|motto||" United in Diversity "|
|Member States||27 Member States|
|official language||24 official languages|
|Council President||Charles Michael|
|Commission President||Ursula von der Leyen|
|seat of the organs|
|legal form||Union of states (derived subject of international law )|
|population density||102 inhabitants per km²|
|population development||+0.218% (2013)|
|gross domestic product|
|anthem||" Ode to Joy " (instrumental)|
|holiday||9 May ( Europe Day )|
|time zone||European mainland
UTC±0 to UTC+2
UTC+1 to UTC+3 (summer time)
|License Plate||Standard license plates of the EU countries bear a vertical azure blue bar on the left with a wreath of twelve golden five-pointed stars corresponding to the European flag in the upper half and the nationality symbol in the lower half. The further inscription is not uniform.|
The European Union ( EU ) is an association of 27 European countries . Outside geographical Europe , the EU includes the Republic of Cyprus and some overseas territories . It has a total of about 450 million inhabitants . The EU is an independent legal entity and therefore has the right to inspect and speak at the United Nations .
The EU political system , which emerged in the course of European integration , is based on the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union . It contains both supranational and intergovernmental elements. While the individual states and their governments are represented in the European Council and the Council of the European Union , the European Parliament directly represents the citizens of the Union when it comes to EU legislation . The European Commission as the executive body and the EU Court of Justice as the judicial body are also supranational institutions.
The beginnings of the EU go back to the 1950s, when initially six countries founded the European Economic Community (EEC). Targeted economic integration should prevent military conflicts in the future and accelerate economic growth through the larger market and thus increase the prosperity of the citizens. In the course of the following decades, further states joined the Communities ( EC ) in several rounds of expansion. From 1985, the internal borders between the member states were opened with the Schengen Agreement . After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, the geopolitical situation in Europe changed fundamentally, which opened up opportunities for integration and expansion in the east.
The European Union was founded in 1992 with the Maastricht Treaty , which was given responsibilities in non-economic policy areas. In several reform treaties, most recently in the Treaty of Lisbon , the supranational competences of the EU were expanded and the democratic anchoring of the political decision-making processes at Union level was improved, above all by further strengthening the position of the European Parliament. However , a European public sphere and identity as a prerequisite for supranational popular sovereignty is only emerging gradually and not without countercurrents. Since the 1980s, the EU has been given more powers and gained in importance. The constitution of the EU was debated; EU skepticism was also expressed. Exit scenarios were also regulated in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty .
Of the 27 EU countries, 19 form an economic and monetary union . In 2002, a common currency for these countries, the euro , was introduced. Within the framework of the area of freedom, security and justice , the EU Member States work together on home affairs and justice policies. Through the common foreign and security policy, they endeavor to act together towards third countries . Future-oriented joint action is the subject of the Europe 2020 initiative , which includes digital policy . The European Union has observer status in the G7 , is a member of the G20 and represents its member states in the World Trade Organization .
Since 2022, the EU has been the world's third-largest economic area in terms of nominal gross domestic product , behind the United States and the People's Republic of China . The member states have one of the highest standards of living in the world, although there are also significant differences between individual countries within the EU. In the 2015 Human Development Index , 26 of the then 28 member states were classified as “very highly developed”.
After the eastward expansion in 2004 and 2007 , the standard of living and economic growth increased sharply, especially in Eastern Europe. At the same time, however, as a result of the financial crisis from 2007 and the refugee crisis from 2015 in various member states , the European Union is exposed to increasing EU skepticism from parts of the population, which is reflected in the withdrawal of the United Kingdom , among other things . Under the impression of the crisis and the increase in right-wing populist tendencies in the member states of the Union, the EU finality debate is again being conducted intensively. On the other hand, approval ratings for the EU are currently higher across Europe than they have been in decades. With his initiative for Europe , French President Emmanuel Macron has presented a plan for reform that is geared towards the near future and has attracted a great deal of attention .
Already after the First World War there were various efforts to form a union of European states, such as the Pan-European Union founded in 1922 . However, these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. The decisive starting point for European integration was only at the end of the Second World War : by networking the militarily relevant economic sectors, a new war between the former adversaries was to be made impossible and, as a result, the political rapprochement and lasting reconciliation of the states involved were to be achieved. In addition, security policy considerations were also important: At the beginning of the Cold War , the Western European states were to be brought together more closely and the Federal Republic of Germany was to be integrated into the western bloc.
|European communities||Three pillars of the European Union|
|European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)||→||←|
|European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)||Contract expired in 2002||European Union (EU)|
|European Economic Community (EEC)||European Community (EC)|
|→||Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)|
|Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (PJZS)||←|
|European Political Cooperation (EPC)||→||Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)||←|
|Western Union (WU)||Western European Union (WEU)|
|dissolved on July 1, 2011|
Montan Union (1951)
Jean Monnet , then head of the French Planning Office, made the proposal to place all Franco-German coal and steel production under a common authority. French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman took up this idea and presented it to Parliament on May 9, 1950, which is why it went down in history as the Schuman Plan. This Schuman Plan led to the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, colloquially also “Montanunion”) on April 18, 1951 by Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The institutions of this ECSC formed the core of what later became the EU: a High Authority with supranational competences (which later became the European Commission), a Council of Ministers as the legislative branch (today the Council of the EU) and a Consultative Assembly (later the European Parliament). However, the responsibilities of the various bodies changed in the course of integration – the Consultative Assembly still had little say, while the European Parliament now has equal rights with the Council in areas where the ordinary legislative procedure applies.
Treaties of Rome (1957)
On March 25, 1957, the so-called Treaties of Rome marked the next step in integration. With these treaties, the same six countries founded the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC and Euratom). The aim of the EEC was to create a common market in which goods, services, capital and labor could move freely. A common development for the peaceful use of atomic energy should take place through Euratom.
The ECSC, EEC and Euratom initially each had their own Commission and Council. With the so-called merger treaty , however, these institutions were merged in 1967 and are now referred to as organs of the European Communities (EC).
In addition to the stations of progressive integration, there were also setbacks and phases of stagnation. Thus the plan for a European Defense Community (EDC) failed in 1954 in the French National Assembly . In the 1960s, Charles de Gaulle , as President of France, slowed the Community's progress with the so-called empty chair policy and with his repeated veto of British accession to the EEC. In the first half of the 1980s, it was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who prevented further integration progress by calling for a reduction in British contributions . This phase of stagnant integration was also known as Eurosclerosis . At the same time, isolated declarations repeatedly promoted the idea of European integration, such as the document on European identity adopted on December 14, 1973 , in which the nine member states of the European Communities committed themselves to the "dynamics of European integration" and reaffirmed the "planned transformation of the whole of their relations into a European Union" as a common goal.
Integration did not regain momentum until the late 1980s. With the Uniform European Act (EEA) in 1987, the EEC under Commission President Jacques Delors developed the plan for a European internal market , in which all national inhibitions for Europe-wide trade were to be overcome by 1 January 1993 through harmonization of economic law.
Maastricht Treaty (1992)
The fall of the Iron Curtain , the associated loss of power of the communists in the Eastern bloc , including the change of government system in the GDR, in Poland, in Hungary, in the Czechoslovakia as well as in Bulgaria and in Romania led to the end of the East-West confrontation and thus to the Enabling German reunification and further steps towards integration: On February 7, 1992, the Maastricht Treaty establishing the European Union (EU) was signed. It came into force on November 1, 1993. On the one hand, the treaty decided on the establishment of an economic and monetary union , which later led to the introduction of the euro ; on the other hand, the member states decided on closer coordination in foreign and security policy and in the area of home affairs and justice . At the same time, the EEC was renamed the European Community (EC), since it was now also given responsibilities in policy areas other than the economy (such as environmental policy).
With the Treaty of Amsterdam (signed in 1997) and the Treaty of Nice (in force since February 2003), the EU treaties were revised again to make the institutions work better. Until the Treaty of Lisbon , only the European Communities had legal personality , not the European Union itself . This meant that the EC was able to take generally binding decisions within the scope of its competences, while the EU only acted as an "umbrella organization". In the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in particular, the EU could not act as an independent institution, but only in the form of its individual member states.
With the end of the Cold War , overcoming the political division in Europe also came into the focus of the EU. Even before that, it had grown from six to fifteen members through several rounds of expansion (1973, 1981, 1986, 1995 ); now the Central and Eastern European states , which had previously belonged to the Eastern bloc , were to become part of the Union. To this end, the EU member states defined the so-called Copenhagen accession criteria in 1993 , with which freedom , democracy , the rule of law , human rights and civil liberties were defined as fundamental values of the Union. Finally, in 2004 and 2007, two eastward enlargements took place , during which twelve new members were admitted to the EU.
New targets for the internal development of the European Union were set in the year 2000 with the Lisbon strategy , which was intended to take appropriate account of the challenges of globalization and a new, "knowledge-based" economy. The strategic goal for the coming decade was set to “make the Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world – an economy capable of sustained economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” In In its “mid-term review” in 2005, the European Parliament also expressed its confidence that the EU, with its Lisbon strategy, could act as a role model for economic, social and ecological progress in the world within the framework of the global goal of sustainable development. Ten years later, the successor program to the Lisbon strategy, Europe 2020 , formulated essentially similar goals.
Lisbon Treaty (2007)
However, the enlargement rounds threatened to increasingly restrict the EU's ability to act politically: the first adjustment reforms were made - with the usual difficulties and compromises - in the agricultural sector, in regional structural support and in the modification of the British rebate . With regard to the institutional structure, however, they were only partially successful: the veto options for individual member states could have blocked a large number of decisions. With the introduction of the procedure of enhanced cooperation through the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties , a possibility was developed to counteract such a blockage of European decision-making processes. Member states willing to integrate were now able to take more in-depth steps towards unification in individual areas, even if the other EU states did not participate: the Schengen Agreement and the monetary union served as models for this . However, this concept of a “multi-speed Europe” has also met with criticism, as it threatens to split the EU. Another problem was the working efficiency of the European Commission: Up until 2004, individual member states had two commissioners, but after enlargement to the east, their number was reduced to one commissioner per state. Nevertheless, the commission grew from nine members in 1952 to 27 members in 2007.
