|linking_name = the European Union
|image_flag = Flag of Europe.svg
|image_coat = French European Union presidency 2008.svg
|symbol_width = 95px
|symbol_type = Presidency insignia
|motto = United in diversity
In varietate concordia(Latin) |anthem = Ode to Joy(orchestral) |linking_name = the European Union |image_map = Location European Union.svg |map_caption = |map_width = 280px |admin_center_type = Political centres |admin_center = Brussels
|largest_metropolitan_area = London |languages_type = Official languages |languages = |membership_type = Member States |membership = |ethnic_groups = |ethnic_groups_year = |demonym = European |government_type = Sui generis |leader_title1 = Commission |leader_name1 = José Manuel Barroso (EPP) |leader_title2 = Parliament |leader_name2 = Hans-Gert Pöttering (EPP) |leader_title3 = Council |leader_name3 = France |leader_title4 = |leader_name4 = Nicolas Sarkozy (EPP) |sovereignty_type = Formation |sovereignty_note = |established_event1 = Paris Treaty |established_date1 = 18 April 1951 |established_event2 = Rome Treaty |established_date2 = 25 March 1957 |established_event3 = Maastricht Treaty |established_date3 = 7 February 1992 |area_rank = |area_magnitude = 1 E12 |area_km2 = 4,324,782 |area_sq_mi = 1,669,807 |percent_water = 3.08 |population_estimate = 499,021,851 |population_estimate_rank = |population_density_sq_mi = 289 |population_density_rank = |GDP_PPP = $14.712 trillion |GDP_PPP_rank = |GDP_PPP_year = 2007 (IMF) |GDP_PPP_per_capita = $28,213 |GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = |GDP_nominal = $16.830 trillion |GDP_nominal_rank = |GDP_nominal_year = 2007 (IMF) |GDP_nominal_per_capita = $33,482 |GDP_nominal_per_capita_rank = |HDI = |HDI_rank = |HDI_year = |HDI_category = |currency = |currency_code = |time_zone = |utc_offset = +0 to +2 |time_zone_DST-BST-GMT = |DST_note = |utc_offset_DST = +1 to +3 |cctld = .eu |calling_code = |footnote1 = }} The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of twenty-seven member states, located primarily in Europe. It was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 upon the foundations of the pre-existing European Economic Community. With almost 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share of the world's nominal gross domestic product (US$16.8 trillion in 2007).
The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, guaranteeing the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital. It maintains a common trade policy, agricultural and fisheries policies, and a regional development policy. Fifteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro. It has developed a role in foreign policy, representing its members in the World Trade Organisation, at G8 summits and at the United Nations. Twenty-one EU countries are members of NATO. It has developed a role in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport control between many member states under the Schengen Agreement.
The EU operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. In certain areas it depends upon agreement between the member states. However, it also has supranational bodies, able to make decisions without the agreement of all national governments. Important institutions and bodies of the EU include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. EU citizens elect the Parliament every five years.
The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Since then the EU has grown in size through the accession of new member states and has increased its powers by the addition of new policy areas to its remit.
After the end of the Second World War the political climate favoured the unification of Europe. It was seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism which had devastated the continent. One such attempt to unite Europeans was the European Coal and Steel Community which while having the modest aim of centralised control of the previously national coal and steel industries of its member states was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe". The founding members of the Community were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and West Germany.
Two additional communities were created in 1957: the European Economic Community (EEC) establishing a customs union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for cooperation in developing nuclear energy. In 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities, although more commonly just as the European Community (EC).
In 1973 the Communities enlarged to include Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Norway had negotiated to join at the same time but a referendum rejected membership and so it remained outside. In 1979 the first direct, democratic elections to the European Parliament were held.
Greece, Spain and Portugal joined in the 1980s. In 1985 the Schengen Agreement created largely open borders without passport controls between most member states. In 1986 the European flag began to be used by the EC and leaders signed the Single European Act.
In 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the former East Germany became part of the Community as part of a newly united Germany. With enlargement toward East-Central Europe on the agenda, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the European Union were agreed.
The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. and in 1995 Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the newly established EU. In 2002, euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the Eurozone has increased to encompassing fifteen countries. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary joined the Union.
