اتحادیه اروپا

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اتحادیه اروپا
شعار ملی«متحد در تنوع»[۱][۲][۳]
سرود ملینوای شادی[۲](ارکسترال)

پایتختبروکسل (دفاکتو)[۴][۵]
بزرگترین شهر لندن
زبان رسمی
نوع
نام حاکمان 
 • رئیس کمیسیون اروپا
 • رئیس پارلمان اروپا

ژان کلود یونکر (EPP)
آنتونیو تاجانی (EPP) 
قوه مقننه مجلس قانونگذاری اتحادیه اروپا
 -  مجلس علیا مجلس اتحادیه اروپا
 -  مجلس سفلی پارلمان اروپا
موارد منجر به تشکیل
 • پیمان پاریس
 • توافقنامه رم
 • پیمان ادغام
 • پیمان اتحادیه اروپا
 • پیمان لیسبون

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کشورهای عضو اتحادیه اروپا

اتحادیه اروپا یک اتحادیه اقتصادی-سیاسی است که از ۲۸ کشور اروپایی تشکیل شده‌است. منشأ اتحادیه اروپا به جامعه اقتصادی اروپا که در سال ۱۹۵۷ با توافقنامه رم بین ۶ کشور اروپایی شکل گرفت و صرفاً یک اتحادیه اقتصادی بود بازمی‌گردد. از آن تاریخ با اضافه شدن اعضای جدید، اتحادیه اروپا بزرگ‌تر شد.[۱۰]

در سال ۱۹۹۳، توافق ماستریخت چارچوب قانونی کنونی اتحادیه را پایه‌گذاری کرد.[۱۱][۱۲]

اتحادیه اروپا در سال ۱۹۹۹ واحد پول مشترکی به نام یورو را معرفی کرد که تاکنون در ۱۹ کشور جایگزین پول‌های ملی شده‌است.[۱۳]

اتحادیه اروپا با ۵۰۰ میلیون شهروند در سال ۲۰۱۷ میلادی به تولید ناخالص داخلی ۱۹٫۶۷۰ تریلیون دلار دست یافت.[۱۴][۱۵]

۲۲ کشور از اعضای اتحادیه اروپا عضو ناتو هستند.[۱۶]

اتحادیه در حال حاضر بازار واحد مشترکی دارد که موارد زیر را در بر می‌گیرد: اتحادیه گمرکی، واحد پول –یورو- که تحت اداره بانک مرکزی اروپاست (تا کنون ۱۷ کشور آن را پذیرفته‌اند)، سیاست مشترک کشاورزی، سیاست مشترک تجارت و سیاست مشترک شیلات.

سیاست مشترک خارجه و امنیت نیز به عنوان دومین ستون از سه ستون اتحادیه اروپا شکل گرفت. پیمان شنگن کنترل روادید را لغو کرد، ایست‌های گمرکی نیز در بسیاری از مرزهای داخلی برداشته شد و امکان رفت‌وآمد شهروندان اتحادیه اروپا برای زندگی، مسافرت، کار و سرمایه‌گذاری بیشتر شد.

مهمترین نهادهای اتحادیه اروپا عبارتند از: شورای اروپایی، شورای اتحادیه اروپایی، کمیسیون اروپا، دادگاه اروپا، پارلمان اروپا، بانک مرکزی اروپا و دیوان محاسبات. اصل و ابتدای پارلمان اروپا بر می‌گردد به دهه ۱۹۵۰ و معاهده‌های پایه‌گذاری، از سال ۱۹۷۹ اعضای این اتحادیه توسط نمایندگان کشورهای عضو انتخاب می‌شوند. هر ۵ سال یکبار انتخابات برگزار می‌شود که شهروندان کشورهای عضو اتحادیه اروپا می‌توانند در آن شرکت کرده، رأی دهند. فعالیت‌های اتحادیه اروپا اکثر سیاست‌های عمومی را تحت پوشش قرار می‌دهد، از سیاست اقتصادی گرفته تا امور خارجه، دفاع، کشاورزی و تجارت. با این حال، گستره قدرت آن در حوزه‌های مختلف بسیار متفاوت است. در برخی حوزه‌ها اتحادیه مانند فدراسیون عمل می‌کند (برای مثال در مسائل پولی، کشاورزی، تجاری، محیط زیست و سیاست‌های اقتصادی و اجتماعی) و در دیگر حوزه‌ها مانند یک سازمان بین‌المللی (برای مثال در امور خارجه).

بریتانیا در یک همه‌پرسی در ۲۳ ژوئن ۲۰۱۶ از اتحادیه اروپا خارج شد. ارزش پوند به کمترین مقدار در سی سال گذشته رسید[۱۷][۱۸] و دیوید کامرون نخست‌وزیر بریتانیا استعفا داد.[۱۹][۲۰]

موقعیت[ویرایش]

اعضای اتحادیه اروپا این اتحادیه را کاملاً مقتدر و مستقل ساخته‌اند (بیش از تمامی دیگر سازمان‌های بین‌المللی غیر مستقل). در برخی حوزه‌ها اتحادیه اروپا همچون فدراسیون یا کنفدراسیون عمل می‌کند، با این حال، از لحاظ حقوقی، کشورهای عضو «رئیس معاهده‌ها» هستند بدین معنی که اتحادیه این قدرت را ندارد که بدون توافق اعضا و از طریق معاهده‌های بین‌المللی، از کشورها قدرت بگیرد و به قدرت خود اضافه کند. به علاوه، در بسیاری از حوزه‌ها، به خصوص حوزه‌های مهم و کلیدی مانند امور خارجه و دفاع، کشورهای عضو تنها از مقدار کمی از استقلال و اقتدار ملی خود صرف نظر کرده‌اند، به دلیل این ساختار منحصربه‌فرد اکثراً اتحادیه اروپا را پدیده‌ای بی‌نظیر تلقی می‌کنند.

در ۲۹ اکتبر ۲۰۰۴، سران دولتهای کشورهای عضو اتحادیه اروپا معاهده‌ای که قانون اساسی اروپا را وضع می‌کند به امضاء رساندند که بعداً ۱۳ کشور عضو آن را تصویب کردند.[۲۱] اما در اغلب موارد، تصویب بیشتر بر اساس عملکرد پارلمانی است تا رأی عمومی، که این فرایند در ۲۹ می۲۰۰۵، زمانیکه رأی دهندگان فرانسه قانون اساسی را با ۵۵٪ به ۴۵٪ رد کردند نامشخص و متزلزل باقی‌ماند. سه روز پس از رفراندوم فرانسه در مورد قانون اساسی اروپا، هلند نیز طی رفراندومی با ۶۱٪، قانون اساسی اروپا را رد کرد.

بنابراین وضعیت فعلی و آتی اتحادیه اروپا همچنان موضوع بحث‌های جنجال‌برانگیز سیاسی خواهد بود و کشورهای عضو هرکدام دیدگاه متفاوتی نسبت به آن دارند: برای مثال، در انگلستان یک همه‌پرسی نشان داد که ۵۰٪ از مردم نسبت به اتحادیه اروپا بی‌تفاوت اند و ۲۰٪ به حزبهایی رأی داده‌اند که می‌خواستند در انتخابات ۲۰۰۴ اتحادیه اروپا از این اتحادیه کناره بگیرند. نظر عموم مردم در دانمارک و اتریش نیز تردیدآمیز است. با این حال سایر کشورها بیشتر طرفدار یکپارچه‌سازی اتحادیه اروپا هستند. بلافاصله پس از اینکه فرانسه و هلند به قانون اساسی رأی منفی دادند. کرندداچی از لوکزامبورگ رأی مثبت داد. معنای واقعی عبارت «یکپارچه‌سازی اتحادیه اروپا» نیز خود موضوع بحث و مناظره‌است.

نخست‌وزیر وقت انگلستان، تونی بلر، علی‌رغم قولی که به پارلمان داده بود پذیرفت تا تخفیف انگلستان را که مارگارت تاجر در سال ۱۹۸۴ مورد مذاکره قرار داده بود دوباره مورد بررسی و تجدید نظر قرار دهد.[۲۲] رئیس‌جمهور وقت فرانسه، ژاک شیراک، اظهار داشت که افزایش بودجه به اروپا این امکان را می‌دهد تا سیاست‌های مشترک را مانند سیاست مشترک کشاورزی، سیاست برنامه ششم توسعه تحقیقات و فناوری را تأمین اعتبار نماید، با این حال تقاضای فرانسه برای کاهش مالیات بر ارزش افزوده رد شد.

مسائل جنجال‌برانگیز در طی منازعات مربوط به بودجه عبارتند از تخفیف به انگلستان، منافع فرانسه از سیاست مشترک کشاورزی، کمک‌های گسترده آلمان و هلند به بودجه اتحادیه اروپا و اصلاح صندوق اعتبارات توسعه منطقه‌ای اروپا. بسیاری از مفسران بر این باورند که این منازعات نشان دهنده این است که میان دولتهایی چون فرانسه و آلمان که خواهان بودجه بیشتر و اتحادیه‌ای فدرالتر هستند و دولتهایی همچون انگلستان که بودجه کمی می‌خواهند اما متقاضی اعتبارات گسترده برای تحقیقات و فناوری اند (و شعارشان هم مدرنیزه شدن است) شکاف عمیقی وجود دارد.

معاهده‌ای که قانون اساسی اروپا را وضع می‌کند و عموماً «قانون اساسی اروپا» نامیده می‌شود، معاهده ایست بین‌المللی با هدف تدوین قانون اساسی برای اتحادیه اروپا. ناکامی این قانون (اساسی) برای جلب حمایت عمومی در برخی کشورهای عضو (فرانسه و هلند) سبب شد که سایر کشورها نیز تصویب قانون اساسی را متوقف سازند یا به بعد موکول کنند و بدین ترتیب آینده این قانون نامشخص مانده‌است.

اگر که این قانون تصویب شده بود، معاهده از یک نوامبر ۲۰۰۶ قابل اجرا می‌شد با این حال، در ماه می۲۰۰۶، اتریش، بلژیک، قبرس، استونی، آلمان، یونان، اتریش، ایتالیا، لتونی، لیتوانیا، لوکزامبورگ، مالتا، اسلواکی، اسلوونی و اسپانیا به قانون اساسی رأی مثبت دادند و آن را به تصویب رساندند. کشورهای بلغارستان و رومانی نیز که از ۲۰۰۷ عضو اتحادیه شدند، پیشاپیش معاهده قانون اساسی را پذیرفته و معاهده پذیرششان را هم تصویب کرده‌اند.

پیدایش و تاریخچه[ویرایش]

تلاشهایی صورت گرفته تا تاریخ گذشته اروپا را که مؤکد اعتبار هویت ملی اروپاست بازسازی کنند.

امپراطوری روم را که در مدیترانه متمرکز بود بنا به دلایلی چند نمی‌توان تمثیل مناسبی برای اتحادیه اروپا دانست. این دو نهاد سیاسی موقعیت جغرافیایی یکسانی نداشتند، امپراطوری روم بخش‌هایی از آفریقا و آسیا را شامل می‌شد، اما بخش وسیعی از آلمان، اسکاندیناوی، اسکاتلند و شرق اروپا را در بر نمی‌گرفت، امپراطوری روم با توسل به زور گسترش پیدا کرد، به وسیله ایالتی مرکزی کنترل می‌شد و از تعداد معدودی از ایده‌آل‌ها و ساختارهای اتحادیه اروپا برخوردار بود.[۲۳][۲۴][۲۵]

امپراطوری فرانک در پارلمان و امپراطوری روم مناطق وسیعی را تحت دولتی نه چندان مستحکم صدها سال یکپارچه و متحد نگه داشتند. شاید اتحادیه گمرکی در سده ۱۸۰۰ و در دروه تصدی ناپلئون فرانسه برای مقایسه مناسبتر باشد، اما آن‌هایی که طرفدار گسترش اتحادیه اروپا هستند احتمالاً بر این عقیده‌اند که هرچه کمتر در مورد کشورگشایی‌های نازی‌های آلمان در دهه ۱۹۴۰ صحبت کنیم بهتراست.

با در نظر گرفتن زبان‌های اروپا، فرهنگ‌ها و گروه‌های قومی آن، این تلاش‌ها اغلب متضمن اشغال نظامی کشورهای مخالف که سبب بی‌ثباتی می‌شدند بود. بقیه صدها سال پابرجا ماندند و دروه‌هایی از پیشرفت فناوری و اقتصادی و صلح را رواج دادند. یکی از نخستین پیشنهادها برای برقراری اتحاد صلح آمیز از طریق همکاری و برابری اعضا را ویکتورهوگوی صلح گرا در سال ۱۸۵۱ بیان نمود. پس از فاجعه جنگ جهانی اول و جنگ جهانی دوم، انگیزه برای تشکیل اتحادیه اروپا بیشتر شد و این انگیزه ناشی از تصمیم به بازسازی اروپا و از بین بردن احتمال جنگی دیگر بود. این احساس در نهایت منتهی شد به شکل‌گیری جامعه زغال سنگ و فولاد اروپا توسط کشورهای آلمان، فرانسه، ایتالیا و بنلوکس (هلند، بلژیک، لوکزامبورگ). این امر از طریق معاهده پاریس (۱۹۵۱)، که در آوریل ۱۹۵۱ به امضاء رسید و از ژولای ۱۹۵۲ به اجرا درآمد میسر گردید.

