A Beginners Guide to the EU #1: The Basics | Autonomy Scotland

A Beginners Guide to the EU #1: The Basics

In a previous blog we discussed that many of us don’t know enough about the EU in order to make an informed choice about how to vote in the forthcoming Brexit referendum. I decided to educate myself and share what I have learned in small regular blogs in the run up to the referendum. As this is the first one I will just cover some basics surrounding the make-up of the EU and what it does.

Who is in the EU?

The European Union comprises of 28 member states. It covers an area of just under four and a half million square kilometres and is home to over five hundred million people. Here are the 28 states and you can click on them for more information:


The EU covers less than half of the territory of Europe and it borders 19 non EU nations. The highest point in the EU is Mont Blanc at 4,810.45 metres. The lowest points are Lammefjorden in Denmark and Zuidplaspolder in the Netherlands, at 7 m below sea level. The longest river is the Danube at 2,860 km (1,780 mi). Many overseas territories are included in the EU.  These are: the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, the Azores, Madeira, Gibraltar, the British sovereign bases in Cyprus, La Réunion, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy.

Here is a map of Europe with the EU states highlighted in Green.


Member states of the European Union: Wikipedia

How is the EU organised?

There are seven decision making bodies within the European Union. The two main ones are the European Parliament which is an elected body and it shares budgetary and legislative responsibilities with The Council Of The European Union. The council comprises of one government minister from each member state. The European Commission is the executive body of government of the EU.

There is also a European Council which is a summit of EU heads of State which meets four times annually and sets the political course the EU takes.

The Court Of Justice of the EU  ensures uniform application and interpretation of European Union law, in cooperation with the national judiciary of the member states.

The European Court of Auditors is responsible for making sure the accounts of EU institutions are in order.

And the European Central Bank controls monetary policy in the Euro currency zone which the UK is not part of.


European-Union intstitutions

What does the EU do?

The stated aims of the EU include:

  • The development of a single market
  • The promotion of peace and the well-being of the Union´s citizens
  • An area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers
  • Common policies within EU nations on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development
  • Sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and social justice

I hope you found this informative. Next time I will look at the history of the organisation.

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