An intergovernmental and supranational union of 25 democratic countries, the European Union was founded under that name in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). Nevertheless, several aspects of the Union did exist prior to that date through a series of predecessor relationships, which dates back to 1951.
Today, the Union has a common single market, which consist of a customs union, a single currency (the euro) managed by the European Central Bank (adopted by 12 of the 25 member states), a Common Agricultural Policy, a common trade policy, a Common Fisheries Policy, and a Common Foreign and Security Policy. Passport and customs checks were done away with at most of the EU’s internal borders, creating a single space of mobility for EU citizens to live, travel, work and invest.
Justice ministers and Interior ministers are brought together by the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and Interior ministers almost once every two months to talk about the development and enforcement of cooperation and common policies in this area. The creation of an Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice, is the main objective of the EU Treaty. The majority of the things in this field are unanimously decided with a consultation of the European Parliament. However, depending on the matter, some matters are decided by a qualified majority, in consultation or in co-decision with the European Parliament.
Member States started to cooperate in the sphere of Justice and Home Affairs in the mid-1970s on a casual, intergovernmental basis outside the Community framework. In 1990, Germany, France, and the Benelux countries signed the Schengen Agreement, which was a major step toward cooperation among the Member States in this area. In the years that followed, many Member States acceded to the Schengen Agreement. The objective of the agreement was to introduce genuine freedom of movement of persons without being controlled at internal borders while providing for desperate measures in the areas of external border controls, visa policy, police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal affairs.