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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

From 6 to 27 members

EU members flags

The EU is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover much of the continent.

It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.

In 1951, six countries founded the European Coal and Steel Community, and later, in 1957, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community:

  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • the Netherlands

A further 22 countries have since joined the EU, including a historic expansion in 2004 marking the re-unification of Europe after decades of division.

As of 1st of February 2020 the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union.

More information on the history of the European Union


  1. 01-07-2013
    Croatia joins the EU

    After Slovenia, Croatia is the second country from ex-Yugoslavia to join the EU. The European perspective remains open to the entire Western Balkans region.

  2. 01-01-2007
    Romania and Bulgaria join

    Two more countries from eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania, join the EU, bringing the number of member states to 27 countries.

  3. 01-05-2004
    Largest enlargement so far

    Ten new countries join the EU: Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This was the largest single enlargement in terms of people, and number of countries.

  4. 01-01-1995
    The fourth enlargement

    Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU. The 15 members now cover almost the whole of western Europe.

  5. 01-01-1986
    Spain and Portugal become members
  6. 01-01-1981
    Greece joins the EU

    Membership of the EU reaches double figures when Greece joins. It has been eligible to join since its military regime was overthrown and democracy restored in 1974.

  7. 01-01-1973
    First enlargement

    Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Union, raising the number of member states to nine.

  8. 01-01-1958
    Founding fathers

    The organisation founded in 1957 which is now known as the European Union, originally had six members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

European Commission Opinions on the Applications for Membership of the European Union

Key documents