European Union

The European Union, the EU, is a regional cooperation organization in Europe consisting of 27 member countries with their headquarters in Brussels. The current name (EU) dates from 1993. Previous names are EC and EEC.

The EU is governed by seven bodies with different functions: the European Council, the European Parliament, the Council (Consilium), the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors. The bodies have been delegated authority by the member states, and are partly supranational and partly intergovernmental in their design and operation.

EU decisions shape public policy in a number of important areas. While the collaboration began historically in coal and steel in 1952, the EU today decides in most areas of business, such as economy, working life, district politics, immigration, environmental policy and social standards and more.

The EU has gradually introduced a legislative process with rules and standards for the areas of cooperation. A legal system ensures compliance with the rules, with the European Commission as the supervisory authority and the European Court of Justice as the supreme judiciary.

Norway is not a member of the EU, but has been associated with the EU since 1995 through the EEA Agreement, which binds Norway’s policy and legal development closely to the EU’s legislative processes.

According to Countryaah, the European Union or EU has its origins in the European Coal and Steel Union of 1952. The 1957 Rome Treaty, which is regarded as the EU’s founding document, describes the objective of cooperation as “an ever closer union” between the member states. In 2009, the Treaty of Rome was replaced by the Lisbon Treaty.

In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee justified this because “the Union and its predecessors have for more than six decades helped to promote peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

EU - European Union

Member Countries

Original members

  • Belgium
  • France
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • West Germany 1)

1) The reunited and expanded Germany from 1990, where the former East Germany (GDR) was also incorporated through its states.

Later members

Country Year of admission
Denmark 1 1973
Ireland 1973
United Kingdom 2 1973-2020
Greece 1981
Portugal 1986
Spain 1986
Finland 1995
Sweden 1995
Austria 1995
Estonia 2004
Latvia 2004
Lithuania 2004
Poland 2004
Czech Republic 2004
Slovakia 2004
Hungary 2004
Slovenia 2004
Malta 2004
Cyprus 2004
Bulgaria 2007
Romania 2007
Croatia 2013

1 Greenland left the EU in 1985.

2 The UK left the EU in 2020.

Countries and Flags of European Union


The start of EU cooperation, in effect from 1953, was the European Coal and Steel Union formed by six Western European countries (“the inner six”): Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany (then West Germany).

Following the signing of the 1957 Treaty of Rome between the same six countries, the European Economic Community (EEC, or the Common Market) was established from 1958 by, together with the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). In 1967, the three communities – the Coal and Steel Union, the Common Market and EURATOM – were merged into the European Communities (EC).

Twenty years later, the Single European Act (in force from 1987) came up with decision-making procedures to facilitate the transition to the internal market, which was established in 1993 through the Maastricht Agreement. This treaty also laid the foundations for Economic and Monetary Union ( EMU ) with the European Central Bank and prepared for a single currency.

The common currency euro was introduced in 2002. The same year the Coal and Steel Union was closed down. The 1999 Amsterdam Agreement strengthened the position of the European Parliament, that is, the people elected, while the Nice Treaty of 2003 facilitated the enlargement of the Union with a number of countries from Eastern and Southern Europe. Nevertheless, the Nice Treaty was in many ways an emergency solution for the large membership expansion, and it became necessary to prepare something better.

In 2004, the governments of the member states agreed on a constitutional treaty that would bring together the entire EU legal basis and aim for a better anchoring of the EU in the population. However, it was rejected by referendums in several of the member states. Therefore, instead, a new agreement had to be drawn up to replace the Treaty of Nice, first called the Reform Treaty, gradually becoming better known as the Lisbon Treaty. This was first approved by all Member States except Ireland, which rejected it by referendum in 2008. The Lisbon Treaty was nevertheless approved in a new Irish referendum in the fall of 2009 and formally ratified on 1 December 2009 as the current agreement for the EU.

From the late 1960’s, the EC / EU has been open to enlargement. The UK, Ireland and Denmark joined in 1973, Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Sweden, Finland and Austria in 1995. The 2004 enlargement included Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta. Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007, Croatia in 2013.

Turkey, Macedonia and Montenegro are candidate countries. Talks on membership for Northern Macedonia and Albania were opened in March 2020. Iceland had a period status as a candidate country, but withdrew its application in March 2015.

Norway has twice negotiated membership, but in the 1972 and 1994 referendums there was a majority against membership.