On 1 January 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became the EU's newest members and Slovenia adopted the euro. In December of that year European leaders signed the Lisbon Treaty which was intended to replace the earlier, failed European Constitution, which never came into force after being rejected by French and Dutch voters. However, uncertainty clouds the prospects of the latter treaty's coming into force as result of its rejection by Irish voters in June 2008.
There are three official candidate countries, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey; the western Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia are officially recognised as potential candidates. The disputed region of Kosovo has been granted similar status.
To join the EU, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council. These require a stable democracy which respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy capable of competition within the EU; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country's fulfillment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council. The current framework does not specify how a country could exit the Union (although Greenland withdrew in 1985), but the proposed Treaty of Lisbon contains a formal procedure for withdrawing.
Four Western European countries that have chosen not to join the EU have partly committed to the EU's economy and regulations: Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are a part of the single market through the European Economic Area, and Switzerland has similar ties through bilateral treaties. The relationships of the European microstates Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City include the use of the euro and other co-operation.
The territory of the EU consists of the combined territories of its 27 member states with some exceptions outlined below. The territory of the EU is not the same as that of Europe, as parts of the continent are outside the EU, such as Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and European Russia. Some parts of member countries are not part of the EU, despite forming part of the European continent (for example the Channel Islands and Faroe Islands). Several territories associated with member states that are outside geographic Europe are also not part of the EU (such as Greenland, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and all the non-European territories associated with the United Kingdom). Some overseas territories are part of the EU even if they are not geographically part of Europe, such as the Azores, the Canary Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Madeira, Martinique, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint Martin.
The EU's member states cover a combined area of . The total territory of the EU is larger than all but six countries and its highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4807 metres above sea level. The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is long. The EU has the world's second longest coastline, after Canada. The combined member states share land borders with 21 non-member states for a total of , the fifth longest border in the world.
Including the overseas territories of member states, the EU experiences most types of climate from Arctic to tropical, rendering meteorological averages for the EU as a whole meaningless. In practice, the majority of the population lives either in areas with a Mediterranean climate (Southern Europe), a temperate maritime climate (Western Europe), or a warm summer continental or hemiboreal climate (Eastern Europe).
The EU is often described as being divided into three areas of responsibility, called pillars. The original European Community policies form the first pillar, while the second consists of Common Foreign and Security Policy. The third pillar originally consisted of Justice and Home Affairs, however owing to changes introduced by the Amsterdam and Nice treaties, it currently only consists of Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters. Broadly speaking, the second and third pillars can be described as the intergovernmental pillars because the supranational institutions of the Commission, Parliament and the Court of Justice play less of a role or none at all, while the lead is taken by the intergovernmental Council of Ministers and the European Council. Most activities of the EU come under the first, Community pillar. This is mostly economically oriented and the supranational institutions have more influence.
The activities of the EU are regulated by a number of institutions and bodies. They carry out the tasks and policies set out for them in the treaties. The EU receives its political leadership from the European Council, which is composed of one representative per member state — either its head of state or head of government — plus the President of the Commission. Each member states' representative is assisted its Foreign Minister. The Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes which have arisen between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies.
The Council is headed by a rotating presidency, with every member state taking the helm of the EU for a period of six months during which that country's representatives chair meetings of the European Council and the Council of Ministers. The member state holding the presidency typically uses it to drive a particular policy agenda such as economic reform, reform of the EU itself, enlargement or furthering European integration. The Council usually meet four times a year at European Summits.
The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent from the EU.
The European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. It is intended to act solely in the interest of the EU as a whole, as opposed to the Council which consists of leaders of member states who reflect national interests. The commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It is currently composed of 27 commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state. The President of the Commission and all the other commissioners are nominated by the Council. Appointment of the Commission President, and also the Commission in its entirety, have to be confirmed by Parliament.
The European Parliament forms one half of the EU's legislature. The 785 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years. Although MEPs are elected on a national basis, they sit according to political groups rather than their nationality. Each country has a set number of seats. The Parliament and the Council form and pass legislation jointly, using co-decision, in certain areas of policy. This procedure will extend to many new areas under the proposed Treaty of Lisbon, and hence increase the power and relevance of the Parliament. The Parliament also has the power to reject or censure the Commission and the EU budget. The President of the European Parliament carries out the role of speaker in parliament and represents it externally. The president and vice presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years.
