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Portal:European Union

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The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 28 member states that are primarily located in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Institutions of the EU 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 traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. In the intervening years, the community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

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Galileo launch on Soyuz, 21 Oct 2011

The Galileo positioning system is a proposed satellite navigation system, to be built by the European Union as an alternative to GPS (which is controlled by the United States military) and the Russian GLONASS. The system should be operational by 2010, two years later than originally anticipated. The first stage of the Galileo program was agreed upon officially on May 26, 2003 by the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA).

It is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. The Galileo positioning system should not be referred to as GPS, which refers specifically to the existing United States system, but as "Galileo." Galileo is intended to provide: greater precision to all users, improved coverage of satellite signals at higher latitudes, which northern regions such as Scandinavia will benefit from, a positioning system upon which European nations can rely even in times of war or political disagreement.

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Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands, lies on the banks of two bodies of water, the IJ bay and the Amstel river. Founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village on the banks of the Amstel, it is now the largest city in the country and is a financial and cultural centre. In 2006, the population of the municipality proper was 741,329; the population of the official Greater Amsterdam area is approximately 1.5 million, but the real agglomeration is estimated at 2 to 2.5 million. Amsterdam is also one of the core urban centres of the greater metropolitan area called Randstad (English: "Ring City") which encompasses other Dutch cities and has a population of over 7.5 million.

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, dating largely from the 17th century. At this time, a series of concentric, semi-circular canals (grachten) were dug around the old city centre. Along the canals houses and warehouses were built. The canals still define Amsterdam's layout and appearance today. Amsterdam is famous for its free-spirited liberalism, diversity and tolerance.

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Did you know?

...that Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City all mint their own euro coins, with their own national symbols on the back, despite not being EU members?

...that Slovenia will be joining the Euro on January 1, 2007?

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