European Union 101

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The European Union (EU) is not a country in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a collection of 27 independent countries that form a strong political, economic, and sometimes cultural union. Today, the EU is a world power on par with the United States. However, it took many years and treaties to get the EU where it is today.


The EU has a strong foreign policy that incorporates many of the ideas of its member states. In addition, it has a number of multilateral memberships ranging from NATO to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and relationships within its own borders among member states. As two world powers, the EU and the United States have a strong relationship built on similar politics, world views, and trade.

Because of its size and unique member states, the EU is a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and religions. With a population of nearly 500 million people and its location near the North Atlantic to the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the east, the EU represents a mix of different societies.

Some neighboring countries feel threatened by the EU’s size, but the EU has made it a goal to ensure that these countries do not lose power and has vowed to work with them to develop strong relationships. This—combined with the power already found within the EU, its foreign relationships, and its goals of promoting democracy, stability, human rights, freedom, market economies, and fighting terrorism—make it a rising global power today.

Traditionally, it has been difficult for the EU to establish one effective foreign policy due to its large number of member states and the unanimous consent required on all matters of foreign affairs. However, it is the main goal of the EU to establish a strong foreign policy that is capable of responding to all foreign matters with a single influence, but that will still allow each member state to have its own voice in foreign policy matters. In addition, the EU is focused on using its Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) and its European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), two political organizations, to provide security to all member states as well as nearby nonmembers and other nations it deals with directly. The EU is also focused on building its political and economic ties with other nations outside its member states.

Most often, EU member states have their own multilateral relationships. The EU, as a separate entity, also has its own multilateral relationships creating overlapping roles in a number of different organizations, including NATO. This partnership started as a way to deal with security, weapons of mass destruction, and planning for the future. The relationship is strong, and EU officials meet with NATO frequently under the "Berlin Plus" arrangement and the “NATO-EU Declaration on ESDP.” In addition, the EU participates in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Regional Forum (ARF), the Council of Europe, the G-7 and G-8 Summits, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Mercosur, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The EU has also played a role in the WTO since January 1995 and has its own trade policy and tariffs in terms of the WTO, as do the individual member states. The EU is also heavily involved in the United Nations with its different member states, its own presidency, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission (EC). Finally, the EU has set up the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to bring together nations located to the south and east of the EU.

Throughout its history, the EU has had strong, beneficial relations with the United States. Because both are world powers, it is essential that they work together to achieve their main goals of promoting democracy, stability, human rights, freedom, market economies, and fighting terrorism. Within three years of September 11, 2001, the EU and the United States made a number of agreements focused on dealing with and preventing terrorism through increased border and transportation security. The United States has supported EU development—something that has been important to the Union’s current success. In addition, the two are large trading partners. Their total trade comprises about 40 percent of overall world trade, or about $1 billion per day.

Despite these supportive actions, however, there have been tensions between the United States and the EU. The most current of these now involves the war in Iraq, as the two have very different views on how this situation and other issues in the Middle East, for example, should be handled. Other more recent global issues where the two have differed in opinion include global warming, nuclear proliferation, economic imbalances, and terrorism.

One of the largest foreign policy issues for the EU is its own expansion. As the EU grows, it is concerned about not creating barriers between its member states and those that are not a part of the EU, but neighbor it. Thus, the EU is trying to build ties with these areas (mainly those east of it such as Russia and Ukraine and in the south such as the Mediterranean countries). It has created most of these ties by using the ENP. This policy was put into effect in 2004 with the goal of increasing the prosperity, security, and stability for the EU and its neighbors. Through the ENP, the EU has created strong ties with these neighbors while also trying to keep the ties distinct from its own enlargement—yet another challenge.

To keep the ties strong, the EU and each neighboring country identify common objectives such as political and economic issues, trade, security, the environment, and culture. In addition, the EU Commission writes country reports and develops ENP action plans with each country. The EU then provides financial and technical support to apply the agreed-upon objectives.

In some cases, the EU’s neighboring countries are often transit points for illegal immigrants, and drug and people traffickers. The agreements developed from the ENP are currently working to decrease these problems.

