European Union Government - 2023


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

Union name

conventional long form: European Union

abbreviation: EU

Political structure

a hybrid and unique intergovernmental and supranational organization


name: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg, Frankfurt (Germany); note - the European Council, a gathering of member-state heads of state and/or government, and the Council of the European Union, a gathering of member-state cabinet ministers, meet in Brussels, Belgium, except for Council of the EU meetings held in Luxembourg in April, June, and October; the European Parliament meets in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, and has administrative offices in Luxembourg; the Court of Justice of the European Union is located in Luxembourg; and the European Central Bank is located in Frankfurt, Germany

geographic coordinates: (Brussels) 50 50 N, 4 20 E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

time zone note: the 27 European Union member states spread across three time zones; a proposal has been put forward to do away with daylight savings time in all EU member states

Member states

27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden; note - 8 candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine

there are 13 overseas countries and territories (OCTs) (1 with Denmark [Greenland], 6 with France [French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, New Caledonia, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna], and 6 with the Netherlands [Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten]), all are part of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA)

note: there are non-European OCTs having special relations with Denmark, France, and the Netherlands (list is annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), that are associated with the EU to promote their economic and social development; member states apply to their trade with OCTs the same treatment as they accord each other pursuant to the treaties; OCT nationals are in principle EU citizens, but these countries are neither part of the EU, nor subject to the EU


7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the European Union); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)

note: the Treaties of Rome, signed on 25 March 1957 and subsequently entered into force on 1 January 1958, created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community; a series of subsequent treaties have been adopted to increase efficiency and transparency, to prepare for new member states, and to introduce new areas of cooperation - such as a single currency; the Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13 December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009 is the most recent of these treaties and is intended to make the EU more democratic, more efficient, and better able to address global problems with one voice

National holiday

Europe Day (also known as Schuman Day), 9 May (1950); note - the day in 1950 that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of what became the European Coal and Steel Community, the progenitor of today's European Union, with the aim of achieving a united Europe


history: none; note - the EU legal order relies primarily on two consolidated texts encompassing all provisions as amended from a series of past treaties: the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU); The TEU as modified by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty states in Article 1 that "the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION ... on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common"; Article 1 of the TEU states further that the EU is "founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as 'the Treaties')," both possessing the same legal value; Article 6 of the TEU provides that a separately adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union "shall have the same legal value as the Treaties"

amendments: European Union treaties can be amended in several ways: 1) Ordinary Revision Procedure (for key amendments to the treaties); initiated by an EU member state, by the European Parliament, or by the European Commission; following adoption of the proposal by the European Council, a convention is formed of national government representatives to review the proposal and a conference of government representatives  subsequently reviews the proposal; passage requires ratification by all EU member states; 2) Simplified Revision Procedure (for amendment of EU internal policies and actions); passage of a proposal requires unanimous European Council vote following European Council consultation with the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Central Bank (if the amendment concerns monetary matters) and requires ratification by all EU member states; 3) Passerelle Clause (allows the alteration of a legislative procedure without a formal amendment of the treaties); 4) Flexibility Clause (permits the EU to decide in subject areas where EU competences have not been explicitly granted in the Treaties but are necessary to the attainment of the objectives set out in the Treaty); note - the Treaty of Lisbon (signed in December 2007 and effective in December 2009) amended the two treaties that formed the EU - the Maastricht Treaty (1992), also known as the TEU,  and the Treaty of Rome (1957), known in updated form as the TFEU

Legal system

unique supranational system of laws in which, according to an interpretive declaration of member-state governments appended to the Treaty of Lisbon, "the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States" under conditions laid down in the case law of the Court of Justice; key principles of EU jurisprudence include universal rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and as resulting from constitutional traditions common to the EU's 27 member states; EU law is divided into 'primary' and 'secondary' legislation; primary legislation is derived from the consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and are the basis for all EU action; secondary legislation - which includes directives, regulations, and decisions - is derived from the principles and objectives set out in the treaties


18 years of age (16 years in Austria); universal; voting for the European Parliament is permitted in each member state

Executive branch

under the EU treaties there are three distinct institutions, each of which conducts functions that may be regarded as executive in nature:
European Council - brings together member-state heads of state or government, along with the president of the European Commission, and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the development of the Union and to issue general policy guidance; the Treaty of Lisbon established the position of "permanent" (full-time) president of the European Council; leaders of the EU member states appoint the president for a 2 1/2 year term, renewable once; the president's responsibilities include chairing European Council meetings and providing policy and organizational continuity; the current president is Charles MICHEL (Belgium), since 1 December 2019, who succeeded Donald TUSK (Poland; 2014 - 2019)
Council of the European Union - consists of gatherings of member-state officials, ranging from working-level diplomats to cabinet ministers in a given policy field, such as foreign affairs, agriculture, or economy; it conducts policymaking and coordinating functions as well as legislative functions; representatives from one member state chair meetings of the Council of the EU, based on a 6-month rotating presidency except for the meetings of EU Foreign Ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council that are chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
European Commission - headed by a College of Commissioners comprised of 27 members (one from each member state) including the president; each commissioner is responsible for one or more policy areas; the Commission has the sole right to initiate EU legislation (except for foreign and security/defense policy), and is also responsible for promoting the general interest of the EU, acting as "guardian of the Treaties" by monitoring the application of EU law, implementing/executing the EU budget, managing programs, negotiating on the EU's behalf in policy areas where the member states have conferred sole competency, such as trade, and ensuring the Union's external representation in some policy areas; its current president is Ursula VON DER LEYEN (Germany) elected on 16 July 2019 (took office on 1 December 2019); the president of the European Commission is nominated by the European Council and confirmed by the European Parliament; the Commission president allocates specific responsibilities among the members of the College (appointed by common accord of the member-state governments in consultation with the president-elect); the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a 5-year term.