نخستین اتحادیه گمرکی در ابتدا «جامعه اقتصادی اروپا» (که به‌طور غیررسمی در انگلستان «بازار مشترک» نامیده می‌شود) نام داشت و با معاهده روم در سال ۱۹۵۷ شکل گرفت و از یکم ژانویه ۱۹۵۸ به اجرا درآمد.[۲۶] این اتحادیه بعدها به «جامعه اروپا» تغییر نام دارد که طبق معاهده ماستریخت نخستین ستون اتحادیه اروپا محسوب می‌شود. اتحادیه اروپا متحول شد و از یک سازمان تجاری به مشارکتی سیاسی و اقتصادی مبدل گشت. رئیس‌جمهور سابق فرانسه والری ژیسکاردستن و استانیک درمقام رئیس کنوانسیون آینده اروپا پیشنهاد داد که نام اتحادیه اروپا را به اروپای متحد تغییر دهند که البته تصویب نشد. بخشی از فرایند ایجاد هویتی ملی برای اتحادیه اروپا می‌تواند تاریخی از اروپا به دست دهد که وجود اتحادیه اروپا را توجیه می‌سازد. بعضاً به دلیل فقدان این بخش از تاریخ است که در میان برخی از شهروندان کشورهای عضو اتحادیه احساسات ضد اروپایی وجود دارد. در هر حال، ارزش واقعی اتحادیه اروپا در گرو این است که چگونه اتحادیه اروپا بتواند آینده اتحادیه را ارتقاء بخشد نه اینکه چگونه گذشته آن را توجیه نماید.

کشورهای عضو[ویرایش]

نقشه اتحادیه اروپا

اتحادیه اروپا هم‌اکنون شامل ۲۸ کشور مستقل است که مجموعاً ایالت‌های عضو خوانده می‌شوند و عبارت‌اند از:

آلمان، اتریش، اسپانیا، استونی، اسلوواکی، اسلوونی، ایتالیا، ایرلند، بلژیک، بلغارستان، بریتانیا، جمهوری پرتغال، جمهوری چک، دانمارک، رومانی، سوئد، فرانسه، فنلاند، قبرس، کرواسی، لاتویا، لوکزامبورگ، لهستان، لیتوانی، مالت، مجارستان، هلند و یونان[۲۷]

هم‌اکنون ۶ نامزد رسمی برای عضویت در اتحادیه درخواست کرده‌اند. ترکیه، ایسلند، مونتنگرو، صربستان، مقدونیه، گرجستان

خروج بریتانیا از اتحادیه اروپا[ویرایش]

بریتانیا طبق رفراندوم ۲۳ ژوئن ۲۰۱۶ و با رأی ۵۱٫۹ درصدی مردم، قرار است بعد از تأیید پارلمان شرایط خروج خود از اتحادیه را فراهم آورد. در حال حاضر بریتانیا در حال مذاکره با اتحادیه اروپا می‌باشد که شرایط خروجش را فراهم نماید. بریتانیا طبق معاهده اتحادیه اروپا باید مبلغ ۱۰۰ میلیارد دلار برای خروج بدهد.[۲۸]

کشورهای اروپایی که عضو اتحادیه اروپا نیستند[ویرایش]

توسعه‌های آتی و روابط نزدیک[ویرایش]

ترکیه رسماً نامزد پیوستن به اتحادیه اروپاست. آرمان‌های اروپا – ترکیه از قرارداد آنکارا در سال ۱۹۶۳ آغاز شد. ترکیه مذاکرات مقدماتی را در ۳ اکتبر ۲۰۰۵ آغاز کرد.

بخشی از مشکل پذیرش ترکیه این است که ۹۷٪ از زمین‌های ترکیه در شبه جزیره آناتولیان در غرب آسیا واقع شده و تنها ۳٪ آن در قاره اروپاست. مقامات ترکیه در رویارویی با این مشکل چنین بیان داشته‌اند که کشورهایی نظیر اوکراین و بلاروس نیز در شرق دور واقع شده‌اند و گرجستان که از لحاظ جغرافیایی بعضاً در اروپاست، حتی نسبت به ترکیه نیز بیشتر به سمت شرق پیشرفته‌است و دور بخشی از ناحیه شمال شرقی با ترکیه هم‌مرز است؛ بنابراین، می‌توان ادعا نمود که ترکیه هم از طرف شرق و هم از طرف غرب با کشورهای اروپایی هم‌مرز است.

به مقدونیه نیز نامزدی رسمی برای عضویت داده شده بود (دسامبر ۲۰۰۵)

اعضای اتحادیه تجارت آزاد اروپا – کشورهای نروژ، ایسلند و لیختن اشتاین- اعضای منطقه اقتصادی اروپا نیز هستند که این امکان را به آن‌ها می‌دهد تا از جهات بسیاری در بازار واحد کشور اتحادیه تجارت آزاد اروپا، پس از رفراندومی عضویت در منطقه اقتصادی اروپا را رد کرد و اما از طریق معاهدات دوجانبه متعدد روابط نزدیکی با اتحادیه اروپا برقرا کرده‌است.

توسعه اتحادیه اروپا[ویرایش]

حامیان اتحادیه اروپا چنین استدلال می‌کنند که رشد اتحادیه اروپا می‌تواند قدرتی برای برقراری صلح و دموکراسی باشد. آن‌ها معتقدند که جنگ‌هایی که در تاریخ اروپا به صورت دوره‌ای تکرار می‌شد و مشخصه اروپا محسوب می‌گردید با تشکیل "جامعه اقتصادی اروپا (که بعداً اتحادیه اروپا نام گرفت) در دهه ۱۹۵۰ متوقف گردید. آن‌ها همچنین بر این باورند که در اوایل دهه ۱۹۷۰، کشورهای یونان، اسپانیا و پرتغال کشورهای دیکتاتوری بودند، اما علاقه جوامع تجاری این سه کشور به عضویت در اتحادیه اروپا انگیزه‌ای قوی برای برقراری دموکراسی در این کشورها شد. دیگران معتقدند که برقراری صلح در اروپا پس از جنگ جهانی دوم بیشتر بنا به دلایل دیگری می‌باشد مانند تعدیل تأثیرگذاری آمریکا و ناتو، نیاز به نشان دادن عکس العملی یکپارچه به تهدیدات شوروی، نیاز به بازسازی پس از جنگ جهانی دوم، خستگی عموم از جنگ و اینکه کشورهای دیکتاتوری ذکر شده بنا به دلایلی کاملاً متفاوت منحط شدند.

تقریباً در سالهای اخیر، اتحادیه اروپا نفوذ خود را در شرق گسترش داده‌است. کشورهای چندی را که قبلاً در پس «میله‌های آهنین» بودند به عضویت پذیرفته و در نظر دارد عضویت تعداد دیگری از کشورها را نیز قبول نماید. امید آن می‌رود که عضویت این کشورها، همان‌طورکه در مورد ورود اسپانیا، پرتغال و یونان در دهه ۱۹۸۰ رخ داد، سبب افزایش و تحکیم ثبات سیاسی و اقتصادی شود.

با استمرار توسعه اتحادیه اروپا در شرق، پذیرش کشورهای متقاضی عضویت جنجال برانگیزتر خواهد شد. همان‌طور که قبلاً توضیح داده شد، اتحادیه اروپا مذاکراتش را با رومانی و بلغارستان در خصوص پذیرش تقاضای عضویت به انجام رساند و این دو کشور در سال ۲۰۰۷ به اتحادیه پیوستند. با این حال، رد اساسنامه اتحادیه اروپا از جانب فرانسه و هلند و همچنین رشد اقتصادی ضعیف اتحادیه اروپا، توانایی اتحادیه را برای پذیرش کشورهای جدید و فقیرتر، پس از رومانی و بلغارستان به کشورهای مهم اقتصادی اتحادیه اروپا نظیر انگلستان، آلمان، ایتالیا و فرانسه نیز به این تردید دامن زده‌است. به تازگی این کشورها توانسته‌اند جریان عمده ورود از کشورهای عضو مانند لهستان و جمهوری چک (به خصوص در انگلستان و آلمان) را کنترل کنند، هرچند که در اکثر موارد ورود به این کشورها اغلب مورد استقبال قرار گرفته‌است زیرا این مهاجران در بازار کار قدیم به انجام کارهایی با دست مزد کم می‌پردازند یا در زمینه‌هایی مانند خدمات ساختمانی یا لوله‌کشی که در سطح ملی با کمبود افراد ماهر مواجه هستند مشغول به کار می‌شوند. با این حال این کشورهای بزرگ اقتصادی از این می‌ترسند که ممکن است نتوانند بیش از این مهاجران اقتصادی را که پیش‌بینی می‌شود تعداد آن‌ها از ۲۰۰۷ تا ۲۰۱۰ به صدها هزار نفر برسد کنترل و اداره نمایند. رومانی و بلغارستان نیز از این می‌ترسند که متضرر "کاهش مغزهای نیروی کار ماهر و متخصص شوند، مشابه آنچه که هم‌اکنون افرادی که از کشورهای عضو در سال ۲۰۰۴ وارد شده‌اند با آن مواجه هستند.

محل استقرار نهادهای اتحادیه اروپا[ویرایش]

به محض اینکه جامعه اقتصادی اروپا (EEC) شکل گرفت درگیریهای سیاسی و حقوقی بر سر اینکه نهادهای این سازمان در کجا مستقر شوند آغاز شد. کشورهای عضو به ویژه از زمانی که مفهوم "حوزه اروپا که از جانب جین منت مطرح شد مورد توجه و حمایت کمی قرار گرفت. در مورد محل استقرار دائم نهادها به توافق نمی‌رسیدند. از سال ۱۹۵۸، کمیسیونهای EEC و آزانس انرژی اتمی اروپا (EAEC) در بروکسل مستقر شدند.

تا زمانی که بالأخره کشورهای عضو در مورد مکانی واحد برای استقرار دائم نهادهای EEC به توافق رسیدند، مقامات اروپایی در بروکسل، لوگزامبورگ و استراسبورگ پراکنده بودند که این امر سبب افزایش هزینه‌ها شده بود. بروکسل به عنوان محل استقرار «کمیسیون واحد» و «شورای وزیران» انتخاب شد. این امر در عمل بدین معنا بود که اکثر مقامات اروپا در این دو مرکز مشغول به کار بودند. لوکزامبورگ درصد جبران خسارات ناشی از از دست دادن قدرت مرکزی و جابه‌جایی "شورای ویژه وزیران جامعه زغال سنگ و فولاد اروپا به بروکسل برآمد. با این حال، لوکزامبورگ به محل دائم استقرار بانک سرمایه‌گذاری اروپا (EIB) تبدیل شد و به لوکزامبورگ اطمینان داده شد که برخی از نشستهای شورای وزیران در آوریل، ژوئن و سپتامبر در این شهر برگزار خواهد شد.

دادگاه، اداره مرکزی آمار، اداره انتشارات رسمی اجتماعات اروپا، کمیته مشاوره و خدمات مالی جامعه زغال سنگ و فولاد اروپا و دبیرخانه مجمع کنگره درلوکزامبورگ باقی ماندند. در این ضمن فرانسه از دست برداشتن از ادعای خود مبنی بر اینکه استراسبورگ جایگاه مناسبی برای مجمع کنگره‌است اجتناب می‌کرد. در این زمینه مصالحه‌ای نامناسب و با صرف هزینه بسیار انجام گرفته که به موجب آن قرار شد اعضای کنگره در جلسه‌ای عمومی در استراسبورگ با یکدیگر دیدار داشته باشند اما جلسات و نشستهای کمیته‌های کنگره در بروکسل برگزار شود. قرار شد که جلسات عمومی ای در لوگزامبورگ، که محل استقرار دبیرخانه کنگره اروپا است، نیز برگزار گردد.

اتحادیه اروپا هچ مرکز (پایتخت) رسمی ندارد و نهادها و ارگانهای آن در شهرهای مختلف پراکنده‌است:

  • بروکسل: پایتخت عملی (دو فاکتو) اتحادیه اروپا محسوب می‌شود و محل استقرار «کمیسیون اروپا و شورای وزیران است. همچنین محل برگزاری نشستها و جلسات کوچک کمیته‌های کنگره اروپاست؛ و (از سال ۲۰۰۴) شهر میزبان تمامی جلسات» شورای اروپا بوده‌است.
  • استراسبورگ: محل استقرار پارلمان اروپا و نیز محل برگزاری نشستهای عمومی سالانه‌است که ۱۲ هفته به طول می‌انجامد. این شهر همچنین محل استقرار شورای اروپا و دادگاه حقوق بشر اروپاست، این دو نهاد از اتحادیه اروپا جدا شده‌اند.
  • لوکزامبورگ: محل استقرار دادگاه اروپا، دبیرخانه پارلمان اروپا و بانک سرمایه‌گذاری اروپاست.

چارچوب حقوقی[ویرایش]

قانون اتحادیه اروپا متشکل از تعداد زیادی ساختارهای حقوقی و نهادی است که بر یکدیگر همپوشانی دارند. این امر نتیجه این است که معاهده‌های بین‌المللی یکی از دیگری به تعریف این قانون می‌پردازند و هرکدام قوانین قبلی را اصلاح و تکمیل می‌کنند. در سال‌های اخیر، تلاش‌های قابل توجه برای ساده کردن و تحکیم کردن معاهده‌ها انجام گرفته که این تلاش‌ها با نسخه نهایی معاهده‌ای که قانون اساسی اروپا را تدوین می‌کند به اوج خود رسید. در صورتی‌که این معاهده پشتیبانی تصویب شود، جایگزین معاهده‌های قبلی که همپوشانی بسیار دارند و اساسنامه فعلی اتحادیه اروپا را تشکیل می‌دهند خواهد شد.

