What is the European Union (EU)?

What is the European Union (EU)?

There are 27 countries within the European Union. They work to benefit economically and politically from collaboration on numerous fronts ranging from trade laws, common standards setting across industrial sectors, border patrol enforcement & humanitarian aid support efforts. The EU also plays an important role in regulating the international aspects of travel and commerce within Europe. This guide provides an overview of the European Union, from its core purposes and structures to why it's important for travellers like yourself. From visa regulations to cross-border road rules, this comprehensive guide will provide insight into navigating your travels within the EU.

Overview of the European Union

The European Union, also commonly referred to as the EU, is a collection of 27 nations located in and around Europe. The EU is an economic and political partnership between member states who work together to promote internal trade, external relations, sustainable development, in line with shared values. With a total population of around 500 million people, the EU is the world’s largest trading bloc. Each member country has adopted a common currency for use throughout the bloc, called the euro, and has implemented laws regarding trade that apply across all member nations. This provides businesses with opportunities for cross-border collaborations and increased commercial activity within the European market. In addition to economic goals, removing trade barriers between countries helps to foster relationships among peoples while emphasising cultural diversity and individual traditions throughout Europe. Together, these efforts improve quality of life for citizens of member states.

The EU Members States

The 27 countries that are members of the EU include:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Cyprus
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Hungary
  14. Ireland
  15. Italy
  16. Latvia
  17. Lithuania
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malta
  20. Netherlands
  21. Poland
  22. Portugal
  23. Romania
  24. Slovakia
  25. Slovenia
  26. Spain
  27. Sweden

As one political unit with similar standards and regulations in place for all its member states enables citizens from any EU country to travel freely and enjoy a high quality of life across Europe, thereby creating a unique fusion of cultures.

History and origins of the EU

Europe is a continent with a rich and complex history, no more evident than in its ancient boundaries. Going back centuries, the way Europe was divided and structured evolved over time as different countries found themselves united under certain governing bodies. The European Union, or EU, is the most recent evolution of this process, having been officially formed in 1993. The EU's purpose is to promote economic prosperity, build ties between member states, and provide security for all participating countries. This arrangement has offered a unique opportunity for strengthened cooperation within Europe and beyond its borders.

Goals of the EU

The European Union (EU) has done much over the years to further economic and security cooperation between its member states. The creation of a single market and the provision of a common currency have greatly facilitated the transfer of people, goods, services, capital, and knowledge across Europe. Additionally, the EU has sought to promote human rights, protect the environment, fight poverty, promote research and innovation, strengthen regional development and aid those facing natural disasters. Through these efforts, the EU has helped to increase employment levels, reduce socio-economic disparities between regions within its borders as well as among Member States and foster an atmosphere of peace and stability.

Advantages of being an EU Member

Membership in the European Union provides many advantages. A few of the advantages most relevant to visitors and travellers are described below:

[1] Freedom of movement

All EU citizens are also granted the freedom of movement, allowing them to travel, live, work or study in any other member state with ease. Free movement throughout the EU give travellers uninterrupted access to diverse cultures, experiences, and cities. This unrestricted access to all other member countries means no visa restrictions and no need to apply for a permit before entering a new country. This enables freedom, convenience, and economic stability for those living within its borders, as well as for visa-free and Schengen Visa travellers.

[2] Consumer protection

Additionally, members have access to extensive consumer rights and protection when travelling through the EU by air or sea, plus numerous cultural benefits like free admission to museums in certain countries.

[3] Shared currency

With a shared currency amongst the different countries of the EU, managing financials is significantly simpler and allows for more efficient spending. This means you can use the same Euro currency for your vacation in any EU country without having to continuously convert money into a local currency.

[4] Economic cooperation

Additionally, through interstate economic cooperation among countries in the Union, costs are reduced and more resources are available for businesses and citizens alike to create a prosperous tomorrow. This means that costs of goods purchased are relatively similar across the bloc, allowing travellers to better budget their expenses.

The Schengen Agreement impacts on travel to Europe

Travelling within Europe is made easier with the Schengen Agreement, which was signed on 14 June 1985. This agreement allows citizens of the 27 Schengen Area countries to travel freely and without restriction within those countries, simplifying and shortening the process that travellers must take to move from one country to the next. The agreement is beneficial not only for citizens of the signatory countries but also for foreigners who come to visit. The Schengen Agreement eliminates passport control between each nation and allows visitors to feel as if they're travelling through one large, open territory. The Schengen Agreement has revolutionised European travel, allowing people to explore and experience multiple places without needing to go through long and often difficult processes at each border crossing.

Planning a trip to Europe


Planning a trip to Europe can be daunting when it comes to budgeting, choosing the right accommodation, and figuring out travel logistics. There are many ways to manage your trip finances, customise your stay and find suitable transportation options. When budgeting for a trip in Europe, look into airfare sales or compare prices across different airlines for the best deals on flights and research local public or private transportation options for saving money on travel costs. Additionally, take advantage of special accommodations such as hostels and bed & breakfasts for more affordable lodging. By taking the time to research discounts, deals and lower-cost alternatives, you will be able to make the most out of your money while planning an enjoyable journey through Europe.

Exploring the different countries within the EU

Europe is home to some of the most significant monuments, museums and historical sites in the world. From the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the breath-taking Acropolis in Athens you're bound to discover attractions and activities that suit your tastes as you explore the continent’s diverse cultural heritage. In addition to these landmark attractions, Europe has an abundance of lesser known yet equally awe-inspiring destinations. Castles, cathedrals and other medieval structures can be seen scattered around the continent. Whether viewing charming cobblestone streets or cosmopolitan plazas, there's no shortage of places to explore while experiencing all that Europe has to offer.

Visas, passports and other documents needed for travel to Europe

Many people believe that the rules and regulations regarding travel within the European Union (EU) are complicated. However, most of the basic rights guaranteed to travellers, such as free transit across borders, are clear and consistent across member countries.

Obtaining visas, passports and other documents necessitating entry into EU countries can be an intimidating task for non-Europeans. Knowing the regulations in each country beforehand and doing research on the types of documents you need will help to make navigating throughout the EU quicker, simpler and smoother.

Starting in 2025, non-Europeans and non-EU family members who travelled visa-free to Europe will likely need an ETIAS. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It is a visa-waiver for travellers that do not need a Schengen Visa. ETIAS will require eligible travellers to apply online before their departure to a Schengen country. Travellers requiring a Schengen Visa will not be impacted by the launch of ETIAS. You can learn more about ETIAS by visiting the FAQ.


The European Union creates a unique environment of economic cooperation, allowing for free movement between countries and the use of one shared currency. Removing these economic barriers has opened up a world of possibilities for travellers as they journey through Europe. Travelling in Europe is an opportunity to see and learn about the history, culture and values across EU countries. From obtaining visas and passports to choosing the right attractions and destinations, there are many important steps to take before embarking on your adventure. By understanding the purpose of the EU, familiarising yourself with the necessary visa requirements, understanding how to budget and selecting the right transportation options, your European trip should be a more streamlined and enjoyable experience.