Monday, 09 December, 2013
15:36 GMT 19:36 Moscow
Local Time: 19:36
The European Union (its official name, or EU in abbreviated form) is a political and economic association of twenty-five integrated states of Europe: Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Estonia.
Territory: 3,892,200 square kilometers.
Population: 454.5 million.
The EU is based on European Communities: the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (both founded in 1957).
The principal goals of the Union and its powers are defined by the Single European Act (1987), and the Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1999) and Nice (2001) treaties.
On October 29, 2004, a Constitution was signed at a ceremony in Rome, which, to be adopted, requires ratification by all EU member-countries. It is meant to replace the Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties (and is appended with an insignificant number of additional protocols). The Constitution is a summary of proposals on the European Union's new institutional structure and its functioning. It will greatly simplify the EU basic legal documents.
From January 1, 1999, the European Union (12 of its states at the initial stage) introduced the single euro currency for cashless transactions; from January 1, 2002 its coins and notes replaced the national monetary units of 12 countries of the Eurozone in cash circulation.
The main EU institutions are:
The European Council - meets not less than twice a year at the level of heads of state and government and the President of the Commission of the European Communities and serves to lay down a general political line of development for the EU.
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by universal direct suffrage in all EU member-countries for 5 years (732 deputies). The EP has powers to approve a EU budget, solve inter-institutional problems and ratify international treaties; on other issues it is authorised either to adopt joint decisions with the Commission of the European Communities and the Council of the European Union, or to submit recommendations. EP sessions meet alternatively in Strasbourg (France) and Brussels (Belgium).
The Council of the European Union (the council of foreign ministers or — dealing with branch-specific issues — appropriate ministers of member-countries) is empowered to adopt binding decisions practically on all aspects of EU activity. The sitting procedure is determined by the Council President — an appropriate minister of the state holding the EU presidency for half a year according to agreed timetable.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) is a working body of the Council of the European Union, which functions within the framework of the General Secretariat of the Council and prepares questions for its consideration.
The Commission of the European Communities (CEC, or, unofficially, also the European Commission) is an executive body, a kind of government concerned with daily chores in pursuing a single EU policy. It overseas the observance, both by states and private companies, of "European law" as formulated by the founding treaties, legislative acts and international treaties of the Union. Drafts normative documents for Council approval and issues its own administrative regulations. Consists of 25 members (commissioners) who are given, with the general consent of member-country governments, a five-year mandate.
The Chairman of the CEC is appointed by the European Parliament on a recommendation of the European Council. In 2004, Jose Manuel Barroso became the Chairman of the European Commission. Each country submits a list of three candidates for CEC members, of whom the Chairman selects 13 members of the Collegium (not more than one from each list). The candidacies for Chairman, EU foreign minister, collegium members and CEC members without voting rights are subject for approval by the European Parliament.
The Council and the Commission in their work use the consultation services of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.
The European Court of Justice (consisting of 25 judges elected for a term of six years, and 8 advocates-general) takes part in formulating "European law" and ensures its uniform interpretation. Its lower chamber also rules on claims by individuals and companies.
The European Court of Auditors (its 25 members are appointed by the Council for six years) checks financial reports on all EU revenues and spending and EU instituted bodies and sums up audit results upon completion of every fiscal year.
The European Central Bank is a body of the European Union. Officially was approved on June 1, 1998. Determines the monetary policy of EU countries, sets benchmark interest rates, and administers the official reserves of the European System of Central Banks.
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