نخستین معاهده اتحادیه اروپا، معاهده پاریس (۱۹۴۹) بود (که از ۱۹۵۲ قابل اجرا شد) که جامعه زغال سنگ و فولاد اروپا میان گروه متشکل از ۶ کشور اروپایی راه‌اندازی کرد.[۲۹] از زمان انقضای این معاهده، فعالیت‌های آن توسط دیگر معاهده‌ها دنبال می‌شود. از سوی دیگر، معاهده دوم در سال ۱۹۵۷ همچنان به قوه خود باقی و قابل اجراست. هرچند که از آن زمان تاکنون توسط معاهده‌هایی چند به ویژه معاهده ماستریخت در سال ۱۹۹۲ - که نخستین بار نام اتحادیه اروپا را برای این سازمان برگزیده – اصلاح شده‌است. جدیدترین اصلاحاتی که در مورد معاهده دوم صورت گرفته به عنوان بخشی از معاهده پذیرش ۲۰۰۳، معاهده پذیرش ۱۰ کشور جدید به عنوان عضو که از یک می۲۰۰۴ قابل اجرا شد، پذیرفته گشت.

کشورهای عضو اتحادیه اروپا اخیراً در مورد متن معاهده جدیدی که قانون اساسی اروپا را تدوین می‌کند | معاهده قانون اساسی، به توافق رسیده‌اند که اگر کشورهای عضو این معاهده را تصویب کنند، نخستین قانون اساسی رسمی اتحادیه اروپا خواهد بود و جایگزین تمامی معاهده‌های قبلی خواهد شد. هرچند که اکثر کشورها این معاهده را نپذیرفته‌اند، اما فرانسه در یک همه‌پرسی در ۲۹ می۲۰۰۵، با اکثریت ۵۵٪ و نیز هلند در همه‌پرسی یک ژوئن ۲۰۰۵ با اکثریت ۶۲٪ این معاهده را رد کردند.

اگر همه کشورهای عضو به قانون اساسی رأی مثبت ندهند و این قانون تصویب نشود، لازم خواهد بود که مجدداً در مورد آن مذاکراتی صورت گیرد. بسیاری از سیاست‌مداران و مقامات بر این عقیده‌اند که ساختارهای پیش قانون اساسی فعلی در سطح متوسط برای اتحادیه‌ای متشکل از ۲۷ کشور عضو (که این تعداد رو به افزایش است) کارآمد نخواهد بود. سیاست‌مداران ارشد در برخی از کشورهای عضو (علی‌الخصوص فرانسه) پیشنهاد کرده‌اند که اگر تنها تعداد معدودی از کشورها این قانون را تأیید نکنند، سایر کشورها باید بدون آن‌ها (کشورهای مخالف) به کار خود ادامه دهند و احتمالاً «تجمعی نوین و پیشتاز» یا «اتحادیه داخلی از کشورهای عضو متعهدتر» تشکیل دهند.

نقش جامعه اروپا در داخل اتحادیه[ویرایش]

مجامع اروپا: جامعه اروپا به علاوه جامعه انرژی اتمی اروپا[ویرایش]

عبارت مجامع اروپا جمعاً به دو سازمان اشاره دارد: جامعه اقتصادی اروپا (که هم‌اکنون جامعه اروپا خوانده می‌شود) و جامعه انرژی اتمی اروپا (که یوراتم نیز نامیده می‌شود) و هرکدام متعاقب معاهده جداگانه‌ای در دهه ۱۹۵۰ تشکیل شدند. سازمان سومی با عنوان جامعه زغال سنگ و فولاد اروپا نیز قبلاً جزئی از مجامع اروپا به حساب می‌آمد اما از سال ۲۰۰۲ با اتمام (انقضای) معاهده آن، این سازمان نیز از بین رفت. از سال ۱۹۶۷، مجامع اروپا از نهادهای مشترکی به ویژه شورای اروپا، کنگره اروپا، کمیسیون و دادگاه اروپا، برخوردارند. در سال ۱۹۹۲، جامعه اقتصادی اروپا، که در آن زمان هر سه سازمان یادشده بیشترین میزان فعالیت خود را داشتند، به موجب معاهده ماستریخت به "جامعه اروپا تغییر نام داد.

اتحادیه اروپا: مجامع اروپا به همراه PJCC, CFSP[ویرایش]

مجامع اروپا یکی از سه ستون اتحادیه اروپا محسوب می‌شدند، مهم‌ترین ستون و تنها ستونی که در وهله اول از طریق نهادهای فراملی فعالیت می‌کند. دو ستون دیگر- سیاست مشترک خارجه و امنیت (CFSP)[۳۰] و همکاری مشترک پلیس و قوه قضاییه در امور کیفری (PJCC) – تقسیم‌بندی‌های ضعیفتر میان دولتی هستند. جای تعجب دارد که این دو ستون بسیار مورد توجه جامعه اروپا بوده‌است.

تأثیرات معاهده قانون اساسی[ویرایش]

در صورتی‌که معاهده پیشنهادی جدید که قانون اساسی اروپا را وضع می‌کند تصویب شود، این معاهده به ساختار سه ستونی خاتمه خواهد داد و در نتیجه تمایز میان اتحادیه اروپا و جامعه اروپا از بین می‌رود و تمامی فعالیت‌های جامعه اروپا تحت توجهات اتحادیه اروپا قرار می‌گیرد و شخصیت حقوقی جامعه اروپا به اتحادیه تبدیل می‌شود. با این حال، یک محدودیت وجود دارد: به نظر می‌رسد که یوراتم (جامعه انرژی اتمی اروپا) همچنان به عنوان سازمانی مجزا که به وسیله معاهده‌ای مجزا داده می‌شود باقی خواهد ماند. (و این امر بدین دلیل است که بحث و جدال شدیدی که مسئله انرژی هسته‌ای به راه انداخته و نیز بی‌اهمیتی نسبی یوراتم، سبب شده که مجزا نگه داشتن یوراتم در جریان اصلاح قانون اساسی اتحادیه اروپا به مصلحت تلقی شود).[۳۱]

چند ملیتی گرایی و میان دولتی گرایی[ویرایش]

در اتحادیه اروپا میان چند ملیتی گرایی و میان دولتی گرایی کشمکشی بنیادی وجود دارد. میان دولتی گرای روشی است برای تصمیم‌گیری در سازمان‌های بین‌المللی که در آن قدرت در اختیار کشورهای عضو است و تصمیمات با اتفاق آراء اتخاذ می‌شود. منصوب شدگان مستقل دولت‌ها یا نمایندگان منتخب تنها فعالیت‌های اجرایی و مشاوره‌ای انجام می‌دهند. امروزه بسیاری از سازمان‌های بین‌المللی از روش میان دولتی گرایی استفاده می‌کنند.

چند ملیتی گرایی یکی از روش‌های تصمیم‌گیری در سازمان‌های بین‌المللی است. در این روش قدرت در اختیار مقامات مستقل منصوب شده یا نمایندگان منتخب پارلمان یا افرادی از کشورهای عضو است. دول کشورهای عضو نیز همچنان قدرت دارند، اما باید قدرت خود را با دیگرانی که نقش ایفا می‌کنند تقسیم نمایند. به علاوه، تصمیم‌گیری‌ها با اکثریت آرا، انجام می‌شود و در نتیجه این امکان وجود دارد که یکی از کشورهای عضو مجبور شود تصمیم اتخاذ شده بر خلاف میل خود بپذیرد و اجرا سازد.

برخی در اتحادیه اروپا طرفدار رویکرد میان دولتی گرایی هستند و برخی دیگر طرفدار چند ملیتی گرایی، حامیان روش چند ملیتی گرایی چنین استدلال می‌کنند که این روش موجب یکپارچگی می‌شود و این امکان را فراهم می‌آورد تا با سرعتی بالا که در غیر این صورت امکان‌پذیر نبود به پیش رویم. هنگامی که قرار است تصمیم‌گیری توسط دولت‌ها و با اتفاق آراء انجام شود، این کار سال‌ها طول می‌کشد البته اگر در نهایت تصمیمی گرفته شود! طرفداران میان دولتی گرایی بر این عقیده‌اند که چند ملیتیسم تهدیدی است برای حاکمیت ملی و دموکراسی. این افراد مدعی هستند که تنها دول ملی باید از قانونیت دموکراتیک لازم برخوردار باشند. میان دولتی گرایی بیشتر مورد علاقه و توجه ملت‌هایی نظیر انگلستان، دانمارک و سوئد است. در حالیکه کشورهایی مانند بنلوکس (هلند، بلژیک و لوکزامبورگ)، فرانسه، آلمان و ایتالیا رویکرد چند ملیتی گرایی را ترجیح می‌دهند.

اتحادیه اروپا تلاش می‌کند بین این دو روش توازن برقرار سازد. با این حال، چنین توازنی پیچیده خواهد بود و ممکن است سبب پیچیده شدن فرایند تصمیم‌گیری شود.

  • همکاری، کشورهای عضو که در شورای اتحادیه اروپا با یکدیگر دیدار می‌کنند، توافق نمودند تا سیاست‌های داخلی خود را با یکدیگر هماهنگ سازند و با یکدیگر همکاری داشته باشند.

کشمکش میان صلاحیت اتحادیه اروپا و صلاحیت ملی در جریان رشد و توسعه اتحادیه اروپا همواره باقی خواهد ماند. تمامی اعضای آتی اتحادیه اروپا قوانینی وضع نمایند تا آن‌ها را در راستای چارچوب قانونی اتحادیه قرار دهد.

بازار واحد[ویرایش]

بسیاری از سیاست‌های اتحادیه اروپا به ایجاد و حفظ بازاری واحد و کارآمد مرتبط است. تلاش‌های قابل توجه برای وضع استانداردهای هماهنگ صورت گرفته تا سودهای اقتصادی از طریق ایجاد بازارهای بزرگتر و کارآمد حاصل شود. بازار واحد ابعاد داخلی و خارجی دارد:

سیاست‌های داخلی[ویرایش]

  • تجارت آزاد کالاها و خدمات در میان کشورهای عضو.
  • قانون رقابت اتحادیه اروپا که فعالیت‌های ضد رقابتی شرکت‌ها را از طریق قانون ضد اعتماد و کنترل ادغام و فعالیت‌های ضد رقابتی کشورهای عضو را از طریق نظام کمک‌های ایالتی کنترل می‌کند.
  • معاهده شنگن حذف نظارت بر مرزهای داخلی و نیز هماهنگ‌سازی نظارت بر مرزهای خارجی را میان کشورهای عضو میسر ساخته‌است. این معاهده انگلستان و ایرلند را که تنزل داشته‌اند حذف می‌کند اما کشورهای غیر عضو در اتحادیه اروپا مانند ایسلند و نروژ را در بر می‌گیرد. سوئیس نیز در سال ۲۰۰۵ به قرار گرفتن در منطقه شنگن رأی مثبت داد.
  • آزادی شهروندان کشورهای عضو برای زندگی و کار همراه با اعضاء خانواده در هر جایی از اتحادیه اروپا، مشروط بر اینکه شاغل یا محصل باشند یا منابع مالی کافی در اختیار داشته باشند. البته در عمل حتی اگر هیچ‌کدام از این موارد صادق نباشد باز هم می‌توانند به زندگی در کشور میزبان ادامه دهند تا زمانیکه هزینه‌های غیرموجه به کشور میزبان تحمیل نکنند. (این مسئله در مورد کشورهای منطقه اقتصادی اروپا و سوئیس نیز صادق است). این امر نابسامانی شدیدی را به دنبال داشته، زیرا مزایای رفاه اجتماعی مربوط به خانواده را کشور عضو می‌تواند در محل استخدام شهروند اتحادیه اروپا پرداخت نماید، حتی زمانی که خانواده کارمند مورد نظر در جای دیگری از اتحادیه ساکن باشند.
  • جابه‌جایی آزادانه سرمایه میان کشورهای عضو (و دیگر کشورهای منطقه اقتصادی اروپا).

هماهنگ‌سازی مقررات دولتی، قانون شرکت‌ها و ثبت مارک‌های تجاری.

  • منطقه یورو، منطقه‌ای که در آن تنها واحد پولی رایج یورو است (که انگلستان و دانمارک از جمله کشورهایی هستند که به نرخ برابری ارز نپیوسته و بدین ترتیب داوطلبانه خود را از اتحادیه پولی خارج ساخته‌اند)
  • هماهنگی وسیع سیاست‌های محیط زیست در سرتاسر اتحادیه.
  • سیستم عمومی مالیات غیر مستقیم، مالیات بر ارزش افزوده و نیز عوارض گمرکی و مالیات غیر مستقیم مشترک بر محصولات.
  • تأمین اعتبار برای رشد و توسعه مناطق محروم. اعتبارات ساختاری و انسجامی و نیز کمک‌های مالی اضطراری، اعتبار برای و حسرت و انسجام.

سیاست‌های خارجی و ارتش[ویرایش]

  • تعرفه گمرکی خارجی مشترک و موقعیتی مشترک در مذاکرات بین‌المللی تجارت.
  • تأمین اعتبار برای برنامه‌های کشورهای داوطلب و سایر کشورهای اروپایی و نیز کمک به بسیاری از کشورهای در حال توسعه از طریق برنامه‌هایی مانند ISPA,TACIS,Phare.[۳۲]
  • ایجاد جامعه انرژی تک بازاری از طریق معاهده جامعه انرژی جنوب – شرق اروپا.
  • ایجاد منطقه مشترک هواپیمایی اروپا / منطقه هواپیمایی با بازار واحد.
  • تأسیس مؤسسه دفاع اروپا.
  • ایجاد نیروی ضربت اروپا.

