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Following the two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century, a number of European leaders in the late 1940s became convinced that the only way to establish a lasting peace was to unite the two chief belligerent nations - France and Germany - both economically and politically. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed an eventual union of all Europe, the first step of which would be the integration of the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. The following year the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, signed the Treaty of Paris.

The ECSC was so successful that within a few years the decision was made to integrate other elements of the countries' economies. In 1957,... See More



 Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean in the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to the east


 Total: 4,324,782 sq km

Area - Comparative:

 Less than one-half the size of the US

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 12,440.8 km
Border countries: Albania 282 km, Andorra 120.3 km, Belarus 1,050 km, Croatia 999 km, Holy See 3.2 km, Liechtenstein 34.9 km, Macedonia 394 km, Moldova 450 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Norway 2,348 km, Russia 2,257 km, San Marino 39 km, Serbia 945 km, Switzerland 1,811 km, Turkey 446 km, Ukraine 1,257 km

Note: data for European Continent only


 65,992.9 km (Rank: )


 Cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south


 Fairly flat along the Baltic and Atlantic coast; mountainous in the central and southern areas

Elevation Extremes:

 Lowest point: Lammefjord, Denmark -7 m; Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands -7 m
Highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m; note - situated on the border between France and Italy

Natural Resources:

 Iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, uranium, potash, salt, hydropower, arable land, timber, fish

Land Use:

 Arable land: NA
Permanent crops: NA
Other: NA

Irrigated Land:

 182,913 sq km (2008 est.)

Natural Hazards:

 Flooding along coasts; avalanches in mountainous area; earthquakes in the south; volcanic eruptions in Italy; periodic droughts in Spain; ice floes in the Baltic

Environment - International Agreements:

 Party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94

Signed but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds

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 Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish

Note: only official languages are listed; German, the major language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is the most widely spoken mother tongue - over 19% of the EU population; English is the most widely spoken language - about 49% of the EU population is conversant with it (2007)


 Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish


 492,387,344 (July 2010 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 15.44% (male 38,992,677/female 36,940,450)
15-64 years: 67.23% (male 166,412,403/female 164,295,636)
65 years and over: 17.33% (male 35,376,333/female 49,853,361) (2009 est.)

Median Age:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states (2009 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 0.098 % (2010 est.)

Birth Rate:

 9.83 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)

Death Rate:

 10.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 1.48 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 5.61 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 4.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 78.82 years
Male: 75.7 years
Female: 82.13 years (2010 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 1.51 children born/woman (2010 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states

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 Name: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg
Geographic coordinates: (Brussels) 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; the Court of Justice of the European Union meets in Luxembourg


 7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the EU); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)

Note: Treaties of Rome, which were signed on 25 March 1957 and entered into force on 1 January 1958, created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community; the Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed on 13 December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009, replaced and succeeded the European Community with the European Union

National Holiday:

 Europe Day 9 May (1950); note - the day in 1950 that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of what became the European Coal and Steel Community, the progenitor of today's European Union, with the aim of achieving a united Europe



Note: the EU legal order, although based on a series of treaties, has often been described as "constitutional" in nature; the Treaty on European Union (TEU), as modified by the Lisbon Treaty, states in Article 1 that "the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION ... on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common"; Article 1 of the TEU states further that the EU is "founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as 'the Treaties')," both possessing the same legal value; Article 6 of the TEU provides that a separately adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union "shall have the same legal value as the Treaties"

Legal System:

 Unique supranational law system in which, according to an interpretive declaration of member-state governments appended to the Treaty of Lisbon, "the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States" under conditions laid down in the case law of the Court of Justice; key principles of EU law include fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as resulting from constitutional traditions common to the EU's states


 Voting for the European Parliament is permitted in each member state at 18 years of age; universal

Executive Branch:

 Under the EU treaties there are three distinct institutions each of which conducts functions that may be regarded as executive in nature:

