Internally, the eu is attempting to lower trade barriers, adopt a common currency, and move toward convergence of living standards. internationally, the eu aims to bolster europe's trade position and its political and economic power. because of the great differences in per capita income among member states (from $7,000 to $69,000) and historic national animosities, the eu faces difficulties in devising and enforcing common policies. for example, since 2003 germany and france have flouted the member states' treaty obligation to prevent their national budgets from running more than a 3% deficit. in 2004 and 2007, the eu admitted 10 and two countries, respectively, that are, in general, less advanced technologically and economically than the other 15. eleven established eu member states introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 january 1999 (greece did so two years later), but the uk, sweden, and denmark chose not to participate. of the 12 most recent member states, only slovenia (1 january 2007) and cyprus and malta (1 january 2008) have adopted the euro; the remaining nine are legally required to adopt the currency upon meeting eu's fiscal and monetary convergence criteria.
491,018,683 (july 2008 est.)
Europe between the north atlantic ocean in the west and russia, belarus, and ukraine to the east
Total: 4,324,782 sq km
Less than one-half the size of the us
Name: brussels (belgium), strasbourg (france), luxembourg geographic coordinates: 50 50 n, 4 20 e time difference: utc+1 (6 hours ahead of washington, dc during standard time) daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last sunday in march; ends last sunday in october note: the council of the european union meets in brussels, belgium, the european parliament meets in brussels and strasbourg, france, and the court of justice of the european communities meets in luxembourg
As a political union, the eu has no border disputes with neighboring countries, but estonia has no land boundary agreements with russia, slovenia disputes its land and maritime boundaries with croatia, and spain has territorial and maritime disputes with morocco and with the uk over gibraltar; the eu has set up a schengen area - consisting of 22 eu member states that have signed the convention implementing the schengen agreements or "acquis" (1985 and 1990) on the free movement of persons and the harmonization of border controls in europe; these agreements became incorporated into eu law with the implementation of the 1997 treaty of amsterdam on 1 may 1999; in addition, non-eu states iceland and norway (as part of the nordic union) have been included in the schengen area since 1996 (full members in 2001), bringing the total current membership to 24; the uk (since 2000) and ireland (since 2002) take part in only some aspects of the schengen area, especially with respect to police and criminal matters; nine of the 12 new member states that joined the eu in 2004 joined schengen on 21 december 2007; of the three remaining eu states, cyprus is expected to join by 2009, while romania and bulgaria continue to enhance their border security systems