500 million potential customers - separated by 23 languages and 12 currencies but connected by a common internet
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states, located in Europe. It was established by the Treaty of Maastricht on 1 November 1993 upon the foundations of the pre-existing European Economic Community (EEC).
With approximately 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share (US$16.8 trillion in 2007) of the nominal gross world product.
The 27 independent sovereign countries which are known as member states are:
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Danish Estonia Estonian Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden United Kingdom
Euro Euro Bulgarian Lev Euro Czech Koruna Danish Krone Estonian Kroon Euro Euro Euro Euro Hungarian Forint Euro Euro Latvian Lat Lithuanian Litas Euro Euro Euro Polish Zloty Euro Romanian Leu Euro Euro Euro Swedish Krona UK Pound
The core trading objective for the single market involves the free circulation of goods, capital, people and services within the EU. Once goods have been admitted into the market they can not be subjected to customs duties, discriminatory taxes or import quotas, as they travel internally. The non-EU member states of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in the single market but not in the customs union.
The EU's population is 7.3% of the world total, yet the EU covers just 3% of the Earth's land, amounting to a population density of 113 km2 (44 sq mi) making the EU one of the most densely populated regions of the world.
One third of EU citizens live in cities of over a million people, rising to 80% living in urban areas generally. The EU is home to more global cities than any other region in the world. It contains 16 cities with populations of over one million.
Besides many large cities, the EU also includes several densely populated regions that have no single core but have emerged from the connection of several cites and are now encompassing large metropolitan areas.
Among the many languages and dialects used in the EU, it has 23 official and working languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.
German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (about 88.7 million people as of 2006), followed by English, French and Italian.
Ecommerce internet sites only presented in English, address about 10% of the possible market.