European Union Fast Facts

(CNN)Here is some background information about the European Union.

About the European Union:
The European Union is an international organization made up of 28 European countries.

It governs common economic, social and security policies of its member states.

According the EU website, the objectives of the EU are to establish European citizenship, ensure freedom, justice and security, promote economic and social progress, and assert Europe's role in the world.

Membership is open to any country with a democratic government, a good human rights record, and sound economic policies.

The member states delegate sovereignty to the EU institutions to represent the interests of the European Union as a whole.

Decisions and procedures stem from treaties ratified by the member states.

    The capital of the European Union is Brussels, Belgium.

    The EU is run by five main bodies: European Parliament, Council of the Union, European Commission, Court of Justice, and the Court of Auditors.

    An estimated 507 million people lived within the European Union in 2014.

    The United States is the EU's main trading partner.

    The Treaty of Lisbon amends the Treaty on European Union to explicitly recognize for the first time the Member States' right to withdraw from the union. (Article 50, amended TEU)
    - Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
    - A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union.

    Timeline:
    1957 -
    The European Economic Community (EEC) is created. The member countries are Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. "The goal was to remove trade barriers and form a common market."

    1973 - Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom become member countries.

    1981 - Greece becomes a member.

    1985 - Spain and Portugal become members

    February 7, 1992 - The Treaty on the European Union is signed in Maastricht (Netherlands) by leaders of the member states.

    November 1, 1993 - The Maastricht Treaty enters into force.

    1993 - The EC members at the time (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, UK, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, and Portugal) extend their cooperation into the areas of Justice and Home Affairs and a Common Foreign and Security Policy.

    January 1, 1995 - Austria, Finland, and Sweden join the EU.

    April 30, 2004 - A ceremony is held in Dublin, Ireland marking the expansion of the EU from 15 to 25 members. The new members are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia.

    June 2004 - The member countries approve the text of the EU Constitution. It is signed by all the members in October 2004.

    May 29, 2005 - The people of France (and its territories) vote against the European Union constitution in a referendum. (No = 54.87%/Yes = 45.13%)

    June 1, 2005 - The Netherlands votes against the constitution in a referendum. All 27 members of the EU must pass the constitution for it to take effect. Either a national parliament can approve it or in some countries, the citizens vote on a referendum.

    June 23, 2007 - European Union leaders in Brussels agree on an outline of a treaty that would replace the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters two years ago.

    June 19, 2008 - European Union decides to lift diplomatic sanctions imposed on Cuba.

    November 19, 2009 - Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian Prime Minister, becomes the first president of the European Council under the Treaty of Lisbon. Catherine Ashton of the UK will be the first foreign minister.

    December 1, 2009 - The Treaty of Lisbon comes into force, having been ratified by all European Union member states. It amends the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 and the Rome Treaty of 1957.

    October 12, 2012 - Is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to the advancement of peace, democracy and human rights in Europe.

    June 25, 2013 - The European Union agrees to a new round of membership negotiations with Turkey.

    July 1, 2013 - Croatia joins the EU as its 28th member.

    April 1, 2014 - The European Union launches military operations to restore stability to the Central African Republic.

    Presidencies of the Council of the European Union until 2020:
    Latvia: January-June 2015
    Luxemburg: July-December 2015
    Netherlands: January-June 2016
    Slovakia: July-December 2016
    Malta: January-June 2017
    United Kingdom: July-December 2017
    Estonia: January-June 2018
    Bulgaria: July-December 2018
    Austria: January-June 2019
    Romania: July-December 2019
    Finland: January-June 2020

    Current Members:
    (Founding members in bold)
    Austria
    Belgium
    Bulgaria
    Croatia
    Cyprus
    Czech Republic
    Denmark
    Estonia
    Finland
    France
    Germany
    Greece
    Hungary
    Ireland
    Italy
    Latvia
    Lithuania
    Luxembourg
    Malta
    Netherlands
    Poland
    Portugal
    Romania
    Slovakia
    Slovenia
    Spain
    Sweden
    United Kingdom

    Candidate Countries:
    Albania
    Iceland
    Macedonia
    Montenegro
    Serbia
    Turkey

    Applicant Countries:
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Kosovo