The European Union (EU), with 25 member states in 2004, had its initial organization created after World War II for the purpose of rebuilding Europe after the turmoil and devastation of the war. It was thought that economic and political cooperation would greatly reduce the risks of repeating such a conflict and would be the first step toward unifying European interests. The idea was to create an internal market in order to enhance economic growth. Created as a predecessor organization in 1951 with six countries, what became the European Union has added countries to the consortium four times, and in 2004 was preparing for its fifth expansion. The EU benefits consumers (lower prices, greater choice of goods and services, work conditions within the EU) and businesses (fair competition, economies of scale, expansion to global markets). The European Union comprises countries in the continent of Europe, bordered on the west, north, and south by the Atlantic, Arctic, and Mediterranean oceans and seas. The eastern border of the continent, however, is to some extent vague. Some people believe that the Ural Mountains of Russia, the Ural River and the Caspian Sea are the eastern border of Europe. Others believe that the border with Russia is Europe’s eastern boundary, while some others separate Europe from Asia by the Bosporus Strait. As a continent, Europe is relatively small. Its physical landscapes, however, are varied and complex. The countries in Europe differ in climate, vegetation, and elevations: From the warm and dry Mediterranean climates in southern Europe, to the frigid climates of northern Scandinavia; from the moist woodlands of Western Europe, to the dry steppes in the eastern extremities of Europe; and from the flat coastlines of the NORTH SEA, to the majestic Alps. The formation of the European Union began with six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. After nearly 50 years, four different expansions included: 1973: Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom; 1981: Greece; 1986: Spain and Portugal; 1995: Austria, Finland, and Sweden; 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia. The next expansion is scheduled to occur in 2007, with Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU. The countries of Croatia and Turkey have also applied for membership but have not been accepted for the 2007 expansion. Other milestones of the enlargement of the European Union include the following: 1952: The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was founded by Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. 1958: The European Economic Community (EEC) and Euratom were founded. The EEC was a community in which free trade for all products was established. Euratom dealt with research, production, and safety in the nuclear energy sector. 1967: The three organizations (ECSC, EEG, and Euratom) were merged into the European Community (EC). 1991: Maastricht Treaty (the Treaty of the EU) goes beyond the internal market program and includes additional areas in the integration process. 1993: The EC was renamed European Union. 1997: The Amsterdam Treaty was signed. The total geographic area of the EU is 2,419,064 square mi (6,265,347 square km), and if it were a country, it would be the seventh-largest in the world by geographic area. The number of EU citizens (all member state citizens or subjects, under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty) is about 453 million (March 2004). The population of the EU, considered as one country, would be the third-largest in the world after India and China. Germany has the largest population, with 82.5 million inhabitants and Malta is the smallest, with 387,000 people. Many countries, such as Monaco and Andorra, while not being member states, have special agreements with the EU. Other areas have connections or associations with EU member states through a colonial past, cultural links, or geographic placement: Greenland, the Isle of Man and the Canary Islands. The addition of countries to the EU raises issues about how the member countries are affected. Specifically, economists consider the implications for southern European countries (Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece) which are major beneficiaries of EU’s redistribution programs. The enlargement of the EU not only effects change in economic geography, it creates change in the political landscape (national sovereignty and political governance) and cultural geography.