A treaty-based organization that was set up to manage economic and political cooperation among 15 European member countries. The European Union began in the 1950s with six countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Their theory was that by creating communities that shared sovereignty in matters of coal and steel production, trade, and nuclear energy, another war in Europe would be unthinkable. Since then, common EU policies have evolved in a number of other sectors. The members of the EU are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. During 2003, ten new countries were undergoing the process of becoming a member of the EU. Those countries are the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
The European Council makes the decisions to define and implement common foreign and security policy and coordinates the activities of member states, including police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The council is made up of the heads of the member-country governments and meets at least twice a year. The president of the council organizes meetings and works out compromises to resolve difficulties. The presidency rotates every six months.