Europe. The European Union. Did you know it’s not the same thing? Learn more through these fun facts about the European Union.
Europe refers to the continent that spreads from Iceland to Istanbul.
The European Union is a confederation (or a group) of 28 member countries in Europe, started in 1957. It has created a common economic area with Europe-wide laws allowing people to move and trade in other EU countries almost the same as they do in their own. In practical terms, this means that I, a French citizen, can work and live in Germany without needing a visa or any kind of special paperwork. I can come and go as I please. I don’t even need to show my passport to go between the two countries.
Activity: Can you name and label all 28 countries of the European Union using the map above?
Here are 10 other fun facts about the European Union:
1. The European Union has its own flag, complete with twelve stars. It is often thought that they originally meant to symbolize the first twelve countries to join the EU, but no correlation has ever truly been confirmed, especially since there are more than double that amount of members today. The twelve stars are generally thought of as a symbol of unity and perfection.
2. The European Union has a motto. It reads: United in Diversity. The motto signifies how Europeans have come together, in the form of the EU, to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by the continent’s many different cultures, traditions, and languages. The EU also has its own anthem “Ode to Joy”, from Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”, composed way back in 1823.
Activity: listen to the European anthem.
3. There are 24 official languages in the European Union. The most commonly used are English, French, and German. Other languages include Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish. If there are European Parliament debates, sessions, and conferences, official transcripts and documents are translated into all these languages. The European Parliament is the biggest employer of interpreters in the world with 350 permanent interpreters, joined by about 400 free-lancers during peak periods. The interpreters make it possible for members of Parliament to speak their own language and still be understood.
4. The main currency in the EU is the Euro, but not every country has adopted it. Today, it is the official currency of 19 countries. It was first introduced in 2002. I remember when many countries switched from their own currency to the Euro, €. It was a very exciting event. Many people rushed to a cash point at midnight on the 1st January 2002 to withdraw their first Euros.
The euro coins have a standard print on one side and a country-specific design on the other. But you can use them in any country where the Euro is in circulation. It is really fun to have different coins from different countries in your purse. The different banknotes have different colours and represent different architectural styles throughout European history.
Activity: Research what countries use the Euro today and when they adopted it for the first time.
5. Member countries aren’t forced to remain in the European Union. Any country is allowed to leave if they so choose, but they obviously must notify the EU of that decision. Arrangements have to be made in order for a country to leave, with decisions made as to how any dealings between that country and the Union in the future would be taken care of. It is a really complicated process (as is joining) as we can see today with the Brexit situation.
6. EU countries also have something else in common: their passports. All European Union countries have a red passport, with “European Union” written at the top, followed by the country the person is the citizen of. There is no European citizenship (yet?) though more and more people feel they are European citizens as they can move around freely to live in any of its countries.
7. The European Union has won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was awarded to the EU in 2012 based on its contributions towards peace and reconciliation. This was a wonderful achievement considering the fact that it was created originally for that exact purpose, amongst other things, after the Second World War.
8. The European Parliament is the largest and only directly-elected international body in the world. With more than 700 members representing over 500 million citizens from 28 EU member states, no other international body in the world can beat the size of the European Parliament. Since the first parliamentary elections of 1979, the European Parliament has also become the only international assembly with directly-elected members, both in the EU and in the whole world. Its first president ever, back in 1979, was a woman: Simone Veil.
9. The European Union also runs a network of schools for its staff and others who may want to benefit from a European education. There are currently 13 official European Schools (as of May 2019). The European Baccalaureate cycle consists of a multilingual curriculum. Pupils must always follow a combination of language, humanities and scientific subjects with subjects taught through more than one language.
10. The EU has facilitated the daily life of its citizens in many ways. One of the latest benefits, we, as European citizens, can really experience, is roaming. As someone living in Germany, I have a German mobile phone. When I travel to Spain or Latvia, I can use my mobile phone as if I was home. No extra charges, no special contract. The European Health Insurance Card offered free of charge to all residents of the European Union is another wonderful invention. The idea is that all citizens, no matter what participating European country they are in, can access the health care they need, if they need it.
Living in the European Union is a really wonderful thing. I, personally, have never felt more European than today. I really hope my children will get to see an even greater and stronger European Union. ´
Unity in Diversity.
Activity: What cities are considered the capitals of the European Union? How far apart are they? Can you measure the distance between them?
Interesting links for further reading:
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