European Union

Countries

The EU was not always as big as it is today. When European countries started to cooperate economically in 1951, only Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands participated.

Over time, more and more countries decided to join. The Union reached its current size of 28 member countries with the accession of Croatia on 1 July 2013.

The 28 member countries of the EU

Brexit: For the time being, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU and rights and obligations continue to fully apply in and to the UK.

More information on Brexit

By alphabetical order
By year of entry
Year of entry Countries

01/01/1958

Belgium
  France
  Germany
  Italy
  Luxembourg
  Netherlands
01/01/1973 Denmark
  Ireland
  United Kingdom

01/01/1981

Greece
01/01/1986 Portugal
  Spain
01/01/1995 Austria
  Finland
  Sweden
01/05/2004 Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Estonia
  Hungary
  Latvia
  Lithuania
  Malta
  Poland
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
01/01/2007 Bulgaria
  Romania
01/07/2013 Croatia

All EU member countries in brief

Countries using the euro

The euro (€) is the official currency of 19 out of 28 EU member countries. These countries are collectively known as the Eurozone.

Which countries use the euro?

Members of the Schengen border-free area

The Schengen Area is one of the greatest achievements of the EU. It is an area without internal borders, an area within which citizens, many non-EU nationals, business people and tourists can freely circulate without being subjected to border checks. Since 1985, it has gradually grown and encompasses today almost all EU States and a few associated non-EU countries.

While having abolished their internal borders, Schengen States have also tightened controls at their common external border on the basis of Schengen rules to ensure the security of those living or travelling in the Schengen Area.

List of countries in Schengen area

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

More about the Schengen area

Joining the EU

Becoming a member of the EU is a complex procedure which does not happen overnight. Once an applicant country meets the conditions for membership, it must implement EU rules and regulations in all areas.

Any country that satisfies the conditions for membership can apply. These conditions are known as the ‘Copenhagen criteria’ and include a free-market economy, a stable democracy and the rule of law, and the acceptance of all EU legislation, including of the euro.

A country wishing to join the EU submits a membership application to the Council, which asks the Commission to assess the applicant’s ability to meet the Copenhagen criteria. If the Commission’s opinion is positive, the Council must then agree upon a negotiating mandate. Negotiations are then formally opened on a subject-by-subject basis.

Due to the huge volume of EU rules and regulations each candidate country must adopt as national law, the negotiations take time to complete. The candidates are supported financially, administratively and technically during this pre-accession period.

Candidate countries

These countries are in the process of 'transposing' (or integrating) EU legislation into national law:

Potential candidates

Potential candidate countries do not yet fulfil the requirements for EU membership:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Kosovo*
    * This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

More about enlargement

Other European countries

Map