New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. World
  2. Europe
24 June 2016

What is the European Union?

Which countries are in the EU? What is the Schengen agreement? And when was the EU founded?

By Stephanie Boland

The EU is a political and economic union of 28 member states, founded in 1993.

The origins of the union lie in the European Economic Community (EEC), a group formed in postwar Europe that originally consisted of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. Britain joined the EEC in 1973.

In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls.

Okay: but what does the EU actually do?

The EU operates a single market which allows the free movement of people, goods, services and capital between member states.

This means that people can move between EU countries freely. Any product legally manufactured in one country can be sold in another without incurring duties. Taxes are standardised. Firms that provide things like medicine and tourism services can operate across borders.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The EU has helped ensure the cost of air travel, overseas phone calls and internet services are low – but some believe its regulations are too restrictive.

Which countries are in the EU?

There are 28 countries in the EU. They are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus,Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and, at the time of writing, the UK.

The UK entered the EEC in 1973. It was a founder member of the EU. On June 23, 2016, UK citizens voted to leave the union.

Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change