Values of the EU

The goals of the European Union are:

  • promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens;
  • offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders;
  • sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress, and environmental protection;
  • combat social exclusion and discrimination;
  • promote scientific and technological progress;
  • enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among member countries;
  • respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity.


The EU values are common to the member countries in a society in which inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination prevail. These values are an integral part of our European way of life:

  • Human dignity
    Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected, protected and constitutes the real basis of fundamental rights.
  • Freedom
    Freedom gives citizens the right to move and reside freely within the Union. Individual freedoms such as respect for private life, freedom of thought, religion, assembly, expression and information are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • Democracy
    The functioning of the EU is founded on representative democracy. Being a European citizen also means enjoying political rights. Every adult EU citizen has the right to vote in European elections. EU citizens have the right to vote in their country of residence, or in their country of origin.
  • Equality
    Equality is about equal rights for all citizens before the law. The principle of equality between women and men underpins all European policies and is the basis for European integration. The principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of in 1957. Although inequalities still exist, the EU has made significant progress. Some encouraging trends include more women in work and their progress in securing better education and training. Moreover, the EU aims for workers to earn the same pay for the same work in the same place.
  • Rule of law
    The EU is based on the rule of law. Everything the EU does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by its member countries. Law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary. The member countries gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice which judgements have to be respected by all.
  • Human rights
    Human rights are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These cover the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, the right to the protection of your personal data, and or the right to get access to justice.

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

Brexit: For the time being, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU and rights and obligations continue to fully apply in and to the UK.


Austria Italy
Belgium Latvia
Bulgaria Lithuania
Croatia Luxembourg
Cyprus Malta
Czech Republic Netherlands
Denmark Poland
Estonia Portugal
Finland Romania
France Slovakia
Germany Slovenia
Greece Spain
Hungary Sweden
Ireland United Kingdom

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

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

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.

Candidate countries

These countries are in the process of ‘transposing’ (or integrating) EU legislation into national law:

  • Albania
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • Turkey

Other European countries

  • Andorra
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Vatican City

Do you want to study in Europe? The rules for studying in Europe vary from country to country and can be dependent upon where you come from.

  • Study in Austria
  • Study in Belgium
  • Study in Bulgaria
  • Study in Croatia
  • Study in Cyprus
  • Study in the Czech Republic
  • Study in Denmark
  • Study in Estonia
  • Study in Finland
  • Study in France
  • Study in Germany
  • Study in Greece
  • Study in Hungary
  • Study in Iceland
  • Study in Ireland
  • Study in Italy
  • Study in Latvia
  • Study in Lithuania
  • Study in Luxembourg
  • Study in Malta
  • Study in Monaco
  • Study in Norway
  • Study in Poland
  • Study in Portugal
  • Study in Romania
  • Study in Russia
  • Study in Slovakia
  • Study in Spain
  • Study in Sweden
  • Study in Switzerland
  • Study in the Netherlands Amsterdam
  • Study in Turkey
  • Study in Ukraine
  • Study in the United Kingdom