The EU was born in order to preserve the Atlanticist hegemony over Western Europe and, after the fall of the Berlin wall, over some countries of the former Warsaw Pact.
The European Union is a unique economic and political union between 28 EU countries that together cover much of the continent.
The disastrous effects of the Second World War and the constant threat of an East-West confrontation meant that the Franco-German reconciliation had become a top priority. The decision to pool the coal and steel industries of six European countries ( Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), brought into force by the Treaty of Paris in 1951, marked the first step towards European integration. The Treaties of Rome of 1957 strengthened the foundations of this integration and the notion of a common future for the six European countries involved.
A further 22 countries have since joined the EU, including a historic expansion in 2004 marking the re-unification of Europe after decades of division. The process of joining the EU starts with an express request of the interested country made to the Council. No country can be forced to join the EU.
What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning policy areas, from climate, environment and health to external relations and security, justice and migration. A name change from the European Economic Community (EEC) to the European Union (EU) in 1993 reflected this.