The European Union or the EU is a union of European countries. There are 28 member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Other countries in Europe, except for Kazakhstan either want to join the EU, or are a part of an agreement or a partnership with the EU.
The term European Union is often confused with Europe. The difference is that Europe is a traditional continent as well as a cultural region in Eurasia. There are 50 countries in Europe. The European Union is a political confederation or union, 28 member states.
The current agenda of enlargement is the (Western) Balkan region of southern Europe, Ukraine, Turkey and Iceland. If the Ukraine would join, that would mean that the EU is present in all European regions, since Ukraine is partly in central and partly in eastern Europe, Ukraine would be first eastern European country in the EU.
After the Second World War the governments of various European nations got together and decided to form a united organisation to prevent further wars like the First World War and Second World War. Several groups of European nations formed the most important organisation, the European Economic Community, or the EEC. During several decades the EEC was steadily enlarged and in the 1990’s under the Maastricht treaty the name was changed to the European Union, the EU.
Politics of the European Union
The European Union has a single market and free movement of people and goods (any citizen of the European Union state can live, work, study and trade without legal limitations in any EU country). The European Parliament has been democratically elected since 1979. The European Union standardized laws which ensure that traded goods comply with legislation in all trading European Union countries. There is a regional development policy. Richer European Union nations help poorer countries of the EU to improve their economies. Those nations which benefit from it are mostly those who suffered from the Cold War division of Europe. The European Union aims to develop a common foreign policy despite continual disagreement over what this policy should be. Many member states have abolished passport controls at their borders with other European Union nations. Long standing members trade with each other without tariff restrictions. New members reduce tariffs gradually during an introductory period. Most EU nations use the Euro, a common European currency. Britain, Sweden and a few others have kept their currencies.
Currently, there is a debate in European Union about whether to federalise it. The reasons for are: 1) European nations are extremely related: -culturally (generic Western literature, customs, clothing, architecture, art, music, dances, sports...), -linguistically (virtually all of them are Indo-European), -religiously (predominantly Christian and Atheist, with blends of Judaism, Islam and minor religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, many others) 2) Uniting Europe would be beneficial: -economically (deposing barriers allows greater opportunities; united Europe would be the largest economy in the world) -politically (the voice of one country of a small nation of 10 mln, or even 60 or 80 mln people is nothing when talking to China 1,200 mln) -fiscally (for example, master planning is easier and more efficient for 28 countries thought as one and spending money on 1 proper army is cheaper and more efficient than 28 armies separately).
There is a lot of opposition to it, even with little or no argumentation against, from conservative politicians. In fact, many national leaders (like David Cameron) blame the EU for things that are not EU's faults or even competencies. The European Union is often treated as a beating boy for poor political performance domestically, because it is presented as distant and it is acceptable to criticise it beyond measure or without any basis whatsoever. In the UK the majority of voters could vote to leave the EU whether this is reasonable or not and in a Democracy public opinion counts.  The EU demanding increased payments from the UK  will not help keep the UK as a member.
Countries which have left the EU
- British people favour leaving the European Union, according to poll
- UK faces interest charges on EU payment demand