The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which countries work closely together for the benefit of all their citizens.
The 25 current member states of the EU have agreed to work together on issues of common interest, where collective and co-ordinated initiatives can be more effective than individual state action.
Born out of the devastation of the Second World War, this unprecedented co-operation has developed over the last fifty years to consolidate the peace and prosperity of Europe and create a powerful collective voice on the world stage.
The EU represents the latest development of the European Economic Community, which was established in 1958 by just six nations: France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Luxembourg.
The EU extended the scope of the European Economic Community and was formally created on 1st November 1993 when the Maastricht treaty entered into force.
The EU is governed by a series of treaties, negotiated at intergovernmental conferences (IGCs) and ratified by each member state. Its work is carried out by a number of different institutions, from the European Council and Council of Ministers through to the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice.