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EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union (EU) is a union of 27 countries in Europe. It was formed in 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty. The EU's member states use a shared currency, the euro. The EU has several institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Council, and the European Commission. The EU has competencies in areas such as trade, environmental policy, and foreign affairs. It also promotes social and economic cohesion among its member states. The EU is dedicated to promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law both internally and globally. As of now, there are 27 countries that are members of the European Union. The United Kingdom is the country that voted to leave the EU, and this exit is commonly referred to as Brexit, which is a shorthand for "British exit".

The Erasmus+ programme is the European Union’s initiative to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. It started in 1987 and has been enriching lives and opening minds ever since. The programme is meant for a wide range of individuals and organizations: Individuals: This includes students, staff, trainees, and adult learners. They can participate in learning mobility, exchanges, and networking activities. Organizations: These include educational institutions, research institutes, and private businesses. They can participate in learning mobility, innovation, support for policy reform, Jean Monnet activities, and sport. The Erasmus+ programme allows participants to study, train, gain work experience, and volunteer abroad. This not only allows them to learn and grow on a personal level, but also helps them develop valuable, transversal skills such as tolerance, openness, and an understanding of other cultures. The aim of all this is to contribute to a cohesive society, and to create a European Education Area by 2025

The German poet who wrote the ode set to music in Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is Friedrich Schiller. The name of the ode is "An die Freude" or "Ode to Joy" in English. The European Anthem symbolizes not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense. The "Ode to Joy" expresses Schiller's idealistic vision of the human race becoming brothers, a vision shared by Beethoven. It represents the European ideals of freedom, peace, and solidarity. The anthem is played at official ceremonies involving the European Union and generally at events with a European character.The European Anthem is not intended to replace the national anthems of the EU countries. Instead, it celebrates the values they share and is meant to be an anthem of unity in diversity, reflecting the ideals that transcend national boundaries.

The Schengen Agreement, signed in 1990, is a significant milestone in European integration. Named after the town of Schengen in Luxembourg where it was signed, it was initially agreed upon by five members of the European Economic Community: Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The agreement aimed to gradually eliminate border checks, facilitating free movement across these nations. In 1990, the Schengen Convention supplemented the agreement, proposing the abolition of systematic internal border controls and a common visa policy. This established the Schengen Area and began the creation of a single jurisdiction for immigration and asylum. The agreement has profoundly impacted European citizens, facilitating free movement, establishing a common visa policy, ensuring collective security through the Schengen Information System (SIS), and contributing to the development of common European values and identity. Despite facing criticism and challenges, particularly related to migration and criminal activity, the Schengen Agreement remains a cornerstone of European unity and cooperation.

The European Commission was established on 16 January 1958. It is located in Brussels, Belgium, with most of its departments based in Brussels and Luxembourg. The European Commission has several roles: It proposes new laws for adoption by the Parliament and the Council that protect the interests of the EU and its citizens on issues that can’t be dealt with effectively at the national level. It manages EU policies and allocates EU funding. It enforces EU law together with the Court of Justice. It represents the EU internationally, speaks on behalf of all EU countries in international bodies, and negotiates international agreements for the EU. The current President of the European Commission is Ursula von der Leyen. She took office on 1st December 2019.

The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was important because it promoted peace, stability, economic cooperation, and supranational governance among European countries in the aftermath of World War II. It was a crucial milestone in the path toward European integration and played a fundamental role in shaping the modern European Union. These treaties were significant steps toward European integration, laying the foundation for the modern European Union (EU). The establishment of the common market and the cooperation in nuclear energy paved the way for further economic and political integration among European countries, leading to the formation of the European Union as we know it today.

The flag of the European Union (EU) features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. The number 12 is symbolic and does not represent specific countries in the EU, as is commonly believed. The circle of stars is a symbol of unity, solidarity, and harmony among the peoples of Europe. The design was inspired by the idea of a circle, representing unity, with the stars standing for ideals such as peace, solidarity, and the pursuit of a common future. The number 12 was chosen because it is a symbol of perfection, completeness, and unity in many cultures and traditions around the world.

Denmark: Denmark became a member of the European Communities on January 1, 1973. Ireland: Ireland also joined the European Communities on January 1, 1973. United Kingdom: The United Kingdom (along with Gibraltar) became a member on January 1, 1973, but later withdrew from the European Communities in a referendum held on June 23, 2016, and subsequently triggered the process of leaving the European Union (EU). The UK officially left the EU on January 31, 2020, in an event commonly known as Brexit.

The European Parliament is a key institution within the European Union (EU). The first direct elections to the European Parliament were held between 7 and 10 June 1979. The Parliament has three main roles: Legislative: It passes EU laws, often jointly with the Council of the EU, based on proposals from the European Commission. Supervisory: It practices democratic scrutiny of all EU institutions. Budgetary: It establishes the EU budget, together with the Council. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected every five years. The Parliament’s headquarters are in Strasbourg, France, but it also operates in Brussels, Belgium, and has administrative offices in Luxembourg City. The current President of the European Parliament is Roberta Metsola, who was elected in January 2022.

The motto “United in diversity” encapsulates the European Union’s aspiration to be a place where all member states, each with their distinct history, culture, and language, come together to work towards common objectives and ideals. It signifies that the EU values the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity and sees this as a strength rather than a barrier. The phrase suggests that unity does not require uniformity; rather, it can be achieved through respect and harmony among different cultures. By embracing diversity, the EU aims to foster unity that is built on the principles of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual respect, which are essential for the prosperity and stability of the union. This motto reflects the EU’s commitment to promoting a sense of belonging and shared identity while respecting and celebrating the uniqueness of each member country.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was proclaimed on 7 December 2000 and came into force on 1 December 2009, coinciding with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Maastricht Treaty, also known as the Treaty on European Union, was signed in Maastricht, a municipality in the southeastern part of the Netherlands. The treaty had a profound impact on Europe, marking the official start of the European Union when it came into force on 1 November 1993. Key effects of the treaty include: Establishment of the European Union: The treaty led to the creation of the euro, the world’s second most traded currency. EU Citizenship: It granted EU citizenship to every citizen of a member state, allowing them to run for local office and European Parliament elections in the EU country where they lived, regardless of nationality. Increased Legislative Powers: The treaty increased legislative powers for the European Parliament and introduced more majority voting when EU governments adopt legislation. Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): The treaty created a common foreign and security policy, strengthening the EU’s role in peace and justice across the world. Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA): The treaty fostered cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs. Despite challenges related to the movement of migrants and potential for increased criminal activity, the Maastricht Treaty remains a cornerstone of European unity and cooperation.