Finally, in accordance with the “Barcelona Process,” the EU is concerned with setting up free trade agreements by 2010 with areas in the Mediterranean, including Arab countries, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. The EU has also been negotiating free trade in the Middle East with the GCC and has supported reconstruction work in Iraq. These agreements are important foreign policy challenges because free trade often opens up international issues on financial markets, product and market regulations, and health and environmental concerns. Nevertheless, the EU is committed to forging these ties and will no doubt continue to deal with and find solutions to these challenges.

Because it is made up of 27 member states, creating a military branch for the EU was a challenge. In order to do this, though, the CFSP and ESDP aided in the formation of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC); a multinational military and peacekeeping unit. This is now the highest military body in the EU Council. In addition, the EU has a unit called the Eurocorps that initially supplied troops from five nations, but now each member state can provide troops, making the EU’s military a fairly large force. However, it mainly participates in only peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, echoing the major goals of the EU.

The EUMC is made up of Chiefs of Defense from each member state, and is represented by military representatives from each state. The Chiefs of Defense then elect a chairman who is formally appointed by the Military Committee to oversee it for a three-year term. Today, the chairman is Henri Bentégeat. In addition, the EUMC is in charge of providing military advice on all military matters in the EU and directing military activities.

The EU also has troops originally composed of the five-nation Eurocorps created in 1992 and made up of France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Luxembourg. Troops, though, come from all member states—including Austria, Greece, and Poland. Troops from Turkey participate as well. However, because of the unique status of the EU, some member states are required to remain neutral since they hold memberships in other organizations such as NATO.

Due to the complications of having military participation from the member states, the EUMC is essential for military cooperation and function. The EU military is mainly focused on humanitarian and rescue missions, peacekeeping, and crisis management when necessary. To achieve these goals, though, a combination of civilian and military instruments are needed; therefore, the EU military has a team of police officers for international missions. The EU does not focus on territorial defense because of its status as a political union.

In terms of actual troop numbers, many of the EU’s member states have agreed to supply troops in the event of a conflict or other military engagement, thus allowing the EU to have a large military. The EU, with all member states included, spends a large amount of its resources on the military.

The first foreign engagement the Eurocorps participated in was in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998. In February of that year, the five Eurocorps member states sent 150 servicemen to Sarajevo in an effort to restore peace to the area—a major focus of the Eurocorps. As a part of the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR), it provided security during October elections and helped to secure the Balkans Stability Pact Summit in Sarajevo in 1999. This mission was important to the Eurocorps because it marked its first significant engagement and provided essential training for future missions. In addition, NATO and the EU created the European Union Force (EUFOR) in 2004, as a follow up to this mission to show further cooperation between the two units.

From Sarajevo, the Eurocorps moved to participate in a mission in Kosovo (KFOR II) in November 1999. This mission was important because the Eurocorps was to serve as the core unit for the NATO headquarters in Kosovo during the conflict. As the work progressed, the Eurocorps was able to take over most of the key posts and provide relief to other forces already there. KFOR III then began following this success in an effort to restore peace and security on the ground and set up multiethnic civil administrative structures.

Most recently, the Eurocorps was involved in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan during its elections and its recent democratic developments. The EU was given the most responsibility for helping to reconstruct and develop Afghanistan.

The EU has a large amount of political influence around the world today. However, that influence had to develop over a long period of time as the EU grew and formalized its status as a political union. In addition, it emphasizes the rule of law, establishing common human rights and justice for people not just in the EU but in developing nations as well.

After World War II, there was a political effort to unite the various countries of Europe in an effort to end the period of war and conflict between them. Thus, in 1949 they began to officially unite and formed the Council of Europe. This cooperation then expanded both politically and economically in 1950 with the European Coal and Steel Community. This event in the EU’s history is considered to be one of the most important because it was the first official attempt to unite the various nations on a large scale. The “founding members,” as they’re often called, are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Political changes continued to occur throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, as the Cold War, civil unrest, and divisions between Eastern and Western Europe showed the need for a stronger form of European unification. It was during this time that political agreements such as the Treaty of Rome were established to create a common European market. In 1987, the Single European Act was signed, further unifying Europe and creating a single market for trade, but also allowing people to move freely throughout the region. In addition, the first enlargements of the EU occurred in the 1970s—adding Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 represented even more unification both politically and socially for the region and paved the way for what is known as the modern EU.

