- Issue date: 03/05/2004
- Printing Process: Huecograbado
- Paper: Estucado, engomado, fosforescente
- Size of stamp: 40,9 x 28,8 mm.(horizontales)
- Sheet effects: 50
- Postal value of the stamps: 0,52 €
- Print run: 1.000.000
- Dented: 13 3/4
From 1 May 2004, the European Union (EU) expanded to include ten new members: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. In order to be admitted, each of these countries had to meet the economic and political conditions known as the "Copenhagen Criteria". Following this latest expansion, the EU now comprises 25 countries and has become the largest trading bloc in the world, with a total population of around 500 million people.
European unification began back in 1951 with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which included Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg. In 1957, these six countries signed the Treaties of Rome, creating the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the European Economic Community (EEC). Many years later, all three institutions were merged and given a new form of organisation and government. With the passage of time, the early aspirations of the EU, based on trade and economics, led to the creation of a single, frontier-free zone, in which collective democratic decisions were taken on issues of common interest to member states. This was consolidated with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, when the name "European Union" was also finally adopted. Since its establishment, the EU has gradually expanded, the six founding countries being joined by Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973, Greece in 1982, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. It has five institutional bodies which fulfil specific functions: the European Parliament, elected by the citizens of member states; the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of member states; The European Commission, the organisation's executive body; the Court of Justice, which ensures compliance with the law; and finally, the Court of Auditors, which is charged with controlling the lawful management of the EU budget. These institutions are supported in turn by five other important bodies: the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Central Bank, the European Ombudsman and the European Investment Bank.