The European Union is the European supranational organization dedicated to increasing economic integration and strengthening co-operation among its member states. It was established on November 1, 1993, when the Treaty on Eu was ratified by the 12 members of the European Community (EC) – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.
Under the treaty on EU, customs and immigration agreements were enhanced to allow European citizens greater freedom to live, work, or study in any of the member states, and border controls were relaxed.
The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. It is not a State intended to replace existing states, but it is more than any other international organization. The EU is, in fact, unique. Its Member States have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level.
Decision making in the EU is divided between supranational European institutions and the governments of a member states.
The European parliament is the only body of the EU whose members are directly elected by the citizens of its member states. The main body meets in Strasbourg, though most of its committee work is done in Brussels and the secretariat is based in Luxembourg. The legal acts for the EC are in the form of:
• Regulations, which have general effect and are directly applicable in the member states;
• Directives, which are addressed to the member states and are binding as to the result, but the members may choose the form and methods for adaptation into their national legal systems;
• Decisions, which are binding on those to whom they are addressed;
and opinions, which have no binding force.
The aim of the common agricultural policy is to provide farmers with a reasonable standard of living and consumers with quality food at fair prices. The way these aims are met has changed of the years. The key concepts now are food safety, preservation of the rural environment and value for money.
Language, literature, performing arts, visual arts, architecture, crafts, the cinema and broadcasting are all part of Europe’s cultural diversity. Although belonging to a specific country or region, they represent part of Europe’s common cultural heritage. The aim of the European Union is double: to preserve and support this diversity and to help make it accessible to others.
The customs union was one of the EU’s earliest milestones. It abolished customs duties at internal borders and put in place a uniform system for taxing imports. Internal border controls subsequently disappeared. Customs officers are now found only at the EU’s external borders. They not only keep trade flowing, but help to protect the environment, our cultural heritage and plenty besides.
Nearly half the money spent to help poor countries comes from the European Union and its member states, making it the world’s biggest aid donor. But development policy is about more than providing clean water and surfaced roads, important though these are. The Union also uses trade to drive development by opening its markets to exports from poor countries and by encouraging them to trade more with each other.
Learning, training and working in other countries make a major contribution to cross-cultural understanding. More than 100 000 EU citizens benefit each year from EU-funded cross-border programmes which both foster an understanding of different cultures and make it easier to take advantage of one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms: the freedom to live, study and work in other European countries.
More and better jobs and equal opportunities are the watchwords of European employment and social policy. The European Union wants to make sure that no one gets left behind as it strives to become the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy. The framework is a Social Policy Agenda designed to link economic, employment and social policies.
The entry of eight central and eastern European countries together with Cyprus and Malta into the European Union on 1 May 2004 is a historic achievement, ending centuries of division. Europe reunited means a stronger, democratic and more stable continent, with a single market providing economic benefits for all its 450 million citizens.
Protecting the environment is essential for the quality of life of current and future generations. The challenge is to combine this with continuing economic growth in a way which is sustainable over the long term. European Union environment policy is based on the belief that high environmental standards stimulate innovation and business opportunities.
Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages, but also with shared values. The EU defends these values. It fosters co-operation among the peoples of Europe, promoting unity while preserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as close as possible to the citizens.
In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it will be even more necessary for every European citizen to co-operate with people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, tolerance and solidarity.