Throughout the 1990s, the EU built on the idea of the single market but also introduced the Treaty of Maastricht on European Union in 1993. This treaty was designed to not only strengthen the single market but also establish a single currency for the EU, create a strong foreign and security policy for the EU and its member states, and establish closer cooperation between them. The goals outlined by the Maastricht Treaty are as follows:

1. To strengthen democratic governments within the participating member states.
2. To improve the efficiency of member states both politically and economically.
3. To establish an economic and financial untion.
4. To expand the “Community Social Dimension.”
5. To establish a common security policy for member states.

Today the EU continues to make political changes with agreements such as the Treaty of Lisbon and further enlargement. The EU expanded most recently in 2007, bringing the total number of member states to 27. In June 2008, Irish voters effectively vetoed reform of the EU constitution in a popular vote against the 260-page Treaty of Lisbon. The treaty aimed to increase powers for the EU president and foreign policy chief and prune the EU commission from 27 to 18 members—meaning only two thirds of the 27 member nations would be able to nominate a member during a given term.

Within the current governmental structure of the EU, all treaties and policies are created by what’s called the “institutional triangle.” The first portion of the triangle is made up of the Council of the European Union, and it represents the national governments of EU member states. It is also the main decision-making body in the EU and, as such, it has legislative power with decisions made by a majority vote, a qualified majority, or a unanimous vote of representatives from the member states. In addition, it has a council president, and each member state has a representative with a six-month term in the position. The second part of the triangle is the European Parliament, which consists of an elected body responsible for representing the citizens of the EU. Like the council, it too participates in the legislative process and has members who are directly elected every five years. The final part of the triangle is the ECs. The main job of the commission is to help in the large task of upholding the common interests of the EU and its member states. It manages the EU with commissioners from each state that are elected by the council each year for a five-year term.

As more nations tried to join the EU during its periods of enlargement, it came up with a system to ensure that each new country to join the EU would be able to successfully be a part of it. This system states that any nation that wishes to become a candidate for accession into the EU must have a government that guarantees democracy, ensures human rights for all, including minorities, and follows the rule of law. In addition, it must have an economy that is strong enough to participate in the competitive EU market; be prepared to deal with the political, economic, and monetary issues of the EU; and be able to participate in the EU’s judicial structure. If the country has these requirements, it is officially screened by the Council of the European Union, and if approved a Treaty of Accession is drafted. This treaty must then go to the EC and European Parliament for approval and ratification. If everything proceeds smoothly from this point, the country is allowed to formally become a member state. The most recent additions to the EU from this process are Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, and Turkey and Croatia are currently candidate countries.

The EU started as an effort to bring peace and stability to Europe in the aftermath of two world wars. This idea has worked since the EU began growing, and member states are relatively cordial to one another; however, some problems have occurred with public acceptance of the EU within the individual member states. These problems are largely a result of some of the member states being so different from each other. The people of wealthier states, for example, have very different priorities from those of poorer nations, which sometimes spur tensions. Even though the EU wants to create a single market where goods and people can move about freely, the sheer number of nations involved also causes problems in this area because of language and cultural barriers making some citizens feel overwhelmed by their relatively new situation. However, even with these difficulties, the EU is a politically stable area whose goal is to maintain that stability for all citizens involved.

The EU considers human rights one of the fundamental rights that every citizen of Europe should have. Because of this, it has issued the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which outlines the freedoms and rights that everyone in the EU is entitled to in an effort to make these rights clear to all citizens. The Charter also serves as a reference for the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Finally, the European Court of Human Rights looks specifically at human rights issues in the EU.

