The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. It is not a state intended to replace existing states, but it is more than any other international organization. The EU is, in fact, unique. Its member states have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level. This pooling of sovereignty is also called “European integration”. The historical roots of the European Union lie in the World War II. The idea of European integration was conceived to prevent such killing and destruction from ever happening again. It was first proposed by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in a speech on May, 9, 1950. This date, the “birthday” of what is now the EU, is celebrated annually as Europe Day. There are five EU institutions, each playing a specific role: European Parliament (elected by the people of the member states); Council of the European Union (representing the governments of the member states); European Commission (Driving force and executive body); Court of Justice (ensuring compliance with the law); Court of Auditors (controlling sound and lawful management of the EU budget). These are flanked by five other important bodies:
European Economic and Social Committee (Expresses the opinions of organized civil society on economic and social issues); Committee of the Regions (expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities); European Central Bank (responsible for monetary policy and managing the euro); European Ombudsman (deals with citizen’ complaints about maladministration by any EU institution or body); European Investment Bank (helps achieve EU institution or financing investment projects); A number of agencies and other bodies complete the system. The rule of law is fundamental to the European Union. All EU decisions and procedures are based on the treaties, which are agreed by all the EU countries. Initially, the EU consisted of just six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973, Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. In 2004 the biggest over enlargement took place with 10 new countries joining. In the early years, much of the cooperation between EU countries was about trade and the economy, but now the EU also deals with many other subjects of direct importance for our everyday life, such as citizens; rights; ensuring freedom, security and justice; job creation; regional development; environmental protection; making globalization work for everyone. The European Union has delivered half a century of stability, peace and prosperity. It has helped raise living standards, built a single Europe-wide market, launched then in the world. Unity in diversity: Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages, but also with shared values. The EU defends promoting unity while preserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as close as possible to the citizens. In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it will be even more necessary for every European citizen to cooperate with people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, tolerance and solidarity. The freedom European Union citizens enjoy to travel, work and live anywhere in the EU can easily be taken for granted. To benefit fully from this right, people need to lead their lives and go about their business in security and safety. They must be protected against international crime and enjoy equal access to justice and respect for their fundamental rights across the Union. This is why the EU is creating an area of freedom, security and justice. The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council brings together justice ministers and interior ministers about once every two months to discuss the...
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