• Brussels, the capital of Belgium
  • Brussels and the European Union
  • Economy
  • Transport
  • Living in Brussels
  • 2. Brussels and the European Union

    a. The European Union: an introduction

    The European Union (EU) is a supranational and intergovernmental union of nation-states in Europe. It started in 1992 with six members and now has 27 member states, i.e. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

    b. History of the European Union

    After the Second World War several Western European countries felt the need of a European umbrella organization, necessary to rebuild Europe and to avoid a Third World War. Hence, the initiative to start a European Union came from Western Europe, while Eastern Europe was under a Soviet influence sphere.
    The first step towards a union was taken on May 9 1950 by French foreign minister Robert Schuman. He presented a proposal, known as the "Schuman Declaration”, for the joint management of France's and West Germany's coal and steel industries. This led to the Treaty of Paris in 1951 that founded the European Coal and Steel Community. The treaty was signed by West-Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries. In 1992 the Treaty on European Union (The Maastricht Treaty) was signed, which founded the European Union as we know it today.

    c. EU Institutions in Brussels

    Important EU institutions and bodies include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice, and the European Parliament.
    Today the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are located in Brussels. These institutions increasingly control major economical and political decisions, hence the daily life of over 450 million people in 27 countries.

    d. EU Economy

    The EU is now the largest political and economic entity on the European continent, with an official GDP of €10.5 trillion. The average annual growth of the EU economy is around 2%. The growth rate is expected to increase in 2007 due to the new member states that are poorer than the EU average and have the capacity to grow at a higher rate. In 2006 an estimated 3.5 million jobs were created in the Eurozone.
    The euro, the currency of the EU, is adopted in 13 countries already, i.e. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
    The Schengen Agreement abolished most internal border passport control and customs checks. Hence, citizens of EU member states can travel freely in other member states and also live, work and invest in another member state.

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