Despite these guarantees, however, the EU—like many other nations around the world—has had human rights issues both within its own boundaries and outside them in areas where there has been military participation. Some of the more recent instances of human rights issues have occurred in France, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The problems in these areas have ranged from immigration issues surrounding the protection of people seeking asylum, to prosecuting militaristic activities that have involved the apparent torture of suspected terrorists. The EU currently acknowledges that these problems exist and uses the European Police Office to monitor and reduce such occurrences.

One of the main tenets of the EU is the rule of law. This idea is so prevalent that everything accomplished in politics is done so with treaties agreed upon by all member states. In fact, the EU started with a treaty that established the European Coal and Steel Community, and its development has progressed from there with a number of other treaties. In addition, the EU is interested in spreading the rule of law to other nations. Therefore, any nation that wishes to join the EU must first show that it is capable of using law successfully within its own borders. Then the Treaty of Accession finally allows the nation to join the EU. Additionally, the EU has spread law to other nations that are not candidates for member states with actions such as the EU Integrated Rule of Law mission for Iraq. This started in partnership with the United Nations to give training to Iraqis for a criminal justice and management system to bring law and democracy to the area. In addition, the EU is doing similar work in bringing the rule of law to Kosovo with its EULEX Kosovo mission (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo).

Due to its status as a political union, a specific identity for the EU is sometimes difficult to pin down. Individual citizens often have a dual national identity—one for their home nation and one as a “citizen of Europe.” In order to strengthen the citizen of Europe sentiment, the EU has introduced symbols to signify a shared European identity. These include the European flag that uses 12 stars in a circle to symbolize unity, the European anthem, a national holiday (Europe Day on May 9), and the motto “United in Diversity” to represent the various peoples and cultures present in the EU. In addition, the European Parliament is responsible for representing the people and is directly elected by them. Finally, the euro was adopted as a common EU currency, further unifying the EU economy.

Today, the EU is one of the most powerful economic entities in the world. As a collection of member states with strong market economies, the EU is able to participate in trade both internally and externally on a large scale. However, the EU has a single economic market across all of its member states, allowing them to develop economically together. In addition, its use of the euro as a single “nationwide” currency allows for a smoother transition of goods and services across the borders within the EU, significantly aiding in its development as a world economic power.

In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community and aided in the creation of the single market. This then allowed the EU to become a customs union (a free trade area with a common external tariff) but is today called a “common market.” In this economic structure, all member states agreed to eliminate tariff barriers to create an easier system of economic exchange throughout the EU. Thus, goods being transported within the EU are not subject to taxes and tariffs, and those coming in externally or outside the EU are only subjected to one Common Customs Tariff. The Single European Act was then put into effect in 1987 to revise and update the Treaty of Rome with the aim of strengthening the economic ties throughout the EU and allow people (for work, school, and retirement) and goods to move even more easily throughout the EU member states.

The modern-day economic structure of the EU arose in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty. The treaty deals with numerous aspects of the EU, and it also plays a large role in the EU’s changing economic structure because it has created an economic and monetary union, completing the single market idea. Under the treaty, all member states must coordinate their economic policies with a multilateral surveillance and discipline of finances and the budget. In addition, the Treaty of Maastricht created a common currency for the EU called the euro—a signifier of the single market—as well established the Central European Bank. It should be noted, however, that not all of the EU member states currently use the euro, but those that do use it make up what is called the “euro zone.”

Because of its single market economy, the EU and its member states contribute heavily to the world economy. In fact, it is one of the largest economies in the world. As a single market economy, the EU had an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $16.6 trillion in the year 2007, which amounted to 31% of the entire world’s economic output. The EU is also the world’s largest exporter of goods and is the second-largest importer. In addition, a significant number of the world’s 500 largest corporations have their headquarters in EU member states. As of February 2008, the EU’s unemployment rate was 6.7%.

The EU has various economic aspirations, some of which include continuing to grow its common market economy by continuing to reduce trade barriers, increase the success and use of the euro, and develop more common living standards for all citizens of the EU. In addition, it would also like to move toward more sustainable development in terms of both the economy of manufacturing and industry and the development of infrastructure around the EU. The president of the EC, José Manuel Barroso, is committed to helping the EU build a low-carbon economy so that it can serve as a model for the global economy in this era of reducing carbon emissions in an effort to decrease the effects of global warming.

