2The BasicsThe European Union is a group of countries whose governments work together.It's a bit like a club. To join you have to agree to follow the rules and in return you get certain benefits.Each country has to pay money to be a member. They mostly do this through taxes.The EU uses the money to change the way people live and do business in Europe.Countries join because they think that they will benefit from the changes the EU makes
3How the EU has grown: 1957 It started with six members. 1973 It expanded to 9 countries, this is when the UK joined.1981 Greece joined, so there were 10 members.1986 Spain and Portugal joined to make it 12 EU countries.1995 Three more countries joined making the current 15 members.2004 Ten more countries joined. Most of them are from Eastern Europe. There are now 25 members.Talks will begin about Turkey joining.2007 Two other countries are due to join bringing the total to 27
4How do you join the EU? Countries have to prove certain things. 1. They must show that they treat their people fairly, respect their human rights and allow them to vote in elections.2. They must show that their economies are properly run. That means the government is sensible about the amount of money it spends and does not interfere too much in the way people do business.3. Countries may have to make changes to their laws so that they don't clash with the laws of the EU.
5What does the EU do?A lot of what the EU does is about bringing people in Europe closer together.It tries to make it easier for Europeans to buy and sell things to each other. This is done by changing the rules that control trade.
6Five Top Aims of the EUThese are the five big things the EU has set out to do:1. Promote economic and social progress. Help people earn enough money and get treated fairly.2. Speak for the European Union on the international scene. By working as a group the EU hopes that Europe will be listened to more by other countries.3. Introduce European citizenship. Anyone from a member state is a citizen of the EU and gets four special rights.4. Develop Europe as an area of freedom, security and justice. Help Europeans to live in safety, without the threat of war.5. Maintain and build on established EU law. Make laws that protect peoples rights in the member countries.
7Rights within the EUAnyone from a member state is a citizen of the EU and gets these special rights. Freedom to move between countries of the EU and to live in any nation in the Union.The right to vote and stand in local government and European Parliament elections in the country you live in.If you are travelling outside the EU, and your own country does not have an embassy, you can go to the embassy of any other EU country.The right to put your side of the story to the European Ombudsman if you think the EU has not acted fairly.
8How is it run? These are some of the main parts of the EU. The European ParliamentCouncil of the European UnionThe European CommissionThe presidency
9The European Parliament This makes laws and helps to decide how much money the EU should spend. It also checks that all the other parts of the EU are working fairly.Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected every five years. Anyone over 18 from a member country may vote.
10Council of the European Union This is where the EU's big decisions are normally made.It's like a school council, but instead of people from each year there are people from each country.Who turns up depends on what the council is talking about. If they are talking about farms then the 25 ministers for farming would go along, one from the government of each country.
11The European Commission The European Commission does the day- to-day work of running the EU.It does things like making sure that that the laws the European Parliament passes are used properly.
12The PresidencyEvery six months a different country gets the presidency of the EU. With 25 members the UK's turn only comes round every 12 and a half years.
13EU Member Countries The EU was not always as big as it is today. When European countries started to cooperate economically in 1951, only Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands participated.Over time, more and more countries decided to join.The union reached its current size of 28 member countries with the accession of Croatia on 1 July 2013.