What is the EU? Defining the European Union and its role in global trade
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union between 27 European countries. Originally created in 1958 between six countries, the agreement has expanded over the decades and now includes 27 countries across the European continent.
The EU’s free trade zone is based on a multilateral agreement that centers on the creation of an internal single market. This single market was established by the EU customs union and is based on a uniform legal framework and legislation that applies to all member states, enabling them to act collectively as a single entity. The EU enables goods, services, money and people to move freely within the internal market.
Milestones and events that shaped the EU’s trade policy
The roots of the European Union today can be traced back to treaties signed in the aftermath of the Second World War. Following the devastation of the war, countries focused on fostering economic cooperation, with the goal of creating economic interdependence between countries through trade. The belief was that this interdependence would result in countries avoiding conflict with each other.
In 1957, the European Economic Community, which later evolved into the EU, was formed with the objective of enhancing economic cooperation among six European nations, namely Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
Since then, the EU has evolved, with an additional 22 countries joining, and the United Kingdom exiting the union in 2020.
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