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European Union European integration has delivered half a century of stability, peace and economic prosperity. It has helped to raise standards of living, built an internal market, launched the euro and strengthened the Union's voice in the world.

The European Union (EU) was set up after the 2nd World War. The process of European integration was launched on 9 May 1950 when France officially proposed to create 'the first concrete foundation of a European federation'. Six countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) joined from the very beginning. Today, after four waves of accessions (1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom; 1981: Greece; 1986: Spain and Portugal; 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden) the EU has 15 Member States and is preparing for the accession of 13 eastern and southern European countries.

The European Union is based on the rule of law and democracy. It is neither a new State replacing existing ones nor is it comparable to other international organisations. Its Member States delegate sovereignty to common institutions representing the interests of the Union as a whole on questions of joint interest. All decisions and procedures are derived from the basic treaties ratified by the Member States.

Principal objectives of the Union are:

Establish European citizenship (Fundamental rights; Freedom of movement; Civil and political rights);
Ensure freedom, security and justice (Cooperation in the field of Justice and Home Affairs);
Promote economic and social progress (Single market; Euro, the common currency; Job creation; Regional development; Environmental protection);
Assert Europe's role in the world (Common foreign and security; The European Union in the world).
The EU is run by five institutions, each playing a specific role:

European Parliament (elected by the peoples of the Member States);
Council of the Union (composed of the governments of the Member States);
European Commission (driving force and executive body);
Court of Justice (compliance with the law);
Court of Auditors (sound and lawful management of the EU budget).
Five further bodies are part of the institutional system:


European Economic and Social Committee (expresses the opinions of organised civil society on economic and social issues);
Committee of the Regions (expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities on regional policy, environment, and education);
European Ombudsman (deals with complaints from citizens concerning maladministration by an EU institution or body);
European Investment Bank (contributes to EU objectives by financing public and private long-term investments);
European Central Bank (responsible for monetary policy and foreign exchange operations).

This text and map is provided through the courtesy of European Commission.

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