The European Council: brings together heads of state and government, along with the president of the European Commission, and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the development of the Union and to issue general policy guidelines; leaders of the EU member states appointed former Belgian Prime Minister Herman VAN ROMPUY to be the first full-time president of the European Council in November 2009; he took office on 1 December 2009 and will serve a two-and-one-half-year term, renewable once; his core responsibilities include chairing the summits each year and providing policy and organizational continuity

The Council: consists of ministers of each EU member state and meets regularly in different configurations depending on the subject matter; it carries out policy-making and coordinating functions (also legislative functions); although the name is similar, the "Council" is an institution distinct from the head of state-level "European Council"; ministers of EU member states chair meetings of the Council based on a six-month rotating presidency

The European Commission: is comprised of 27 members, one from each member country; each commissioner is responsible for one or more policy areas; its responsibilities include promoting the general interest of the EU, acting as "guardian of the Treaties," executing the budget and managing programs, ensuring the Union's external representation, and additional duties; its president is Jose Manuel BARROSO (since 2004); the president of the European Commission is designated by member state governments and confirmed by the European Parliament; working from member state recommendations, the Commission president then assembles a "college" of Commission members; the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a five-year term; the next confirmation process will likely be held in January 2015

Note: for external representation and foreign policy making, leaders of the EU member states appointed UK Baroness Catherine ASHTON to be the first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; ASHTON took office on 1 December 2009; her concurrent appointment as Vice President of the European Commission endows her position with the policymaking influence of the Council of the EU and the budgetary influence of the European Commission; the High Representative helps develop and implement the EU's common foreign and security policy, represents and acts for the Union in many international contexts, and oversees the new diplomatic corps of the EU, formally established on 1 December 2010, the European External Action Service

Legislative Branch:

 Two legislative bodies consisting of the Council of the European Union (27 member-state ministers having 345 votes; the number of votes is roughly proportional to member-states' population) and the European Parliament (736 seats; seats allocated among member states in proportion to population; members elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term); note - the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU, although the Commission proposes most EU legislative acts

Elections: last held on 4-7 June 2009 (next to be held in June 2014)

Election results: percent of vote - EPP 36%, S&D 25%, ALDE 11.4%, Greens/EFA 7.5%, ECR 7.3%, GUE/NGL 4.8%, EFD 4.3%, independents 3.7%; seats by party - EPP 265, S&D 184, ALDE 84, Greens/EFA 55, ECR 54, GUE/NGL 35, EFD 32, independents 27

Judicial Branch:

 Court of Justice of the European Union (ensures that the treaties are interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU, resolves disputed issues among the EU institutions, issues opinions on questions of EU law referred by member state courts) - 27 judges (one from each member state) appointed for a six-year term; note - the court can sit in chambers, in a "Grand Chamber" of 13 judges, or as the full court; General Court (a court below the Court of Justice) - 27 judges appointed for a six-year term; Civil Service Tribunal - 7 judges appointed for a three-year term

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL [Lothar BISKY]; Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group or EFD [Nigel FARAGE and Francesco SPERONI]; European Conservatives and Reformists Group or ECR [Michael KAMINSKI]; Group of Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Rebecca HARMS and Daniel COHN-BENDIT]; Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE [Guy VERHOFSTADT]; Group of the European People's Party or EPP [Joseph DAUL]; Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament or S&D [Martin SCHULZ]

International Organization Participation:

 ARF (dialogue member), ASEAN (dialogue member), Australian Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CERN, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-8, G-10, G-20, IDA, IEA, IGAD (partners), LAIA (observer), NSG (observer), OAS (observer), OECD, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN (observer), UNRWA (observer), WCO, WTO, ZC (observer)

Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador Joao P. Castanheira do VALE DE ALMEIDA
Chancery: 2175 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
Telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500
FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766

Diplomatic Representation From the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador William E. KENNARD
Embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
Mailing address: same as above
Telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 508-2063

Flag Description:

 A blue field with 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle in the center; blue represents the sky of the Western world, the stars are the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity; the number of stars is fixed

National Symbols:

 A circle of 12 stars

National Anthem:

