The European Union aimed to establish economic cooperation and partnerships between European countries. Interdependence in trading was seen as a guarantee for peaceful relationships between nations. While the EU's beginnings may been economic, activities in the European Union also encompass environmental policy, cultural development, integration policy and international exchange, as well as the promotion of human rights. The influence the EU wields on the world stage is significant, both economically and politically. According to EU statistics concerning US direct investment position in Europe, in 2017, investments amounted to more than 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
The unification of European countries began in the 1950s through the European Coal and Steel Community. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the six founding members of the EU. 1957 saw the creation of the Treaty of Rome, which gave birth to the European Economic Community (EEC), or the so-called "Common Market". The European Union has become an enormous market of its own with a common currency, the euro, used by 19 of its member states. Experts have been divided on the introduction of the euro in 2001, as have citizens. Since the economic crisis of 2008, the euro has had its fair share of hard times. EU statistics on the monthly inflation rate report 2 percent for June 2018, compared to the same month in the previous year after spending much of the previous year below the European Central Bank's policy target. The official national debt level in the EU in the first quarter of 2018 showed Italy at the top of the list with over 2.3 trillion euros worth of national debt.
In the 1960s, the European Union stopped countries from charging import taxes on each other. In this decade, joint control over food production was also introduced. European Union statistics state that France, Great Britain and Germany are among the largest national markets for food products. Later in the 1970s, the EU member circle expanded to include Denmark, Ireland and the UK. Other crucial events in the history of the world took place in the European Union during this time as well. The Salazar rule in Portugal crumbled, as did the regime of General Franco in Spain.
The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, leading to Germany’s reunification in October 1990. As a result of this event in particular, closer ties were forged between European countries, and mutual interest about European issues began to solidify. The quality of life changed. Today, the average life expectancy in Europe is quite high, with around 80 years on average for Western Europe.
In later years, the European Union reduced border control and introduced the Schengen Agreement, by which citizens are able to travel freely between European countries. This of course led to more Europeans and international citizens taking up studying and working within Europe. However, the economic crisis did affect unemployment levels, making it an ever-present issue. As statistics from June 2018 show, the EU unemployment rate in member states of the European Union was highest in Greece and Spain.
The main institutions involved in European Union legislation and policy are the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission.
One of the most serious issues currently facing the European Union is the ongoing economic crisis, which is also affecting the futures and job prospects of Europeans. However, recently, the so-called Brexit, the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, has been causing economic and political turmoil, after a referendum was held in the UK in June 2016 during which a slim majority voted in favor of leaving the EU. The full consequences of the Brexit cannot be forecast with absolute certainty yet, but many economists and politicians are skeptical of the move.