At the Laeken summit in 2001 , the heads of state and government of the EU therefore decided to convene a European convention to draw up a new basic treaty that would make EU decision-making processes more efficient and at the same time more democratic. This constitutional treaty was signed in Rome in October 2004 . Among other things, it provided for the dissolution of the EC and the transfer of its legal personality to the EU, an expansion of majority decisions, a reduction in the size of the Commission and better coordination of the common foreign policy. However, the ratification of the constitutional treaty failed because the French and Dutch rejected it in a referendum . Instead, an intergovernmental conference in 2007 drew up the Treaty of Lisbon, which took over the essential content of the constitutional treaty. Ratification was now planned for the 2009 European elections . On December 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty came into force.
In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for more than six decades of contribution to the promotion of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".
Phase of the challenges of the Union
Since the financial crisis that started in 2007 , which in some cases resulted in high levels of national debt, and the resulting euro crisis , the European Union has experienced economic and social turbulence among some of its members, which has put a strain on the relationship between the member states that are dependent on financial aid and those that are eligible for support measures. After 2010, a number of measures were introduced to deal with the euro crisis, including the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) set up in 2012 as part of the euro rescue package and the European Fiscal Compact , which imposes budgetary discipline and debt limitation on the participating member states. From 2014, the European Banking Union transferred national competences to central institutions and thus created uniform, common guidelines and regulations in the area of financial market supervision and the restructuring or resolution of credit institutions within the European Union. Also due to the strengthening and sustained economic growth in all member states after 2016, the European Union has slowly started to overcome this crisis. Further institutional reforms such as a coordinated economic and social policy or the further development of the ESM into a European Monetary Fund are on the EU agenda in order to be able to deal with future crises better and faster or to prevent them from arising in the first place.
The refugee crisis from 2015 resulted in disagreement and other critical developments in the European Union . In this overall context, anti-European political currents received further impetus. The refugee crisis is also seen as one of the reasons for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. The willingness to take in refugees among the various governments of the member states varied greatly and stood in the way of joint action by the members of the Union to overcome the crisis, which was easily manageable for the Union as a whole. In some cases, border controls were reintroduced in the Schengen area ; on the other hand, various precautions were taken to protect the EU's external borders, e.g. the expansion of Frontex . A plan for the distribution of refugees among the member states was only partially implemented and boycotted by national conservative governments, in part openly contrary to majority decisions confirmed by the ECJ . It is not only in this context that the European Union will soon have to decide what means to use to react to open breaches of contract by these governments in the future, because the Treaty on the European Union obliges the Member States of the European Union to show solidarity and the rule of law (cf. TEU , TEU).
The EU bodies newly elected in 2019 see global warming and the achievement of effective climate protection as a priority challenge for political action . On the occasion of the confirmation of the newly composed EU Commission by the European Parliament, the designated President Ursula von der Leyen announced the goal of not reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 40 percent by 2030 as previously planned, as part of a "European Green Deal" . but by 50 percent. Europe should become the first climate- neutral continent. The following day, November 28, 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency for Europe. As a consequence, the European Commission should align its entire policy with the global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times.
In total, the national territories of the current member states cover a total area of 4,234,564 km². The total coastline is 67,770.9 km. On the European mainland, the EU states have external borders with a total of 17 non-member states, as well as on the African continent with Morocco and in South America with Brazil and Suriname . The geographic center of the European Union is in Gadheim , a district of the municipality of Veitshöchheim in the district of Würzburg .
The territory of the European Union includes outside of Europe
- the five French overseas departments of French Guiana , Guadeloupe and Martinique in America , Mayotte and Réunion in Africa , and the Collectivité d'outre-mer Saint-Martin ,
- the Canary Islands as well as Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast (to Spain ),
- Madeira and the Azores (to Portugal )
- and in Asia the Republic of Cyprus .
The European Union is highly fragmented topographically . It includes some larger peninsulas such as the Iberian Peninsula , the Apennine Peninsula , parts of the Scandinavian Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula , as well as smaller peninsulas such as Brittany and Jutland ; in addition, it also includes numerous islands; the largest among them Ireland , Sicily and Sardinia .
Because of the plate tectonic shifts , mountain ranges such as the Alps , the Pyrenees , the Apennines and the Carpathians formed . There is active volcanism due to subduction of the African tectonic plates beneath the European tectonic plates; among other things, Etna , Europe's highest volcano, is in the EU.
Around half a billion people live in the Member States. Regarding population development : In most countries, the native population is stagnating or declining; Immigration keeps the population at a roughly constant level.
Today's European Union originated in the European Communities ( EGKS , EWG and Euratom ) founded in 1951 and 1957. Its member states were Belgium , the Federal Republic of Germany , France , Italy , Luxembourg and the Kingdom of the Netherlands .
In 1958, three of these founding members – Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – decided on a further intensified economic community with the Benelux Treaty , which could serve as a model for the European internal market that was implemented in 1993.
A certain importance can still be attributed to this initial situation: the six founding members are generally regarded as possible integration pioneers in various concepts of graduated integration (see: Europe of two speeds ).
In 1973, the United Kingdom , Ireland and Denmark joined the European Community in the first northern enlargement . In Norway , which had also signed an accession treaty, its ratification was rejected by the population in a referendum.
Greece (1981), Portugal and Spain (both 1986) followed as new members in the 1980s . Some of these states had been seeking rapprochement with the European Communities for a long time, but had not been admitted because of their authoritarian governments. They were only able to join after successful democratization processes.
With German reunification on October 3, 1990, the number of citizens within the European Community increased by around 16 million new citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany , whose national territory has since also extended to the area of the former GDR .
Austria , Finland and Sweden were admitted to the recently formed European Union in 1995 with the second northern enlargement . In Norway voted on November 28, 1994 - despite renewed government efforts - in a referendum again a majority (52.2%) of those voting (turnout 88.8%) against accession.
Ten countries joined the European Union on May 1, 2004 with the first eastward enlargement . These included eight formerly communist-governed Central and Eastern European countries ( Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Poland , the Czech Republic , Slovakia , Hungary and Slovenia ) as well as the island state of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea and the island of Cyprus , which is geographically part of Asia , but this actually only with the Greek southern part. On January 1, 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined the Union as the 26th and 27th Member States . This enlargement has increased the population of the European Union to over half a billion people since 2010. On July 1, 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state.
In addition to these expansions, in a few cases there was also a downsizing of the community. For example, after independence in 1962, Algeria , which previously belonged to France, was no longer part of the EC. Autonomous Greenland , which belongs to Denmark, was the first region to leave the Community after a referendum in 1985. In a referendum in 1982 , the Greenlanders decided to leave the country, which was completed in 1985 after negotiations. However, Greenland continues to enjoy the status of an “associated overseas country” in the EU with the advantages of a customs union (cf. of the EC Treaty ). Nevertheless, according to Art. 3 Para. 1 Customs Code , Greenland does not belong to the customs territory of the Community.
On January 1, 2012, the French Caribbean island of Saint-Barthélemy , at its own request, changed its status to a territory that is only associated with the Union.
On 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom, a majority of 51.9% voted in favor of leaving the European Union ( Brexit ) in the non-binding referendum on the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union . On March 29, 2017, the Prime Minister initiated the British application to leave. According to of the Treaty on European Union, however, the United Kingdom was still part of the Union for the time being. The exit took place on January 31, 2020.
The following 27 countries are members of the European Union (as of February 1, 2020; the ISO 3166 code used by the EU is in brackets ):
- Belgium (BE)
- Bulgaria (BG)
- Denmark (DK)
- Germany (DE)
- Estonia (EE)
- Finland (FI)
- France (FR)
- Greece (GR)
- Ireland (IE)
- Italy (IT)
- Croatia (HR)
- Latvia (LV)
- Lithuania (LT)
- Luxembourg (LU)
- Malta (MT)
- Netherlands ( NL )
- Austria (AT)
- Poland (PL)
- Portugal (PT)
- Romania (RO)
- Sweden (SE)
- Slovakia (SK)
- Slovenia (SI)
- Spain (IT)
- Czech Republic (CZ)
- Hungary (HU)
- Cyprus (CY)
Special regulations apply to specific areas of the European Union .
The non-European areas of some member states belong to the EU. However, far-reaching exemptions apply to other areas dependent on EU member states. There are different degrees of integration:
- Some overseas territories are fully integrated into the national administrative structure; they are seen as part of the mother state and are therefore an integral part of the European Union. These are the French overseas departments of French Guiana , the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe as well as Réunion and (since January 1, 2014) Mayotte , both in the Indian Ocean, as well as the Canary Islands , Ceuta and Melilla as parts of Spain and the Portuguese archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira .
- Most of the other overseas territories of the Member States of the European Union are either covered by the Treaties or associated with the EU. The legal basis for this is TFEU , according to which the European Union aims to promote economic and social development and to establish close economic relations with the associated countries and sovereign territories. According to TFEU, these areas are also part of the European Customs Union .
- Finally, special regulations were created for autonomous areas with a pronounced regional identity, which do not provide for membership of the European Union or, according to Art. 3 Para. 1 of the Customs Code of the EU, for the EU's customs territory . These include the Danish autonomous regions of the Faroe Islands and Greenland and the French overseas territory of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon .
According to Council of Europe who are geographically located in Asia . However, accession can only be completed if the so-called Copenhagen criteria (particularly democracy and the rule of law ) are met. In order to meet these conditions, the EU grants both advisory and financial support to the candidate countries. Within the framework of accession partnerships , work is being done towards harmonization with EU standards. This is also linked to a twinning process with cooperation support for administrative development. To this end, Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA) have been concluded with the potential applicant countries, which prepare the accession process. The conclusion of an accession procedure is an accession treaty, which must be ratified by all EU member states, the accession candidate and the European Parliament .of the EU Treaty, any European state that respects the values of the EU and is committed to promoting them can apply for EU membership. According to current understanding, the term "European" is to be understood in a broad sense and also includes the members of the
A basic distinction is made in technical terminology between “candidates for accession” and “potential candidates for accession”. There are currently five candidate countries. Negotiations have been ongoing with Turkey since 2005 . North Macedonia was granted candidate status in December 2005 , with the date for the start of negotiations still open. The EFTA state Iceland applied for EU membership on July 17, 2009 and was granted candidate status on June 17, 2010, but withdrew its application for membership on March 12, 2015. Montenegro was also named an official candidate in December 2010, exactly two years after the application.
