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The European Union's geographic location, with constituent nations and territories shaded green
The official flag of the European Union
The European Union (usually abbreaviated to just EU) is a geo-political entity and customs union with a partial monetary union on Earth composed of 27 nations. It was formally created in 1993 when the Maastricht Treaty came into force, which combined three European communities; the European Coal and Steel Community (established by the 1951 Treaty of Paris), the European Economic Community (established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome), and the European Atomic Energy Community (established by the 1957 Euratom Treaty), all of which were created to foster peaceful relations and trading between members in the aftermath of World War II. All video games released here use the PAL display format. It it represented at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 (formerly G8) and the G20.
All of the countries in the European Union, excluding Germany, use PEGI (or Pan European Game Information) as a content rating system for their video games. In Germany, they use USK, while Spain also uses the AEdV rating system. The European Union has twenty-four official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish; of these languages, English, French and German are known as procedural languages, in which all internal business in the European Commission is conducted.
The European Union itself is a multi-layered organization composed of a number of institutions, most notably the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the European Commission.
The European Council is the institution that provides political direction for the union as a whole. It convenes four times a year, and it is currently comprised of twenty-nine members; one member each for the twenty-seven member nations (with each head of govenment or head of state sitting on the council), as well as the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission.
The European Council is considered to have a leadership role within the union, and is used to resolve political crises, disputes between both member states and between members and EU institutions themselves, and disagreements over issues and policies. Externally, the Council acts as a collective head of state for all twenty-seven nations, including ratifying treaties and other international agreements.
The European Commission is the executive arm of the EU and is the sole body able to propose laws as a legislative initator. It is currently composed of twenty-seven commissioners, one for each member state, although as part of accepting the role each commissioner is duty-bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than just the interests of their home country. One of the seats will always be the current president of the European Commission, with the remaining twenty-six seats appointed by the Council of the European Union; all twenty-seven commissioners, as a single body, are subject to approval by the European Parliament.
Council of the European Union
Not to be confused with the European Council, the Council of the European Union represents one-half of the EU's legislature. It consists of twenty-seven councilers, one for each member nation, and the institution as a whole (along with the European Parliament) is charged with amending and approving the European Commission's proposals. The nature of this institution means that it is seen as a de facto cabinet.
The European Parliament is composed of 705 Members of the European Parliament (also known as MEPs), and they are directly elected by citizens of the EU every five years using a form of proportional representation. While MEPs are elected on a national basis, they sit within the Parliament according to political affiliation (i.e. Socialist, Liberal, Conservative, etc). Each country has a set number of MEPs that it can elect.
The European Commission proposes legislation, which requires joint approval of both the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. The president of the European Union also acts as the Speaker of the European Parliament, and serves as representative of the EU externally. Both the president and vice-president of the EU are elected by MEPs every two-and-a-half years.
There are currently twenty-seven members of the European Union.
- Czech Republic
A further three, Iceland, Lietchenstein, Norway and Switzerland, while not European Union members, are part of the European Free Trade Association, an intergovernmental organization set up for the promotion of free trade and economic integration between its members. It operates in parallel with the European Union, and all four members participate in the European Single Market and the Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is a region comprising 26 countries where passport checks and border controls are not present; the only European Union members that do not participate in the Schengen Area are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania, although Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area.