What is the difference between the European Union and the European Community / European Communities?
The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political organisation of 27 democratic European countries. It was given its current name in 1993. When the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009, the European Union replaced the European Community (EC), which had existed since 1958, and took over all its rights and obligations.
Comprehensive information on the European Union (institutions, working methods, policies, etc.) is available at Europa.
You can also obtain free publications that explain what the European Union is and what it does, or download them directly, from the Easy Reading Corner.
The European Communities originally referred to the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), both established in 1958, and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), established in 1952.
The European Union was created by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. It consisted of three pillars: the community dimension (EEC/EC, ECSC, Euratom), the common foreign and security policy, and cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs. The European Economic Community was renamed the European Community. It covered certain policy areas of the European Union, such as Union citizenship, Community policies and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). In 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon abolished the three-pillar structure and the European Community was absorbed by the European Union.
The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) continues to exist as a legally distinct entity from the European Union, although the two have the same member states and share the same institutions. It acts in several areas connected with atomic energy, including research, the drawing up of safety standards, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The European Coal and Steel Community ceased to exist in 2002, when the ECSC Treaty expired.