The Council of the European Union forms the other half of the EU's legislature. It is an organised platform where national ministers responsible for the area of policy being addressed, meet. Although the Council meets in different compositions, it is considered to be one single body. In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The judicial branch of the EU consists of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of First Instance. Together they interpret and apply the treaties and the law of the EU. The Court of First Instance mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts, and the ECJ primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions and cases referred to the EU's courts by the courts of member states. Decisions from the Court of First Instance can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.
The EU is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties. These are power giving treaties which set broad policy goals and establish institutions with the necessary legal powers to implement those goals. These legal powers include the ability to enact legislation which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants. National courts are required to enforce the treaties that their member states have ratified, and thus the laws enacted under them, even if doing so requires them to ignore conflicting national law, and (within limits) even constitutional provisions.
The main legislative acts of the EU come in two forms: Regulations and Directives. Regulations become law in all member states the moment they come into force, without the requirement for any implementing measures, and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions. Directives require member states to achieve a certain result while leaving them discretion as to how to achieve the result. The details of how they are to be implemented are left to member states. When the time limit for implementing directives passes, they may, under certain conditions, have direct effect in national law against Member States. Decisions offer an alternative to the two above modes of legislation. They are legal acts which only apply to specified individuals or companies. They are most often used in Competition Law, or on rulings on State Aid, but are also frequently used for procedural or administrative matters within the institutions. Regulations, directives and decisions are of equal legal value and apply without any formal hierarchy.
One of the complicating features of the EU's legal system is the multiplicity of legislative procedures used to enact legislation. The treaties micro-manage the EU's powers, indicating different ways of adopting legislation for different policy areas and for different areas within the same policy areas. A common feature of the EU's legislative procedures, however, is that almost all legislation must be initiated by the Commission, rather than member states or European parliamentarians. The two most common procedures are co-decision, under which the European Parliament can veto proposed legislation, and consultation, under which Parliament is only permitted to give an opinion which can be ignored by European leaders. In most cases legislation must be agreed by the council.
National courts within the Member States play a key role in the EU as enforcers of EU law, and a "spirit of cooperation" between EU and national courts is laid down in the Treaties. National courts can apply EU law in domestic cases, and if they require clarification on the interpretation or validity of any EU legislation related to the case it may make a reference for a preliminary ruling to the ECJ. The right to declare EU legislation invalid however is reserved to the EU courts.
Although signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership, the EU itself is not covered by the convention as it is neither a state nor has the competence to accede. Nonetheless the Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights co-operate to ensure their case-law does not conflict. If the Lisbon Treaty comes into force the EU would be required to accede to the ECHR.
Foreign policy cooperation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a block in international trade negotiations under the Common Commercial Policy. Steps for a more wide ranging coordination in foreign relations began in 1970 with the establishment of European Political Cooperation which created an informal consultation process between member states with the aim of forming common foreign policies. It was not, however, until the 1987, when European Political Cooperation was introduced on a formal basis by the Single European Act. EPC was renamed as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the Maastricht Treaty.
The Maastricht Treaty gives the CFSP the aims of promoting both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole. This includes promoting international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
The Amsterdam Treaty created the office of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (currently held by Javier Solana) to co-ordinate the EU's foreign policy. The High Representative, in conjunction with the current Presidency, speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy matters and can have the task of articulating ambiguous policy positions created by disagreements among member states. The Common Foreign and Security Policy requires unanimity among the now 27 member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular policy. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP makes disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq, not uncommon.
Besides the emerging international policy of the European Union, the international influence of the EU is also felt through enlargement. The perceived benefits of becoming a member of the EU act as an incentive for both political and economic reform in states wishing to fulfil the EU's accession criteria, and are considered a major factor contributing to the reform of former Communist countries in Eastern Europe. This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".
