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What is Europe?
What is the E.U.?
The European Union is an organization of several Western European
nations bound together by common economic and political arrangements.
The Union evolved out of the European Economic Community, formed in 1957
to integrate western Europe's economies by stripping away tariffs and
duties on traded goods. The Union is composed of a legislative unit
called the European Parliament and various committees and institutions.
Primary power rests with the European Commission which initiates
legislation and executes Union policies and trade relationships. Several
eastern European countries are scheduled to join the Union once they
fulfill specific economic and political criteria.


Who is in the E.U.?
The fifteen member states of the E.U. are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The
Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


How does a country join the E.U.?
Countries must fulfill certain economic and political criteria in order
to qualify for E.U. membership. A country with a strong economy and low
unemployment will generally meet the requirements for inclusion in the
Union, but a democratic political system must also be in place.
Countries with poor human rights records are prevented from joining.


Which countries are scheduled to join the E.U.?
Several Eastern European countries, all budding democracies, are
expected to join the Union by the turn of the century once they meet
membership standards. Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland and
Slovenia top the list.


What is the euro?
The euro is the common European currency that will enter into mass
circulation by 2002. All E.U. countries, except for Denmark, Sweden and
the United Kingdom will replace their national currencies with the Euro.


What is the ECU?
The European Currency Unit is a unit of exchange based on a combined
basket of currencies representing nations of the E.U. The ECU was
intended eventually to evolve into the euro, the single currency of
the E.U.


What is EMU (Economic and Monetary Union)?
Economic and monetary union (EMU) is the overriding principle of the
European Union, scheduled to take place in 1999, when the single E.U.
currency, the euro, is introduced. Several economic criteria are
required for countries to qualify for the EMU. Recession and high
unemployment in some member states have sparked skepticism that the
deadline will be met by all E.U. countries that plan to adopt the euro.


What is the European Economic Area?
The EEA is a free-trade zone between members of the E.U. and the
European Free Trade Association (EFTA), currently made up of Iceland,
Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The EFTA was initially formed as
a counterweight to the E.U. but most of the original members have by now
actually joined the Union.


What is NATO?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 as a security
alliance composed of western nations to provide a counterweight to the
Soviet military presence in eastern Europe. Since the end of the Cold
War NATO has sought to define itself in the absence of its Soviet-backed
counterpart, the Warsaw Pact, and has in recent years authorized the use
of force in Bosnia and Yugoslavia in order to diffuse the ethnic crises
there. Today NATO is seeking to absorb the former eastern bloc
countries, with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland expected to join
soon. Eastward expansion of NATO is known to be of concern to Russia.


Who is in NATO?
The fifteen member states of NATO are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France,
Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway,
Portugal, Spain, Turkey, The United Kingdom and the United States.


Which countries are allowed to join NATO?
All NATO member states must be functioning democracies. Several
countries that are slated to join the alliance still do not meet this
criterion. Countries that do not yet qualify for NATO membership can
still participate in the Partnership for Peace program.

What is the Partnership for Peace?
The Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative was proposed by the United
States in 1993 as part of a strategy to include eastern European
countries into a broad security arrangement affiliated with the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization. Today, joint military exercises are
carried out among NATO and PfP members. PfP members are: Albania,
Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic,
Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia,
Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Sweden, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.


What is the Commonwealth of Independent States?
The CIS is a loose association of former Soviet republics that was
formed in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. All
member states are sovereign but attempt to work together to form common
policies in the areas of economics, foreign policy, defense, and
elsewhere. The CIS, however, is rife with dissent; individual member
states rarely agree on anything substantive. The Commonwealth is
comprised of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and
Uzbekistan.