همکاری و هماهنگی در سایر مناطق[ویرایش]

  • آزادی شهروندان اتحادیه اروپا در رأی دادن در انتخابات دولتهای محلی و پارلمان اروپا در کشور محل زندگی (حتی اگر تبعه آن کشور نباشند).
  • همکاری در مسائل کیفری (شامل در اختیار قرار دادن اطلاعات جاسوسی از طریق EURUPOL و سیستم اطلاعاتی شنگن، توافق در مورد تخلفات کیفری و آیین دادرسی سریع.
  • سیاست خارجی و امنیتی مشترک به عنوان هدف آتی، البته تحقق این امر زمان

می‌برد. اختلافات میان کشورهای عضو و کشورهایی که در آن زمان هنوز عضو نبودند در مرحله آماده‌سازی برای حمله به عراق در سال ۲۰۰۳ آشکار ساخت که تحقق این امر به زمان زیادی نیاز دارد.

  • سیاست دفاع و امنیت اروپا ابلیس امنیتی مشترک، شامل راه‌اندازی نیروی ضربتی اروپا متشکل از ۶۰ هزار نیرو برای حفظ صلح، استخدام کارکنان نظامی / ارتشی و نیز مرکز اتحادی (ماهواره‌ای) اتحادیه اروپا (برای اهداف جاسوسی).
  • سیاست مشترک در مورد پناهندگی و مهاجرت.
  • تأمین اعتبار هزینه‌های تحقیقات و رشد و توسعه فناوری، از طریق برنامه ۴ ساله توسعه تحقیقات و فناوری.

پیمان شنگن[ویرایش]

پیمان شنگن موافقت نامه‌ای است که به برداشته شدن مرز بین چندین کشور اروپایی انجامید و امکان مسافرت بدون روادید بین این کشورها را فراهم کرد. این پیمان در سال ۱۹۸۵ بین پنج کشور اروپای غربی به امضاء رسید، و کشورهای دیگر به تدریج به این پیمان ملحق شدند. در حال حاضر پیمان شنگن شامل ۲۵ کشور اروپایی است.

ورود کشورهای اروپائی به پیمان شنگن
پرچم کشور وسعت
(km²)
جمعیت تصمیم به الحاق
تاریخ اجرا
اتریش اتریش ۸۳٬۸۷۱ ۸٬۴۱۴٬۶۳۸ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۴-۲۸ ۲۸ آوریل ۱۹۹۵ ۰۱۹۹۷-۱۲-۰۱ ۱ دسامبر ۱۹۹۷
بلژیک بلژیک ۳۰٬۵۲۸ ۱۱٬۰۰۷٬۰۲۰ ۰۱۹۸۵-۰۶-۱۴ ۱۴ ژوئن ۱۹۸۵ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
جمهوری چک جمهوری چک ۷۸٬۸۶۶ ۱۰٬۵۳۵٬۸۱۱ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
دانمارک دانمارک ۴۳٬۰۹۴ ۵٬۵۶۴٬۲۱۹ ۰۱۹۹۶-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۱۹۹۶ ۰۲۰۰۱-۰۳-۲۵ ۲۵ مارس ۲۰۰۱
استونی استونی ۴۵٬۲۲۶ ۱٬۳۴۰٬۱۹۴ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
فنلاند فنلاند ۳۳۸٬۱۴۵ ۵٬۳۹۱٬۷۰۰ ۰۱۹۹۶-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۱۹۹۶ ۰۲۰۰۱-۰۳-۲۵ ۲۵ مارس ۲۰۰۱
فرانسه فرانسه ۶۷۴٬۸۴۳ ۶۵٬۸۲۱٬۸۸۵ ۰۱۹۸۵-۰۶-۱۴ ۱۴ ژوئن ۱۹۸۵ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
آلمان آلمان ۳۵۷٬۰۵۰ ۸۱٬۷۹۹٬۶۰۰ ۰۱۹۸۵-۰۶-۱۴ ۱۴ ژوئن ۱۹۸۵ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
یونان یونان ۱۳۱٬۹۹۰ ۱۰٬۷۸۷٬۶۹۰ ۰۱۹۹۲-۱۱-۰۶ ۶ نوامبر ۱۹۹۲ ۰۲۰۰۰-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۲۰۰۰
مجارستان مجارستان ۹۳٬۰۳۰ ۹٬۹۷۹٬۰۰۰ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
ایسلند ایسلند ۱۰۳٬۰۰۰ ۳۱۸٬۴۵۲ ۰۱۹۹۶-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۱۹۹۶ ۰۲۰۰۱-۰۳-۲۵ ۲۵ مارس ۲۰۰۱
ایتالیا ایتالیا ۳۰۱٬۳۱۸ ۶۰٬۶۸۱٬۵۱۴ ۰۱۹۹۰-۱۱-۲۷ ۲۷ نوامبر ۱۹۹۰ ۰۱۹۹۷-۱۰-۲۶ ۲۶ اکتبر ۱۹۹۷
لتونی لاتویا ۶۴٬۵۸۹ ۲٬۲۴۵٬۳۵۷ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
لیختن‌اشتاین لیختن اشتاین ۱۶۰ ۳۶٬۰۱۰ ۰۲۰۰۸-۰۲-۲۸ ۲۸ فوریه ۲۰۰۸ ۰۲۰۱۱-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۲۰۱۱
لیتوانی لیتوانی ۶۵٬۳۰۳ ۳٬۲۰۷٬۰۶۰ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
لوکزامبورگ لوگزامبورگ ۲٬۵۸۶ ۵۱۱٬۸۴۰ ۰۱۹۸۵-۰۶-۱۴ ۱۴ ژوئن ۱۹۸۵ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
مالت مالت ۳۱۶ ۴۱۷٬۶۰۸ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷b
هلند هلند ۴۱٬۵۲۶ ۱۶٬۷۰۳٬۷۰۰ ۰۱۹۸۵-۰۶-۱۴ ۱۴ ژوئن ۱۹۸۵ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
نروژ نروژ ۳۸۵٬۱۵۵ ۴٬۹۹۳٬۳۰۰ ۰۱۹۹۶-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۱۹۹۶ ۰۲۰۰۱-۰۳-۲۵ ۲۵ مارس ۲۰۰۱
لهستان لهستان ۳۱۲٬۶۸۳ ۳۸٬۱۸۶٬۸۶۰ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
پرتغال پرتغال ۹۲٬۳۹۱ ۱۰٬۶۴۷٬۷۶۳ ۰۱۹۹۲-۰۶-۲۵ ۲۵ ژوئن ۱۹۹۲ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
اسلواکی اسلوواکی ۴۹٬۰۳۷ ۵٬۴۴۰٬۰۷۸ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
اسلوونی اسلوونی ۲۰٬۲۷۳ ۲٬۰۴۸٬۹۵۱ ۰۲۰۰۴-۰۵-۰۱ ۱ مه ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۷-۱۲-۲۱ ۲۱ دسامبر ۲۰۰۷
اسپانیا اسپانیا ۵۰۶٬۰۳۰ ۴۶٬۰۳۰٬۱۰۹ ۰۱۹۹۲-۰۶-۲۵ ۲۵ ژوئن ۱۹۹۲ ۰۱۹۹۵-۰۳-۲۶ ۲۶ مارس ۱۹۹۵
سوئد سوئد ۴۴۹٬۹۶۴ ۹٬۴۱۵٬۵۷۰ ۰۱۹۹۶-۱۲-۱۹ ۱۹ دسامبر ۱۹۹۶ ۰۲۰۰۱-۰۳-۲۵ ۲۵ مارس ۲۰۰۱
سوئیس سوییس ۴۱٬۲۸۵ ۷٬۸۶۶٬۵۰۰ ۰۲۰۰۴-۱۰-۲۶ ۲۶ اکتبر ۲۰۰۴ ۰۲۰۰۸-۱۲-۱۲ ۱۲ دسامبر ۲۰۰۸

اقتصاد[ویرایش]

اگر اتحادیه اروپا را سازمانی واحد تصور کنیم، این اتحادیه با فهرستی از کشورهایی که در سال ۲۰۰۵، ۱۲۴۲۷۴۱۳ میلیون دلار آمریکا تولید ناخالص داخلی داشته‌اند و از تعادل «موازنه قدرت خرید» استفاده می‌کنند، بزرگترین اقتصاد جهان را داراست. از آنجا که تعداد کشورهایی که به اتحادیه سیاسی می‌پیوندند رو به افزایش است و نیز با توجه به اینکه کشورهای جدید معمولاً از حد متوسط اتحادیه اروپا پایین‌تر هستند (فقیرترند) و این ظرفیت را دارند که با سرعت بیشتری رشد کنند، انتظار می‌رود که اقتصاد اتحادیه اروپا ظرف دهه آینده افزایش چشمگیر داشته باشد. شورای اروپا برآوردهای انجام شده در ۱۷ دسامبر ۲۰۰۵ را منتشر ساخت که نشان داد اقتصاد اتحادیه اروپا تقریباً ۵٪/۱ در سال ۲۰۰۵ و ۳٪/۲ در سال ۲۰۰۶ افزایش داشته که از رشد پیش‌بینی شده بیشتر بوده‌است. گزارش کامل کمیسیون اروپا در ۸ می۲۰۰۶.

اتحادیه اروپا، بزرگ‌ترین شریک تجاری ترکیه، چین، انگلستان، اسرائیل، ایالات متحده و … است.[۳۴]

سیاست مشترک کشاورزی[ویرایش]

سیاست مشترک کشاورزی (CAP) سیستم یارانه‌ای است که به کشاورزان اتحادیه اروپا پرداخت می‌شود. هدف اصلی از این سیاست این است که تولید حداقل میزان محصول تضمین شود تا مردم اروپا همواره غذای کافی برای خوردن داشته باشند و همچنین برای تضمین استاندارد زندگی عادلانه برای کسانی که زندگیشان به کشاورزی وابسته‌است. این سیاست را به اتهام اینکه ده‌ها سال است تجارت محصولات کشاورزی را مختل کرده مورد انتقاد قرار می‌دهند. در حالیکه اتحادیه اروپا به کشاورزانش تضمین می‌دهد که محصولات شان به قیمتی چندین برابر قیمت بازار جهانی فروش رود، تولیدکنندگان جهان سوم بی‌ثمرانه تلاش می‌کنند تا با این بازار ناعادلانه به رقابت بپردازند. این یارانه‌ها که از مالیات دهندگان اتحادیه اروپا به دست می‌آید، از طرفی استاندارد زندگی کشاورزان را در کشورهای اتحادیه اروپا تضمین می‌کند و از سوی دیگر تهدیدی است برای کار در جهان سوم که احتمالاً به افزایش فقر و سوء تغذیه نیز منجر می‌شود.

این سیاست حدود ۳۰ میلیارد پوند در سال (معادل نیمی از ۶۰ میلیارد پوند بودجه سالانه اتحادیه اروپا) هزینه خواهد داشت. مثال‌هایی از تلاش‌های مشترک برای متناسب ساختن مسائل مالی عبارت است از افزودن ۹ پوند به هزینه غذای هفتگی خانوار ۴ نفره و نیز اینکه درآمد سالانه لبنیات‌سازی اتحادیه اروپا از نیمی از جمعیت انسانی جهان پیشی گرفته‌است. مشکل دیگر این است که یارانه سبب تولید بیش از نیاز می‌شود. سیاست مشترک کشاورزی (CAP) را همچنین به دلیل ترغیب به زراعت گسترده که مخرب محیط زیست خواهد بود مورد انتقاد قرار داده‌اند. منتقدین می‌گویند CAP بسیار نامتوازن شده‌است به‌طوری‌که ۷۰٪ از اعتبارات آن صرف ۲۰٪ از زمین‌های کشاورزی اروپا می‌شود (عمدتاً بزرگترین زمینها) و حدود سه چهارم کشاورزان اتحادیه اروپا با کمتر از ۵۰۰۰ پوند در سال سر می‌کنند. زمین‌های کوچکتر حدود ۴۰٪ از زمین‌های اتحادیه اروپا را تشکیل می‌دهند، اما تنها ۸٪ یارانه از بروکسل دریافت می‌کنند. برای مثال، بر طبق ارقام دولت انگلستان، ۵ عدد از زمین‌های انگلستان سالانه بیش از یک میلیون پوند یارانه می‌گیرند.

از سال ۲۰۰۳، در بخش‌های مختلف، یکی پس از دیگری اصلاحات بنیادین صورت گرفته‌است. به جای اینکه به کشاورزان برای تولید پول بدهند (و بدین ترتیب به آن‌ها انگیزه دهند تا محصول مازاد برنیاز تولید کنند و در بازار جهانی به فروش برسانند)، به آن‌ها برای خود خدماتی مانند حفظ و توسعه روستایی اعتبار می‌دهند. هرچند که میزان کل حمایت مالی کاهش پیدا نکرده، اما تغییر در نوع یارانه تأثیر منفی بر روی تولیدکنندگان محصولات کشاورزی در کشورهای غیر عضو در اتحادیه اروپا را به میزان قابل توجه کاهش داده‌است. فرانسه گروه ضد اصلاحی متشکل از اسپانیا، جمهوری ایرلند و احتمالاً آلمان تشکیل داده‌است، در حالیکه سوئد و هلند خواهان تغییر هستند. یورو واحد پول اتحادیه اروپا است.