Albania and Serbia submitted their applications for membership in April and December 2009 respectively. Serbia was formally recognized as a candidate country on March 1, 2012, and Albania on June 24, 2014. Another potential candidate country in the Western Balkans is Bosnia and Herzegovina , which formally applied to join on February 15, 2016. A special role is played by Kosovo , whose independence is only recognized by 22 of the 27 EU member states.
In addition to the candidate countries, the European Union also maintains special relations with a number of other neighboring countries. This applies in particular to Norway , Iceland and Liechtenstein . These member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) merged with the EU in 1994 in the European Economic Area (EEA), which is an extension of the European single market . As a result of the EEA Agreement, the internal market regulations of the EU also apply to the EFTA countries in the EEA - albeit without these being able to have a say in the EU bodies. They only have a right to be heard in joint EEA committees at parliamentary or ministerial level. These three states are thus economically, but not politically, integrated into the structures of the EU. All three EFTA countries in the EEA are also members of the Schengen Agreement .
The fourth EFTA member, Switzerland , decided against joining the EEA in a referendum in 1992 . Instead, several bilateral agreements were concluded between Switzerland and the European Union , which concern, among other things, the free movement of people and Switzerland's accession to the Dublin and Schengen agreements, but also economic issues such as the elimination of certain non- tariff trade barriers . In addition, Switzerland supported the eastward expansion of the EU in 2004 with a cohesion payment of one billion Swiss francs spread over ten years. The attempt to bring about a framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU was broken off in May 2021 after years of negotiations.
The EU also maintains special political and economic relations with the small European states in its immediate vicinity. These special contractual relationships with Andorra , Monaco , San Marino and the Vatican City State are primarily intended to do justice to their territorial and thus labor market-dependent ties to the respective EU neighboring countries Spain, France and Italy. Special currency agreements also exist with Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City, which use the euro . Liechtenstein, which is part of the Swiss customs territory , in turn uses the Swiss franc . Andorra, Monaco and San Marino have been striving for negotiations on participation in the EU internal market since March 2015, following the example of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The EU is linked to the other neighboring countries to the south and east by the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). However, unlike the relations with the EFTA members and the associated small states, the ENP runs entirely within the framework of the common foreign and security policy ( see below ).
The political system of the European Union differs significantly from national political systems . As a supranational association of sovereign states, the EU, unlike a confederation of states, has its own sovereignty rights; on the other hand, the EU institutions have no competence-competence - unlike a federal state , the EU cannot shape the distribution of responsibilities within its system itself. According to the principle of conferral , the EU institutions may only act in the areas expressly mentioned in the founding treaties. In the Maastricht judgment of 1993, the German Federal Constitutional Court therefore coined the new term " federation of states" to characterize the EU from a constitutional point of view.
The two main treaties on which the EU is currently based are the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU; formerly the EC Treaty ). It is therefore referred to as European primary law . All of the secondary legislation that the EU itself enacts in accordance with its own legislative procedures is derived from these treaties and the powers specified therein. However, thanks to the legal personality that the EU has had since December 1, 2009, it can sign international treaties and agreements as a subject of international law in its own name (albeit in principle only by unanimous decision of the Foreign Affairs Council ). Through the newly created European Foreign Service , it can establish diplomatic relations with other states and apply for membership in international organizations such as the Council of Europe or the United Nations .
In addition to the EU, there is also the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which is based on its own founding treaty (the Euratom Treaty) concluded in 1958. After the dissolution of the EGSC and the EC , the Euratom is the last of the still existing European Communities . In terms of its structures, however, it is fully affiliated with the EU and also shares its organs with it.
Depending on the policy area, the EU has different competences and voting procedures. In principle, the legal acts that are adopted by the European institutions – Commission , Council and Parliament – in accordance with the EU’s legislative procedures are binding. Since the governments of individual states can also be overruled here, one speaks of the supranational (supranational) community method . In some policy areas, such as trade policy, votes are taken unanimously, but the resolutions are then binding and cannot be revoked by the individual states.
Other areas in which the EU has no legislative competence are characterized by purely intergovernmental (intergovernmental) decision-making mechanisms. This applies above all to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): Here it is a matter of mere cooperation between the governments of the member states, with all decisions being taken unanimously and not having direct legal force.
Finally, the third method, alongside the community and intergovernmental method, is the open method of coordination , which is used in some areas for which the EU has no legislative competence of its own. There are no formal decisions here, only informal voting by the Member States in the Council; the Commission only acts in a supportive capacity.
The supranational policy areas of the EU include the customs union, the European internal market , the European economic and monetary union , research and environmental policy, health care, consumer protection, areas of social policy and the area of freedom, security and justice . The latter covers aspects of home and judicial policies, including immigration policy , judicial cooperation in civil matters , and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters .
The supranational competences of the EU in this core area are evident in several respects:
- The Council of the European Union usually decides according to the majority principle. The veto possibilities of the individual member states are very limited; in most policy areas they can be overruled by a qualified majority.
- The supranational European Parliament has full legislative say in most policy areas. The governments of the Member States cannot therefore legislate against the will of Parliament.
- Certain executive activities in the EU are left entirely to the European Commission . This makes their independence from national governments particularly clear.
- EU law is highly binding: EU regulations are directly applicable law in all member states; in the case of EU directives , member states are obliged to transpose them into national law (although the exact form is left to the individual states). The jurisdiction of the courts of the European Union with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) at the top is mandatory .
The European Commission (exclusive right of initiative), the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament are involved in the creation of legal acts of the EU according to the ordinary legislative procedure. A distinction is made between EU regulations (valid directly in the member states without a national transposition act), EU directives (only binding once they have been transposed into national law) and EU resolutions (each legal act in individual cases, similar to an administrative act ).
The institutional structure of the EU has remained essentially the same since its beginnings in 1952, although the specific competencies of the organs have changed several times. The legal basis for the institutions is Title III of the EU Treaty and Part Six of the FEU Treaty .
In many respects the EU shows typical traits of a federal system , with the Commission as the executive and a two-part legislature consisting of the European Parliament as the citizens' chamber and the Council as the chamber of states. The important role of the Council is based on the concept of executive federalism , which also characterizes the Federal Republic of Germany. In comparison with the practice in federal nation states, however, the influence of the lower level (in this case the governments of the member states) is greater in the EU: For example, the commissioners are proposed by the national governments and the national parliaments are closely involved in the EU committees EU policy included. Another special feature is the European Council , the summit of heads of state and government that takes place every three months . According to the EU Treaty, this institution is to set the general political guidelines for the Union. It therefore has a very great influence on the development of the Union, although it is not formally involved in its legislative process.
Sets guidelines and impulses
Independent control body: Court of Auditors
The European Council ( heads of state and government of the member states and the President of the European Commission , with the Commission President only having an advisory function. It is chaired by the President of the European Council , who is appointed for two and a half years. The European Council sets the guidelines and objectives of European politics, but is not involved in day-to-day procedures. Votes in the European Council are generally taken "by consensus", i.e. unanimously, only certain operational decisions are made according to the majority principle. The European Council meets at least four times a year and generally meets in Brussels.TEU and f. TFEU) is made up of the
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union ( state chamber ). Depending on the policy area, it is made up of the respective ministers of the national governments of the member states and adopts the decisive legal acts together with the European Parliament. Depending on the policy area, either a unanimous decision or a qualified majority is required for this, whereby the principle of a double majority (of states and inhabitants) applies to majority decisions. In the intergovernmental areas, above all the common foreign and security policy and certain areas of trade and social policy, the Council is the only decision-making body in the EU; the decision here is generally unanimous.TEU and et seq. TFEU, also known as the Council of Ministers) is one of the two legislative bodies of the EU and represents the member states (
The presidency of the Council rotates every six months between the member states, with three consecutive states working together in a so-called trio presidency . An exception is the Foreign Affairs Council , which is chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy . The respective Council Presidency is supported by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union .
The European Parliament (EP, budget and exercises parliamentary control rights. It has been elected directly by the citizens of the member states every five years since 1979 in the European elections and therefore represents the European population.TEU and et seq. TFEU) is the second part of the EU legislature. In addition to its legislative function, it is involved in establishing the
After the 2009 European elections, the European Parliament initially had 736 members , from December 2011 it was expanded to 754 (from the 2014 European elections : 751) members in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty . These are not grouped according to national origin, but according to their political orientation in (currently seven) parliamentary groups . For this purpose, the national parties with similar ideologies have joined forces to form European parties . The strongest group in the European Parliament is currently the Christian-Democrat-Conservative Group of the European People's Party (EPP/PPE) with 177 MEPs, followed by the Socialist Group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) with 145 MEPs (as of 28 January 2021).
However , the European elections will continue to be held within the national framework. The number of deputies per state is based on the population; smaller countries are disproportionately represented, however, in order to enable them to have an appropriate representation of their national party landscape.
The European Parliament has two meeting venues, one in Brussels and a second in Strasbourg. The President of the European Parliament (since 2022 the Maltese Roberta Metsola , EPP) and her deputies, the fourteen Vice-Presidents, are in the chair. Together they form the Executive Committee .
The European Commission ( initiative in EU legislation and accordingly proposes legal acts ( directives , ordinances , resolutions ). However, Parliament and Council are free to amend these proposals afterwards.TEU and et seq. TFEU) has primarily executive functions in the institutional structure of the European Union and thus corresponds to the "government" of the EU. However, it is also involved in the legislature: it has almost the sole right of
As the executive body, the Commission ensures that European legal acts are implemented correctly, and that the budget and the programs that have been decided on are implemented. As the "Guardian of the Treaties", it monitors compliance with European law and, if necessary, files complaints before the courts of the European Union . At international level, it negotiates international agreements, particularly in the areas of trade and cooperation, and represents the EU in the World Trade Organization , for example .
The European Commission consists of 27 commissioners, one from each member state. The European Council appoints them for five years by a qualified majority. However, the European Parliament has a reservation of consent: it can reject the designated commission as a whole (but not individual commissioners) and, even after their appointment, can force them to resign by means of a vote of no confidence. In this case, the European Council must propose a new Commission.
