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The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects, updated June 21, 2016 (pre-Brexit)

The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects – Kristin Archick. Specialist in European Affairs. June 21, 2016.
“The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. Today, the EU is composed of 28 member states, including most of the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. EU members share a customs union, a single market (in which goods, people, and capital move freely), a common trade policy, a common agricultural policy, and a common currency (the euro) that is used by 19 member states (collectively referred to as “the Eurozone”). Twenty-two EU members participate in the Schengen area of free movement, in which individuals may travel without passport checks. In addition, the EU has taken steps to develop common foreign and security policies, has sought to build common internal security measures, and remains committed to enlargement, especially to the countries of the Western Balkans. The EU is largely viewed as a success story and as a cornerstone of European stability and prosperity. Currently, however, the EU faces a range of political and economic pressures, including slow growth and persistently high unemployment in many EU countries, as well as the rise of populist political parties, at least some of which harbor anti-EU or “euroskeptic” sentiments (as well as anti-immigrant views). Such factors are complicating the EU’s ability to deal with a multitude of internal and external challenges.”

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