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The European Union in a nutshell

INTERMEDIATE Vydáno dne 18.03.2009

A brief guide to the European Union.

The European Union in a nutshell

What is the European Union?

The European Union is an organisation of 27 European states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.

What is its purpose?

Generally, its purpose is economic integration and common policies.

The member states of the European Union

The Czech RepublicHungaryThe NetherlandsSweden
DenmarkIrelandPolandThe United Kingdom

The history of the European Union

The European Union was founded on 1 November 1993. It developed from the European Community. The Maastricht Treaty transformed the European Community into the European Union.

SymbolsFlag of the EU

  • the European Union flag: A circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background (symbolizing perfection and unity)
  • the anthem of the European Union: Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven (since 1972)

The main goals of the European Union

  • Monetary Union - a single currency for Europe
  • Freedom of movement
  • Education development
  • Peace keeping
  • Relaxed border check
  • Environmental care
  • More job opportunities

The Monetary Union

The EuroThe Euro is the monetary unit of the European Union. It has been in circulation since 1 January 2002.
The Euro is issued by the European Central Bank (located in Frankfurt, Germany).

Currently, 16 countries use the euro:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal,Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
These countries are called The Euro zone (= the area where the euro is used).

The remaining EU members keep their old currency: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden and the UK.


  • citizens don't have to change money every time they cross the border when travelling within the Eurozone
  • it's easier to compare prices with one currency
  • the Euro is an international currency - it's widely accepted in many places outside the Euro area

The Czech Republic membership

The Czech Republic has been the EU member since 1 May 2004.

The last enlargement of the EU

2007; Bulgaria, Romania

Current candidate countries

Croatia, Macedonia, Turkey

Structure of the EU - its bodies

The European Commision (Evropská komise)

  • the highest administrative body in the EU
  • propose policy and law for the Council
  • responsible for day-to-day running of the community
  • members chosen by the Community governments for 5 years

The Council of the EU (Rada Evropské unie)

  • the council of Ministers; represents national govermnets
  • the most powerful EU body; primary decision-making authority of the EU

The European Parliament

  • 785 members, elected by citizens of the EU for 5 years
  • little real power apart from checking the work of the council and the commision
  • corrections, suggestions, changes to laws before passsed by Council

Other EU bodies:

The European Court of Justice (Evropský soudní dvůr)

The European Central Bank (Evropská centrální banka)

What changes does joining the EU bring to the newcomers? What will remain the same? What are the benefits?

  • each Czech resident becomes a EU member = the right to travel, stay or work in any member state
  • official EU documents are translated also into Czech language
  • traffic regulations and health insurance remain the same

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