What Is the European Union and How Many Countries Are Part of the European Union?

The European Union, the EU for short, is made up of 27 western European countries that cooperate on certain political matters and that are working together to form a united European economy.

As of 2010, the EU members are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

To join the EU a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, as defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council.

These requirements include: a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy capable of competition within the EU; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law.

The EU originated from the European Coal and Steel Community that was formed in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome formed in 1957.