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  2. 2. W H AT I S T H E E U R O P E A N U N I O N ? EUROPEANS UNITED IN DIVERSITYThe European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries,committed to working together for peace and prosperity. It is not aState intended to replace existing states, but it is more than anyother international organisation. The EU is, in fact, unique. ItsMember States have set up common institutions to which theydelegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specificmatters of joint interest can be made democratically at Europeanlevel.The historical roots of the European Union lie in the Second WorldWar. The idea of European integration was conceived to preventsuch killing and destruction from ever happening again. It was firstproposed by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in a speechon 9 May 1950. This date, the ‘birthday’ of what is now the EU, iscelebrated annually as Europe Day.In the early years, much of the cooperation between EU countrieswas about trade and the economy, but now the EU also deals withmany other subjects of direct importance for our everyday life.Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages,but also with shared values. The EU defends these values. It fosterscooperation among the peoples of Europe, promoting unity whilepreserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as close aspossible to the citizens.In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it willbe even more necessary for every European citizen to cooperatewith people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, toleranceand solidarity. NA-46-02-638-EN-DEuropean CommissionDirectorate-General for Pressand CommunicationPublicationsB-1049 BrusselsManuscript completed in April 2003 Publications Office© European Communities, 2003 Publications.eu.intReproduction is authorised
  3. 3. FREE TO MOVE You can travel, study and work wherever you want in the 15 European Union countries, if you are an EU citizen. The EU EURO – is working constantly to give its citizens greater freedom of A SINGLE CURRENCY movement as a fundamental right and to get rid of all discri- mination based on nationality. FOR EUROPEANS In most of the EU you can travelThe euro is the name of the without carrying a passport andsingle European currency that without being stopped forwas put into circulation on checks at the borders. With very1 January 2002. The symbol of few exceptions, you may buythe euro is €. anything you want anywhereThe euro has replaced the you want and take it all backold national currencies in home with you.12 European Union countries: The EU does not decide whatAustria, Belgium, Finland, France, you learn in school, but it doesGermany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, work to ensure that yourLuxembourg, the Netherlands, educational and professionalPortugal and Spain. qualifications are properlyHaving a single currency makes recognised in other EUit easier to travel and to compare countries. The EU is working toprices, and it provides a stable provide access to learningenvironment for European opportunities for everyone, atbusiness, stimulating growth home and abroad, throughand competitiveness. partnerships and exchange schemes and by removing bureaucratic obstacles. Over a million young people have taken advantage of EU programmes, such as ‘Erasmus’, to pursue their studies and personal development in another European country.
  4. 4. KEEPING THE PEACEWar between EU countries is now unthinkable, thanks to the unitythat has been built up between them over the last 50 years. Giventhis success, the EU is now increasingly involved in preserving peaceand creating stability in neighbouring countries.The European Union wants to prevent conflicts. The EU is thebiggest donor of financial assistance to troubled places in the world.It is active in peacekeeping and peacemaking actions, and it runsmany projects that help to make human rights and democracysucceed in practical terms.To enable its Member States to speak and act in unison on the worldstage, the EU is developing its common foreign and security policyand there are plans for more cooperation on defence questions. AN AREA OF FREEDOM, SECURITY AND JUSTICEWe all want safety and security in our lives. Some of the unrest thatmight threaten everyday life in our local neighbourhood hasinternational roots, and European countries are making a jointeffort to tackle these problems. They include internationalterrorism, drug trafficking and abuse, trafficking in human beingsand the illegal exploitation of foreign women for prostitution.The EU countries are determined to fight these evils by adoptingcommon rules and through cooperation between their police,customs and law courts.The EU also plays a role in asylum and migration policy. It guaranteesrespect for the right to seek asylum. At the same time, the EUcountries are coordinating their policies for refugees and trying totackle the problem at source by combating poverty and preventingconflicts in the countries from which people might want to flee.