According to their contractual mandate, the Commissioners serve the Union alone and may not take any instructions. The Commission is therefore a supranational body of the EU, independent of the Member States. Within the Commission, each commissioner assumes responsibility for a policy area, much like ministers in the cabinet of a national government. The political direction of the Commission lies with the President of the Commission ; this was Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg from 2014 to 2019 , since then it has been Ursula von der Leyen .
The Commission has its own administrative apparatus, divided into department -specific directorates-general , which, however, with around 23,000 civil servants, is significantly smaller than that of national governments. There are also a number of European agencies that perform special tasks. As part of the Executive, they are attached to the Commission but functionally independent of it.
The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ( TEU), who is both a member of the European Commission and Chairman of the Council on Foreign Affairs , has a special function.
After the 2019 European elections , Ursula von der Leyen was elected the new President of the Commission, who took office on December 1, 2019 together with her Commission , consisting of a coalition of EPP , S&D and RE .
For the first time, this commission has three so-called executive vice-presidents and five other vice-presidents. In addition to their work as Commissioners, all Vice-Presidents are responsible for a key topic on the political agenda of the von der Leyen Commission.
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank (ECB, euro countries since January 1, 1999. The Bank is politically independent: its Board of Directors is appointed by the European Council; however, it is not subject to political instructions, but only to the monetary policy objectives laid down in the FEU Treaty – in particular the maintenance of price stability. An important control instrument for this is the determination of the key interest rate . Together with the national central banks, the European Central Bank forms the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).et seq. TFEU) has been determining monetary policy in the
Court of Justice of the European Union
The entire court system of the European Union is referred to as the Court of Justice of the European Union ( European Court of Justice ( ECJ , officially only Court of Justice ) is the supreme court of the European Union. In addition to the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Justice (originally the European Court of First Instance ) has existed since 1989 . Both instances consist of at least one judge per member state, with the ECJ being additionally supported by at least eight Advocates General ( ). These are appointed by consensus by the governments of the member states for a period of six years. Every three years, both instances are partially re-staffed. Since the Treaty of Nice , it has been possible to create independent specialized courts below the European Court.TEU and et seq. TFEU). The
The Court of Justice of the European Union is tasked with ensuring a uniform interpretation of European Union law. In certain cases, it has the power to decide itself on disputes between EU Member States, EU institutions, companies and individuals. The progress of the European integration process has been partially promoted independently by the judgments of the ECJ by directly applying the Community law, for the interpretation of which it is responsible, in the individual member states.
European Court of Auditors
The European Court of Auditors (ECA,et seq. TFEU) was created in 1975 and is responsible for the audit of all income and expenditure of the Union and for controlling the budgetary management with regard to its legality.
The European Court of Auditors currently has 27 members, one from each Member State, who are appointed for six years by the Council of the European Union. The ECA's currently around 800 employees form audit groups for specific audit projects. You can always visit other institutions, Member States and other countries receiving EU aid. However, the ECA cannot impose legal sanctions. Violations are reported to the other bodies so that appropriate action can be taken.
The ECA's work was widely publicized in 1998 and 1999 when it failed to give the European Commission a Statement of Assurance. However, the subsequent resignation of the Santer Commission is not to be understood as a direct reaction to the report of the Court of Auditors; since the Court of Auditors has issued statements of assurance (since the beginning of the 1990s), these have always been negative.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR), based in Brussels, has represented the regional and local authorities in the EU since it was founded in 1992. It has an advisory function in the legislative process and must be consulted in particular before decisions affecting regional and municipal administration. Of the 344 members of the CoR, 24 come from Germany, 21 of whom are proposed by the federal states and three by the municipalities. Austria has twelve members, nine of whom are representatives of the federal states and three of the municipalities.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has existed since 1957. It is supposed to represent “organized citizenship” (modeled on the French Economic and Social Council); its 344 members are made up of employer representatives, trade union representatives and representatives of other interests (e.g. agriculture, environmental protection, etc.). They are appointed by the governments of the member states but are not accountable to them. Like the CoR, the EESC only acts in an advisory capacity, but must be consulted on all economic and social policy issues.
The European Ombudsman , based in Strasbourg, is the ombudsman of the European Union and has been investigating complaints about maladministration in its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies since 1992.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is an independent control authority of the European Union, set up on the basis of Regulation (EC) No. 45/2001 (Data Protection Regulation) to advise and monitor the EC bodies and institutions on data protection law. He is based in Brussels and has been a member of the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners since 2004.
The European Investment Bank (EIB; et seq. TFEU) based in Luxembourg was established in 1958. The bank is also politically independent and finances itself through loans on the capital markets. The EIB supports Member States and smaller companies by providing loans to finance projects of European interest, such as infrastructure projects or environmental protection.
According to Art. 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), all citizens of a member state of the European Union are citizens of the European Union. Union citizenship entails a number of rights for Union citizens, particularly in other Member States of which they are not nationals.
The rights include, in particular: freedom of movement, non-discrimination, the right to vote in municipal elections at the place of residence, the right to vote in the European Parliament, diplomatic and consular protection, the right to petition and complain, and the right to communicate with the EU in one of the official languages of the European Union and to reply in the same language to obtain. With the European Citizens' Initiative , the Treaty of Lisbon introduced an instrument of direct democracy for the first time .
In the budget of the European Union, income and expenditure are recalculated annually for the following EU financial year. The budget is included in a system of a so-called multiannual financial framework (MFR) that has existed since the Lisbon Treaty came into force on December 1, 2009. The European Union sets the binding financial framework for the budget over a period of several years. On the basis of a proposal by the European Commission , the Council , which in this case decides unanimously, agrees it together with the European Parliament and converts it into a so -called interinstitutional agreement .
To finance its expenditure, the European Union has so -called own resources , which are made up of contributions from the member states and, to a lesser extent, of the import duties at the external borders. The contributions of the member states result on the one hand from a portion of the sales tax that is to be paid to the EU (so-called VAT own resources ) and on the other hand from contributions that result proportionally from the gross national income (GNI) of the states. The so-called British rebate was an exception : Since a very large proportion of EU funds are spent on the Common Agricultural Policy , from which the United Kingdom benefited little due to its comparatively small agricultural sector, it has had two-thirds of its net contributions reimbursed since 1984.
The EU budget and the amount of the contributions to be made by the member states are the subject of a variety of disputes and compromises, especially since the amount of money returned from the EU to the individual member states varies. In the European Council, therefore, the camps of the net contributor and net recipient countries are opposed to each other: while the net recipients mostly try to maintain their status, the net contributors try to at least reduce their payments.
Equally controversial is the spending side of the budget, although around 90% of this goes back to the Member States. Within the framework of regional structural support, the EU endeavors to equalize the standard of living in its member states. The flow of funds into the 271 regions into which the territory of the EU is divided (so -called NUTS -2 level) is based on the per capita gross domestic product (GDP); the 99 regions where the GDP is below 75% of the EU average in 2000-2002 receive higher grants. However, since the remaining budgetary funds are spent on a policy area basis and not on a country-specific basis, the net share of EU funds does not necessarily depend on a country's GDP: Ireland, for example, was a net recipient until 2009, although it had the second highest average income in the EU after Luxembourg. Subsidies within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy make up a large proportion of these policy-related expenditures.
The multi-annual financial framework as a financial planning tool is drawn up for seven years at a time. The budget funds provided for the years 2007-2013 amount to around 975 billion euros, corresponding to 1.24% of the gross national income of all member states. This amount corresponds to the permissible upper limit set by the Council of the EU in the so-called own resources decision. An annual budget is drawn up within the financial framework, with Parliament and the Council acting jointly as the EU's budgetary authority: both institutions can make changes to the preliminary draft budget proposed by the Commission; the Council has the last word on revenue and Parliament on expenditure.
|category||2007-2013||2014-2020||comparison absolute||comparison in %|
|1. Sustainable growth||446,310||450,763||+4,453||+1.0%|
|1a. Competitiveness for growth and employment||91,495||125,614||+34.119||+37.3%|
|1b. Cohesion for growth and jobs||354,815||325,149||−29,666||−8.4%|
|2. Conservation and management of natural resources||420,682||373,179||−47,503||−11.3%|
|of which market-related expenditure and direct payments||336,685||277,851||−58,834||−17.5%|
|3. Citizenship, Freedom, Security and Justice||12,366||15,686||+3,320||+26.8%|
|4. The EU as a global partner||56,815||58,704||+1,899||+3.3%|
|6. Compensation Payments||–||27||+27||+100%|
|Total commitment appropriations||994,176||959,988||−34,188||−3.5%|
|Commitment appropriations as a percentage of GNI||1.12%||1.00%|
In the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020, 39 percent of the total funds are earmarked for the common agricultural policy; 34% goes to EU structural policy, 13% to research and technology, 6% each to foreign policy and administration; 2% are reserved for the fields of Union citizenship, freedom, security and justice. The European Council reached a political agreement in February 2013 that the spending ceiling for the European Union for the period 2014-2020 is €959,988 million in commitment appropriations. This corresponds to 1.00% of the gross national income of the EU.
principle of conferral , the Union acts only within the limits of the competences that the Member States have conferred on it in the Treaties in order to achieve the objectives set out therein. According to the principle of subsidiarity , the Union will only act in areas that do not fall under its exclusive competence if and to the extent that the objectives pursued can be better achieved at Union level than at Member State level. At the same time, the measures taken by the EU must not go further than is necessary to achieve the goals specified in the EU Treaty ( principle of proportionality ). Despite these restrictive principles, EU legislation also determines a large part of national legislation : In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, two thirds of all laws passed in the area of domestic policy can be traced back to initiatives or legal acts at EU level.TEU, all competences not assigned to the European Union in the treaties remain with the member states. According to the
The Treaties confer on the Union either exclusive competence in a given area or competence shared with the Member States . In addition, in certain areas, the Union only has competence to implement actions in support of and coordination of the actions of the Member States ( supporting competence ). TFEU, the Union has exclusive competence in the areas of the European Customs Union , the determination of the competition rules for the European internal market , the monetary policy of the states participating in the European Monetary Union , the conservation of biological marine resources within the framework of the common fisheries policy and the common commercial policy . The shared competences according to TFEU include the European internal market , certain areas of social policy , economic, social and territorial cohesion , agriculture and fisheries with the exception of the conservation of marine biological resources, environmental policy , consumer protection , transport policy , the trans-European networks , energy policy , the area of freedom, security and justice , certain areas of health protection , research, technology and space policy and development policy .