note: for external representation and foreign policy making, member-state leaders appointed Joseph BORRELL (Spain) as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; BORRELL took office on 1 December 2019, succeeding Federica MOGHERINI (Italy (2014 - 2019); the High Representative's concurrent appointment as Vice President of the European Commission was meant to bring more coherence to the EU’s foreign policy (including policies managed by the Commission that are particularly relevant for EU external relations, such as trade, humanitarian aid and crisis management, neighborhood policy and enlargement, as well as between member-state capitals and the EU); the High Representative helps develop and implement the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defense Policy components, chairs the Council of the EU's meetings of member-state foreign ministers, called the Foreign Affairs Council, represents and acts for the Union in many international contexts, and oversees the European External Action Service, the diplomatic corps of the EU, established on 1 December 2010

Legislative branch

description: two legislative bodies consisting of the Council of the European Union (27 seats; ministers representing the 27 member states) and the European Parliament (705 seats; seats allocated among member states roughly in proportion to population size; members elected by proportional representation to serve 5-year terms); note - the European Parliament President, Roberta METSOLA, was elected in January 2022 by a majority of fellow members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally; the Council of the EU and the MEPs share responsibilities for adopting the bulk of EU legislation; the two bodies must come to agreement for a commission proposal to become law, after negotiations in which they reconcile differences in each body's text of the proposal, except in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is governed by consensus of the EU member-state governments)

elections: last held on 23-26 May 2019 (next to be held in May 2024)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party (as of 13 April 2023) - EPP 175, S&D 144, RE 101, Greens/EFA 72, ECR 66, ID 62, GUE-NGL 38, non-attached 47; Parliament composition - men 428, women 277, percent of women 39.3%; note - composition of the European Council - men 23, women 4, percent of women 14.8%; total Council and Parliament percent of women 38.4%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Justice of the European Union, which includes the Court of Justice (informally known as the European Court of Justice or ECJ) and the General Court (consists of 27 judges, one drawn from each member state); the ECJ includes 11 Advocates General while the General Court can include additional judges; both the ECJ and the General Court may sit in a "Grand Chamber" of 15 judges in special cases but usually in chambers of 3 to 5 judges

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the common consent of the member states to serve 6-year renewable terms

note: the ECJ is the supreme judicial authority of the EU; it ensures that EU law is interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU, resolves disputes among EU institutions and member states, and reviews issues and opinions regarding questions of EU law referred by member state courts

Political parties and leaders

European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL [Manon AUBRY and Martin SCHIRDEWAN]
European Conservatives and Reformists or ECR [Raffaele FITTO and Ryszard LEGUTKO]
European Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Ska KELLER and Philippe LAMBERTS]
European People's Party or EPP [Manfred WEBER]
Identity and Democracy Party or ID [Marco ZANNI]
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats or S&D [Iratxe GARCIA]
Renew Europe or RE [Stephane SEJOURNE] (successor to Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE)

International organization participation

ARF, ASEAN (dialogue member), Australian Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CERN, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-7, G-10, G-20, IDA, IEA, IGAD (partners), LAIA (observer), NSG (observer), OAS (observer), OECD, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN (observer), UNRWA (observer), WCO, WTO, ZC (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Stavros LAMBRINIDIS (since 8 April 2019)

chancery: 2175 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500

FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766

email address and website:

Delegation of the European Union to the United States of America | EEAS (

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Mark GITENSTEIN (since 24 January 2022)

embassy: Zinnerstraat - 13 - Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels

mailing address: use embassy street address

telephone: [32] (2) 811-4100

email address and website:

Flag description

a blue field with 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle in the center; blue represents the sky of the Western world, the stars are the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity; the number of stars is fixed

National symbol(s)

a circle of 12, five-pointed, golden yellow stars on a blue field; union colors: blue, yellow

National anthem

name: "Ode to Joy"

lyrics/music: no lyrics/Ludwig VAN BEETHOVEN, arranged by Herbert VON KARAJAN

note: official EU anthem since 1985; the anthem is meant to represent all of Europe rather than just the organization, conveying ideas of peace, freedom, and unity

NOTE: The information regarding European Union on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of European Union 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about European Union 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.