  5. 5. FEWER FRONTIERS: AN INFORMATION MORE JOBS! SOCIETY FOR EVERYBODYSafeguarding employment in In a world of rapid technologicalEurope and creating new jobs is change, the EU is increasinglyone of the European Union’s active in helping Europeankey tasks. European industry research to achieve scientificwill not be able to provide more excellence. In a variety of sectorsjobs unless the economic covering the whole spectrum ofconditions are right. And the modern technology, the EUright conditions are exactly finances projects undertaken bywhat the Union is working to research centres, universitiesachieve. and industry.By creating a frontier-free The emphasis is on puttingsingle market and a single research and innovation to workcurrency, the euro, the EU has for precise socioeconomicalready given a significant objectives, such as job creationboost to trade and employment and improved quality of life.in Europe. It has an agreed The EU’s research prioritiesstrategy for stimulating growth include among others lifeand generating more and sciences, nano-technology,better jobs. Tomorrow’s jobs aeronautics and space, foodwill be created through research, quality, sustainable developmenttraining and education, a spirit and the knowledge-based society.of entrepreneurship, adaptability The EU also tries to createto new working methods and conditions that allow us toequal opportunities for everybody. actually use new technology inA third of the entire EU budget our everyday life. It is due tois taken up by the Structural EU decisions on the technicalFunds which promote growth standards of ‘GSM’ that Europeansand jobs in less well-off are now world leaders in theregions, in order to ensure that use and manufacture of mobilewealth in Europe is more evenly telephones.distributed.
  6. 6. CARING ABOUT OUR ENVIRONMENTPollution has no respect for national frontiers. That is why theEuropean Union has a special role to play in environmental protection.Many environmental problems in Europe could not be tackledwithout joint action by all EU countries.The EU has adopted over 200 environmental protection directivesthat are applied in all Member States. Most of the directives aredesigned to prevent air and water pollution and encourage wastedisposal. Other major issues include nature conservation and thesupervision of dangerous industrial processes. The EU wants transport,industry, agriculture, fisheries, energy and tourism to be organisedin such a way that they can be developed without destroying ournatural resources - in short, sustainable development.We already have cleaner air because of the EU decisions in the1990s to put catalytic converters into all cars and to get rid of thelead added to petrol.In 1993, the Union set up the European Environment Agency, basedin Copenhagen. The Agency gathers information on the state of ourenvironment, enabling protective measures and laws to be based onsolid data.
  7. 7. T H E E U R O P E A N PA R L I A M E N T: VOICE OF THE PEOPLEThe European Parliament (EP) is the democratic voice of the peoplesof Europe. Directly elected every five years, the members of theEuropean Parliament (MEPs) sit not in national blocs but in sevenpolitical groups. Each group reflects the political ideology of thenational parties to which its members belong. Some MEPs are notattached to any political group. In the European election of June1999, nearly 30 % of the MEPs elected were women.Parliament’s principal roles are as follows.• To examine and adopt European legislation. Under the co-decision procedure, Parliament shares this power equally with the Council of Ministers.• To approve the EU budget.• To exercise democratic control over the other EU institutions, possibly by setting up committees of inquiry.• To assent to important international agreements such as the accession of new EU Member States and trade or association agreements between the EU and other countries.The EP has created the Sakharov Prize which is awarded annually toan individual or group that has defended the cause of human rightsanywhere in the world.As with national parliaments, the EP has parliamentary committeesto deal with particular issues (foreign affairs, budget, environmentand so on). Via one of these, the Committee on Petitions, Europeancitizens can also submit petitions directly to the EuropeanParliament. The Parliament elects the European Ombudsman, whoinvestigates complaints from citizens about maladministration in theEU. www.europarl.eu.int Pat Cox is the President of the European Parliament.
  8. 8. THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: VOICE OF THE MEMBER STATESThe Council of the European Union — formerly known as the Councilof Ministers — is the main legislative and decision-making body inthe EU. It brings together the representatives of all the MemberState governments, which you elect at national level. It is the forumin which the representatives of your governments can assert theirinterests and reach compromises. They meet regularly at the level ofworking groups, ambassadors, ministers or — when they decide themajor policy guidelines — at the level of presidents and primeministers, i.e. as the European Council.The Council — together with the European Parliament — sets therules for all the activities of the European Community (EC), whichforms the first ‘pillar’ of the EU. It covers the single market and mostof the EU’s common policies, and guarantees freedom of movementfor goods, persons, services and capital.In addition, the Council is the main body responsible for the secondand third ‘pillars’, i.e. intergovernmental cooperation on commonforeign and security policy and on justice and home affairs. Thatmeans, for example, that your governments are working togetherwithin the EU to combat terrorism and drug trafficking. They arejoining their forces to speak with one voice in external affairs,assisted by the High Representative for common foreign andsecurity policy. ue.eu.int Javier Solana gives EU diplomacy a face as High Representative for common foreign and security policy.