Besides the CFSP, the Commission also has its own representation in international organisations. This is primarily through the European Commissioner for External Relations, who works alongside the High Representative. In the UN, as an observer and working together, the EU has gained influence in areas such as aid due to its large contributions in that field (see below). In the G8, the EU has rights of membership besides chairing/hosting summit meetings and is represented at meetings by the presidents of the Commission and the Council. In the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where all 27 member states are represented, the EU as a body is represented by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.
The European Community humanitarian aid office, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2006 its budget amounted to 671 million euros, 48% of which went to the ACP countries. Counting the EU's own contributions and those of its member states together, the EU is the largest aid donor in the world.
The EU's aid has previously been criticised by the eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe for being inefficient, mis-targeted and linked to economic objectives. Furthermore, some charities have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students, and refugees. Under the de-inflated figures, the EU did not reach its internal aid target in 2006 and the EU would not reach the international target of 0.7% of GNP until 2015. However, only a few countries have reached that target. In 2005 EU aid was 0.34% of the GNP which was higher than that of the United States and Japan. The current commissioner for aid, Louis Michel, has called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect, and on humanitarian principles.
Member states are responsible for their own territorial defence. Many EU members are also members of NATO although some member states follow policies of neutrality. The Western European Union (WEU) is a European security organisation related to the EU. In 1992, the WEU's relationship with the EU was defined, when the EU assigned it the "Petersberg tasks" (humanitarian missions such as peacekeeping and crisis management). These tasks were later transferred from the WEU to the EU by the Amsterdam Treaty; they formed part of the new CFSP and the European Security and Defence Policy. Elements of the WEU are currently being merged into the EU's CFSP, and the President of the WEU is currently CFSP High Representative.
Following the Kosovo War in 1999, the European Council agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO". To that end, a number of efforts were made to increase the EU's military capability, notably the Helsinki Headline Goal process. After much discussion, the most concrete result was the EU Battlegroups initiative, each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 men. EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from Africa to the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East. EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, satellite centre and the military staff.
Over the years the EU has developed a wide competence in the justice and home affairs area. Using these the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition, family law, asylum law and criminal justice. Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties. and in more recent years these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation. Using these powers the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination and racial discrimination.
The EU has also established agencies to co-ordinate its actions in the justice and home affairs area: Europol for co-operation of police forces, Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. The EU also operates the Schengen Information System which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities.
Since its origin, the EU has established a single economic market across the territory of all its members. Currently, a single currency is in use between the 15 members of the eurozone. Considered as a single economy, the EU generated an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$16,830 billion in 2007, amounting to 31% of the world's total economic output, which makes it the largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the second largest trade bloc economy in the world by PPP valuation of GDP. It is also the largest exporter of goods, the second largest importer, and the biggest trading partner to several large countries such as India, and China. 163 of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500) have their headquarters in the EU. In May 2007 unemployment in the EU stood at 7% while investment was at 21.4% of GDP, inflation at 2.2% and public deficit at -0.9% of GDP. There is a great deal of variance for annual per capita income within individual EU states, these range from $7,000 to $69,000 USD.
Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries. Until the drive towards Economic and Monetary Union the development of the capital provisions had been slow. Post-Maastricht there has been a rapidly developing corpus of ECJ judgments regarding this initially neglected freedom. The free movement of capital is unique insofar as that it is granted equally to non-member countries.
The free movement of persons means citizens can move freely between member states to live, work, study or retire in another country. This required the lowering of administrative formalities and recognition of professional qualifications of other states. Traditionally the economically active were granted a much greater level of freedom than others. The extension to the non-economically active was first recognised in 1993 when the concept of Community Citizenship was introduced to the EU. In addition to extending the scope of the free movement of persons, it also grants certain social and political rights to the citizens of the EU.
The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member states in order to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis. Services account for between sixty and seventy percent of GDP, although legislation is not as developed as in other sectors. This has been addressed by the recently passed Directive on services in the internal market which aims to liberalise this area of the market. According to the Treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.
The freedoms are not absolute in nature. Member states may limit the exercise of the freedoms in accordance with the specific grounds laid down in the Treaty. For example, the Treaty allows member states to restrict movements that would pose a real threat to public policy or public security. In the absence of Community legislation it is for the member states to decide the scope of the exceptions. The European courts arbitrate as to whether the actions of the member state are proportionate and in conformity with Community law.
