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European Union overview

The European Union is a supranational organization whose members include most countries of Central and Western Europe (referred to as Member States). Switzerland and Norway are NOT members of the European Union.

The EU began as the European Steel and Coal Community in 1953 with the intent to regulate the capacity of large metal fabricating industries. The six original Member States – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – signed the ECSC Treaty and began the process of European integration. Since then, the EU has developed in stages with the creation of an economic community, development of a single market and the removal of many trade restrictions and border controls. In recent years, the EU has introduced a common currency, begun to develop a common foreign affairs policy and improved cooperation among Member States on justice and home affairs.

EU government policy is divided into 3 "pillars" which consist of the following:

Pillar Policy Content
I The three communities of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Economic Community and Euratom
II Common foreign and security policy (CFSP)
III Justice and home affairs – judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, police cooperation, immigration policy

Currently there are 28 Member States of the EU: 

Member State Year Joined
Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands 1952
Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom 1973
Greece 1981
Portugal, Spain 1986
Austria, Finland, Sweden 1995
Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia  2004
Bulgaria, Romania 2007
Croatia 2013

The following nations are candidate countries:

Serbia Montenegro
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Turkey

Potential candidates countries are:

Bosnia and Herzegovina Kosovo*

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence


Europa maintains a web page on the enlargement process.

Contact Info

David Hollander

Law and Legal Studies Librarian


Guide Authors, Contributors, and Editors: Mary George (former Senior Reference Librarian), Bobray Bordelon, Duncan Alford


European Union Documents at Princeton University

Princeton University has been a depository for publications published by the European Union since 1964. Through this program the library has acquired a wide range of European Union goverment documents that are essential in supporting teaching and research in many academic departments, schools and programs. European Union documents can usually be located by title in the Catalog.

When a document is not held at Princeton, the Interlibrary Loan Service can usually borrow it for a Princeton user from the regional depository or from another library.

Princeton is one of 57 European Union depositories in the United States and its territories.  


Depository Access Policy

The general public is welcome to use depository materials free of charge. For access information and hours, please consult the the online hours (choose "Firestone Library - Depository Access" from the drop down menu) and  Access Information Page

PLEASE NOTE:  While the general public is welcome to use depository materials free of charge, many of our European Union resources, including many of the resources listed in this research guide, are not depository materials and may only be used by Princeton University students, faculty, and staff.