گوناگونی زیستی[ویرایش]

اتحادیه اروپا مأموریت ایجاد طرح عملیاتی گوناگونی زیستی را (با توجه به دیگر کشورهای پیشرفته) و به موجب قرار ریو در سال ۱۹۹۲ به شیوه‌های مختلف تفسیر کرده‌است. اتحادیه به جای اینکه فهرستی مشروح از بیوتا، و تحلیل تهدید ناشی از آن و طرح‌های عملیاتی برای گونه‌های زیستی، در متن سیاست‌های رشد اقتصادی مربوط به ماهیگیری، کشاورزی و غیره، به حفاظت از منابع زیستی اشاره کرده‌است.

هرچند که تعدادی از کشورهای در حال توسعه نیز از همین استراتژی استفاده کرده‌اند، اما اتحادیه اروپا به استانداردهایی که دیگر کشورهای پیشرفته مانند انگلستان، کانادا و استرالیا در خصوص شناسایی گونه‌ها، تحلیل راه‌های انقراض گونه‌ها و توسعه طرح‌های بازیابی بسیار ویژه وضع نموده‌اند توجه نکرده‌است. با این حال تعدادی از کشورهای عضو اتحادیه اروپا (مانند سوئد) اسنادی را مطابق با متن قرار داد ریو و با شرح جزئیات تنظیم کرده‌اند به گونه‌ای که با استانداردهای دیگر کشورهای پیشرفته مطابقت داشته باشد.

موانع زبانی[ویرایش]

یکی از انتقادات عمده‌ای که به اتحادیه اروپا وارد است این است که در این اتحادیه برای ۲۷ کشور عضو، ۲۴ زبان رسمی وجود دارد.[۳۵][۳۶][۳۷] (هرچند که در کمیسیون اروپا تنها سه زبان کاربرد دارد[۳۸][۳۹]) این امر باعث شده که به‌طور بالقوه به ۳۸۰ مترجم برای ترجمه تمامی بیانات به تمامی زبان‌های اتحادیه اروپا نیاز باشد.

پارلمان اروپا بیش از ۴۰۰۰ مترجم در استخدام دارد که این امر سالانه تقریباً یک میلیارد یورو هزینه دربردارد و معمولاً یک هفته طول می‌کشد تا ترجمه‌ها به زبان تمامی کشورهای عضو انجام شود. یکی از مشکلات این است که گاه اوقات (به دلیل اینکه برای برخی از زبان‌ها مترجمی وجود ندارد) لازم است ترجمه از طریق یک زبان میانجی صورت گیرد، که معمولاً سبب از بین رفتن برخی اطلاعات، از بین رفتن وضوح و حتی بدتر از آن، اشتباه و ترجمه می‌شود.

پیشنهاد شده‌است که به ویژه از سوی مأمور سابق انگلستان در اتحادیه اروپا با قرار دادن زبان انگلیسی به عنوان زبان رسمی اتحادیه اروپا می‌توان این هزینه‌ها را حذف کرد. برخی نیز پیشنهاد کرده‌اند که از اسپرانتو به عنوان زبان دوم در اتحادیه اروپا استفاده شود.

از سوی دیگر، بحث دموکراتیکی وجود دارد مبنی بر اینکه تمامی قوانین و در حقیقت تمامی قوانین پیشنهادی باید به زبان ملی اعضای اتحادیه اروپا در اختیار آن‌ها قرار گیرد. اتحادیه اروپا قوانین بسیاری را تصویب می‌کند که در مورد همه کشورهای عضو قابل اجرا است: اگر افراد عادی نتوانند به این اسناد به زبان خودشان دسترسی داشته باشند مناظره و پاسخگویی به شدت مختل خواهد شد و حتی بدتر از آن اینکه با این کار به برخی از کشورها بهای بیشتری داده خواهد شد.

منابع[ویرایش]

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این مقاله بخشی از این مجموعه است:
سیاست و دولت
اسکاتلند
نشان درگاه درگاه اسکاتلند

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background
Motto: "In Varietate Concordia" (Latin)
"United in Diversity"
Anthem: "Ode to Joy" (orchestral)
Globe projection with the European Union in green
Administrative centreBrussels
Largest cityLondon
Official languages
Official scripts[2]
Religion
(2015)
Demonym(s)European[4]
TypePolitical and economic union
Member states
GovernmentSupranational and intergovernmental
Donald Tusk
David Sassoli
Jean-Claude Juncker (caretaker)
Formation[5]
1 January 1958
1 July 1987
1 November 1993
1 December 2009
1 July 2013
Area
• Total
4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) (7th)
• Water (%)
3.08
Population
• 2019 estimate
Increase 513,481,691[6]
• Density
117.2/km2 (303.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2018 estimate
• Total
Increase $22.0 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $43,188[7]
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
Increase $18.7 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $36,550[8]
Gini (2017)Positive decrease 30.7[9]
medium
HDI (2017)Increase 0.899[c]
very high
CurrencyEuro (EUR; ; in eurozone) and
Time zoneUTC to UTC+2 (WET, CET, EET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+1 to UTC+3 (WEST, CEST, EEST)
(see also Summer Time in Europe)
Note: with the exception of the Canary Islands and Madeira, the outermost regions observe different time zones not shown.[d]
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD/CE)
See also: Date and time notation in Europe
Internet TLD.eu[e]
Website
europa.eu

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.[11] Its members have a combined area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market,[12] enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade,[13] agriculture,[14] fisheries and regional development.[15] For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished.[16] A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

The EU and European citizenship were established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993.[17] The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established, respectively, by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome. The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. The Communities and their successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to their remit. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009. No member state has left the EU or its antecedent organisations (Greenland, an autonomous territory within Denmark, left the Communities in 1985). The United Kingdom signified its intention to leave after a membership referendum in June 2016 and is negotiating its withdrawal. The United Kingdom and its independent territories are scheduled to leave the European Union by 31 January 2020.

Containing 7.3% of the world population,[18] the EU in 2017 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 19.670 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 24.6% of global nominal GDP.[19] Additionally, all 28 EU countries have a very high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Programme. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[20] Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Because of its global influence, the European Union was described in 2006 as an emerging superpower.[21]

History

Background

Scheme of Indo-European migrations from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the Kurgan hypothesis
  The assumed Urheimat (Khvalynsk culture) and the subsequent Yamnaya culture.
  Area possibly settled up to c. 2500 BCE.
  Area settled up to 1000 BCE.[22]
The Roman Empire in AD 117, at its greatest extent (with its vassals in pink).

During the centuries following the fall of Rome in 476, several European States viewed themselves as translatio imperii ("transfer of rule") of the defunct Roman Empire: the Frankish Empire (481–843) and the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) were thereby attempts to resurrect Rome in the West.[f] This political philosophy of a supra-national rule over the continent, similar to the example of the ancient Roman Empire, resulted in the early Middle Ages in the concept of a renovatio imperii ("restoration of the empire"),[24] either in the forms of the Reichsidee ("imperial idea") or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum ("christian empire").[25][26] Medieval Christendom[27][28] and the political power of the Papacy[29][30] are often cited as conducive to European integration and unity.

In the oriental parts of the continent, the Russian Tsardom, and ultimately the Empire (1547–1917), declared Moscow to be Third Rome and inheritor of the Eastern tradition after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.[31] The gap between Greek East and Latin West had already been widened by the political scission of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the Great Schism of 1054; and would be eventually widened again by the Iron Curtain (1945–91).[32]

Pan-European political thought truly emerged during the 19th century, inspired by the liberal ideas of the French and American Revolutions after the demise of Napoléon's Empire (1804–15). In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, ideals of European unity flourished across the continent, especially in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski,[33] Giuseppe Mazzini[34] or Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski.[35] The term United States of Europe (French: États-Unis d'Europe) was used at that time by Victor Hugo during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849:[36]

The Congress of Vienna met in 1814–15. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.

A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood ... A day will come when we shall see ... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas.

During the interwar period, the consciousness that national markets in Europe were interdependent though confrontational, along with the observation of a larger and growing US market on the other side of the ocean, nourished the urge for the economic integration of the continent.[37] In 1920, advocating the creation of a European economic union, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that "a Free Trade Union should be established ... to impose no protectionist tariffs whatever against the produce of other members of the Union."[38] During the same decade, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to imagine of a modern political union of Europe, founded the Pan-Europa Movement.[39] His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among which then Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 1929, the latter gave a speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations.[40] In a radio address in March 1943, with war still raging, Britain's leader Sir Winston Churchill spoke warmly of "restoring the true greatness of Europe" once victory had been achieved, and mused on the post-war creation of a "Council of Europe" which would bring the European nations together to build peace.[41]

Meeting in the Hall of Knights in The Hague, during the congress (May 9, 1948)

Preliminary (1945–57)

After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated parts of the continent.[42] In a speech delivered on 19 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill went further and advocated the emergence of a United States of Europe.[43] The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe's future leaders would live and study together.[44]

It also led directly to the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, the first great effort to bring the nations of Europe together, initially ten of them. The Council focused primarily on values—human rights and democracy—rather than on economic or trade issues, and was always envisaged as a forum where sovereign governments could choose to work together, with no supra-national authority. It raised great hopes of further European integration, and there were fevered debates in the two years that followed as to how this could be achieved.

But in 1952, disappointed at what they saw as the lack of progress within the Council of Europe, six nations decided to go further and created the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe".[45] This community helped to economically integrate and coordinate the large number of Marshall Plan funds from the United States.[46] European leaders Alcide De Gasperi from Italy, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman from France, and Paul-Henri Spaak from Belgium understood that coal and steel were the two industries essential for waging war, and believed that by tying their national industries together, future war between their nations became much less likely.[47] These men and others are officially credited as the founding fathers of the European Union.

Treaty of Rome (1957–92)

The continental territories of the member states of the European Union (European Communities pre-1993), coloured in order of accession

In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and established a customs union. They also signed another pact creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958.[47]

The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC and they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly. The EEC was headed by Walter Hallstein (Hallstein Commission) and Euratom was headed by Louis Armand (Armand Commission) and then Étienne Hirsch. Euratom was to integrate sectors in nuclear energy while the EEC would develop a customs union among members.[48][49]

During the 1960s, tensions began to show, with France seeking to limit supranational power. Nevertheless, in 1965 an agreement was reached and on 1 July 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities.[50][51] Jean Rey presided over the first merged Commission (Rey Commission).[52]

In 1989, the Iron Curtain fell, enabling the Community to expand further (Berlin Wall pictured)

In 1973, the Communities were enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Communities in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom.[53] Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held.[54]

Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986.[55] In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states.[56] In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC[57] and the Single European Act was signed.

In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Communities as part of a reunified Germany.[58] A close fiscal integration with the introduction of the euro was not matched by institutional oversight making things more troubling.[when?] Attempts to solve the problems and to make the EU[when?] more efficient and coherent had limited success.[59]

Maastricht Treaty (1992–2007)

The euro was introduced in 2002, replacing 12 national currencies. Seven countries have since joined.

The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty—whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand—came into force on 1 November 1993.[17][60] The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred as such before the treaty. With further enlargement planned to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. The expansion of the EU introduced a new level of complexity and discord.[59] In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.

In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the eurozone has increased to encompass 19 countries. The euro currency became the second largest reserve currency in the world. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the Union.[61]

Lisbon Treaty (2007–present)

The Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009

In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. The same year, Slovenia adopted the euro,[61] followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, by Slovakia in 2009, by Estonia in 2011, by Latvia in 2014, and by Lithuania in 2015.

On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and reformed many aspects of the EU. In particular, it changed the legal structure of the European Union, merging the EU three pillars system into a single legal entity provisioned with a legal personality, created a permanent President of the European Council, the first of which was Herman Van Rompuy, and strengthened the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.[62][63]

Group photograph of European Union heads of government on occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Rome, Italy

In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe."[64][65] In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member.[66]

From the beginning of the 2010s, the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues, including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from the Middle East, and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.[67] A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held in 2016, with 51.9% of participants voting to leave.[68] The UK formally notified the European Council of its decision to leave on 29 March 2017, initiating the formal withdrawal procedure for leaving the EU, committing the UK in principle to leave the EU two years later, on 29 March 2019,[69] unless an extension was sought and granted, which occurred.