The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the EU in 1969. However, it was only with the advent of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 that member states were legally bound to start the monetary union no later than 1 January 1999. On this date the euro was duly launched by eleven of the then fifteen member states of the EU. It remained an accounting currency until 1 January 2002, when euro notes and coins were issued and national currencies began to phase out in the Eurozone, which by then consisted of twelve member states. The Eurozone has since grown to fifteen countries, the most recent being Cyprus and Malta which joined on 1 January 2008.
All other EU member states, except Denmark and the United Kingdom, are legally bound to join the euro when the economic conditions are met, however only a few countries have set target dates for accession. Sweden has circumvented the requirement to join the euro area by not meeting the membership criteria. Slovakia is scheduled to introduce the euro on 1 January 2009.
A number of other countries outside the EU, such as Montenegro, use the euro unofficially. The euro, and the monetary policies of those who have adopted it, are under the control of the European Central Bank (ECB). There are twelve other currencies used in the EU.
The euro is designed to help build a single market by, for example: easing travel of citizens and goods, eliminating exchange rate problems, providing price transparency, creating a single financial market, price stability and low interest rates, and providing a currency used internationally and protected against shocks by the large amount of internal trade within the eurozone. It is also intended as a political symbol of integration and stimulus for more.
The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market. The Commission as the competition regulator for the single market is responsible for antitrust issues, approving mergers, breaking up cartels, working for economic liberalisation and preventing state aid.
The Competition Commissioner, currently Neelie Kroes, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations. For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States which had already been approved by their national authority. Another high profile case, European Union v. Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action.
In negotiations on the Treaty of Lisbon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded in removing the words "free and undistorted competition" from the treaties. However, the requirement is maintained in an annex and it is unclear whether this will have any practical effect on EU policy.
The twenty-seven member state EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007-2013, representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. By comparison, the UK's expenditure for 2004 was estimated to be €759 billion, and France was estimated to have spent €801 billion. In 1960, the six member state EEC (the predecessor of the EU) budget was 0.03% of GDP.
In the 2006 budget, the largest single expenditure item was agriculture (direct aid, export refunds, storage, rural development and other) with around 46.7% of the total budget. Next came structural actions (Objective 1, Objective 2, Objective 3, other structural measures, community initiatives, innovatory measures and technical assistance, other specific structural operations and the cohesion fund) with approximately 30.4% of the total.
Internal policies (training, youth, culture, audiovisual, media, information, energy, Euratom nuclear safeguards and environment, consumer protection, internal market, industry and Trans-European networks, research and technological development, other internal policies) took up around 8.5%. Administration accounted for around 6.3%. External actions, the pre-accession strategy, compensations and reserves brought up the rear with approximately 4.9%, 2.1%, 1% and 0.1% respectively.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one the oldest policies of the European Community and was one of its core aims. The policy has the objectives of increasing agricultural production, providing certainty in food supplies, ensuring a high quality of life for farmers, stabilising markets and ensuring reasonable prices for consumers (article 33 of the Treaty of Rome). It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s the policy accounted for over 60% of the then European Community's annual budget, and still accounts for around 35%.
The policy's price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction, resulting in so-called butter mountains and wine lakes. These were intervention stores of produce bought up by the Community to maintain minimum price levels. In order to dispose of surplus stores, they were often sold on the world market at prices considerably below Community guaranteed prices, or farmers were offered subsidies (amounting to the difference between the Community and world prices) to export their produce outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers in the developing world. The overproduction has also been criticised on environmental grounds in that it encourages environmentally unfriendly intensive farming methods. Supporters of CAP say that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living, in what would otherwise be an economically unviable way of life. However, the EU's small farmers only receive 8% of CAP's available subsidies.
