The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover much of the continent.
Since its foundation in the aftermath of the Second World War, the EU 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 organization spanning all policy areas, from development aid to environment.
The EU is based on the rule of law. This means that everything that it does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by all member countries. These binding agreements set out the EU's goals in its many areas of activity.
One of its main goals is to promote human rights both internally and around the world. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights: these are the core values of the EU. Since the 2009 signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights brings all these rights together in a single document. The EU's institutions are legally bound to uphold them, as are EU governments whenever they apply EU law.
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.
Today, the European Union is an important player in international cooperation and development aid being the world’s largest Humanitarian aid donor. The primary aim of the EU’s development policy, is the eradication of poverty. To enhance and strengthen its influence, the EU is targeting its assistance on six priority areas: trade and development; regional integration and cooperation; support to macroeconomic policies and equitable access to social services; transport; food security and sustainable rural development; institutional capacity building, good governance and the rule of law. Additionally, major crosscutting topics are mainstreamed into development activities namely: human rights, gender equality, environment and conflict prevention.
The European Commission is the EU's executive body and represents the interests of Europe as a whole. The Commission sets objectives and priorities for action, proposes legislations to the Parliament and the Council, manages and implements EU policies as well as the budget, acts as guardian of the Treaties, enforces European Law (together with the Court of Justice) and represents the EU outside Europe.