The European Union or EU is the political and economic union of 28 European countries who are known as "Member States".
The EU has helped to shape the laws across the majority of Europe over the last 50 years.
EU law is based on four fundamental principles. All EU laws have one or more of these principles at their heart:
Free movement of goods
Free movement of people
Free movement of services
Free movement of capital
The European Union has three main elements: the Parliament, the Commission and the Court.
The European Parliament
The European Parliament develops new legislation and controls the purse strings. It has 751 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) who are elected by each Member State.
The European Commission
The European Commission proposes and enforces new laws and sets spending priorities. Importantly the Commission represents the EU internationally, e.g. in treaty negotiations.
The Court of Justice of the European Union
The Court of Justice (or CJEU) is designed to clarify points of EU law. In most circumstances, it is not a traditional court of appeal. Instead, the local court (e.g. a court in Germany) is left to apply EU law to the case in accordance with the CJEU’s interpretation.
In some cases, before deliberating the legal issues themselves, the CJEU may ask an individual, known as an Advocate General or AG, who has experience in the particular area of law, to provide an opinion. This Opinion is not binding but it is often followed by the CJEU.
Trade mark and designs law is now fairly consistent across the EU. Consequently, the CJEU hears a wide variety of trade mark and designs issues and has played an important role in shaping these rights.
Can you name all 28 Member States?
Currently the EU Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The Brexit referendum currently hangs over the UK's membership of the EU which is set to end on 30 March 2019.