Since the beginning of the 1990s the CAP has been subject to a series of reforms. Initially these reforms included the introduction of set-aside in 1988, where a proportion of farm land was deliberately withdrawn from production, milk quotas (by the McSharry reforms in 1992) and more recently, the 'de-coupling' (or disassociation) of the money farmers receive from the EU and the amount they produce (by the Fischler reforms in 2004). It is intended to move away from subsidy payments linked to specific produce, toward direct payments based on farm size. This is intended to have the effect of allowing the market to dictate production levels while maintaining agricultural income levels. The most recent reform entailed the abolition of the EU's sugar regime which previously involved the carving up of the sugar market between member states and certain African-Caribbean nations with a privileged relationship with the EU.
|EU production of primary energy|
|46% of total EU energy consumption|
|Coal & lignite||21.9%|
|Net imports of primary energy|
|54% of total EU energy consumption|
|Oil & petroleum products||60.2%|
In 2006, the 27 member states of the EU had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe). Around 46% of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54% was imported.
The EU has been a legislative power in the area of energy policy for most of its existence; this has its roots in the original European Coal and Steel Community. The introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was approved at the meeting of the European Council in October 2005, and the first draft policy was published in January 2007.
The Commission has five key points in its energy policy: increase competition in the internal market, encourage investment and boost interconnections between electricity grids; diversify energy resources with better systems to respond to a crisis; establish a new treaty framework for energy co-operation with Russia while improving relations with energy-rich states in Central Asia and North Africa; use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing use of renewable energy; and finally increase funding for new energy technologies.
The EU currently imports 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas demands. There are concerns that the EU is largely dependent on other countries, primarily Russia, for its energy. This concern has grown following a series of clashes between Russia and its neighbours, threatening the flow of gas. As a result the EU is attempting to diversify its energy supply.
The EU is working to improve cross-border infrastructure within the EU, for example through the Trans-European Networks (TEN). Projects under TEN include the Channel Tunnel, LGV Est, the Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Oresund Bridge and the Brenner Base Tunnel. In 2001 it was estimated that by 2010 the network would cover: of roads; of railways; 330 airports; 270 maritime harbours; and 210 internal harbours.
The developing European transport policies will increase the pressure on the environment in many regions by the increased transport network. In the pre-2004 EU members, the major problem in transport deals with congestion and pollution. After the recent enlargement, the new states that joined since 2004 added the problem of solving accessibility to the transport agenda. The Polish road network in particular was in poor condition: at Poland's accession to the EU, 4,600 roads needed to be upgraded to EU standards, demanding approximately 17 billion euros.
Another infrastructure project is the Galileo positioning system. Galileo is a proposed Global Navigation Satellite System, to be built by the EU and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA), and is to be operational by 2010. The Galileo project was launched to reduce the EU's dependency on the US-operated Global Positioning System, which will extend to nations outside the EU. It has been criticised by some due to costs, delays, and their perception of redundancy given the existence of that system.
There are substantial economical disparities across the EU. Even corrected for purchasing power, the difference between the richest and poorest regions (NUTS-2 and NUTS-3 of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) is about a factor of ten. On the high end Frankfurt has €71,476 PPP per capita, Paris €68,989, and Inner London €67,798, while the three poorest NUTS, all in Romania, are Vaslui County with €3,690 PPP per capita, Botoşani County with €4,115, and Giurgiu County with €4,277. Compared to the EU average, the United States GDP per capita is 35% higher and the Japanese GDP per capita is approximately 15% higher.
There are a number of Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds to support development of underdeveloped regions of the EU. Such regions are primarily located in the new member states of East-Central Europe. Several funds provide emergency aid, support for candidate members to transform their country to conform to the EU's standard (Phare, ISPA, and SAPARD), and support to the former USSR Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme. The EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) sponsors research conducted by consortia from all EU members to work towards a single European Research Area.
The first environmental policy of the European Community was launched in 1972. Since then it has addressed issues such as acid rain, the thinning of the ozone layer, air quality, noise pollution, waste and water pollution. The Water framework directive is an example of a water policy, aiming for rivers, lakes, ground and coastal waters to be of "good quality" by 2015. Wildlife is protected through the Natura 2000 programme and covers 30,000 sites throughout Europe. In 2007, the Polish government sought to build a motorway through the Rospuda valley, but the Commission has been blocking construction as the valley is a wildlife area covered by the programme.
