This chart shows the overlapping jurisdictions in Europe and the countries which have signed each agreement. I would give it attribution, but I don’t know where it comes from. I owe Marlieke Eekman, our tour director, for most of what follows. I take responsibility, however, for all errors.
It is easy for someone in the U.S. to be confused by the terms used for a united Europe. Some countries are members or signatories to all the agreements that unite different factions of Europe, but many belong to just one or two. There are still a myriad of governments and languages, but it is becoming increasingly possible to travel and trade freely, and – via the American influence – more and more people speak one language (as a second or third language), English.
I believe the more money and people move freely, the more the politicians will follow.
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The EU operates through a system of independent institutions and decisions by the member states. The institutions of include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens. The EU’s de facto capital is Brussels.
The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states.
The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries which have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders. Twenty-two EU member states and four EFTA (European Free Trade Association) member states participate in the Schengen Area. Five EU members are not part of the Schengen Area. Three – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania – are legally obliged to join the area, while the other two – Ireland and the United Kingdom – maintain opt-outs. Four non-EU members – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – participate in the Schengen Area while three European microstates – Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican – can be considered as de facto part of the Schengen Area as they do not have border controls with the Schengen countries which surround them.
The Eurozone is an economic and monetary union of 17 EU member states that have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender. The Eurozone currently consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. Other EU states (except for the United Kingdom and Denmark) are obliged to join once they meet the criteria to do so. No state has left and there are no provisions to do so or to be expelled.
Monetary policy of the zone is the responsibility of the European Central Bank which is governed by a president and a board of the heads of national central banks. Although there is no common representation, governance or fiscal policy for the currency union, some co-operation does take place through the Euro Group, which makes political decisions regarding the Eurozone and the euro.
As I mention in another post, Belgium is a small country with many languages and many overlapping jurisdictions. So it is with all of Europe. And then there are the Swiss who don’t really even appreciate other Swiss very much.
But it is ever so much easier than when I first came to Europe in 1967 as a hitchhiking student, and I suspect it will be even better forty years from now.