As is the case in many places throughout the world, the estimates for economic growth in the euro zone is 1.8%, slightly lower than 2007’s growth rate of 2.7%. The drop is said to be due to a drop in US growth (a problem because the EU and the United States are major economic partners), increasing oil prices, and higher rates of inflation.

One of the biggest economic obstacles and aspirations for the EU is creating a common standard of living for all member states. This concern has arisen out of a large range of per capita income throughout different EU countries. Some countries, for example, have average per capita incomes of only $7,000 per year whereas others have incomes of $69,000 per year. These differences then cause problems in creating and enforcing common laws and economic policies throughout the member states because each has different concerns.

In addition, globalization has aided in creating an economy where competition is an important aspect. However, the EU has created a policy to ensure that its smaller, less prosperous member states do not suffer because of the competition. The officer in charge of maintaining this is the European Commissioner for Competition and is a part of the EC. Issues that the commissioner must deal with are antitrust rules, mergers between different businesses, illegal cartels, competition for services—such as transportation, energy, postal services, and telecommunications known as liberalization—and state-aid for the less wealthy member states.

Some of the largest industries in the EU include the production and processing of metal products for different technological and electronic industries, petroleum production and processing, coal, cement, pharmaceuticals, aerospace engineering, equipment for railroad transportation, passenger and commercial autos, construction and industrial equipment, shipbuilding, and electrical power equipment, as well as automated manufacturing systems and tools. In addition, food and beverage processing, fishing and the related activities, furniture making, pulp processing and paper making, and textiles are also major EU industries. Finally, tourism and the related service-sector industries play a significant role in the EU’s economy.

As the world’s second-largest importer, the EU brings in a significant amount of goods from outside its member-state boundaries. Some major imports into the EU include machinery, cars, aircraft, plastics, crude oil, chemicals, textiles, metals, different foods, and clothing.

The EU is also the world’s largest exporter. Some goods leaving the EU are machinery, motor vehicles, aircraft, plastics, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, various fuels, iron, steel and metals, wood pulp and paper products, textiles, meat and dairy products, fish, and alcoholic beverages.

The EU’s largest trading partner is the United States, with their relationship representing 57 percent of the world’s GDP. The EU also trades considerably with China, Russia, and Japan. It is also a significant export partner of Switzerland. In addition, the EU has strong trade relations with developing nations because it is one of the goals of the EU to help developing nations strengthen their economies in an effort to be able to compete on a global scale in the world economy.

As with the economic influence of the EU, the agricultural sector also plays a major role in the world. This is largely due to the fact that the EU member states can all grow very diverse crops based on their unique locations on the globe. Within the EU there are approximately nineteen million agricultural jobs, and it has developed a Common Agricultural Policy to ensure strength and competitiveness for all of its farming operations. In addition, it brings together farming and nature preservation, helps develop rural communities, and looks into climate change, water management issues, bioenergy, and the preservation of biodiversity.

The largest crops grown in the EU are wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, and grapes for use in supplying juices, wine, and table grapes. The EU also produces sheep, hogs, poultry, and fish; and it has a large amount of grazing land for cattle. Dairy products, as well, represent a large portion of agricultural production. Based on their shelf lives, these different items are then traded throughout the member states—and some are traded outside of the EU, depending on international regulations.

Also important in the EU’s agricultural system is bioenergy production as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions. Because the production of bioenergy is not 100% efficient, the EU has to set aside four million hectares of arable land (all available land leftover from agriculture and urban uses). It has also begun to import biofuels and their raw materials, but agricultural production is still needed. This is a relatively new phenomenon in fuel production around the world, and the EU, like many other areas, is trying to learn how to make these alternative fuels as energy efficient as possible.

As a union of 27 member states, the EU is extremely varied in terms of culture. Almost every state has its own language, divided religions, and cultural practices. EU government officials are trying to bring the people together more with a common “European” culture and symbols for that national identity. However, it is also proud of promoting the differences and has created the EU’s Culture program to support the diversity.

