Size and population
The EU covers over 4 million km² and has 495 million inhabitants — the world’s third largest population after China and India. By surface area, France is the biggest EU country and Malta the smallest.
Europe’s population is increasing through a combination of natural growth ( more people are born each year than die) and net migration (more people settle in the EU than leave it).
At the same time, the population of Europe is aging as life expectancy increases and fewer children are born.
Quality of life
Living standards can be compared by measuring the price of a range of goods and services in each country relative to income, using a common notional currency called the purchasing power standard (PPS). Comparing GDP per inhabitant in PPS provides an overview of living standards across the EU.
The EU strives to improve living standards by protecting the environment, encouraging job creation, reducing regional disparities and connecting formerly isolated areas by developing cross-border infrastructure.
Education increases the skills of the workforce and puts them in a better position to cope with increasing international competition. The amount of money each country spends on education varies.
The EU encourages people to spend time abroad as part of their education. The Erasmus programme for student exchanges has been particularly successful.
Language skills are becoming increasingly important, as globalisation leads to more and more contact with people from other countries. The EU actively encourages the acquisition of language skills from an early age.
Attitudes towards the EU
Many people believe EU membership is a good thing for their country and that there have been tangible benefits from membership. However, there are large differences between countries, with some more enthusiastic than others.