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Key questions

Which countries are currently members of the EU?

What are the main aims of the EU?

Which countries are currently members of the EU?

The European Union or EU emerged from the rubble of World War Two when courageous statesmen including Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi and Winston Churchill set about persuading their peoples to enter a new era.

On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman (the French foreign minister) proposed establishing a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) with the aim of preventing further war between France and Germany, by establishing a common market for coal and steel. Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the six founding countries who signed this Treaty in Paris on April 18th 1951. In 1957, the same countries signed the Treaty of Rome to create the European Economic Community (EEC) for economic integration. The EEC was the first step towards the modern European Union (EU), which was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. The first enlargement took place in 1973 when the UK, Denmark and Ireland joined. The 1990s saw a massive growth, with 15 members by 1995. A further 10 countries had joined by 2004 and another two in 2007.

Today, 27 countries make up the EU, and three more are ‘candidates' - as of Jan 2007 the EU had some 494 million citizens. A map of these countries can be found on the Europa website of the EU, and the teacher's notes give a table of the countries with the dates that they joined. Further detailed information about the history and development of the EU can be found on the Europa website: Europe in 12 Lessons and The History of the European Union.

What are the main aims of the EU?

The EU is governed by a decision-making triangle of The Council of the European Union, The European Parliament and European Commission. This political system is unique and does not fall into any traditional legal category. It has been evolving for over the last 50 years. More detailed information about the roles and responsibilities of each of these decision-making bodies can be found on the Europa website.

The EU uses an annual budget of over 120 billion Euros to maintain and implement a wide range of policies in economic, social, regulatory and financial areas, for example regional aid, the Common Agricultural Policy, the environment and sustainable innovation and technological innovation. Much more detailed information on these policies can be found on the Europa website.

For the purposes of the activities in this lesson, students examine the top five aims of the EU as listed and described on the CBBC Newsround website. The five top aims of the EU are:

  1. To promote economic and social progress

  2. To speak for the EU on the international scene

  3. To introduce European citizenship

  4. To develop Europe as an area of freedom, security and justice

  5. To maintain and build an established EU law

Their card-sort activity requires them to match each main aim with the correct description on the resource sheet. The text used in this resource is based on this website, so it can be used to check answers. Indeed, this is a good, student-friendly website to use with classes if more time is available to spend on an introduction to the EU.


Guess the country

Have a go at the interactive activity which introduces you to the member countries of the European Union.

Once you have had a go at the activity, test yourself on how many of the member countries you can remember (there are 27 in total).

Main Activity

What is the EU all about?

The European Union is an organisation which represents the needs and interests of its member countries, and the residents of these countries. It has five main aims.

The top five aims card-sort activity asks you to match the five aims of the EU with explanations about what they mean for residents of the 27 member countries.

Different countries have joined the EU at different times since the organisation was established in 1957. Your next task is to create a map of the member countries, colour coded according to when they joined.

First, complete the member countries table worksheet in which you need to list the member countries in date order of when they joined. When you have done that, you are ready to start the mapping the EU activity. You will need an atlas to help you to locate the member countries. You will also need to divide the list of countries into categories and decide on the colours or codes you will use to represent the different years that the countries joined.


Raise the flag

Find a picture of the flag of the European Union.

The blue background represents the west (the geographical location of Europe); the ring of stars represents completeness and unity. You can find out more on the Wikipedia website.

It is a simple and striking flag, but it does not tell us much about the member countries or about the aims of the EU.

For the final task of this lesson, you are going to design a new flag for the EU. You could try to incorporate something about the member countries or the aims of the EU, the different cultures of the countries involved, or the EU motto which is united in diversity.

Share some ideas with the class before you get started.

When you have designed your flag, write a short paragraph to explain the thinking behind your design.

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Geography: The Language of Europe Lesson 1 Teachers' Notes


187 KB

Geography: The Language of Europe Lesson 1 Member Countries Table


114 KB

Geography: The Language of Europe Lesson 1 Top 5 Aims Card Sort


47 KB

Geography: The Language of Europe Lesson 1 Mapping The EU Activity


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