The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political association of 27 European countries that have formed a "common market," primarily ensuring the free movement of goods and people.

The EU has a single currency, the euro, which is used by 19 member states as of 2024, and has its own parliament, empowered to make decisions in a wide range of areas, from issues related to environmental protection to setting tariffs on mobile communications.

The current list of countries that will join the European Union in 2024 (as of today) is as follows.


1. Germany March 25, 1957
2. Belgium
3. Italy
4. Luxembourg
5. Netherlands
6. France
7. Denmark January 1, 1973
8. Ireland
9. Greece January 1, 1981
10. Spain January 1, 1986
11. Portugal
12. Austria January 1, 1995
13. Finland
14. Sweden
15. Hungary May 1, 2004
16. Cyprus
17. Latvia
18. Lithuania
19. Malta
20. Poland
21. Slovakia
22. Slovenia
23. Czech Republic
24. Estonia
25. Болгария January 1, 2007
26. Romania
27. Croatia July 1, 2013
* Great Britain January 1, 1973 (formal release - February 1, 2020)

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the referendum known to the world as Brexit was held in the United Kingdom. More than 30 million people took part in the vote. The final turnout was 71.8%. As a result, 51.9% of Britons expressed their desire to leave the European Union. At the same time the majority of the citizens of England and Wales supported the exit from the EU, while the residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland were against it.

According to article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, any country has the right to leave the European Union. This article regulates the procedure of exit from the EU, in particular, a maximum of 2 years is provided for final agreement of conditions. The official start of the process of Britain's secession from the European Union was scheduled for March 29, 2019. This was followed by a six-month extension until October 31, 2019.

Important. At midnight from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 2020, Central European Time, Britain formally withdrew from the European Union. The country lost representation and voting rights in the EU, but remained part of the single economic space until the end of 2020. Within 11 months, Britain and the European Union had to agree on new terms of trade and cooperation. Negotiations are currently ongoing.

The list of countries entering the EU in 2024 includes 27 states.

Creation of the European Union

The idea of creating the European Union emerged against the backdrop of the horrific consequences of World War II. To avoid a repetition of such events and to link countries together economically as much as possible, in 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a merger of the coal and steel industries of Europe.

As a result, in 1951 six states – France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – signed the Treaty of Paris and created the European Coal and Steel Community. The rapid growth of trade relations over 6 years led to the conclusion of the 1957 Rome Accords, which conditioned the formation of the European Economic Community, the basis of the modern EU.

The European Union in its present form was created on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty, in force since November 1, 1993, which led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro. The main EU agreements were subsequently amended by the treaties signed in Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2001) and Lisbon (2009).

Accession of countries to the European Union

The first wave of EU enlargement occurred in 1973, when Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined the union. In 1981, Greece joined, and 5 years later (1986) Portugal and Spain joined. In 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union.

The largest expansion took place in 2004, when the EU received 10 new members – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007, and the last country to join the EU in 2013 was Croatia.


Functioning of the EU

The combined population of the EU member states exceeds 445 million people. Over the years of its existence, the formerly purely economic union has turned into a powerful political association, jointly solving the problems of security, migration, climate change, health, education and much more. The fundamental principles of the EU are based on a single internal market ensuring the free movement of goods, services, money and people, including labor.

The core values of the EU include the rule of law, freedom, democracy, equality, and respect for human rights and dignity. Seven main institutions ensure the functioning of the EU:

  • European Parliament

  • European Council

  • European Commission

  • The Council of the European Union

  • Court of Justice of the European Union

  • European Court of Auditors

  • European Central Bank

Despite the nominal independence of each member of the EU and collective decision-making, individual countries dominate this association. For example, until 2021, four countries - Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – accounted for more than half of the contributions to the general budget of the European Union. In comparison, the aggregate share of the Baltic states-Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia-is less than 1%. After Brexit, the situation is beginning to change.

Many EU member states receive considerable funds from the general budget to maintain the economy and social development, which significantly exceed the amount of their initial contributions. As a result, they partly lose their sovereignty and their ability to significantly influence major decisions made within the European Union. Germany has been seen as the political and economic leader of the EU for many years.

Candidates for EU membership

As mentioned above, the list of EU countries in 2024 includes 27 members. The most recent addition was in 2013, when Croatia joined the union. Four Western European states – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – are not part of the EU, but are closely integrated into the single economic market and are members of the Schengen Area.

In order to join the EU, a candidate country must meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria, which are based on democratic government, respect for human rights, a functioning market economy and commitment to EU goals and intentions. The right to enter the European Union on the basis of geography is laid down in Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty.

As of 2024, there are 7 candidates for EU membership:

  • Turkey – application year 1987

  • North Macedonia – application year 2004

  • Montenegro – application year 2008

  • Albania – application year 2009

  • Serbia – application year 2009

  • Ukraine – application year 2022

  • Moldova – application year 2022

On June 23, 2022 at the summit in Brussels, the European Council granted Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidates for EU membership. This decision was unanimously supported by all state and government leaders. In addition, community leaders confirmed Georgia's European perspective. Earlier, in 2014, the European Union signed association agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

All countries except Albania and North Macedonia are negotiating to join the EU. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidates. According to statements by high-ranking European officials, we can conclude that we should not expect new countries to join the EU in the coming years.

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