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The European Union:
Current Challenges and Future Prospects


Congressional Research Service

The future shape and character of the European Union are being increasingly questioned. Supporters of the European project worry that for the first time in its 60-year history, some aspects of integration could be stopped or reversed. Others contend that there is a chance that the multiple crises currently facing the EU could produce some beneficial EU reforms, encourage further political and economic integration, and ultimately transform the bloc into a more effective and cohesive entity.

Successive U.S. Administrations and many Members of Congress have long supported the European integration project, viewing it as crucial to European peace and security and as a way to foster strong U.S. allies and trading partners. The United States and the EU share a dynamic political partnership on an array of foreign policy issues, and U.S.-EU trade and investment relations are extensive and mutually beneficial. How the EU evolves in the years ahead may have significant strategic and economic repercussions for the United States. At the same time, EU leaders are concerned about indications that the Trump Administration could diverge from traditionally held U.S. views on European integration and the U.S.-EU partnership.

This report provides a brief history of the EU and the major challenges currently confronting the EU as an institution. It also discusses the potential implications both for the EU itself and for U.S.-EU relations.