Fabian Demicoli

Europe in 12 lessons – Lesson 4: What the EU does?

The EU acts in
a wide range of policy areas where its action is beneficial to the Member
States. The Union funds these policies through an annual budget which enables
it to complement and add value to action taken by national Governments.

The European Union's activities impact on the day-to-day life of
its citizens by addressing the real challenges facing society:

Innovation Policies

1.   Environment and sustainable developments:

      In terms of environment and
sustainable development, the EU aims to help prevent climate change by
seriously reducing its greenhouse gas emission. The EU has a target to cut
emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels, raise energy share of the market to
20% and cut energy consumption by 20%. The EU also managed to convince other major
super powers to work in the same direction.

      The EU is also tackling a wide
range of other environmental issues including noise, waste, exhaust gases,
chemicals, industrial accidents and the cleanliness of bathing water.

2.   Technological Innovation

      The EU rightly saw that Europe's
future prosperity would depend on its ability to remain a world leader in
technology. The EU's goal is to spend 3% of its GDP on research, mostly spent
in areas like health, food and agriculture, ICT, energy, environment, transport,
security, etc.

Solidarity polices

The EU's solidarity polices are designed to help underdeveloped
regions and troubled sectors of the economy, to mitigate market imbalances.
European Union funds are used to boost development in regions lagging behind,
to rejuvenate industrial areas in decline and to help young people to find
work. The funds are known as "Structural Funds", which top up or stimulate
investments by the private sector and by national and regional governments.

Common Agricultural and Fisheries

From 2013 onwards the European Commission wants the CAP to give
priority to making European agriculture sustainable, giving farmers sufficient
protection from volatile markets, preserving biodiversity and protecting local
and regional speciality products.

The EU has also begun reforming its fisheries policy. The main
aim here is to preserve stocks of fish (such as the endangered blufin tuna) and
to reduce the overcapacity of fishing fleets while providing financial
assistance for people who leave the fishing industry.

The social dimension

The aim of the EU'social policy is to correct the most glaring
inequalities in European society. The European Social Fund (ESF) was
established in 1961 to promote job creation and help workers move from one type
of work andor one geographical area to another.

This goes hand in hand with legislation that guarantees a solid
set of minimum rights. Some of these rights are enshrined in the Treaties, eg
the rights of women and men to equal pay and equal work. Others in directives
concerning the protection of workers and essential safety standards. The
Charter of Basic Social Rights sets out the rights that all workers in the EU
should enjoy: free movement; fair pay; improved working conditions, social
protection, protection for children etc.

Who does what?

There are some areas which are of the sole competence of the EU
such as a customs union and the monetary policy for countries using the euro,
other areas of sole competence of the Member States such as tourism, civil
protection and education, and others areas where the competences are shared,
these include: the single market, social policy, environment, consumer
protection and energy amongst others.



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