The surplus, posted as a first estimate, was significantly higher than the $8.6 billion surplus posted in May 2012. and modestly higher than the $18.5 billion surplus posted in April.
Eurostat said exports fell 2.3 percent from April to May, while imports fell 2.2 percent.
Eurostat said international trade among the 27-member European Union resulted in a $20.7 billion surplus, a sharp climb from the $6.4 billion deficit from May 2012.
The surplus for the EU in May was also higher than April's surplus of $11.5 billion.
For the EU, exports fell by 1.5 percent April to May, while imports fell by 2.1 percent, Eurostat said.