THE EUROPEAN UNION
Any description of the ‘British’ constitutional system must include analysis of the law and institutions of the European Union, which today are part and parcel of the way we are governed. There are currently 15 Member States of the European Union: Austria; Belgium; Denmark; Finland; France; Ireland; Italy; Germany; Greece; Luxembourg; The Netherlands; Spain; Sweden; Portugal; and, of course, the UK. Encouraged by the success of the Union, other countries have applied to join. Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Cyprus are likely to be the next ones admitted as members, probably in 2003. In deciding which new members to admit, the European Union applies criteria agreed upon in 1993: that the country has ‘stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities’, ‘the existence of a functioning market economy’ and ‘the ability to take on the obligations of membership’.