Here is a look at what you need to know about the European Union.
About the European Union: The European Union is an international organization made up of 28 European countries.
It governs common economic, social and security policies of its member states.
According the EU website, the objectives of the EU are to establish European citizenship, ensure freedom, justice and security, promote economic and social progress, and assert Europe's role in the world.
Membership is open to any country with a democratic government, a good human rights record, and sound economic policies.
The member states delegate sovereignty to the EU institutions to represent the interests of the European Union as a whole.
Decisions and procedures stem from treaties ratified by the member states.
The capital of the European Union is Brussels, Belgium.
The EU is run by five main bodies: European Parliament, Council of the Union, European Commission, Court of Justice, and the Court of Auditors.
The European Union is a major economic unit. The combined population of member countries is 57% larger than that of the United States.
The United States is the EU's main trading partner.
The Treaty of Lisbon amends the Treaty on European Union to explicitly recognize for the first time the Member States' right to withdraw from the union. (Article 50, amended TEU) - Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. - A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.
Timeline: 1957 - The European Economic Community (EEC) is created. The member countries are Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. "The goal was to remove trade barriers and form a common market."
1973 - Denmark, Ireland, and the U.K. become member countries.
1981 - Greece becomes a member.
1985 - Spain and Portugal become members
February 7, 1992 - The Treaty on the European Union is signed in Maastricht (Netherlands) by leaders of the member states.
November 1, 1993 - The Maastricht Treaty enters into force.
1993 - The EC members at the time (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, UK, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, and Portugal) extend their cooperation into the areas of Justice and Home Affairs and a Common Foreign and Security Policy.
January 1, 1995 - Austria, Finland, and Sweden join the EU.
April 30, 2004 - A ceremony is held in Dublin, Ireland marking the expansion of the EU from 15 to 25 members. The new members are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia.
June 2004 - The member countries approve the text of the EU Constitution. It is signed by all the members in October, 2004.
May 29, 2005 - The people of France [and its territories] vote against the European Union constitution in a referendum. (No = 54.87%/Yes = 45.13%)
June 1, 2005 - The Netherlands votes against the constitution in a referendum.
All 27 members of the EU must pass the constitution for it to take effect. Either a national parliament can approve it or in some countries, the citizens vote on a referendum.