After the Second World War, Jean Monnet, a French political economist and diplomat came up with the idea of European cooperation. Another Frenchman, Robert Schuman, who liked Monet's idea, mentioned the plan in his speech on 9th May 1950. In 1951, six countries, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France and Germany formed the European Coal and Steel Community(ECSC), in 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC) was set up. Members of the EEC shared a common market, where it was easier to trade. After years of discussion other European counties joiuned the cooperation. 1973: Britain, Denmark and Ireland, in 1981 Greece, in 1986: Portugal and Spain, in 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden. In 1992 the name was changed to European Union (EU). Hungary joined in 2004. In 2014 the EU has 28 members (Croatia joined in 2013)
People living in the EU are free to live, work or study in whichever EU country they choose, when you cross the borders between most European countries, you no longer need a passport. The EU encourages people to spend some time studying or training in another European country.
The EU has its own anthem (Ode to Joy by Beethoven), flag (12 golden stars on a blue background), a single currency (euro), a European Parliament (plus a European Commission, The Council of the European Union and the Court of Justice).