Part One: Status and Role of the European Union

The creation and development of the European Union is an event of far-reaching significance following World War II. Since the launch of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, the EU has become what it is today through the stages of the Tax and Customs Union, the Single Market and the Economic and Monetary Union. Its integration in the foreign policy, defence and social fields has made headway. The Euro has been put to circulation successfully and a single area of justice is taking shape. The EU is now a strong and the most integrated community in the world, taking up 25 and 35 percent of the world's economy and trade respectively and ranking high on the world's list of per capita income and foreign investment.

In 2004, the EU will be enlarged to a total membership of 25. The new European Union would then cover much of Eastern and Western Europe with an area of four million square kilometers, a population of 450 million and a GDP of over 10 trillion US Dollars.

Despite its difficulties and challenges ahead, the European integration process is irreversible and the EU will play an increasingly important role in both regional and international affairs.