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E is for Europe, 500 euros...

The European Union covers an area of 4,376,780 square kilometres and has a population of 495 million.

Map of the European Union counting 27 countiesIn the Europe of the 27 there is a wealth of resources and ideas for everyone to share. However, solving problems is never easy with 27 countries and 495 million people whose needs and interests are different.

Everyone keeps the nationality of their own country as well as being a citizen of Europe. This gives them the right to travel, live, study or work freely in any country of the European Union (EU*). The countries who joined the European Union on May 1st 2004 are gradually obtaining the same rights as the other member countries.

Of course, everyone has to obey the laws of the other countries. For example, we all know you drive on the left in the United Kingdom and Ireland whilst everyone else in Europe drives on the right. Obviously all drivers must respect this law.

(*EU in French becomes UE because of their word order: “Union européenne”.)

500 euros

The currency of the European Union

May 2nd 1998 was a historic day for 20th century Europe, with the creation of the euro. At first it was used by governments and businesses in their accounts. Then euro coins came into general use on January 1st 2002. In France, the euro has officially replaced the franc.

1 euro coin from FranceToday 15 countries have the euro as their only currency : Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and since January 1st, 2008 Malta and Cyprus.

The United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark decided to wait and see how things developed. The other countries must fulfil certain economic conditions before they can adopt the euro.

So after the common market, it’s now time to share one currency. This is definitely a way to be more competitive in world markets when confronted by the American currency, the dollar.

In the 3rd millennium Europe, sometimes referred to as "the old world", wants others to recognize it as a union of dynamic modern countries. 

Symbols for Europe of the 27 

European flag
The European flag
is azure blue with a circle of 12 five-pointed stars in gold. It flies alongside the national flag of each country.

The burgundy-coloured passport bears the words “European Union” as well as the name of the country, with its official insignia.

So the letters RF  (for “République Française”) appear on the cover of French passports whilst the motto Dieu et mon droit  appears on British passports, the motto je maintiendrai  on Dutch passports and L’union fait la force on Belgian ones.
At airports there are separate queues for EU passport holders.

European flag
May 9th is Europe Day
It was indeed at 6 p.m. on May 9th 1950, in the Salon de l’Horloge of the Foreign Ministry (“le Quai d’Orsay”) in Paris that the foreign minister, Robert Schuman, announced that France and Germany wished to create a peaceful Europe, as envisaged by Jean Monnet.

And so these two countries, who had too often fought against each other, were together going to build a Peaceful Europe by involving neighbouring countries who shared the same values. It took 7 years to turn the idea into reality with the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

The European Anthem is the Ode to Joy.

The motto of the European Union is United in diversity.

The EU’s 4 capitals:
  • Brussels (B):  The European Commission  
  • Strasbourg (F): The European Parliament Hemicycle du Parlement europeen, Strasbourg - Photo Parlement europeen, MAEE
  • Luxembourg (L): The European Court of Justice  
  • Frankfurt (D): The Central European Bank

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