With a membership of 25 countries covering some 3.3m sq. km., and a population approaching 4 billion, the European Union is a force to be reckoned with. Formally established in 1993, the EU is the most recent in a series of European cooperative organizations that originated in 1951 and became the European Community in 1967. Its principal aim is to promote and expand cooperation among member states in trade, security, law, and social issues. Much of what the EU does, or fails to do, is misunderstood by many and this stems from a basic lack of understanding the component parts of the organization. "The European Union" is a 26-volume series that aims to provide a fundamental understanding of the political, social, and economic status of each country for a better understanding of the whole.