The European Union is a supranational economic and political coalition of 27 countries based primarily in mainland Europe. The stated aims of the EU are "peace, prosperity and freedom" for its combined 500 million citizens, but it is primarily an economic development body. Rooted in economic partnerships dating to the 1950s and formalised in 1993, the European Union has opened up borders between member countries and introduced the Euro to encourage international trade, among other free trade initiatives. To safeguard these initiatives against human rights abuses, the EU has legislated broad environmental and human rights regulations for its member countries.The EU represents the modern trend towards centralisation of governmental operations not only for Europe but also for neighbouring countries and throughout the world.
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How the European Union affects international trade
First and foremost, the European Union is a free trade proponent. Its open-border policy and the Euro (introduced in 2002) are only its most visible effects on world politics. Today, the EU is considered a single economy--the largest in the world, as measured by GDP. Despite its single-market status, the EU strives to maintain competition within its borders by busting up monopolies and enacting antitrust legislation, unless where such competition would prove problematic for consumers and producers alike. The EU internally regulates industries such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure. Member countries are bound by a series of treaties to comply with the EU's judgments in these areas, insofar as the EU has jurisdiction.
How the European Union affects environmental and human rights conditions
To ethically offset its drive towards prosperity, the European Union legislates environmental and human rights regulations. It uses treaties as a basis of member compliance, and encourages candidate members to adopt its environmental and human rights standards before being allowed into the Union. One example in which the EU acted on behalf of the environment--rather than in the best interest of free trade--was by blocking Poland from building a highway through one of the protected wildlife areas covered by the EU's "Natura 2000" program. Poland had to comply, as it had agreed to the treaty. To help decide such dilemmas, the EU has stated a series of environmental goals, such as "good" water quality throughout the Union by the year 2015. In human rights, all of its member countries must comply with such measures as non-discrimination in the workplace based on race and gender.
How the European Union inducts member countries
The EU currently has 27 member countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Current and future members must comply with certain economic and democratic standards. Member countries must be economically capable of competing within the single market of the EU, they must be democratic and they must agree to countless treaties and regulations ranging from agricultural development to contribution of humanitarian aid for impoverished nations around the globe.
How the European Union is structured
The European Union is composed primarily of three separate bodies: the European Parliament, elected by the EU's 500 million member citizens; the Council of the European Union, representing the national power bases of member nations; and the European Commission, the executive arm that enforces legislation and enacts judicial pronouncements. As to the justice system, the EU has a European Court of Justice and a Court of First Instance, which interpret legislation passed by the EU. There is no provision for an international military.
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