The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. Its members have a combined area of 4,233,255.3 km2 (1,634,469.0 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 447 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
Containing in 2020 some 5.8% of the world population, the EU in 2017 (including the United Kingdom) had generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of around 20 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 25% of global nominal GDP. Additionally, all EU countries have a very high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Program. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Due to its global influence, the European Union has been described as an emerging superpower.
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The goals of the European Union are:
promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens
offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders
sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress, and environmental protection
combat social exclusion and discrimination
promote scientific and technological progress
enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries
respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity
establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.
The EU's member states cover an area of 4,233,262 square kilometres (1,634,472 sq mi). The EU's highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level. The lowest points in the EU are Lammefjorden, Denmark and Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands, at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level. The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is 65,993 kilometres (41,006 mi) long.