The history of European unification is characterized by the overwhelming importance of economic integration steps. Initiated by the communitarization of the coal and steel sector in 1952 and continued with the creation of the EEC and EURATOM in 1957 and the completion of the internal market in 1993, they led to the introduction of the euro as cash in 2002.
Today, the institutions of the EU play an important role in European economic policy in several areas: While the agricultural sector is characterized by an EU-wide market organization with high subsidies, the influence of the Union in industry and commerce is particularly evident in the specification of Standards and competition rules that the Commission monitors compliance with. The main competence for ensuring fair competition on the internal market lies with the Commissioner for Competition of the European Commission , who supplements the respective antitrust authorities of the individual states as a supranational body. In addition to controlling the economy, he is also responsible for approving subsidies in the member states. This is to prevent individual states from supporting national companies to the detriment of competitors from the rest of the EU.
To strengthen European industry, the EU promotes new technologies. Numerous coordination bodies have been set up to develop uniform standards so that the internal market is not hampered in development by different technical standards.
In addition, the EU promotes, among other things, cooperation between small and medium-sized companies in particular in the research and development of innovative products for growth markets. Externally, too, the EU countries appear as a unified economic bloc and are represented by the Trade Commissioner in the World Trade Organization , for example .
Customs union and internal market
The aim of the EEC Treaty of 1957 was to remove trade barriers between the Member States and to this end provided for the gradual introduction of the so-called four fundamental freedoms , namely the free movement of goods, capital, services and labor within the territory of the Community. Of particular importance is the free movement of goods ( et seq. TFEU), import and export duties and quantitative import and export restrictions (quotations) within the internal market are prohibited. Since the 1980s, the fundamental freedoms have been extended – among other things by the case law of the ECJ and the Single European Act – in such a way that all other national norms that make trade between states in the community more difficult are also inadmissible. The economic community was thus expanded into a uniform internal market .
A customs union has been in effect within the European Union since 1968 , which means that trade between different member states must not be impeded by customs duties or similar taxes. In addition, the Member States have a common customs tariff vis-à-vis third countries . Turkey has also been a member of the Customs Union since 1996, along with Andorra and San Marino . The EEA member states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway form a free trade area with the customs union, but do not apply the common customs tariff to third countries.
Furthermore, citizenship . With regard to this so-called equal national treatment, merchants who sell goods in another EU member state may not be subject to any regulations other than those that also apply to the nationals of the state concerned.et seq. TFEU between the EU member states generally provide for the ban on quantitative import and export restrictions. Such restrictions are only permissible if to protect public safety and order, for moral and health reasons, for reasons of protecting the life of humans, animals and plants, or to preserve national cultural assets of artistic, historical or archeological value, or also for protection industrial property such national legislation is required. There is also a general ban on discrimination throughout the EU, according to which no EU citizen may be discriminated against because of their
The case law of the European Court of Justice on the free movement of goods has turned this basic freedom into a motor for further market integration. The free movement of goods has been significantly expanded by the fact that goods-related regulations of the member states, which treat EU foreigners as well as nationals and do not provide for quotas, are also considered inadmissible if they actually make trade in goods between the member states more difficult. According to the ECJ, such provisions have the same effect as quotas and are therefore just as contrary to the contract. This also applies to regulations that apply equally to residents and foreigners: For example, the regulation was dropped according to which only beer that was brewed according to the German Purity Law could be sold in Germany . Since the Purity Law applied to both German and foreign manufacturers, it was not disadvantageous, but it was practically equivalent to an import ban into Germany for beers produced outside Germany. However, national regulations that inhibit trade are permitted in cases where quantitative restrictions on imports and exports would also be permitted. In addition, such regulations are permissible if they are not related to goods but to sales.
With the Single European Act of 1986, the goal of a common internal market was also contractually stipulated. In order to prevent the principle that products that can be manufactured and sold in one EU Member State should not be banned in the rest of the Union from leading to a race to the bottom in terms of production standards, the Member States aligned many of their legal and Administrative regulations and created a large number of EU-wide standards in the Council of the European Union - despite criticism of the associated centralization.
In order to prevent economic cartels and monopolies in the EU and to ensure fair competition on the internal market, the antitrust authorities of the individual states are supported by the European Commission's Competition Commissioner . In addition to controlling the economy, he is also responsible for approving subsidies in the member states. This is intended to prevent individual states from supporting certain companies in an anti-competitive manner. Subsidies are only permitted for economically weak regions (e.g. for eastern Germany).
The EU competition policy (et seq. TFEU) has contributed significantly to the fact that many monopoly-like companies, for example in the telecommunications sector, in gas, water and electricity supply and in rail transport, give up their special position and face the competition of other providers had to put on the market. The pressure of competition often led to surges in innovation and falling consumer prices, but also to changes in wages and working conditions and in many cases to job cuts in the companies concerned. Liberalization was and is therefore viewed critically by parts of the public.
Free movement of services
While obstacles to trade in goods were removed very quickly after the establishment of the common internal market, obstacles to trade between countries remained in the service sector ( et seq. TFEU). This problem area was tackled with the European Services Directive of December 12, 2006, which the European Commission regards as an important part of the Lisbon strategy for boosting the European economy. As a directive , it needs to be transposed into national law by the individual member states.
The aim of the directive is to promote cross-border trade in services. To this end, it provides certain simplifications for established service providers, including the creation of a single point of contact and electronic processing. Their area of application includes not only classic service providers such as hairdressers, IT specialists, service providers in the construction industry and craftsmen, but also some services of general interest such as care for the elderly, childcare, institutions for the disabled, residential education, garbage disposal, transport systems, etc., insofar as these are already provided under market conditions in the Member State concerned .
European Economic and Monetary Union
The introduction of a common European currency ( Werner Plan of 1970, had failed, the euro was finally introduced as a common currency on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty : in 1999 for the central and commercial banks, in 2002 as cash payment in all member states involved.et seq. TFEU) was a topic of discussion in the European Economic Community from an early stage. After initial attempts in this direction, such as the
However, not all EU countries are also members of the monetary union. Great Britain and Denmark have reserved the option of not participating in the negotiations, which they have made use of to date. In principle, all other countries are obliged to participate, but the prerequisite for this is the achievement of certain conditions that are regarded as decisive for monetary stability . These so-called convergence criteria are laid down in the Stability and Growth Pact and relate to national debt, interest rates and the rate of inflation. Sweden is currently avoiding participation in monetary union by deliberately failing to comply with these convergence criteria, since a referendum in 2003 decided against the euro. Of the countries that joined in 2004, 2007 and 2013, Slovenia, Malta, the Republic of Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have so far taken part in the monetary union. As a result, 19 member states have belonged to the eurozone since 2015.
Even in the run-up to the introduction of the euro, the convergence criteria led to a degree of harmonization in the financial and economic policies of the member states that was hardly expected. The governing body of monetary union is the European Central Bank, which is based on the model of the Deutsche Bundesbank . The so-called Eurogroup , in which the finance ministers of the euro zone meet, is responsible for coordinating the economic and financial policies of the member states.
As part of the common commercial policy, the EU regulates imports and exports from and to third countries ( TARIC , Combined Nomenclature ) which the Council of the European Union adopts with a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission. It represents an important feature and negotiation object of EU economic policy.f. TFEU). The customs union introduced a uniform customs tariff (
In principle, the common commercial policy of the EU is committed to the idea of global free trade , but it can fall back on a comprehensive set of protective instruments of a tariff and non-tariff nature to avert economic dangers. In addition to the autonomous measures, international trade agreements in which the EU is a party are also of great importance, in particular the agreements within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Although all member states are also members of the WTO in their own right , their spokesperson is the European Union, represented by the European Commission's Trade Commissioner.
agricultural and fisheries policy
Despite its comparatively small contribution to the gross domestic product of the EU, agricultural policy ( et seq. TFEU) acquired outstanding importance in European integration early on. Initiated by the European Commission in 1960, the Council of Ministers introduced the first common agricultural market organization in January 1962 . The aim was to increase agricultural productivity and avoid price fluctuations, which should ensure a decent standard of living for producers and a stable supply at reasonable prices for consumers.
However, a system of guaranteed prices set up for this purpose had a number of undesirable side effects. On the one hand, this led to production surpluses that did not conform to the market and, on the other hand, to food prices that were well above the world market level and thus weighed on consumers. Since the European Economic Community guaranteed the purchase of production surpluses, its budget was also heavily burdened for decades: for a long time, agricultural policy accounted for well over half of total expenditure. In addition, the guaranteed price system also had negative consequences for the environment and development policy, as it made imports more difficult. Under certain conditions , agricultural products can be produced more efficiently in emerging and developing countries. In addition to economic conditions such as wage levels and transport costs, the climatic conditions and availability of resources are also important here - especially with regard to water and cultivated land. Until the 1990s, all attempts at reform to reduce price subsidies failed due to drastic forms of farmer protest and the unanimity principle that was retained here in the Council of the European Union.
Only when it became clear that the planned eastward enlargement would blow up the EU budget without a reform of the agricultural policy, since the economy of many of the candidate countries was still heavily influenced by agriculture, was Agenda 2000 followed by a reduction in producer prices according to various quota regulations (with compensation payments ) and a convergence with world market prices for agricultural products. However, this reform process of the common agricultural policy has not yet been completed.
|1968||Mansholt plan||Reduce the agricultural workforce by about half over a 10-year period and encourage larger, more efficient farms|
|1972||structural measures||Modernization of agriculture, combating overproduction|
|1985||Green Paper "Prospects for the Common Agricultural Policy"||Combating overproduction, also in 1985 issuing a regulation to improve the efficiency of the agricultural structure|
|1988||"Guideline for Agricultural Expenditure"||Limitation of agricultural expenditure|
|1992||MacSharry reform||Fundamental reform with the objectives: lowering agricultural prices, compensating payments for the loss of income,
promoting market mechanisms, environmental protection measures, gradual reduction in export refunds
|1999||Agenda 2000||Strengthening competitiveness through price reductions, rural policies, promotion of environmental measures and food safety.