The REACH regulation was a piece of EU legislation designed to ensure that 30,000 chemicals in daily use are tested for their safety. In 2006, toxic waste spill off the coast of Côte d'Ivoire, from a European ship, prompted the Commission to look into legislation regarding toxic waste. With members such as Spain now having criminal laws against shipping toxic waste, the Commission proposed to create criminal sentences for "ecological crimes". Although the Commission's right to propose criminal law was contested, it was confirmed in this case by the Court of Justice.
In 2007, member states agreed that the EU is to use 20% renewable energy in the future and that is has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels. This includes measures that in 2020, one-tenth of all cars and trucks in EU 27 should be running on biofuels. This is considered to be one of the most ambitious moves of an important industrialised region to fight global warming.
At the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference, dealing with the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has proposed at 50% cut in greenhouse gases by 2050. The EU's attempts to cut its carbon footprint appear to have also been aided by an expansion of Europe's forests which, between 1990 and 2005, grew 10% in western Europe and 15% in Eastern Europe. During this period they soaked up 126 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 11% of EU emissions from human activities. The ambitious EU goals for the Kyoto Protocols have not been met and there is serious doubt that they can ever be.
Education and science are areas where the EU's role is limited to supporting national governments. In education, the policy was mainly developed in the 1980s in programmes supporting exchanges and mobility. The most visible of these has been the ERASMUS programme, a university exchange programme which began in 1987. In its first 20 years it has supported international exchange opportunities for well over 1.5 million university and college students and has become a symbol of European student life. There are now similar programmes for school pupils and teachers, for trainees in vocational education and training, and for adult learners in the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013. These programmes are designed to encourage a wider knowledge of other countries and to spread good practices in the education and training fields across the EU. Through its support of the Bologna process the EU is supporting comparable standards and compatible degrees across Europe.
Scientific development is facilitated through the EU's Framework Programmes, the first of which started in 1984. The aims of EU policy in this area are to co-ordinate and stimulate research. The independent European Research Council allocates EU funds to European or national research projects. The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) deals in a number of areas, for example energy where it aims to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy for the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels.
Since January 2000 the European Commission has set its sights on a more ambitious objective, known as the European Research Area, and has extensively funded research in a few key areas. This has the support of all member states, and extends the existing financing structure of the frameworks. It aims to focus on co-ordination, sharing knowledge, ensuring mobility of researchers around Europe, improving conditions for researchers and encouraging links with business and industry as well as removing any legal and administrative barriers. The EU is involved with six other countries to develop ITER, a fusion reactor which will be built in the EU at Cadarache. ITER builds on the previous project, Joint European Torus, which is currently the largest nuclear fusion reactor in the world. The Commission foresees this technology to be generating energy in the EU by 2050. It has observer status within CERN, there are various agreements with ESA and there is collaboration with ESO. These organizations are not under the framework of the EU, but membership heavily overlaps between them.
|Density ||Density ||Urban area |
The combined population of all 27 member countries has been estimated at 495,128,529 in January 2007, this in comparison to approximately 710 million Europeans on the continent as a whole. There is some increase in population expected, primarily due to net immigration, present in most European countries.
The EU's population is 7.3% of the world total, yet the EU covers just 3% of the earth's land, amounting to a population density of (2006) making the EU one of the most densely populated regions of the world. One third of EU citizens live in cities of over a million people, rising to 80% living in urban areas generally. The EU is home to more global cities than any other region in the world. It contains 16 cities with populations of over one million.
Besides many large cities, the EU also includes several densely populated regions that have no single core but have emerged from the connection of several cites and are now encompassing large metropolitan areas. The largest are Rhine-Ruhr having approximately 10.5 million inhabitants (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad approx. 7 million (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt Rhein-Main Region approx. 5.8 million (Frankfurt, Wiesbaden et al.), the Flemish diamond approx. 5.5 million (urban area in between Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven and Ghent), the Oresund Region approx. 3.7 million (Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden), and the Upper Silesian Industrial Region approx. 3.5 million (Katowice, Sosnowiec et al.).
|L1: Native language|
Total: EU citizens able to conduct
conversation in this language
Among the many languages and dialects used in the EU, it has 23 official and working languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish. Important documents, such as legislation, are translated into every official language. The European Parliament provides translation into all languages for documents and its plenary sessions. Some institutions use only a handful of languages as internal working languages. Language policy is the responsibility of member states, but EU institutions promote the learning of other languages.
