes that would prepare the enlargement of the EU. That soon brought the necessity for a new treaty (Treaty of Nice)
See also the European Parliament fact sheet “The Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties”.
- Treaty of Nice (signed on 26 February 2001, entered into force on 1 February 2003)
The Treaty of Nice introduced the following changes:
1) qualified-majority voting would be extended to more areas and its system would be changed within the Council;
2) the powers of the President of the European Commission would be extended;
3) there would be one Commissioner from each member state, including the largest countries, until further corresponding agreements;
4) the maximum number of members of the European Parliament would be increased from 700 to 732;
5) legal administration system would be reformed: provisions regarding the Court of First Instance would be supplemented and the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance would be extended, the Treaty also provided for the creation of subsidiary courts to deal with different areas of law;
6) new rules would be provided for closer cooperation between certain member states;
7) new provisions would be added on economic, financial and technical cooperation with third countries;
8) the common commercial policy would extend the competence of the EU in the area of trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property;
9) the human rights mechanism would be supplemented with deprivation of the voting right upon danger of a member state seriously infringing the human rights and rule of law principles;
10) the Political Committee of the Common Foreign and Security Policy is renamed the Political and Security Committee which would be given the powers for crisis management, the reference to the Western European Union would be deleted;
11) judicial cooperation in criminal matters would be enhanced by establishing Eurojust which consists of prosecutors representing member states and aims to facilitate cooperation between member states in criminal matters and execution of judgements;
12) the Official Journal of the EC would be renamed Official Journal of the EU;
13) the Charter of Fundamental Rights would be approved.
See also the European Parliament fact sheet „The Treaty of Nice and the Convention on the Future of Europe“.
- Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community (signed on 13 December 2007, entered into force on 1 December 2009).
The Treaty of Lisbon amended the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. The Treaty on European Union set out general principles on the purpose of the EU and innovative provisions set out in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The Treaty establishing the European Community was renamed Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and it regulates the politics of the EU.
1) the treaty abandoned the previous complex structure (the so-called three pillars) and the term „European Community“, using only the term „European Union“;
2) the treaty regulated the competencies of and their division between the European Union and its member states;
3) due to the extending of qualified-majority voting to more areas, the decision-making process of the EU became faster and more efficient;
4) the involvement of the European Parliament in decision-making was increased;
5) European politics became more transparent as the Council meetings discussing the draft legislative acts became public;
6) the treaty provided for the European Citizens’ Initiative – an initiative that has reached at least one million signatures can invite the European Commission to propose a new law;
7) national parliaments would be able to better supervise the activities on the EU level;
8) the maximum number of members of the European Parliament could be 751 (750 members and the President). Maximum 96 and minimum 6 members could be elected from one member state;
9) European Council became an institution to be chaired by the president, elected for a term of two and a half years and could have a maximum of two terms;
10) the treaty established the position of a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security or the so-called EU Minister for Foreign Affairs. The High Representative would be one of the Commission’s Vice-Presidents and chair the EU Foreign Affairs Council;
11) the treaty more clearly formulated the objectives, principles and measures of the EU foreign policy, the importance of the EU neighbourhood policy is brought out for the first time;
12) an article was added which would enable a member state to withdraw from the EU;
13) in the area of human rights, the treaty acknowledged the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and made the Charter legally binding.
See also the European Parliament fact sheet „Treaty of Lisbon“.
The European Union has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portugese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish.
The co-official languages of the EU are Basque, Catalan, Galician, Scots and Welsh. Co-official status means that any citizen speaking that language may communicate with the EU in their mother tongue and will get the answer in the same language.
Source: EU languages
The European Flag was initially used by another international organisation – since 1955 it was the flag of the Council of Europe. In 1985 this flag was adopted by the EU institutions.
The gold stars on the flag do not refer to the number of member states but stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe, thus the enlargement of the Union does not change the design of the flag.
Here you can find the downloads of the EU Flag in official design and colour.
In Estonia, the procedure for hoisting the European Flag is stipulated in the Estonian Flag Act.
The European anthem – the melody comes from the Ninth Symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, when he set music to the "Ode to Joy", Friedrich von Schiller's lyrical verse. In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted the "Ode to Joy" theme as its anthem.
The use of the EU emblem by third persons is allowed unless
– the use creates the incorrect impression or assumption that there is a connection between the user and any of the institutions, bodies, offices, agencies and organs of the European Union or the Council of Europe;
– the use is in connection with any objective or activity which is incompatible with the aims and principles of the European Union or of the Council of Europe.
The Commissioner nominated by Estonia to the European Commission is Kadri Simson who is responsible for the energy sector.
Estonia has 7 representatives in the European Parliament.
Estonian Members of the European Parliament as of 2019:
Andrus Ansip (Renew Europe Group)
Marina Kaljurand (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament)
Jaak Madisson (Identity and Democracy Group)
Sven Mikser (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament)
Urmas Paet (Renew Europe Group)
Yana Toom (Renew Europe Group)
Riho Terras (Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats))
Representatives of Estonian economic and social life are members of the European Economic and Social Committee and Estonian local governments take part in the work of the European Committee of the Regions.
Estonia has nominated 6 members to both committees whose membership is renewed every four years.
Juhan Parts is the representative of Estonia in the European Court of Auditors.
Küllike Jürimäe represents Estonia in the Court of Justice and Lauri Madise in the General Court.