Introduction of " cross compliance ", modulation in premium payments
|2003||mid-term evaluation||Decoupling direct payments from production and linking them to cross compliance.|
|2009||Health check reform||Accelerate Agenda 2000 action while limiting EU farm spending.|
|2013||CAP reform 2013||Greening, elimination of the last remaining export subsidies , direct payments|
While forestry has so far hardly played a role at EU level, the Common Fisheries Policy ( et seq. TFEU) has been an important contentious issue in negotiations and in the balancing of political compromises in the Council of the European Union since the early 1970s , although it represents only a small part of the EU budget. In 2004, the budget for fisheries policy was EUR 931 million, around 0.75% of the total EU budget. The task of the Common Fisheries Policy is to promote the fishing industry in line with the principle of sustainability . To combat overfishing and the decline in fish stocks, the EU sets catch quotas for the various member states and certain fish species. As part of its structural policy, the EU has on the one hand pushed through a reduction in the national fishing fleets, on the other hand it provides compensatory measures in particularly affected regions and promotes the use of environmentally friendly technology. Nevertheless, the catch quotas are considered a major reason why countries such as Norway and Iceland, whose economies are heavily influenced by fisheries, have not joined the EU.
Within the EU there are a number of regions whose economic performance is far below the EU average, mostly as a result of disadvantageous economic-geographical location factors. A classic example of this is the Mezzogiorno in Italy. Such regions – which have increased significantly since 2004 as a result of the accession of the Central and Eastern European countries – are granted special funding, whereby differences in the development status of the areas are to be leveled out and regional disparities are to be reduced ( et seq. TFEU). For this purpose, three so-called structural funds were set up to ensure that the poorer regions catch up economically. The use of this money is roughly planned in the seven-year financial forecast of the EU (currently for the period 2007-2013).
The first of the three structural funds is the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Among other things, it supports medium-sized companies so that permanent jobs can be created. In order to be able to provide more targeted help, the funding is usually allocated to individual economic sectors . In addition, infrastructure projects are initiated and technical assistance measures are applied.
The ERDF can act within the framework of three objectives: The first objective, convergence , applies to regions whose gross domestic product per inhabitant is below 75% of the EU average. The main aim is to modernize the economic structure and create jobs. The second objective, regional competitiveness and employment , concerns the regions that are not eligible under the Convergence objective; the funds provided for this are correspondingly lower than those for Objective 1. The priorities of the objective of regional competitiveness and employment lie in strengthening research, development and finance as well as in environmental protection and risk prevention. There are two bridging mechanisms to avoid a shock when a region loses subsidies when it moves from Objective 1 to Objective 2: Regions that were previously supported in the Objective 1 category but whose GDP has increased to such an extent that it is now above 75% of the EU average of Member States before 2004 receive a decreasing transitional aid called phasing-in. Other regions that fell into the Objective 1 category until the EU enlargements in 2004, but now no longer fall below the 75% criterion for statistical reasons due to the accession of poorer countries, are awarded a decreasing transitional aid called phasing -out . Finally, the third objective of the ERDF, European territorial cooperation , focuses on transnational cooperation and economic and social development in border regions.
The second fund is the European Social Fund , which, like the ERDF, is used in all Member States. It aims to improve education systems and access to the labor market.
Finally, the cohesion fund set up in 1993 is intended to reduce economic and social disparities among the member states. Eligible under this fund are projects related to environmental and transport infrastructure in EU Member States whose gross domestic product per capita is below 90% of the EU average. Since May 1, 2004 these are Greece, Portugal, Spain, the Republic of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
In the years 2007 to 2013, the EU intends to spend around 360 billion euros in funding for regional development in the member states. Financial aid from the EU is often not paid out directly by Brussels, but indirectly via the national and regional authorities of the member states. The European Commission pays money directly to governmental or private organisations, such as universities , companies , interest groups and non-governmental organisations .
In addition to projects within the Union, the EU also supports projects in countries that want to join it. This external funding is used, among other things, the support of neighborly relations and the stabilization of the recipient countries.
Foreign and Security Policy
common foreign policy
The aim of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP, common strategies , in the formulation of which the European Parliament in particular has almost no say. European foreign policy complements the foreign policy of the nation states, but does not replace it.et seq. TEU and et seq. TFEU) is to protect the common values and interests of the Union, to strengthen security and peace, to promote international cooperation and Strengthening of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Unlike most other policy areas of the EU, the CFSP is largely intergovernmental in nature: the governments of the member states unanimously define
However, most of the practical negotiation and coordination work in the CFSP is in the hands of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy . He is also Vice-President of the European Commission and (non-voting) Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Council . He is responsible for around 130 European Union delegations to international organizations and third countries. The Treaty of Lisbon also provides for the establishment of a European External Action Service , which is to be made up of these delegations as well as staff from the Council Secretariat and the national diplomatic services and is also to be fully subordinate to the High Representative ( (3) TEU). As a result, he has operational independence and can also set his own priorities within the framework of the Council's specifications.
While the CFSP has repeatedly been successful in everyday diplomatic work and, for example, when voting in the General Assembly of the United Nations , joint action by the EU states is now the norm, national governments still often pursue their own strategies in international crises. This led to a fierce diplomatic conflict between the EU member states before the Iraq war in 2003 (see Iraq crisis 2003 ).
The EU's international relations are often regulated in bilateral and multilateral agreements that are geared to the economic but also political interests of both partners. In addition to the agreements with the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (see development policy ), there are also agreements with other regional free trade organizations, for example with the Southeast Asian ASEAN states, the South American Mercosur , the North American NAFTA and others. A special relationship exists between the EU and the USA as the world's two largest economic blocs and the most important Western democratic powers. The EU has also had a special partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with Russia since 1994. However, further development of Russian-European relations is controversial among EU member states.
security and defense policy
Finally, the common security and defense policy (GSDP, European Defense Community in 1954, military cooperation between the Western European states initially took place primarily within the framework of NATO . Only since the 1990s has the EU attempted to develop its own security policy structures. To do this, it initially relied on the Western European Union and eventually developed the CSDP. This should both respect the neutrality of certain member states and be compatible with the NATO membership of other member states. The EU has the character of a defensive alliance ; that is, in the event of an armed attack on one of the member states, the others must provide support (Article 42(7) TEU).et seq. TEU) plays a special role as part of the CFSP. After the failure of the
CSDP also has some special institutions: the Political and Security Committee , the Military Committee, the Military Staff , the Committee on Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management and the EU Planning Cell for Civilian and Military Affairs. There is also a European Defense Agency with the task of "contributing to the identification of measures to strengthen the industrial and technological base of the defense sector". In principle, decisions can only be made unanimously in the Council of the EU . The so-called passerelle rule , through which otherwise unanimous issues can be transferred to the area of majority decisions, is also not applicable to the CSDP. However, if a group of member states would like to make faster progress in the CSDP than others, they have the option of permanent structured cooperation ( TEU), which essentially corresponds to enhanced cooperation in other policy areas.
The aim of the GSDP is to fulfill the so-called Petersberg tasks , namely humanitarian tasks and rescue operations, peacekeeping tasks and combat missions in crisis management, including peace-building measures. To this end, the EU states can undertake joint military missions, which happened for the first time in 2003 in Operation Artemis in eastern Congo . According to the text of the treaty, the GSDP could also lead to a common European defence, i.e. a European army . However, this would require a unanimous decision by the European Council , which currently seems unlikely - especially since several EU countries are also active in NATO, while others are neutral. The member states provide troops for missions within the framework of the CSDP, such as the EU peacekeeping mission EUFOR , each on a voluntary basis and according to national legal requirements (Germany, for example, only with the approval of the Bundestag ). The EU Battlegroups , which have been set up since 2005 and consist of two multinational combat units, each with a strength of 1,500 soldiers, are aimed at increased practical cooperation within the framework of the GSDP, which should be ready for action at short notice in the event of a crisis. They are set up by a group of member states for a period of six months and then dissolved again. However, these supranational associations have not actually been used since they were introduced due to a dispute over funding.
At the end of 2017, 25 of the then 28 member states signed an agreement on permanent structured cooperation ("Permanent Structured Cooperation" ( PESCO )) in defense and security policy, which provides for joint operations and armaments projects as well as a regular increase in defense spending by the participating states . Apart from Great Britain, which is dealing with Brexit , the EU members Denmark and Malta have not joined the agreement .
European neighborhood policy
An important part of European foreign policy is the relationship with the EU's immediate neighbors to the south and east, with whom it has concluded a dense network of agreements since 2004 as part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The aim of the ENP is on the one hand economic cooperation and on the other hand the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law in the immediate vicinity of the EU. Parallel to this neighborhood policy, the Union for the Mediterranean was founded in 2008 with the states in North Africa and the Near East (including Turkey and Israel ) , which builds on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership of 1995. In addition, the Eastern Partnership was initiated in 2009, the aim of which is the political association and economic integration of former union republics of the Soviet Union.
The ENP is primarily aimed at those states that are looking for close ties with the EU but will not be able to join in the foreseeable future for political or geographical reasons. The states in the western Balkans, which are considered potential accession candidates, are therefore not included in the ENP. These are prepared for membership in so-called Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA). This means that the countries willing to join will be tied more closely to the EU, both economically and politically, which should make the accession talks easier.
Both the ENP and the negotiations with the accession candidates are not the responsibility of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, but of the European Commission's Commissioner for Enlargement . However, he must coordinate closely with the High Representative in order to ensure the coherence of European foreign policy.
The European Union is also active in development policy ( et seq. TFEU). The European states bear the responsibility for the damage caused under their rule during colonization, especially in Africa and parts of South America. Unlike foreign and security policy, development policy measures are decided according to the ordinary legislative procedure , i.e. with equal participation of the European Parliament.
Among the individual measures, trade privileges for developing countries through the general system of preferences, the raw materials regime and, in particular, humanitarian aid through the responsible European office , ECHO , should be mentioned. In addition, additional trading privileges are granted to a number of countries through bilateral or multilateral agreements. The most important here is the Cotonou Agreement , which was concluded in 2000 with 77 countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific region (so -called ACP countries ) and replaced the previous Lomé Conventions . In return, these agreements usually oblige the partner countries to comply with certain democratic and rule-of -law standards.
The European Investment Bank also contributes to development policy and, together with the European Development Fund , also provides most of the financial resources.
