28 countries are members of the European Union, including the UK which joined in 1973. Since its foundation by six countries in 1957, what is now known as the EU has grown in a series of expansions. The largest was in 2004 with ten new members, including many central and eastern European states.
Current members are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
The eurozone is made up of the 19 EU members who use the euro as their common currency. All member countries are required to join the euro once they have met the criteria, except for the UK and Denmark who have opt-outs.
Future EU members
The EU says any European country can apply to join if it “respects the EU’s democratic values and is committed to promoting them”. Countries must show they have stable political institutions, a functioning market economy, and that they accept established EU law and practice.
Joining the EU has three application stages. Countries must be approved by existing members before they can reach the next stage.
Potential candidates are countries which haven’t started negotiating membership yet, but are promised the prospect of joining when they’re ready. Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, currently fall into this category.
Map of EU member states, by Ssolbergj, via Wikimedia Commons
This series of articles answers the most popular Google searches about the European Union and the EU referendum on 23 June.
The integrity of our elections is in danger, and we need your help
You’re probably here looking for facts. Thank you for that trust. But with the EU parliament elections on the way and more elections a possibility, we need to act now to make sure our elections are protected, before it’s too late.
Could you help protect our elections by becoming a Full Fact donor?
Misinformation isn’t new, but advancements in technology mean it can spread at an unprecedented scale. Our dangerously outdated election laws have not kept up with the digital age, putting our next elections at risk of abuse.
Currently, it’s possible for a candidate to run a thousand different political ads to win the same seat, promising something different to each group it targets. At the same time, there’s no law requiring those who publish online campaigns to disclose who they are or how they are funded. The opportunity for bad actors to manipulate election results is left wide open.
You may already know about our work to make public debate online more honest and transparent. Every day, we call out the most harmful misinformation on social media platforms when and where we see it. But right now, we’re urging the government to overhaul our election laws to make sure political campaigning is held to the same level of scrutiny online as it is offline.
This work all depends on the generosity of hundreds of people who all believe that for democracy to work, we need transparency. Our monthly donors help strengthen our voice, and show our politicians that this really matters. Would you consider joining them?
Become a donor today to make sure our elections are protected.