  9. 9. THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION: THE DRIVING FORCE FOR UNIONThe European Commission does a lot of the day-to-day work in theEuropean Union.It drafts proposals for new European laws, which it presents to theEuropean Parliament and the Council. The Commission makes surethat EU decisions are properly implemented and supervises the wayEU funds are spent. It also keeps an eye out to see that everyoneabides by the European treaties and European law.The European Commission consists of 20 women and men (more in2004), assisted by about 24 000 civil servants. The President ischosen by the governments of the EU Member States and must beapproved by the European Parliament. The other members arenominated by the member governments in consultation with theincoming president and must also be accepted by Parliament.The Commission is appointed for a five-year term, but it can bedismissed by Parliament.The Commission acts independently of the governments of theMember States. Many, but not all, of its staff work in Brussels,Belgium. europa.eu.int/comm Romano Prodi heads the EU executive as President of the European Commission.
  10. 10. COURT OF JUSTICE: UPHOLDING THE LAWWhen common rules are decided in the EU, it is of course vital thatthey are also followed in practice — and that they are understood inthe same way everywhere. This is what the Court of Justice of theEuropean Communities ensures. It settles disputes over how the EUtreaties and legislation are interpreted. If national courts are indoubt about how to apply EU rules they must ask the Court ofJustice. Individual persons can also bring proceedings against EUinstitutions before the Court. It consists of one independent judgefrom each EU country and is located in Luxembourg. curia.eu.int EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS: VALUE FOR YOUR MONEYThe funds available to the EU must be used legally, economically andfor the intended purpose. The Court of Auditors, an independent EUinstitution located in Luxembourg, is the body that checks how EUmoney is spent. In effect, these auditors help European taxpayers toget better value for the money that has been channelled into the EU. www.eca.eu.int THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK: STABLE MONEY FOR EUROPEThe European Central Bank is in charge of the single currency, theeuro. The Bank independently manages European monetary policy —deciding, for example, how high interest rates should be. The Bank’smain objective is to ensure price stability, so that the Europeaneconomy will not be damaged by inflation. But the monetarypolicy also supports other political objectives decided in the EU.The European Central Bank is based in Frankfurt, Germany.It is managed by a president and an executive board in closecooperation with the national central banks of the EU countries. www.ecb.int
  11. 11. EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK: INVESTING IN THE LONG-TERM FUTUREThe Bank lends money for investment projects of European interest,in particular projects that benefit less well-off regions. It finances,for example, rail links, motorways, airports, environmental schemes,and (via partner banks) investment by small businesses (SMEs) thathelps create jobs and growth. Loans also support the Union’senlargement process and its development aid policy. The Bankis based in Luxembourg and raises its funds on the capital markets.As a non-profit organisation it is able to lend on favourable terms. www.eib.org THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE: INVOLVING SOCIAL PARTNERSRanging from employers to trade unions and from consumers toecologists, the 222 members (more in 2004) of the Economic andSocial Committee represent all of the most important interestgroups in the EU. It is an advisory body and has to give its opinionon important aspects of new EU initiatives. This is part of thecommon European tradition of involving civil society in political life. www.esc.eu.int THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS: THE LOCAL PERSPECTIVEMany decisions taken in the EU have direct implications at the localand regional level. Through the Committee of the Regions, local andregional authorities are consulted before the EU takes decisionsin fields such as education, health, employment or transport.The Committee’s 222 members (more in 2004) are often leadersof regions or mayors of cities. www.cor.eu.int
  12. 12. ENLARGEMENT FOR A STRONGER AND MORE STABLE EUROPEUntil May 2004 there are 15 EU Member States with a total of 375million citizens. Ten more countries, mainly from central and EasternEurope, are expected to join the EU in 2004. Bulgaria and Romaniaare likely to join in 2007, bringing the EU’s total population tonearly 500 million. Turkey is also a candidate country and could joinlater, when all the conditions for membership are met.In order to become a member of the EU, a country must have astable democracy that guarantees the rule of law, human rights andprotection of minorities, and it must have a functioning marketeconomy as well as a civil service capable of applying and managingEU laws.The EU provides substantial financial assistance and advice to helpthe candidate countries prepare themselves for membership. Thisunprecedented cooperation has brought benefits to people in bothpresent and future Member States. Trade has increased massively,and it has become easier to deal with the problems that effect usall, such as cross-border pollution and the fight against crime.This is the European Union’s most ambitious enlargement ever.Never before has the EU embraced so many new countries, grownso much in terms of area and population or encompassed so manydifferent histories and cultures. This historic opportunity will unitethe European continent, consolidating peace, stability and demo-cracy, and enabling its peoples to share the benefits of progress andwelfare generated by European integration.