Structural evolution

The following timeline illustrates the integration that has led to the formation of the present union, in terms of structural development driven by international treaties:

Signed:
In force:
Document:
1947
1947
Dunkirk
Treaty
1948
1948
Brussels
Treaty
1951
1952
Paris
Treaty
1954
1955
Modified
Brussels
Treaty
1957
1958
Rome &
Euratom
treaties
1965
1967
Merger
Treaty
1975
1976
Council
Agreement
on TREVI
1986
1987
Single
European
Act
1985/90
1995
Schengen
Treaty
&
Convention
1992
1993
Maastricht Treaty
1997
1999
Amsterdam
Treaty
2001
2003
Nice
Treaty
2007
2009
Lisbon
Treaty
 
                           
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities
(with common institutions)
 
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)   European Community (EC)
        Schengen Rules  
    Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism and Violence Internationally (TREVI) Justice and Home Affairs
(JHA)
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
  European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Franco-British alliance Western Union (WU)
(Cannibalised militarily by NATO in 1951)
Western European Union (WEU)
(Social and cultural activities transferred to the Council of Europe in 1960)
   
Treaty terminated in 2011    
                       

Future enlargement

The criteria for accession to the Union are included in the Copenhagen criteria, agreed in 1993, and the Treaty of Maastricht (Article 49). Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty (as amended) says that any "European state" that respects the "principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law", may apply to join the EU. Whether a country is European or not is subject to political assessment by the EU institutions.[70]

There are five recognised candidates for future membership of the Union: Turkey (applied on 14 April 1987), North Macedonia (applied on 22 March 2004 as "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"), Montenegro (applied in 2008), Albania (applied in 2009), and Serbia (applied in 2009). While the others are progressing, Turkish talks are at an effective standstill.[71][72][73]

Demographics

Population

EU population density in 2014

As of 1 January 2019, the population of the European Union was about 513.5 million people (6.9% of the world population).[6][74] In 2015, 5.1 million children were born in the EU-28, corresponding to a birth rate of 10 per 1,000, which is 8 births below the world average.[75] For comparison, the EU-28 birth rate had stood at 10.6 in 2000, 12.8 in 1985 and 16.3 in 1970.[76] Its population growth rate was positive at an estimated 0.23% in 2016.[77]

In 2010, 47.3 million people who lived in the EU were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million).[78] In 2017, approximately 825,000 persons acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union. The largest groups were nationals of Morocco, Albania, India, Turkey and Pakistan.[79] 2.4 million immigrants from non-EU countries entered the EU in 2017.[80][81]

Urbanisation

The EU contains about 40 urban areas with populations of over one million, including the two megacities (cities with a population of over 10 million) of London and Paris.[82] Also, there are several other metropolises with a population of over 5 million like Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and includes polycentric urbanised regions like Rhine-Ruhr (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt Rhine-Main, the Flemish Diamond (Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven, Ghent et al.) and Upper Silesian area (Katowice, Ostrava et al.).[82]


Languages

Language Native speakers Total
English 13% 51%
German 18% 32%
French 13% 26%
Italian 12% 16%
Spanish 8% 15%
Polish 8% 9%
Romanian 5% 5%
Dutch 4% 5%
Greek 3% 4%
Hungarian 3% 3%
Portuguese 2% 3%
Czech 2% 3%
Swedish 2% 3%
Bulgarian 2% 2%
Slovak 1% 2%
Danish 1% 1%
Finnish 1% 1%
Lithuanian 1% 1%
Croatian 1% 1%
Slovene <1% <1%
Estonian <1% <1%
Irish <1% <1%
Latvian <1% <1%
Maltese <1% <1%

Survey 2012.[84]
Native: Native language[85]
Total: EU citizens able to hold a
conversation in this language[86]

The European Union has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish. Important documents, such as legislation, are translated into every official language and the European Parliament provides translation for documents and plenary sessions.[87][88][89]

Due to the high number of official idioms, most of the institutions use only a handful of working languages.[90] The European Commission conducts its internal business in three procedural languages: English, French, and German. Similarly, the European Court of Justice uses French as the working language,[91][92] while the European Central Bank conducts its business primarily in English.[93][94]

Even though language policy is the responsibility of member states, EU institutions promote multilingualism among its citizens.[g][95] English is the most widely spoken language in the EU, being understood by 51% of the EU population when counting both native and non-native speakers.[96] German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (16% of the EU population). More than half (56%) of EU citizens are able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.[97]

Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, represented by the Balto-Slavic,[h] the Italic,[i] the Germanic,[j] the Hellenic,[k] and the Celtic[l] branches. Some EU languages, namely Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian (all three Uralic), Basque[m] (isolate) and Maltese (Semitic), do not belong to Indo-European languages.[98] The three official alphabets of the European Union (Cyrillic, Latin, and modern Greek) all derive from the Archaic Greek scripts.[2][99]

Besides the 24 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people.[98] Catalan, Galician, Basque, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh are not recognised official languages of the European Union but have semi-official status: official translations of the treaties are made into them and citizens have the right to correspond with the institutions in these languages.[100][101] The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by most EU states provides general guidelines that states can follow to protect their linguistic heritage. The European Day of Languages is held annually on 26 September and is aimed at encouraging language learning across Europe.[102]

Religion

Religious affiliation in the European Union (2015)[3]
Affiliation % of EU population
Christian 71.6 71.6
 
Catholic 45.3 45.3
 
Protestant 11.1 11.1
 
Eastern Orthodox 9.6 9.6
 
Other Christian 5.6 5.6
 
Muslim 1.8 1.8
 
Other faiths 2.6 2.6
 
Irreligious 24 24
 
Non-believer/Agnostic 13.6 13.6
 
Atheist 10.4 10.4
 

The EU has no formal connection to any religion. The Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union[103] recognises the "status under national law of churches and religious associations" as well as that of "philosophical and non-confessional organisations".[104]

The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe".[104] Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or a god, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.[105]

Christians in the European Union are divided among members of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern Rite), numerous Protestant denominations (Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed forming the bulk of this category), and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million,[106] and an estimated Jewish population of over a million.[107] The other world religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism are also represented in the EU population.

According to new polls about religiosity in the European Union in 2015 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union, accounting for 71.6% of the EU population. Catholics are the largest Christian group, accounting for 45.3% of the EU population, while Protestants make up 11.1%, Eastern Orthodox make up 9.6%, and other Christians make up 5.6%.[3]

Eurostat's Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52% of EU citizens believed in a god, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18% had no form of belief.[108] Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years.[109] The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16%) and the Czech Republic (19%).[108] The most religious countries were Malta (95%, predominantly Roman Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90% of citizens professing a belief in their respective god. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, older people, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 or 16, and those "positioning themselves on the right of the political scale".[108]

Member states

Through successive enlargements, the European Union has grown from the six founding states (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) to the current 28. Countries accede to the union by becoming party to the founding treaties, thereby subjecting themselves to the privileges and obligations of EU membership. This entails a partial delegation of sovereignty to the institutions in return for representation within those institutions, a practice often referred to as "pooling of sovereignty".[110][111]

To become a member, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 meeting of the European Council in Copenhagen. These require a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country's fulfilment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council.[112] No member state has yet left the Union, although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985.[113] Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides the basis for a member to leave the Union.[114] Since mid-2017, the United Kingdom has been negotiating terms for its withdrawal from the EU.

There are six countries that are recognised as candidates for membership: Albania, Iceland, North Macedonia,[n] Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey,[115] though Iceland suspended negotiations in 2013.[116] Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates,[115] with Bosnia and Herzegovina having submitted a membership application.

The four countries forming the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are not EU members, but have partly committed to the EU's economy and regulations: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are a part of the single market through the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, which has similar ties through bilateral treaties.[117][118] The relationships of the European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City include the use of the euro and other areas of co-operation.[119] The following 28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the European Union:[120]

FinlandSwedenEstoniaLatviaLithuaniaPolandSlovakiaHungaryRomaniaBulgariaGreeceCyprusCzech RepublicAustriaSloveniaItalyMaltaPortugalSpainFranceGermanyLuxembourgBelgiumNetherlandsDenmarkUnited KingdomIrelandMap showing the member states of the European Union (clickable)
About this image
List of member states
Arms Flag State Capital Code Accession Population
(2019)[6]
Area Population
density
MEPs
Coat of arms of Austria Austria Vienna AT 199501011 January 1995 8,858,775 83,855 km2
(32,377 sq mi)
106/km2
(270/sq mi)
18
Coat of arms of Belgium Belgium Brussels BE 19570325Founder 11,467,923 30,528 km2
(11,787 sq mi)
376/km2
(970/sq mi)
21
Coat of arms of Bulgaria Bulgaria Sofia BG 200701011 January 2007 7,000,039 110,994 km2
(42,855 sq mi)
63/km2
(160/sq mi)
17
Coat of arms of Croatia Croatia Zagreb HR 201307011 July 2013 4,076,246 56,594 km2
(21,851 sq mi)
72/km2
(190/sq mi)
11
Coat of arms of Cyprus Cyprus Nicosia CY 200405011 May 2004 875,898 9,251 km2
(3,572 sq mi)
95/km2
(250/sq mi)
6
Coat of arms of the Czech Republic Czech Republic Prague CZ 200405011 May 2004 10,649,800 78,866 km2
(30,450 sq mi)
135/km2
(350/sq mi)
21
Coat of arms of Denmark Denmark Copenhagen DK 197301011 January 1973 5,806,081 43,075 km2
(16,631 sq mi)
135/km2
(350/sq mi)
13
Coat of arms of Estonia Estonia Tallinn EE 200405011 May 2004 1,324,820 45,227 km2
(17,462 sq mi)
29/km2
(75/sq mi)
6
Coat of arms of Finland Finland Helsinki FI 199501011 January 1995 5,517,919 338,424 km2
(130,666 sq mi)
16/km2
(41/sq mi)
13
Coat of arms of France France Paris FR 19570325Founder 67,028,048 640,679 km2
(247,368 sq mi)
105/km2
(270/sq mi)
74
Coat of arms of Germany Germany Berlin DE 19570325Founder[o] 83,019,214 357,021 km2
(137,847 sq mi)
233/km2
(600/sq mi)
96
Coat of arms of Greece Greece Athens GR 198101011 January 1981 10,722,287 131,990 km2
(50,960 sq mi)
81/km2
(210/sq mi)
21
Coat of arms of Hungary Hungary Budapest HU 200401011 May 2004 9,797,561 93,030 km2
(35,920 sq mi)
105/km2
(270/sq mi)
21
Coat of arms of Ireland Ireland Dublin IE 197301011 January 1973 4,904,226 70,273 km2
(27,133 sq mi)
70/km2
(180/sq mi)
11
Coat of arms of Italy Italy Rome IT 19570325Founder 60,359,546 301,338 km2
(116,347 sq mi)
200/km2
(520/sq mi)
73
Coat of arms of Latvia Latvia Riga LV 200405011 May 2004 1,919,968 64,589 km2
(24,938 sq mi)
30/km2
(78/sq mi)
8
Coat of arms of Lithuania Lithuania Vilnius LT 200405011 May 2004 2,794,184 65,200 km2
(25,200 sq mi)
43/km2
(110/sq mi)
11
EU Member States' CoA Series- Luxembourg.svg Luxembourg Luxembourg City LU 19570325Founder 613,894 2,586 km2
(998 sq mi)
237/km2
(610/sq mi)
6
Coat of arms of Malta Malta Valletta MT 200405011 May 2004 493,559 316 km2
(122 sq mi)
1,562/km2
(4,050/sq mi)
6
Coat of arms of the Netherlands Netherlands Amsterdam NL 19570325Founder 17,282,163 41,543 km2
(16,040 sq mi)
416/km2
(1,080/sq mi)
26
Coat of arms of Poland Poland Warsaw PL 200405011 May 2004 37,972,812 312,685 km2
(120,728 sq mi)
121/km2
(310/sq mi)
51
Coat of arms of Portugal Portugal Lisbon PT 198601011 January 1986 10,276,617 92,390 km2
(35,670 sq mi)
111/km2
(290/sq mi)
21
Coat of arms of Romania Romania Bucharest RO 200701011 January 2007 19,401,658 238,391 km2
(92,043 sq mi)
81/km2
(210/sq mi)
32
Coat of arms of Slovakia Slovakia Bratislava SK 200405011 May 2004 5,450,421 49,035 km2
(18,933 sq mi)
111/km2
(290/sq mi)
13
Coat of arms of Slovenia Slovenia Ljubljana SI 200405011 May 2004 2,080,908 20,273 km2
(7,827 sq mi)
103/km2
(270/sq mi)
8
Coat of arms of Spain Spain Madrid ES 198601011 January 1986 46,934,632 504,030 km2
(194,610 sq mi)
93/km2
(240/sq mi)
54
Coat of arms of Sweden Sweden Stockholm SE 199501011 January 1995 10,230,185 449,964 km2
(173,732 sq mi)
23/km2
(60/sq mi)
20
Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom United Kingdom London GB 197301011 January 1973 66,647,112 243,610 km2
(94,060 sq mi)
274/km2
(710/sq mi)
73
28 total 513,481,691 4,475,757 km2
(1,728,099 sq mi)
115/km2
(300/sq mi)
751

Geography

The EU's member states cover an area of 4,423,147 square kilometres (1,707,787 sq mi).[p] The EU's highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level.[121] The lowest points in the EU are Lammefjorden, Denmark and Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands, at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level.[122] The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is 65,993 kilometres (41,006 mi) long.

Including the overseas territories of France which are located outside the continent of Europe, but which are members of the union, the EU experiences most types of climate from Arctic (north-east Europe) to tropical (French Guiana), rendering meteorological averages for the EU as a whole meaningless. The majority of the population lives in areas with a temperate maritime climate (North-Western Europe and Central Europe), a Mediterranean climate (Southern Europe), or a warm summer continental or hemiboreal climate (Northern Balkans and Central Europe).[123]

The EU's population is highly urbanised, with some 75% of inhabitants living in urban areas as of 2006. Cities are largely spread out across the EU with a large grouping in and around the Benelux.[124]

Politics

Organigram of the political system with the seven institutions of the Union in blue, national / intergovernmental elements in orange
The candidates standing onstage
European Commission presidency candidates at Eurovision Debate (May 2019). Left to right: Zahradil, Cué, Keller, Vestager, Timmermans, Weber

The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making,[125][126] and according to the principles of conferral (which says that it should act only within the limits of the competences conferred on it by the treaties) and of subsidiarity (which says that it should act only where an objective cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states acting alone). Laws made by the EU institutions are passed in a variety of forms.[127] Generally speaking, they can be classified into two groups: those which come into force without the necessity for national implementation measures (regulations) and those which specifically require national implementation measures (directives).[128]

Constitutionally, the EU bears some resemblance to both a confederation and a federation,[129][130] but has not formally defined itself as either. (It does not have a formal constitution: its status is defined by the Treaty of European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). It is more integrated than a traditional confederation of states because the general level of government widely employs qualified majority voting in some decision-making among the member states, rather than relying exclusively on unanimity.[131][132] It is less integrated than a federal state because it is not a state in its own right: sovereignty continues to flow 'from the bottom up', from the several peoples of the separate member states, rather than from a single undifferentiated whole. This is reflected in the fact that the member states remain the 'masters of the Treaties', retaining control over the allocation of competences to the Union through constitutional change (thus retaining so-called Kompetenz-kompetenz); in that they retain control of the use of armed force; they retain control of taxation; and in that they retain a right of unilateral withdrawal from the Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. In addition, the principle of subsidiarity requires that only those matters that need to be determined collectively are so determined.

