This report describes the European Union (EU), its evolution, governing institutions, trade policy, and efforts to forge common foreign and defense policies. The report also addresses the EU-U.S. and EU-NATO relationships, which may be of interest to the second session of the 110th Congress. It will be updated as events warrant. For more information, see CRS Report RS21344, European Union Enlargement, by Kristin Archick, and CRS Report RL34381, European Union-U.S. Trade and Investment Relations: Key Issues, coordinated by Raymond Ahearn.
The 785-member, directly elected European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of the 27-member European Union (EU). Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has accumulated more power over time. Currently, it plays a role in the EU's legislative and budgeting processes, and exercises general supervision over other EU bodies. Ties between the EP and the U.S. Congress are long-standing, and EPCongressional exchanges are expected to continue in the second session of the 110th Congress.