The UK in the EU

As the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU intensifies, more and more people are stepping forward and making the case in favour of EU membership. See what they say

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EuroMove200 club

The EuroMove 200 Club is a lottery. Members of the European Movement UK can enrol in the Club at any time so, if you are a current member of the Movement and would like to join and have a chance to win one of the cash prizes...

Expert Briefings

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A new direction for the European Union?

Britain and EU migrants

News, analysis and commentary about the EU and the UK by Euractiv

How Europe works

What is the European Union? Nothing else than the pooling of resources and competences in order to act and do things together.

The European Union is a unique international institution. It has 28 member states, participating on an equal basis in a set of shared, democratic institutions, taking decisions which have the force of law.  Nowhere else in the world have democratic countries ever chosen to pool their national sovereignty to such a great extent.  Maybe that is one of the reasons why the EU is sometimes controversial.

The EU started out in 1957 with only 6 member states.  Since then, it has grown to 28 member states, which shows how successful it has been.  Even now, there are many more countries queuing up to join.

The reason why countries want to be part of the European Union is because there are issues too big for any individual country to solve on its own.  European integration is necessary to enable effective solutions to be applied to common problems.  The first of these problems was the need to preserve peace after the second world war.  Since then, the EU has moved on to questions such as improving economic prosperity, ensuring social cohesion and protecting the environment.

In parallel to the growth in the number of member states and the increase in the powers of the European Union, there has also been a change in the way in which the EU takes decisions.  It has effectively moved towards having a democratic system along the lines of those within each member state, but it takes time to create such a system at the European level.  Whether it should go further in this direction is a major subject of debate: some people even argue that it has gone too far and should go back.

It is worth pointing out that all three areas of change in the EU – countries, powers, decision-making methods – are based on treaties that are agreed by the member states.  Some people sometimes talk as though the EU has taken on a life of its own, out of the control of the people whom it represents.  This is not the case.  Every change in the EU treaties has to be agreed unanimously by all the member states.  The EU institutions were created by the member states, in order to serve and protect their interests.

There is more information about each of the EU institutions listed in the menu on the left-hand side of this page.  The European Union itself has a comprehensive website, with much information easily accessible.  You can find that website here:

http://europa.eu/index_en.htm

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