 Name: "Ode to Joy""
Lyrics/music: none/Ludwig VON BEETHOVEN, arranged by Herbert VON KARAJAN

Note: adopted 1972, not in use until 1986; according to the European Union, the song is meant to represent all of Europe rather than just the organization; the song also serves as the anthem for the Council of Europe

Political Structure:

 A hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization

Union Name:

 Conventional long form: European Union
Abbreviation: EU

Member States:

 27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK; note - candidate countries: Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey

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Economy - Overview:

 Internally, the EU has abolished trade barriers, adopted a common currency, and is striving 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 $78,000) and in national attitudes toward issues like inflation, debt, and foreign trade, the EU faces difficulties in devising and enforcing common policies. Eleven established EU member states, under the auspices of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999 (Greece did so two years later), but the UK and Denmark have 'opt-outs' that allow them to keep their national currencies, and Sweden has not taken the steps needed to participate. Between 2004 and 2007, the EU admitted 12 countries that are, in general, less advanced economically than the other 15. Of the 12 most recent member states, only Slovenia (1 January 2007), Cyprus and Malta (1 January 2008), Slovakia (1 January 2009), and Estonia (1 January 2011) have adopted the euro; the remaining states other than the UK and Denmark are legally required to adopt the currency upon meeting EU's fiscal and monetary convergence criteria. The EU has recovered from the global financial crisis faster than expected, with business investment growing by an estimated 2% in 2010, but with public investment and housing development lagging. Strong corporate profits should enable this recovery to continue in 2011. Nevertheless, significant risks to growth remain, including, high official debts and deficits, aging populations, over-regulation of non-financial businesses, and doubts about the sustainability of the EMU. In June 2010, prompted by the Greek financial crisis, the EU and the IMF set up a $1 trillion bailout fund to rescue any EMU member in danger of default, but it has not calmed market jitters that have diminished the value of the euro. Discussions are currently under way to create a permanent European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM) in 2013, when the existing European Financial Stability Facility expires.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $14.82 trillion (2010 est.)
$14.56 trillion (2009 est.)
$15.18 trillion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $16.07 trillion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 1.8% (2010 est.)
-4.1% (2009 est.)
0.6% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $32,700 (2010 est.)
$32,200 (2009 est.)
$33,700 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 1.8%
Industry: 25%
Services: 73.2% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 227.5 million (2010 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 5.6%
Industry: 27.7%
Services: 66.7% (2007 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 9.6% (2010 est.)
9.1% (2009 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 2.8%
Highest 10%: 25.2% (2003 est.)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 30.4 (2009 est.)
31.2 (1996 est.)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 18.5% of GDP (2010 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 1.9% (2010 est.)
1.8% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 1.75% (31 December 2010)
1.75% (31 December 2009)

Note: this is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 5.9% (31 December 2010 est.)
7.52% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Money:

 $5.542 trillion (31 December 2008)
$5.649 trillion (31 December 2007)

Note: this is the quantity of money, M1, for the euro area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of money carried by non-euro-area members of the European Union

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $5.631 trillion (31 December 2008)
$5.18 trillion (31 December 2007)

Note: this is the quantity of quasi money, M2-M1, for the euro area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of quasi money carried by non-euro-area members of the European Union

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $5.542 trillion (31 December 2010)
$5.649 trillion (31 December 2009)

Note: this is the quantity of money, M1, for the euro area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of money carried by non-euro-area members of the European Union

Stock of Broad Money:

 $11.17 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
$10.83 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)

Note: this is the quantity of broad money for the euro area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of broad money carried by non-euro-area members of the European Union

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $22.65 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)
$21.24 trillion (31 December 2008 est.)

Note: this figure refers to the euro area only; it excludes credit data for non-euro-area members of the EU

Market Value of Publicly Traded Shares:

 $10.5 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
$9.823 trillion (31 December 2009)
$7.582 trillion (31 December 2008 est.)

