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European Union 101 Print 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.

Please send us your thoughts on the changing global order and the materials offered here. All comments may be reprinted on this Web site and in related materials.

Sources: “Europa—Gateway of the European Union” Web site, BBC News,,, and others.

This page is part of Rising Powers: The New Global Reality, a project from the Stanley Foundation.

The Stanley Foundation is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The global order is changing. The 21st Century will be marked by many competing sources of global power. Across politics, economics, culture, military strength and more, a new group of countries have growing influence over the future of the world:



South Africa
European Union

South Korea


Other Countries

Big issues are also playing a cross-cutting role in this changing global order:


Nuclear Nonproliferation
Nonstate Actors

Global/Regional Systems

And this changing global order has implications for the United States.

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