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
- By alphabetical order
- By year of entry
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
- Czech Republic
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.
These countries are in the process of 'transposing' (or integrating) EU legislation into national law:
Potential candidate countries do not yet fulfil the requirements for EU membership:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
* 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