Agriculture - Products:

 Wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, wine, grapes; dairy products, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry; fish


 Among the world's largest and most technologically advanced, the EU industrial base includes: ferrous and non-ferrous metal production and processing, metal products, petroleum, coal, cement, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, construction equipment, industrial equipment, shipbuilding, electrical power equipment, machine tools and automated manufacturing systems, electronics and telecommunications equipment, fishing, food and beverage processing, furniture, paper, textiles, tourism

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 6.1% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 2.897 trillion kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Consumption:

 2.887 trillion kWh (2008 est.)

Oil - Production:

 2.276 million bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 13.73 million bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 2.196 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 8.613 million bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 5.193 billion bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 182.3 billion cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 522.7 billion cu m (2010 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 2.168 trillion cu m (1 January 2010 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$11.07 billion (2010)
$51.4 billion (2009 est.)


 $1.952 trillion (2007)
$1.33 trillion (2005)

Note: external exports, excluding intra-EU trade

Exports - Commodities:

 Machinery, motor vehicles, aircraft, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, fuels, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, wood pulp and paper products, textiles, meat, dairy products, fish, alcoholic beverages


 $1.69 trillion (2007)
$1.466 trillion (2005)

Note: external imports, excluding intra-EU trade

Imports - Commodities:

 Machinery, vehicles, aircraft, plastics, crude oil, chemicals, textiles, metals, foodstuffs, clothing

Debt - External:

 $16.08 trillion (30 June 2011)

Note: (30 June 2010)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Euro to Any Currency

Euros per US dollar -
0.755 (2010)
0.7198 (2009)
0.6827 (2008)
0.7345 (2007)
0.7964 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 238 million (2005)

Telephones - Cellular:

 466 million (2005)

Telephone System:

 Note - see individual country entries of member states

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 930, FM 13,655, shortwave 71 (1998); note - sum of individual country radio broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Euroradio)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 2,700 (1995); note - sum of individual country television broadcast stations excluding repeaters; there is also a European-wide station (Eurovision)

Internet Country Code:

 .eu; note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes

Internet Hosts:

 140,277; note - this sum reflects the number of Internet hosts assigned the .eu Internet country code (2010)

Internet Users:

 247 million (2006)

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 3,383 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 1,992
Over 3,047 m: 116
2,438 to 3,047 m: 340
1,524 to 2,437 m: 546
914 to 1,523 m: 422
Under 914 m: 568 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 1,391
Over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 22
914 to 1,523 m: 254
Under 914 m: 1,112 (2010)


 99 (2010)


 Total: 228,710 km (2010)


 Total: 5,814,080 km (2010)


 44,103 km (2010)

Ports and Terminals:

 Antwerp (Belgium), Barcelona (Spain), Braila (Romania), Bremen (Germany), Burgas (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Galati (Romania), Gdansk (Poland), Hamburg (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain), Le Havre (France), Lisbon (Portugal), London (UK), Marseille (France), Naples (Italy), Peiraiefs or Piraeus (Greece), Riga (Latvia), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Stockholm (Sweden), Talinn (Estonia), Tulcea (Romania), Varna (Bulgaria)

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Military - Note:

 The five-nation Eurocorps - created in 1992 by France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Luxembourg - has deployed troops and police on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and assumed command of the ISAF in Afghanistan in August 2004; Eurocorps directly commands the 5,000-man Franco-German Brigade, the Multinational Command Support Brigade, and EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina; in November 2004, the EU Council of Ministers formally committed to creating 13 1,500-man battle groups by the end of 2007, to respond to international crises on a rotating basis; 22 of the EU's 27 nations have agreed to supply troops; France, Italy, and the UK formed the first of three battle groups in 2005; Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland established the Nordic Battle Group effective 1 January 2008; nine other groups are to be formed; a rapid-reaction naval EU Maritime Task Group was stood up in March 2007 (2007)

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Disputes - International:

 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), and Switzerland since 2008 bringing the total current membership to 25; 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 since 2004 joined Schengen on 21 December 2007; of the three remaining EU states, Romania and Bulgaria may join by late 2011, while Cyprus' entry is held up by the ongoing Cyprus dispute

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Last Updated: December 2011

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