What is now referred to as The European Union (EU) is a multi-national legal entity which owes its existence and its powers and duties to a succession of treaties. The EU is neither a state nor a federation of states but it acquired legal personality as a result of the Lisbon Treaty (2007). The Lisbon Treaty (2007) came into force on 1st December 2009.
Following the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, it is now possible to refer to the “consolidated versions” of the “Treaty on European Union” and the “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.” On this web page, these will be referred to as TEU and TFEU respectively.
During two World Wars (1914-19) and (1939-45) the U.K. had made a massive contribution. The original purpose or vision of those instrumental in the creation of the European Communities was to try to prevent future wars within Europe by controlling raw materials such as coal and the production of steel.
Because of membership of the EU, nationals of member states are now “Citizens of the Union.” They enjoy the rights given to them by the various Treaties (e.g. the free movement of workers). The EU has improved the rights of Citizens – (e.g. by the equal treatment for men and women provisions) – and they have enjoyed the economic benefits of membership.
The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world with a population exceeding 490 million. It is possible that membership will grow in the future but applicant states must have democratic institutions, guarantee the rule of law and protect human rights.
The EU should not be confused with certain other organisations such as The Council of Europe; The European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). The European Court of Human Rights comes under the aegis of the Council of Europe. The Court of Justice of the EU is the judicial body of the European Union.