The economy of Europe comprises more than 710 million people in 48 different states. Like other continents, the wealth of Europe's states varies, although the poorest are well above the poorest states of other continents (except Australia) in terms of GDP and living standards. The difference in wealth across Europe can be seen in a rough East-West divide. Whilst Western European states all have high GDPs and living standards, many of Eastern Europe's economies are still emerging from the collapse of the communist Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. Throughout this article "Europe" and derivatives of the word are taken to include selected states that are geographically in Asia, bordering Europe - such as Azerbaijan and Cyprus.
Europe's largest national economy is that of Germany, which ranks third globally in nominal GDP, and fifth in purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP; and its second is that of the United Kingdom, which ranks fifth globally in nominal GDP and sixth in PPP GDP. If the European Union was a country it would be the world's largest economy - see List of countries by GDP (PPP).
The European Union or EU is a supranational union of 27 European states, the most recent acceding members being Romania and Bulgaria, who became full members in 1 January 2007. It has many activities, the most important being a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency (adopted by 15 of the 27 member states), a Common Agricultural Policy and a Common Fisheries Policy. The European Union also has various initiatives to co-ordinate activities of the member states.
The European Union has the largest economy in the world. The EU economy is expected to grow further over the next decade as more countries join the union - especially considering that the new States are usually poorer than the EU average, and hence the expected fast GDP growth will help achieve the dynamic of the united Europe. It is estimated that the Eurozone
will grow around 2.6 per cent this year (2006), on a
par with other industrialized nations such as the
United States at 2.6% (Q2 2006) and 1.6 (Q3 2006).
The union has evolved over time from a primarily economic union to an increasingly political one. This trend is highlighted by the increasing number of policy areas that fall within EU competence: political power has tended to shift upwards from the Member States to the EU.
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