(3) EU Brief History

Map of the EU and Aspirant Countries

3-15-2016 4-19-37 PM

Source: Delegation of the European Union to the United States, “On the Path to EU Membership: The EU Enlargement Process,” EU Insight, December 2010; adapted and updated by CRS.


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(2) EU Brief History

Does the EU Have a Foreign Policy? 

The EU has a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), in which member states adopt common policies, undertake joint actions, and pursue coordinated strategies in areas in which they can reach consensus. CFSP was established in 1993; the eruption of hostilities in the Balkans in the early 1990s and the EU’s limited tools for responding to the crisis convinced EU leaders that the Union had to improve its ability to act collectively in the foreign policy realm. Previous EU attempts to further such political integration had foundered for decades on member state concerns about protecting national sovereignty and different foreign policy prerogatives.

CFSP decision-making is dominated by the member states and requires the unanimous agreement of all 28. Member states must also ensure that national policies are in line with agreed EU strategies and positions (e.g., imposing sanctions on a country). However, CFSP does not preclude individual member states pursuing their own national foreign policies or conducting their own national diplomacy.


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(1) EU Brief History

The European Union Explained



The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among sovereign countries. The Union is the latest stage in a process of integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to foster interdependence and make another war in Europe unthinkable. Today, the EU is composed of 28 member states, including most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and has helped to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the European continent.

The EU has been built through a series of binding treaties, and over the years, EU member states have sought to harmonize laws and adopt common policies on an increasing number of economic, social, and political issues. EU member states share a customs union; a single market in which goods, people, and capital move freely; a common trade policy; and a common agricultural policy. Nineteen EU member states use a common currency (the euro), and 22 participate in the Schengen area of free movement in which internal border controls have been eliminated. In addition, the EU has been developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which includes a Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), and pursuing cooperation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) to forge common internal security measures.


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