In the Union for the Mediterranean , the EU promotes the development of the Arab Mediterranean states as well as Turkey and Israel . At the heart of this are bilateral agreements with the individual states, which, in addition to extensive tariff exemption, provide for further trade policy concessions as well as cooperation in the technical and economic area.
justice and home affairs
Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the European Union has had competences in justice and home affairs. The third pillar created at that time contains regulations for cooperation in the areas of justice and home affairs. Matters of common interest are therefore asylum policy , rules for crossing the external borders of the Member States, immigration policy, the fight against illegal immigration, drug addiction and fraud on an international scale, as well as judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, police cooperation in the fight against terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime.
The Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 introduced the broader goal of a Europe-wide area of freedom, security and justice and incorporated the Schengen Agreement on the abolition of checks on persons at internal borders into EU law. In addition to policies in the area of border controls, asylum and immigration ( et seq. TFEU, formerly known as accompanying measures for the free movement of persons ), this also includes judicial cooperation in civil matters (JZZ, TFEU) and police and judicial cooperation in Criminal matters (PJZS, et seq. TFEU). Through the PJZS, the EU can, among other things, set minimum standards in criminal procedural law , such as the rights of the accused ( TFEU). For certain cross-border criminal offences, such as terrorism , human trafficking , drug trafficking , arms trafficking , money laundering , corruption and computer crime , it can also regulate minimum provisions for criminal offenses and penalties ( TFEU).
After the Council initially decided unanimously for all these areas and the European Parliament had no powers, the ordinary legislative procedure was gradually introduced. Since the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, it has applied to all justice and home affairs policies. However, some Member States, namely Ireland and Denmark , have derogations; their participation in the joint actions is limited. On the other hand, some non-EU countries, namely Iceland , Norway and Switzerland , have also joined the Schengen Agreement and therefore have to implement certain decisions taken by the EU within this framework.
The European authorities Europol and Eurojust were set up to implement the common justice and home affairs policy. They coordinate the cooperation between the national police and judicial authorities. In addition, the Schengen Information System was set up, through which the Member States exchange information on persons and objects that have been put on notice. The European Agency for Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union ( Frontex for short) is responsible for joint border protection . Measures taken under the PJZS also include the European Arrest Warrant , which simplified the extradition of criminals between Member States.
The establishment of a European Public Prosecutor 's Office to combat crimes under , including those affecting the Union's financial interests, has been underway for several years, but was not implemented by the European Council until 2016, despite the consent of the European Parliament decided in 2017 to implement it in the initially smaller framework of structured cooperation.
Education policy and research funding
The change in European countries from classic industrial to potential information and knowledge societies triggered by technological innovation surges and global networking opportunities has led to the EU bodies, which for decades dealt only little with education policy ( The Lisbon Strategy adopted in 2000, like its successor program Europe 2020 , sees education policy as the most important instrument for promoting the European economy. It aims to create a European education and employment area based on lifelong learning .f. TFEU), meanwhile develop significant activities here.
The Bologna process , which was initiated in 1999 at a conference of 29 European education ministers and now includes 45 countries, is designed to create a European higher education area. It is not limited to the EU, but is based on its educational policy goals. Its core component is a two-tier system of degrees, which in Germany were called bachelor's and master's degrees, based on the Anglo-Saxon model . While the bachelor's degree usually lasts three to four (three in Germany) years of study and should offer the first professional degree, the master's lasts one to two (two in Germany) years and is used for specialization. This can be followed by a doctorate to obtain a doctorate, which is already the highest academic degree in Europe.
In order to promote freedom of movement and mobility of learners in Europe, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) was also introduced, a scheme for standardizing qualification requirements, within which defined competencies are assigned to specific levels. This system aims to make educational qualifications easier to compare internationally. A Europe-wide credit point system, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS, "European credit point transfer system"), was created especially for the higher education sector, which is intended to enable the Europe-wide crediting, transfer and accumulation of study achievements, also to allow for the recognition of study visits abroad facilitate and encourage student mobility across Europe.
In analogy to higher education, a credit point system is also being developed for vocational training. This should enable individual learners throughout Europe to document their learning success or the skills they have acquired. The points should also be able to be counted anywhere in Europe. The aim is to increase the permeability of the different education systems in Europe, but this requires a restructuring of the training and further education courses in the Member States.
In addition to these measures to create a common European higher education area, there have been a large number of EU programs since the 1980s that are intended to promote Europe-wide exchange in the education system. In July 2004, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal merging these programs into a single Lifelong Learning Program structured around four different educational sectors: general (school) education, vocational education, higher education and adult education. Among the currently existing cooperation measures of a general educational nature, the university program Erasmus is particularly well known, which promotes cross-border cooperation and the exchange of students and lecturers. There is also the Comenius programme , which supports school partnerships, Lingua , which promotes foreign language teaching at EU level, and Leonardo , which stimulates relevant activities in vocational training, and the Grundtvig programme, which is responsible for adult education . Since 2014, these European education programs have been coordinated together under the umbrella of the Erasmus+ program.
In addition to teaching, the EU is also active in research funding ( The European Research Council , set up by the European Commission and taking up its duties at the beginning of 2007, aims to support basic scientific research. A total of 22 scientists appointed to the Research Council allocate project funds, initially amounting to one billion euros annually, based on criteria of excellence and without regard to regional distribution, regardless of political influence. In addition to the previously funded thematic programs, there are now also general funds for research without direct application (so-called frontier research , i.e. "research at the frontiers of knowledge"). The program should i.a. serve to make the EU more attractive as a research location for highly qualified people, to better identify outstanding scientific talent and to fill personnel gaps in cutting-edge research, primarily by promoting young scientists.et seq. TFEU).
social and employment policy
Although the harmonization of social standards was one of the goals of the European Economic Community early on , the individual states' reservations of sovereignty and the demand for the principle of subsidiarity are generally more pronounced here than in economic policy. For this reason, the principle of unanimity in the Council of the EU applies to certain questions in this policy area, for example in the area of social security ; the European Parliament only has to be consulted and has no rights of co-determination. The importance of national policy-making in these fields is therefore correspondingly more important: the important social security systems, such as unemployment and social assistance , are still located at the level of the nation states. Since they account for a large proportion of the state budget in all EU member states - and thus also of the political scope for action - the governments have little interest in transferring competencies in this area to the EU. In other areas, such as occupational safety or gender equality , the ordinary legislative procedure applies .
The social policy of the EU ( European Social Fund , founded in 1960 , whose funds are used for measures for vocational training, retraining, combating youth unemployment (75% of the funds) and the reintegration of the unemployed be used. In addition, the anchoring of fundamental social rights in the EU treaty is linked to the concern of having a standardizing effect on the social policies of the member states. This can be seen, among other things, in the accentuated EU equality policy in the sense of implementing the gender mainstreaming concept, in anti- discrimination regulations and in regulations on the compatibility of family and work .et seq. TFEU) is therefore based in material terms mainly on the
With the Amsterdam Treaty, the EU has also made an active employment policy its program ( et seq. TFEU). The funds available for this were initially very small, but were gradually expanded. A strategy coordinated between the EU and the Member States is aimed at, which is primarily aimed at better qualifications for jobseekers and labor market flexibility. The EU also promotes labor market policy coordination between the member states.
In 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty, consumer protection interests were included in the European treaties for the first time ( , TFEU). The primary goals are not only uniform quality standards in production and trade, but also health protection and consumer education and information. This can be seen, for example, in the mandatory labeling requirement for genetically modified products .
After the shortcomings in consumer protection that became apparent with the BSE cattle epidemic, the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection was set up at the European Commission in 1999 , which is responsible, among other things, for plant protection, veterinary and food controls. For example, the freedom of movement for goods in the internal market can be partially suspended by export bans if certain products pose a health risk to consumers. The product liability directive introduced in 1985 puts the burden of proof for a defect-free product in the event of damage on the manufacturer's side, for example in the case of children's toys, textiles and cosmetics. The subject of EU consumer policy also includes, for example, reimbursement claims for package tours, misleading advertising and abusive contractual clauses, especially in cross-border traffic.
An active environmental protection policy ( Amsterdam Treaty , environmental protection has been a cross-cutting principle that must be taken into account in all EU actions. For example, when planning economic and infrastructure projects, an environmental impact assessment must be carried out, which, as a uniform administrative procedure, precedes the approval of structural measures.et seq. TFEU) has been pursued by the European Economic Community since the early 1970s, for example in the areas of water protection, air pollution control and waste disposal. Initially, aftercare for environmental protection in the sense of eliminating damage that had occurred was in the foreground, the principle of prevention is now being emphasized more and more. Since the
Legislative acts in environmental policy are generally enacted under the ordinary legislative procedure . Individual states have the option of applying stricter environmental standards than those applicable to the entire EU, as long as this does not result in trade barriers.
With the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive , natural habitats of wild animals and plants and thus biological diversity are to be preserved. Designated protected areas in the EU member states are to develop into a European ecological network ( Natura 2000 ). This network serves to preserve, (re)establish and develop ecological interactions as well as to promote natural propagation and resettlement processes. It is thus the central legal instrument of the European Union for implementing the commitments made by the member states in 1992 to protect biological diversity ( Convention on Biological Diversity , CBD, Rio 1992).
The EU provides the member states with financial support for designating the areas of Community importance ( Site of Community Importance - SCI) and the special protection areas ( Special Protected Area - SPA). At the end of 2013, 27,308 SCI and SPA areas were designated with 1,039,332 km², 787,767 km² land area, 251,565 km² marine area.
climate and energy policy
In addition to classic environmental policy, climate protection is also a contractual goal of the EU. Among the important international actors, the EU is playing a pioneering role here – with fluctuating commitment and success of individual member states. The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is to be achieved through various measures, above all through EU emissions trading . In addition, the EU is using the ALTENER program to promote the replacement of fossil fuels with regenerative energies .
Climate policy has developed into one of the most dynamic policy fields in the EU in recent years. In organizational terms, climate policy was part of the Environment Directorate-General for a long time. In the Barroso II Commission , the office of a commissioner for climate protection was created for the first time, which now exists independently of the environment commissioner .
The energy policy of the European Union has only been contractually institutionalized since the Treaty of Lisbon ( TFEU). A few energy policy initiatives (to promote energy efficiency or to unbundle energy supply companies) had previously been made via environmental or competition policy. The goals of energy policy are a functioning energy market, guaranteeing the energy supply, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energies, and linking the energy networks between the Member States. , measures affecting the choice between different energy sources, i.e. the energy mix of the Member States, can only be taken unanimously ( energy law ).