  13. 13. KEEPING THE EU DEMOCRATIC, FAIR AND EFFICIENTThe EU needs a streamlined and efficient decision-making system as itenlarges from 15 to 25 and eventually more members. But the arran-gements must be fair to all member states, old and new, large and small.Each EU country has a certain number of votes it can cast when theCouncil of Ministers takes decisions. The people of each country alsoelects a certain number of members of the European Parliament.These numbers roughly reflect the relative size of the country’spopulation. They will change in 2004, after 10 new countries havejoined and following the European Parliament elections.The new numbers will be as follows (in alphabetical order accordingto the country’s name in its own language). A decision by theCouncil often requires that countries representing about 72% of thevotes are in favour. Number Number of Number Number of of votes members of of votes members of in Council Parliament in Council ParliamentBelgium 12 24 Lithuania 7 13Cyprus 4 6 Luxembourg 4 6Czech Republic 12 24 Malta 3 5Denmark 7 14 Netherlands 13 27Germany 29 99 Austria 10 18Greece 12 24 Poland 27 54Spain 27 54 Portugal 12 24Estonia 4 6 Slovakia 7 14France 29 78 Slovenia 4 7Hungary 12 24 Finland 7 14Ireland 7 13 Sweden 10 19Italy 29 78 United Kingdom 29 78Latvia 4 9 TOTAL 321 732The European Union also needs a simpler treaty — a constitutionclearly setting out the EU’s aims and values, and saying who isresponsible for doing what. To draft this document, a Conventionwas set up in 2002, bringing together representatives of all themember states and candidate countries as well as the EU institutions.The Convention will lead to an intergovernmental conference, atwhich the leaders of the governments of the EU countries will signthe new Treaty.For more information about the Convention, go toeuropean-convention.eu.intTo join in an online discussion about the future of Europe, go toeuropa.eu.int/futurum/forum
  14. 14. OTHER INFORMATION ON THE EUROPEAN UNION Information in all the official languages of the European Union is available on the Internet. You can access it through the Europa server: europa.eu.int All over Europe there are hundreds of local EU information centres. You can find the address of the centre nearest you at this web site:europa.eu.int/comm/relays/index_en.htm EUROPE DIRECT is a service which answers your questions about the European Union. You can contact this service by freephone: 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 (or by payphone from outside the EU: 32-2 29-99696), or by electronic mail via europa.eu.int/europedirectYou can also obtain information and booklets in English about theEuropean Union from:EUROPEAN COMMISSION Information services in the United StatesREPRESENTATIONS 2300 M Street, NW – 3rd FloorRepresentation in Ireland Washington DC 2003718 Dawson Street, Dublin 2 Tel. (202) 862 95 00Tel. (353-1) 662 51 13 Fax (202) 429 17 66Fax (353-1) 634 11 12 Internet: www.eurunion.orgInternet: www.euireland.ie 305 East 47th StreetE-mail: eu-ie-info-request@cec.eu.int 3 Dag Hammarskjöld PlazaRepresentation in the United New York, NY 10017Kingdom Tel. (212) 371 38 04Jean Monnet House Fax (212) 688 10 138 Storey’s Gate, London SW1P 3AT Internet: www.eurunion.orgTel. (44-20) 79 73 19 92 EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OFFICESFax (44-20) 79 73 19 00/10Internet: www.cec.org.uk Office in Ireland European Union HouseRepresentation in Wales 43 Molesworth Street, Dublin 22 Caspian Point, Caspian Way, Tel. (353-1) 605 79 00Cardiff CF10 4QQ Fax (353-1) 605 79 99Tel. (44-29) 20 89 50 20 Internet: www.europarl.ieFax (44-29) 20 89 50 35 E-mail: epdublin@europarl.eu.intInternet: www.cec.org.uk United Kingdom OfficeRepresentation in Scotland 2, Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H9 Alva Street, Edinburgh EH2 4PH 9AATel. (44-131) 225 20 58 Tel. (44-20) 72 27 43 00Fax (44 131) 226 41 05 Fax (44-20) 72 27 43 02Internet: www.cec.org.uk Internet: www.europarl.org.ukRepresentation in Northern Ireland E-mail: eplondon@europarl.eu.intWindsor House Office in Scotland9/15 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7EG The Tun, 4 Jackson’s Entry,Tel. (44-28) 90 24 07 08 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8PJFax (44-28) 90 24 82 41 Tel. (44-131) 557 78 66Internet: www.cec.org.uk Fax (44-131) 557 49 77 Internet: www.europarl.org.uk E-mail: epedinburgh@europarl.eu.intEuropean Commission and Parliament representations and offices exist in all thecountries of the European Union. The European Commission also has delegationsin other parts of the world.