Within the EU, there are many official languages to represent that portion of the cultural customs belonging to the different member states. The EU’s official languages (those used for business and/or governmental functions) are Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Because of these 23 different languages, music in the EU is varied. In addition, there are many different genres of music that match the cultural interests of the countries and musicians, and that reflect an international influence. In an effort to promote musical diversity throughout Europe, the European Music Office (EMO), a nonprofit association, is focused on setting up an EU Programme for music to represent members from all musical genres and a mixture of levels of organization.

Europe is of course known for its many famous historical and contemporary artists such as Picasso, and for works such as the Italian fresco paintings, which reflected the cultural values of the artists, and which were often impacted by the regions in which they lived. Art in the EU today is no different. It’s incredibly varied, representing the cultural impacts of the different member states and international activities. The EU Art Museum, an Internet museum, shows just how many different types of art are in the EU today, but like the EMO it is an attempt to raise awareness of the differences and promote the diversity of the works.

In terms of its political structure, the EU is secular. However, some member states do have state churches for their own purposes. For the general population of the EU, there is a diverse array of religions, which include Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. These various religions often form the backbone of cultural diversity among the EU member states as some areas such as Greece, for example, are highly clustered in one religion, whereas a place such as Germany has a fairly diverse population in terms of its religious preference.

As a major world power, the EU has tremendous cultural connections to the world. Its own member states have been impacted by US marketing tactics, and now companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s can be found in every major European city. However, individual member states have also spread their own cultural practices around the world. French food for example can be found in most major world cities both inside and outside the EU. The EU itself is also spreading its cultural influence around the world. A recent European Film Festival was held in New Delhi and showed movies from Estonia and Slovenia. The most important aspect of the film festival, though, was not the European movies it showed but its theme, “unity in diversity.” This motto is one of the EU’s main symbols for its unification and cultural identity. The EU is also trying to use its power to show its concern for global warming and its goals for offsetting carbon emissions. To do this, it has recently told US airlines to buy carbon credits or they will face restrictions or a possible ban. Mass media coverage of the EU and its actions has also shown the world what its unification is doing, and many countries see the EU as a positive influence culturally, politically, and economically.

Due to its large size and developed member states, the EU is a significant consumer of energy. Like many developed nations, it imports many of its energy sources such as oil and natural gas. However, it is currently trying to find alternative energy sources to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and still be able to supply its population with a reliable energy source. To do this, the EU has devised the European Energy Policy to look into its current energy sources, future renewable energy sources, and the market for sustainable development and energy.

The growth of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and bioenergy is the main goal of the European Energy Policy. In addition, renewable energy also increases the EU’s sustainability because it can produce most, if not all, of its energy without having to import resources such as oil and natural gas. Using such renewables will also cut CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, something the EU wishes to decrease 30 percent by 2020.

Solar power was introduced to the EU by the United States, but it has only recently taken hold as costs have decreased, solar panels have become more efficient, and citizens have become more environmentally conscious. Because of the need for as much direct sunlight as possible, solar power in the EU is concentrated in Southern France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Wind power in the EU is the most prominent in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Portugal. However, there are plans to build new wind farms in other areas throughout the EU to increase this form of energy. With hydropower, there are two options—small hydro plants and larger ones based on the ocean’s tidal energy. Small hydropower plants have been in the EU for some time and are an essential part of its energy resources. Listed in order, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Sweden are the largest sources of small hydropower in the EU. Ocean energy is a fairly new source because technological innovations and experiments had to take place in order to learn how to harness energy from wave action. It is also very expensive. France, though, began working on this in 1966 and opened the Rance tidal power plant. Finally, bioenergy, which takes place in the agricultural sector, is another option for energy in the EU today and is currently growing in usage.

Nuclear power is another, more controversial form of energy that EU member states have historically used. Within Europe, there are hundreds of nuclear power plants, but Germany and Spain are trying to close theirs while the United Kingdom is considering building more, and there are several other countries such as France (which gets approximately 78 percent of its power from nuclear) that openly endorse nuclear power.

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