The European Union has seven principal decision-making bodies, its institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. Competence in scrutinising and amending legislation is shared between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, while executive tasks are performed by the European Commission and in a limited capacity by the European Council (not to be confused with the aforementioned Council of the European Union). The monetary policy of the eurozone is determined by the European Central Bank. The interpretation and the application of EU law and the treaties are ensured by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The EU budget is scrutinised by the European Court of Auditors. There are also a number of ancillary bodies which advise the EU or operate in a specific area.

  • the European Council, which sets the general political directions and priorities of the Union by gathering together its member states' heads of state/government (elected chief executives). The conclusions of its summits (held at least quarterly) are adopted by consensus.
  • the European Commission, the only institution empowered to propose legislation, serves as the "Guardian of the Treaties". It consists of an executive cabinet of public officials, led by an indirectly elected President. This College of Commissioners manages and directs the Commission's permanent civil service. It turns the consensus objectives of the European Council into legislative proposals.
  • the Council of the European Union brings together ministers of member states governments' departments. It serves to represent the various governments directly and its approval is required for any proposal to enter into law.
  • the European Parliament consists of 751 directly elected representatives. It shares with the Council of the EU equal legislative powers to amend, approve or reject Commission proposals for most areas of EU legislation. Its powers are limited in areas where member states' view sovereignty to be of primary concern (i.e. defence). It elects the Commission's President, must approve the College of Commissioners, and may vote to remove them collectively from office.
  • the Court of Justice of the European Union ensures the uniform application of EU law and resolves disputes between EU institutions and member states, and against EU institutions on behalf of individuals.
  • the European Central Bank is responsible for monetary stability within member states.
  • the European Court of Auditors investigates the proper management of finances within both the EU entities and EU funding provided to its member states. As well as providing oversight and advice, it can refer unresolved issues to the European Court of Justice to arbitrate on any alleged irregularities.

EU policy is in general promulgated by EU directives, which are then implemented in the domestic legislation of its member states, and EU regulations, which are immediately enforceable in all member states. Lobbying at EU level by special interest groups is regulated to try to balance the aspirations of private initiatives with public interest decision-making process[133]

European Parliament

The hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

The European Parliament is one of three legislative institutions of the EU, which together with the Council of the European Union is tasked with amending and approving the Commission's proposals. The 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years on the basis of proportional representation. MEPs are elected on a national basis and they sit according to political groups rather than their nationality. Each country has a set number of seats and is divided into sub-national constituencies where this does not affect the proportional nature of the voting system.[134]

In the ordinary legislative procedure, the European Commission proposes legislation, which requires the joint approval of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to pass. This process applies to nearly all areas, including the EU budget. The Parliament is the final body to approve or reject the proposed membership of the Commission, and can attempt motions of censure on the Commission by appeal to the Court of Justice. The President of the European Parliament (currently David Sassoli) 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.[135]

European Council

The European Council gives political direction to the EU. It convenes at least four times a year and comprises the President of the European Council (currently Donald Tusk), the President of the European Commission and one representative per member state (either its head of state or head of government). The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently Federica Mogherini) also takes part in its meetings. It has been described by some as the Union's "supreme political authority".[136] It is actively involved in the negotiation of treaty changes and defines the EU's policy agenda and strategies.

The European Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies. It acts externally as a "collective head of state" and ratifies important documents (for example, international agreements and treaties).[137]

Tasks for the President of the European Council are ensuring the external representation of the EU,[138] driving consensus and resolving divergences among member states, both during meetings of the European Council and over the periods between them.

The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent of the EU based in Strasbourg.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (also called the "Council"[139] and the "Council of Ministers", its former title)[140] forms one half of the EU's legislature. It consists of a government minister from each member state and meets in different compositions depending on the policy area being addressed. Notwithstanding its different configurations, it is considered to be one single body.[141] In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

In some policies, there are several member states that ally with strategic partners within the Union. Visegrad Group, Benelux, Baltic Assembly, New Hanseatic League or Craiova Group.

European Commission

The European Commission acts both as the EU's executive arm, responsible for the day-to-day running of the EU, and also the legislative initiator, with the sole power to propose laws for debate.[142][143][144] The Commission is 'guardian of the Treaties' and is responsible for their efficient operation and policing.[145] It operates de facto as a cabinet government, with 28 Commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state, though Commissioners are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state.

One of the 28 is the President of the European Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker for 2014–2019), appointed by the European Council, subject to the Parliament's approval. After the President, the most prominent Commissioner is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is ex-officio a Vice-President of the Commission and is also chosen by the European Council.[146] The other 26 Commissioners are subsequently appointed by the Council of the European Union in agreement with the nominated President. The 28 Commissioners as a single body are subject to approval (or otherwise) by vote of the European Parliament.

Budget

The 2011 EU budget (€141.9 bn)[147]

  Cohesion and competitiveness for growth and employment (45%)
  Direct aids and market related expenditures (31%)
  Rural development (11%)
  EU as a global partner (6%)
  Administration (6%)
  Citizenship, freedom, security and justice (1%)

The EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013,[148] representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03% of GDP.[149]

In the 2010 budget of €141.5 billion, the largest single expenditure item is "cohesion & competitiveness" with around 45% of the total budget.[150] Next comes "agriculture" with approximately 31% of the total.[150] "Rural development, environment and fisheries" takes up around 11%.[150] "Administration" accounts for around 6%.[150] The "EU as a global partner" and "citizenship, freedom, security and justice" bring up the rear with approximately 6% and 1% respectively.[150]

The Court of Auditors is legally obliged to provide the Parliament and the Council with "a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions".[151] The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions.[152] The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission's handling of the budget.

The European Court of Auditors has signed off the European Union accounts every year since 2007 and, while making it clear that the European Commission has more work to do, has highlighted that most of the errors take place at national level.[153][154] In their report on 2009 the auditors found that five areas of Union expenditure, agriculture and the cohesion fund, were materially affected by error.[155] The European Commission estimated in 2009 that the financial effect of irregularities was €1,863 million.[156]

Competences

EU member states retain all powers not explicitly handed to the European Union. In some areas the EU enjoys exclusive competence. These are areas in which member states have renounced any capacity to enact legislation. In other areas the EU and its member states share the competence to legislate. While both can legislate, member states can only legislate to the extent to which the EU has not. In other policy areas the EU can only co-ordinate, support and supplement member state action but cannot enact legislation with the aim of harmonising national laws.[157]

That a particular policy area falls into a certain category of competence is not necessarily indicative of what legislative procedure is used for enacting legislation within that policy area. Different legislative procedures are used within the same category of competence, and even with the same policy area.

The distribution of competences in various policy areas between Member States and the Union is divided in the following three categories:

As outlined in Title I of Part I of the consolidated Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
Exclusive competence
Shared competence
Supporting competence
The Union has exclusive competence to make directives and conclude international agreements when provided for in a Union legislative act as to …
Member States cannot exercise competence in areas where the Union has done so, that is …
Union exercise of competence shall not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs in …
  • research, technological development and (outer) space
  • development cooperation, humanitarian aid
The Union coordinates Member States policies or implements supplemental to their common policies not covered elsewhere in …
The Union can carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement Member States' actions in …
  • the protection and improvement of human health
  • industry
  • culture
  • tourism
  • education, youth, sport and vocational training
  • civil protection (disaster prevention)
  • administrative cooperation

Legal system and Justice

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.[158] 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[q] which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants.[r] The EU has legal personality, with the right to sign agreements and international treaties.[159]

Under the principle of supremacy, 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.[s]

The direct effect and supremacy doctrines were not explicitly set out the European Treaties but were developed by the Court of Justice itself over the 1960s, apparently under the influence of its then most influential judge, Frenchman Robert Lecourt[160]

Courts of Justice

The Court of Justice, seated in Luxembourg City

The judicial branch of the EU—formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union—consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court[161] The Court of Justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions, and cases referred to it by the courts of member states.[162] Because of the doctrines of direct effect and supremacy, many judgments of the Court of Justice are automatically applicable within the internal legal orders of the member states.

The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts,[163] and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service.[164] Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.[165]

Fundamental rights

The Parada Równości in Warsaw in 2018, when the Court of Justice declared that same-sex spouses have EU residence rights.[166]

The treaties declare that the EU itself is "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities ... in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."[167]

In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty gave legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The charter is a codified catalogue of fundamental rights against which the EU's legal acts can be judged. It consolidates many rights which were previously recognised by the Court of Justice and derived from the "constitutional traditions common to the member states."[168] The Court of Justice has long recognised fundamental rights and has, on occasion, invalidated EU legislation based on its failure to adhere to those fundamental rights.[169]

Signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership[t] previously, the EU itself could not accede to the Convention as it is neither a state[u] nor had the competence to accede.[v] The Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the ECHR have changed this: the former binds the EU to accede to the Convention while the latter formally permits it.

The EU is independent from the Council of Europe and they share purpose and ideas especially on rule of law, human rights and democracy. Further European Convention on Human Rights and European Social Charter, the source of law of Charter of Fundamental Rights are created by Council of Europe. The EU also promoted human rights issues in the wider world. The EU opposes the death penalty and has proposed its worldwide abolition. Abolition of the death penalty is a condition for EU membership.[170]

Acts

The main legal acts of the EU come in three forms: regulations, directives, and decisions. Regulations become law in all member states the moment they come into force, without the requirement for any implementing measures,[w] and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions.[q] 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.[x] 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, companies or a particular member state. 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.[171]

Home affairs and Migration

Since the creation of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of justice and home affairs; initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism. Accordingly, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition,[172] family law,[173] asylum law,[174] and criminal justice.[175] Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties.[y] In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation.[z] By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.[aa]

The Union has also established agencies to co-ordinate police, prosecutorial and immigrations controls across the member states: Europol for co-operation of police forces,[176] Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors,[177] and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities.[178] The EU also operates the Schengen Information System[16] which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities. This co-operation had to particularly be developed with the advent of open borders through the Schengen Agreement and the associated cross border crime.

Foreign relations

The EU participates in all G8 and G20 summits. (G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, 2016).

Foreign policy co-operation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the EU's common commercial policy.[179] Steps for a more wide-ranging co-ordination 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. In 1987 the 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.[180]

The aims of the CFSP are to promote both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole, including the furtherance of international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.[181] The CFSP requires unanimity among the member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP sometimes lead to disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq.[182]

The coordinator and representative of the CFSP within the EU is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy and defence matters, and has the task of articulating the positions expressed by the member states on these fields of policy into a common alignment. The High Representative heads up the European External Action Service (EEAS), a unique EU department[183] that has been officially implemented and operational since 1 December 2010 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.[184] The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union.[185]

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 an important factor contributing to the reform of European formerly Communist countries.[186]:762 This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".[187]

Defence

Out of the 28 EU member states, 22 are also members of NATO. Another three NATO members are EU applicants – Albania, Montenegro and Turkey.

The predecessors of the European Union were not devised as a military alliance because NATO was largely seen as appropriate and sufficient for defence purposes.[188] 22 EU members are members of NATO[189] while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality.[190] The Western European Union, a military alliance with a mutual defence clause, was disbanded in 2010 as its role had been transferred to the EU.[191]

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United Kingdom spent $61 billion on defence in 2014, placing it fifth in the world, while France spent $53 billion, the sixth largest.[192] Together, the UK and France account for approximately 40 per cent of European countries' defence budget and 50 per cent of their military capacity.[193] Both are officially recognised nuclear weapon states holding permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Most EU member states opposed the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.[194]

The Bulgarian fleet in Varna, Black Sea.

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 personnel.[195]

EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from middle and northern Africa to the western Balkans and western Asia.[196] EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, European Union Satellite Centre and the European Union Military Staff.[197] Frontex is an agency of the EU established to manage the cooperation between national border guards securing its external borders. It aims to detect and stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration. In 2015 the European Commission presented its proposal for a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency having a stronger role and mandate along with national authorities for border management. In an EU consisting of 28 members, substantial security and defence co-operation is increasingly relying on collaboration among all member states.[198]

Humanitarian aid

If considered collectively, EU member states are the largest contributor of foreign aid in the world.[199][200]

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2012, its budget amounted to €874 million, 51% of the budget went to Africa and 20% to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific, and 20% to the Middle East and Mediterranean.[201]

Humanitarian aid is financed directly by the budget (70%) as part of the financial instruments for external action and also by the European Development Fund (30%).[202] The EU's external action financing is divided into 'geographic' instruments and 'thematic' instruments.[202] The 'geographic' instruments provide aid through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI, €16.9 billion, 2007–2013), which must spend 95% of its budget on official development assistance (ODA), and from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which contains some relevant programmes.[202] The European Development Fund (EDF, €22.7 billion for the period 2008–2013 and €30.5 billion for the period 2014-2020) is made up of voluntary contributions by member states, but there is pressure to merge the EDF into the budget-financed instruments to encourage increased contributions to match the 0.7% target and allow the European Parliament greater oversight.[202][203]

In 2016, the average among EU countries was 0.4% and five had met or exceeded the 0.7% target: Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.[204]

International Cooperation and Development Partnerships

Eastern Partnership Summit 2015, Riga.

