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The European Union was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, from a looser economic confederation of European countries, the European Economic Community. Member countries within the Eurozone now use a single currency, the Euro (though Britain has kept its original currency, the pound. Denmark also is a member of the European Union which is exempt from adopting the Euro.) The goal of the European Union is to facilitate “the free movement of people, goods, services and capital” within the member states. There are currently 27 member states, with several other states on the path towards membership.
The European Union, as a whole, has the largest economy in the world.
Members of the European Union (date of membership):
Czech Republic (2004)
United Kingdom (1973)
Note that the countries we think of as “Western Europe” were mostly members of the EU very early, before some of the “Iron Curtain” countries were free of Soviet control. The Berlin wall, separating East Berlin from West Berlin, came down in 1989. The Baltic states, for instance, became independent in 1991.