About the EU

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24 / 6 / 2016 11.40am

The EU consists of 28 countries with a combined population of almost 500 million people. 

There are currently five official candidate countries, each at different stages in the process to join, these are:

  • F.Y.R. Macedonia
  • Turkey
  • Serbia
  • Iceland
  • Montenegro. 

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates. 

Although the EU traces its origins to the six countries that formed the European Steel and Coal Community in 1951, the name ‘European Union’ was actually created by the Maastricht Treaty, which came into force on 1 November 1993. This built on earlier treaties, which had established, amongst other things, the European single market and the common agricultural and fisheries policies. 

The Maastricht Treaty introduced new forms of co-operation between the member state governments, for example, in the area of defence, and thus created a new political, as well as economic, structure. The treaty also included provisions on public health for the first time.

It is estimated that at least half the laws enacted in the UK stem from EU legislation, underlining the hugely influential role it has on many aspects of our lives.

Find out more about how the NHS European Office operates.

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