The EU uses foreign relations instruments like the European Neighbourhood Policy which seeks to tie those countries to the east and south of the European territory of the EU to the Union. These countries, primarily developing countries, include some who seek to one day become either a member state of the European Union, or more closely integrated with the European Union. The EU offers financial assistance to countries within the European Neighbourhood, so long as they meet the strict conditions of government reform, economic reform and other issues surrounding positive transformation. This process is normally underpinned by an Action Plan, as agreed by both Brussels and the target country.

International recognition of sustainable development as a key element is growing steadily. Its role was recognized in three major UN summits on sustainable development: the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa; and the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio de Janeiro. Other key global agreements are the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2015). The SDGs recognize that all countries must stimulate action in the following key areas - people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership - in order to tackle the global challenges that are crucial for the survival of humanity.

EU development action is based on the European Consensus on Development, which was endorsed on 20 December 2005 by EU Member States, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.[205] It is applied from the principles of Capability approach and Rights-based approach to development.

Trade

Shinzō Abe, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker after signing the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

The European Union is the largest exporter in the world[206] and as of 2008 the largest importer of goods and services.[207][208] Internal trade between the member states is aided by the removal of barriers to trade such as tariffs and border controls. In the eurozone, trade is helped by not having any currency differences to deal with amongst most members.[209]

The European Union Association Agreement does something similar for a much larger range of countries, partly as a so-called soft approach ('a carrot instead of a stick') to influence the politics in those countries. The European Union represents all its members at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and acts on behalf of member states in any disputes. When the EU negotiates trade related agreement outside the WTO framework, the subsequent agreement must be approved by each individual EU member state government.[209]

The European Union has concluded free trade agreements (FTAs)[210] and other agreements with a trade component with many countries worldwide and is negotiating with many others.[211]

Economy

The five largest economies in the world according to the IMF by Nominal GDP in 2018[212]

The European Union has established a single market across the territory of all its members representing 513 million citizens. In 2018, the EU had a combined GDP of $22 trillion international dollars, a 16% share of global gross domestic product by purchasing power parity (PPP).[213] As a political entity the European Union is represented in the World Trade Organization (WTO). EU member states own the estimated second largest after the United States (US$105 trillion) net wealth in the world, equal to 22% (US$82 trillion) of the US$360 trillion (~€300 trillion[214]) global wealth.[215]

Milan is a financial and fashion centre in the EU inside the Blue Banana.

19 member states have joined a monetary union known as the eurozone, which uses the Euro as a single currency. The currency union represents 342 million EU citizens.[216] The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar.[217][218][219]

Of the top 500 largest corporations in the world measured by revenue in 2010, 161 have their headquarters in the EU.[220] In 2016, unemployment in the EU stood at 8.9%[221] while inflation was at 2.2%, and the current account balance at −0.9% of GDP. The average annual net earnings in the European Union was around €24,000 (US$30,000)[222] in 2015, which was about 70% of that in the United States.[223]

There is a significant variation in Nominal GDP per capita within individual EU states. The difference between the richest and poorest regions (281 NUTS-2 regions of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) ranged, in 2017, from 15% (Severozapaden, Bulgaria) of the EU28 average (€30,000) to 700% (Inner London – West, UK), or from €4,600 to €209,900.[224]

Internal market

Clockwise from top left: A standardised passport design, displaying the name of the member state, the national arms and the words "European Union" given in their official language(s). (Irish model), Croatian version of an EU driving licence card with the EU flag on it, The common EU format of vehicle registration plate (Slovak version pictured)

Two of the original core objectives of the European Economic Community were the development of a common market, subsequently becoming a single market, and a customs union between its member states. The single market involves the free circulation of goods, capital, people, and services within the EU,[216] and the customs union involves the application of a common external tariff on all goods entering the market. Once goods have been admitted into the market they cannot be subjected to customs duties, discriminatory taxes or import quotas, as they travel internally. The non-EU member states of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in the single market but not in the customs union.[117] Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU.[225]

Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries.[226] 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 judgements regarding this initially neglected freedom. The free movement of capital is unique insofar as it is granted equally to non-member states.

The free movement of persons means that EU 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.[227]

The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member states to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis. While services account for 60–70% of GDP, legislation in the area is not as developed as in other areas. This lacuna has been addressed by the recently passed Directive on services in the internal market which aims to liberalise the cross border provision of services.[228] According to the Treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.

Monetary union and Financial services

Left: The seat of the European Central Bank within Frankfurt financial district. Right: 19 of the 28 EU member states have adopted the euro as their legal tender. The Eurozone (dark blue) represents 340 million people. The euro is the second-largest reserve currency in the world and the world's 2nd-most-traded currency.

The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the European Economic Community in 1969. In 1992, having negotiated the structure and procedures of a currency union, the member states signed the Maastricht Treaty and were legally bound to fulfil the agreed-on rules including the convergence criteria if they wanted to join the monetary union. The states wanting to participate had first to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

In 1999 the currency union started, first as an accounting currency with eleven member states joining. In 2002, the currency was fully put into place, when euro notes and coins were issued and national currencies began to phase out in the eurozone, which by then consisted of 12 member states. The eurozone (constituted by the EU member states which have adopted the euro) has since grown to 19 countries.[229][ab]

The euro, and the monetary policies of those who have adopted it in agreement with the EU, are under the control of the European Central Bank (ECB).[230] The ECB is the central bank for the eurozone, and thus controls monetary policy in that area with an agenda to maintain price stability. It is at the centre of the European System of Central Banks, which comprehends all EU national central banks and is controlled by its General Council, consisting of the President of the ECB, who is appointed by the European Council, the Vice-President of the ECB, and the governors of the national central banks of all 28 EU member states.[231]

The European System of Financial Supervision is an institutional architecture of the EU's framework of financial supervision composed by three authorities: the European Banking Authority, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority and the European Securities and Markets Authority. To complement this framework, there is also a European Systemic Risk Board under the responsibility of the ECB. The aim of this financial control system is to ensure the economic stability of the EU.[232]

To prevent the joining states from getting into financial trouble or crisis after entering the monetary union, they were obliged in the Maastricht treaty to fulfil important financial obligations and procedures, especially to show budgetary discipline and a high degree of sustainable economic convergence, as well as to avoid excessive government deficits and limit the government debt to a sustainable level.

Industry and Digital Economy

The European Commission working sectors are: Aeronautics, automotive, biotechnology, chemicals, construction, cosmetics, defense, electronics, firearms, food and drink, gambling, healthcare, maritime, mechanics, medical, postal, raw materials, space, textile, tourism, toys and Social economy (Societas cooperativa Europaea).

Energy

Consumed energy (2012)
Energy source Origin Percents
Oil Imported
  
33%
Domestic
  
6%
Gas Imported
  
14%
Domestic
  
9%
Nuclear[ac] Imported
  
0%
Domestic
  
13%
Coal/Lignite Imported
  
0%
Domestic
  
10%
Renewable Imported
  
0%
Domestic
  
7%
Other Imported
  
7%
Domestic
  
1%

In 2006, the EU-27 had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe).[233] Around 46% of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54% was imported.[233] In these statistics, nuclear energy is treated as primary energy produced in the EU, regardless of the source of the uranium, of which less than 3% is produced in the EU.[234]

Siemens wind power turbines in Denmark.

The EU has had 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.[235]

The EU 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[236] and North Africa; use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing renewable energy commercialisation; and finally increase funding for new energy technologies.[235]

In 2007, EU countries as a whole imported 82% of their oil, 57% of their natural gas[237] and 97.48% of their uranium[234] demands. There is a strong dependence on Russian energy that the EU has been attempting to reduce.[238]

Infrastructure

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 Öresund Bridge, the Brenner Base Tunnel and the Strait of Messina Bridge. In 2010 the estimated network covers: 75,200 kilometres (46,700 mi) of roads; 78,000 kilometres (48,000 mi) of railways; 330 airports; 270 maritime harbours; and 210 internal harbours.[239][240]

Rail transport in Europe is being synchronised with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), an initiative to greatly enhance safety, increase efficiency of trains and enhance cross-border interoperability of rail transport in Europe by replacing signalling equipment with digitised mostly wireless versions and by creating a single Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems.

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.[241] The Polish road network was upgraded such as the A4 autostrada.[242]

Telecommunications and Space

European Space Agency Mission Control at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany.

The Galileo positioning system is another EU infrastructure project. Galileo is a proposed Satellite navigation system, to be built by the EU and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Galileo project was launched partly to reduce the EU's dependency on the US-operated Global Positioning System, but also to give more complete global coverage and allow for greater accuracy, given the aged nature of the GPS system.[243]

Agriculture and Fisheries

Vineyards in Romania; EU farms are supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, the largest budgetary expenditure.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the long lasting policies of the European Community.[244] 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.[ad] 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 as of 2013 accounts for around 34%.[245]

The policy's price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction. These were intervention stores of products bought up by the Community to maintain minimum price levels. 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 products outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers outside Europe, especially those in the developing world.[246] Supporters of CAP argue that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living.[246]

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 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). Agriculture expenditure will move away from subsidy payments linked to specific produce, toward direct payments based on farm size. This is intended to allow the market to dictate production levels.[244] One of these reforms entailed the modification of the EU's sugar regime, which previously divided the sugar market between member states and certain African-Caribbean nations with a privileged relationship with the EU.[247]

Competition

The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market.[ae] 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.[248][failed verification]

The Competition Commissioner, currently Margrethe Vestager, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations.[249][failed verification] For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (GE and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority.[250] Another high-profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action.[251]

Labour Market

The EU seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7% in September 2018.[252] The euro area unemployment rate was 8.1%.[252] Among the member states, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Czech Republic (2.3%), Germany and Poland (both 3.4%), and the highest in Spain (14.9%) and Greece (19.0 in July 2018).[252]

Social policy and Equality

Classification of regions from 2014 to 2020:
  Less developed regions
  Transition regions
  More developed regions

The EU has long sought to mitigate the effects of free markets by protecting workers rights and preventing social and environmental dumping. To this end it has adopted laws establishing minimum employment and environmental standards. These included the Working Time Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. The EU has also sought to coordinate the social security and health systems of member states to facilitate individuals exercising free movement rights and to ensure they maintain their ability to access social security and health services in other member states.

The European Social Charter is the main body that recognizes the social rights of European citizens.

A European unemployment insurance has been proposed among others by the commissioner of Jobs Nicolas Schmit [253].

Since 2019 there is a European Commissioner for Equality; a European Institute for Gender Equality has existed since 2007.

Housing, youth, childhood, Functional diversity or elderly care are supportive competencies of the European Union and can be financed by the European Social Fund.

Regional and Local Policy

Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds are supporting the development of underdeveloped regions of the EU. Such regions are primarily located in the states of central and southern Europe.[254][255] 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 Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme.

Demographic transition to a society of aging population, low fertility-rates and depopulation of non-metropolitan regions is tackled within this policies.

Environment and Climate

Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland in eastern Poland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to 800 wild wisent.

In 1957, when the EEC was founded, it had no environmental policy.[256] Over the past 50 years, an increasingly dense network of legislation has been created, extending to all areas of environmental protection, including air pollution, water quality, waste management, nature conservation, and the control of chemicals, industrial hazards, and biotechnology.[257] According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy, environmental law comprises over 500 Directives, Regulations and Decisions, making environmental policy a core area of European politics.[258]

European policy-makers originally increased the EU's capacity to act on environmental issues by defining it as a trade problem.[259] Trade barriers and competitive distortions in the Common Market could emerge due to the different environmental standards in each member state.[260] In subsequent years, the environment became a formal policy area, with its own policy actors, principles and procedures. The legal basis for EU environmental policy was established with the introduction of the Single European Act in 1987.[258]

Biogeographic regions of the continental European Union, according to the European Environmental Agency

Initially, EU environmental policy focused on Europe. More recently, the EU has demonstrated leadership in global environmental governance, e.g. the role of the EU in securing the ratification and coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol despite opposition from the United States. This international dimension is reflected in the EU's Sixth Environmental Action Programme,[261] which recognises that its objectives can only be achieved if key international agreements are actively supported and properly implemented both at EU level and worldwide. The Lisbon Treaty further strengthened the leadership ambitions.[262] EU law has played a significant role in improving habitat and species protection in Europe, as well as contributing to improvements in air and water quality and waste management.[258]

Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in the future, 20% of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels.[263] The EU has adopted an emissions trading system to incorporate carbon emissions into the economy.[264] The European Green Capital is an annual award given to cities that focuses on the environment, energy efficiency, and quality of life in urban areas to create smart city.

In the Elections to the European Parliament in 2019, the green parties increased their power, possibly because of the rise of post materialist values.[265]

Proposals to reach a zero carbon economy in the European Union by 2050 were suggested in 2018 - 2019. Almost all member states supported that goal at an EU summit in June 2019. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland disagreed.[266]

Education and Research

Basic education is an area where the EU's role is limited to supporting national governments. In higher education, the policy was 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 supported international exchange opportunities for well over 1.5 million university and college students and became a symbol of European student life.[267]

There are 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.[268][269] 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.[270] EU research and technological framework programmes deal in a number of areas, for example energy where the aim is to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy to help the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels.[271]

Health care and Food safety

European Health Insurance Card
(Slovenian version pictured)

The EU has no major competences in the field of health care and Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms that "A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities". The