German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (about 88.7 million people as of 2006), followed by English, French, and Italian. English is by far the most spoken foreign language at over half (51%) of the population, with German and French following. 56% of European citizens are able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue. Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, except Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian, which belong to the Uralic language family, and Maltese, which is a Semitic language. Most EU official languages are written in the Latin alphabet except Bulgarian, written in Cyrillic, and Greek, written in the Greek alphabet.
Besides the 23 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people. Of these, only the Spanish regional languages (Catalan, Basque and Galician), Scottish Gaelic and Welsh can be used by citizens in communication with the main European institutions. Although EU programmes can support regional and minority languages, the protection of linguistic rights is a matter for the individual member states.
Besides the many regional languages, a broad variety of languages from other parts of the world are spoken by immigrant communities in the member states: Turkish, Maghrebi Arabic, Russian, Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Ukrainian, and Balkan languages are spoken in many parts of the EU. Many older immigrant communities are bilingual, being fluent in both the local (EU) language and in that of their ancestral community. Migrant languages have no formal status or recognition in the EU or in the EU countries, although from 2007 they are eligible for support from the language teaching section of the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013.
The EU is a secular body, with no formal connections to any religion and no mention of religion in any current or proposed treaty. Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity and/or god in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.
Emphasis on Christianity stems from this being the dominant religion in Europe, and thus of the EU. It divides between Roman Catholicism, a wide range of Protestant churches (especially in northern Europe) and Eastern Orthodox (in south eastern Europe). Other religions such as Islam and Judaism are also represented in the EU population. The EU had an estimated Muslim population of 16 million in 2006, and an estimated Jewish population of over a million.
Eurobarometer opinion polls organised by Eurostat show that the majority of EU citizens have some form of belief system but that only 21% see it as important. There is increasing atheism or agnosticism among the general population in Europe, with falling church attendance and membership in many countries. The 2005 Eurobarometer showed that of the European citizens (of the 25 members at that time), 52% believed in a god, 27% in some sort of spirit or life force and 18% had no form of belief. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were the Czech Republic (19%) and Estonia (16%), The most religious countries are Malta (95%; predominantly Roman Catholic), and Cyprus and Romania both with about 90% of citizens believing in God. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with religious upbringing, those with the lowest levels of formal education, those leaning towards right-wing politics, and those reflecting more upon philosophical and ethical issues.
Policies affecting cultural matters are mainly set by individual member states. Cultural co-operation between member states has been a concern of the EU since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty. Actions taken in the cultural area by the EU include the Culture 2000 7-year programme, the European Cultural Month event, the Media Plus programme, orchestras such as the European Union Youth Orchestra and the European Capital of Culture programme where one or more cities in the EU are selected for one year to assist the cultural development of that city. In addition, the EU gives grants to cultural projects (totalling 233 in 2004) and has launched a Web portal dedicated to Europe and culture, responding to the European Council's expressed desire to see the Commission and the member states "promote the networking of cultural information to enable all citizens to access European cultural content by the most advanced technological means".
Within the EU, politicians, such as the President of the European Parliament, appeal to a shared European historical/cultural heritage, including Greek philosophy, Roman law, the Judeo-Christian heritage, and a tradition of freedom and democracy, but also negative elements such as the World wars.
Sport is mainly the responsibility of individual member states or other international organisations rather than that of the EU. However, some EU policies have had an impact on sport, such as the free movement of workers which was at the core of the Bosman ruling, which prohibited national football leagues from imposing quotas on foreign players with European citizenship.
Under the proposed Treaty of Lisbon sports would be given a special status which would exempt this sector from much of the EU's economic rules. This followed lobbying by governing organisations such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, due to objections over the applications of free market principles to sport which led to an increasing gap between rich and poor clubs.
Several European sports associations are consulted in the formulation of the EU's sports policy, including FIBA, UEFA, EHF, IIHF, FIRA and CEV. All EU member states and their respective national sport associations participate in European sport organisations such as UEFA.
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