The European Union is a unique economic and political partnership between 28 European countries. In 1957, the signature of the Treaties of Rome marked the will of the six founding countries to create a common economic space. Since then, first the Community and then the European Union has continued to enlarge and welcome new countries as members. The Union has developed into a huge single market with the euro as its common currency.
What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organisation spanning all areas, from development aid to environmental policy. Thanks to the abolition of border controls between EU countries, it is now possible for people to travel freely within most of the EU. It has also become much easier to live and work in another EU country. The five main institutions of the European Union are the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. The European Union is a major player in international cooperation and development aid. It is also the world’s largest humanitarian aid donor. The primary aim of the EU’s own development policy, agreed in November 2000, is the eradication of poverty.