On March 9, 2007, the European Union made a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and to increase the proportion of renewable energies to an average of 20% by 2020. In January 2008, the European Commission decided on binding requirements for the individual member states. Directive 2009/28/EC obliges the member states to set national targets for the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption, with the individual states expressly being given a free hand with regard to the individual support systems.
In the political guidelines of the new Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, it is planned to reform and restructure Europe's energy policy and to create a European energy union with an increased share of renewable energy in the energy mix. The aim is for Europe's Energy Union to become the world's number one in renewable energies.
transport and space policy
The transport policy of the EU ( Trans-European Networks (TEN, TFEU), which are to connect the various European regions with one another by 2020. This TEN project includes roads, railways, inland waterways, combined transport (connecting different modes of transport), ports, airports and terminals for long-distance freight transport, but also information, navigation and traffic management systems.et seq. TFEU) is primarily aimed at improving the cross-border mobility of people and goods in the internal market. An essential part of this is the establishment and expansion of
In addition, the goal of environmental compatibility in EU transport policy also plays an important role. The European Commission is taking into account the increasing burden on the resident population and the environment resulting from road traffic and aviation with proposals that provide for higher technical environmental standards for vehicles and that users are increasingly burdened with road and environmental costs.
In addition, the Commission focuses primarily on promoting rail transport: as early as 1996, it presented a white paper on the “revitalization of European railways”, which envisages the creation of so-called trans-European freeways for rail freight transport. In one segment of the TEN construction there are major projects such as the Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London high-speed line.
Beyond the domestic market-oriented transport policy, the EU also pursues its own space policy in close cooperation with the European Space Agency ESA, with which the EU has concluded a contract, the EU-ESA Framework Agreement . The European Space Council, formed for this purpose, is responsible for EU space policy and coordination with ESA and other partners .
With a nominal gross domestic product of 14.82 trillion euros (as of 2016), the European Union is the largest single market in the world and generates around a quarter of global GDP. Depending on the country , the per capita income is subject to strong fluctuations and is usually significantly higher in northern and western Europe than in the southern and eastern member states. It was highest in Luxembourg in 2016 with 92,900 euros, lowest in Bulgaria with 6,600 dollars.
The main economic sectors are industry and services , while agriculture accounts for only a small part of the European economy. Economic growth in the EU between 2000 and 2008 averaged 2.2%. The EU experienced a 4.4% recession in 2009 as a result of the global financial and economic crisis . In the two following years, the GDP rose again (2010 by 2.1%, 2011 by 1.7%), in 2012 it fell again slightly by 0.5%. Recovery began in 2013 and the economy grew by 0.2%. From 2014, economic output grew by almost 2% annually and was thus back at the level before the crisis.
The average annual inflation rate between 2003 and 2013 was 2.25%. The unemployment rate was 7.4% in March 2017, and the energy intensity of the European economy (consumption in kilograms of oil equivalents per €1000 of GDP) was 151.6 in 2008 (compared to the USA 180.7; Japan 90.1).
In terms of foreign trade, the EU achieved a current account surplus of USD 387,100 million in 2016, which means that the EU had the highest surplus of all economic areas.
gross domestic product
|People's Republic of China||12,279||13,717||15,046||16,468||17,961||19,392||21,292||23,159||25,279||23,393|
According to the statistical survey by Eurostat , the following picture emerges of the development of unemployment in the European Union compared to the United States and Japan between 2005 and 2018. The effects of the financial crisis from 2007 are clearly visible :
In terms of exports and imports, in 2015 the EU processed almost two thirds of its entire trade in goods within its own borders. For individual Member States, the importance of the internal market is even greater.
(in million euros)
(in million euros)
(in million euros)
(in million euros)
(in million euros)
|rank||main trading partner||Imports
(in million euros)
(in million euros)
(in EUR million)
|Total trade volume of the EU||1,724,867||100||1,789,063||100||3,513,929||100|
|2||People's Republic of China 1||350,257||20.3||170,399||9.5||520,657||14.8|
|13||United Arab Emirates||9,364||0.5||48,480||2.7||57,844||1.6|
1 excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
Based on an estimate by Eurostat , the European Union (EU-28) had 514,117,784 inhabitants on an area of 4,479,384 square kilometers on January 1, 2019; on January 1, 2020 there were none the United Kingdom (EU-27) 448,285,127 inhabitants on 4,234,564 km². With a population density of 119 inhabitants/km² (2019) or 104 inhabitants/km² (2020), the European Union is one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
The most populous member state is Germany with an estimated population of 83.1 million inhabitants (2020), the least populous member state is Malta with 514,500 inhabitants. Birth rates in the European Union are very low, averaging around 1.6 children per woman. The highest birth rates are in Ireland with 16.88 births per thousand inhabitants per year and France with 13.01 births per thousand inhabitants per year. Germany has the lowest birth rate in the European Union with 8.22 births per thousand inhabitants and year.
|Member State||population||% of EU||Area
|% of EU||Population density inhabitants
|Member State||population||% of EU||Area
|% of EU||Population density inhabitants
There are 15 cities with over a million inhabitants in the European Union . Due to the differently tailored urban areas, however, a size comparison is more meaningful for the associated metropolitan regions : The metropolitan region of Paris ( aire urbaine de Paris ) is the largest metropolitan region in the European Union with around 12.5 million inhabitants in France. However, there are also statistics that work with other spatial delimitations and thus come to different numbers of inhabitants and possibly different rankings, such as e.g. B. in the list of the largest metropolitan areas in the world , which also includes three metropolitan areas of the EU: Paris, the Ruhr area and Madrid (in that order).
European Union (Europe)
|1||Berlin||3,644,826||892||4,090||Dec 31, 2018|
|2||Madrid||3,266,126||607||5,381||Jan 1, 2019|
|3||Rome||2,651,040||1,285||2,063||31 Oct 2013|
|4||Paris||2,273,305||105||21,651||Jan 1, 2013|
|5||Vienna||1,889,083||415||4.257||Jan 1, 2018|
|6||Bucharest||1,883,425||228||8,260||20 Oct 2011|
|7||Hamburg||1,841,179||755||2,439||Dec 31, 2018|
|8th||Budapest||1,754,000||525||3.306||Jan 1, 2015|
|9||Warsaw||1,794,166||518||3,464||Dec 31, 2020|
|10||Barcelona||1,636,762||100||16,368||Jan 1, 2019|
|11||Munich||1,471,508||310||4,747||Dec 31, 2018|
|12||Milan||1,315,416||160||8.221||31 Oct 2013|
|13||Sofia||1,301,683||492||2,646||31 Dec 2012|
|14||Prague||1,243,201||496||2,527||Dec 31, 2013|
|15||Cologne||1,085,441||405||2,584||Nov 30, 2020|
In the EU, 24 languages are now recognized as official languages of the European Union , with which all EU bodies can be contacted. Most recently, the languages Irish , Bulgarian and Romanian were recognized as additional official languages in 2007 and Croatian in 2013 . Of the official languages, English , French and German are used as internal working languages to facilitate communication between the staff of the European institutions. Depending on the institution, one of these three working languages has emerged as the predominant one (e.g. English at the ECB ). In the European Parliament , speeches can be made in any official language and are translated simultaneously by interpreters. MEPs, journalists and other listeners can follow the debates through headphones. The members of parliament therefore usually speak their national language, officials and invited experts often use English or French.
The language issue was determined by the first regulation ever issued by the EEC (text of Regulation 1/1958 see below). The legal basis for the regulation is Art. 342 TFEU:
- "The language issue for the institutions of the Union shall be settled by the Council, acting unanimously by means of regulations, without prejudice to the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union."
According to Art. 24 TFEU, all EU citizens have the right to address the EU institutions in one of the 24 languages mentioned in Art. 55 EU Treaty and to receive an answer in the same language. In addition to these official languages, there are numerous minority languages, e.g. B. Catalan or Basque in Spain or Russian in the Baltic countries. The EU declares that it respects and respects languages and linguistic diversity.
Other programs also exist, such as the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages (EBLUL) since 1982 to promote regional or minority cultures and the Mercator information and documentation network since 1987 . The EU has stated that it is important to promote languages and linguistic diversity, i.e. H. also to respect the minority languages in the European Union .
|language||Official language in Member State||spoken as a mother tongue (proportion of the population)||spoken as a foreign language (proportion of the population)||Total speakers in the EU (percentage of population)|
Germany Austria Luxembourg Belgium Italy
France Belgium Luxembourg Italy
|1: With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the share of the population with English as a mother tongue in the European Union has fallen significantly, so the ranking is no longer up to date.|
religions and worldviews
Christianity is the dominant religion in most EU countries. Catholicism dominates in the southern member states and Protestantism in the north . Greece , Cyprus , Romania and Bulgaria are Orthodox -leaning countries. Possible accession candidates with predominantly Muslim populations are Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina . Around a quarter of EU citizens now belong to no religion.
|religion / belief||population share|
|– Roman Catholic||45.3%|
|– other Christian denomination||5.6%|
|– other religions||1.6%|
|– non-believer / agnosticism||13.6%|
The United Nations Development Program classifies all member states as “very high human development” countries, as all have a 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) greater than 0.8. The 2019 HDI is highest in Ireland at 0.955 and lowest in Bulgaria at 0.816.
According to Eurostat data, the average life expectancy at birth in the EU in 2016 was 81 years. It was 78.2 years for men and 83.3 years for women. Life expectancy in the European Union was thus more than ten years above the global average of almost 70 years. The longest average life expectancy for EU citizens in Spain was 83.5 years, while the shortest within the EU was for citizens of Lithuania, Bulgaria and Latvia, each at 74.9 years. High life expectancies exist above all in southern European countries, although these are not necessarily among the richest countries in the Union; the lower ranks in this respect are all occupied by Eastern European countries.
With the common cultural policy, the EU wants to “contribute to the development of the cultures of the member states while preserving their national and regional diversity and at the same time emphasizing the common cultural heritage” ( European cultural area .TFEU). The goal of cultural cooperation between the member states of the EU is often summarized under the catchphrase of the
In the years 1996 to 1999, the EU's commitment to culture was expressed through the programs Kaleidoskop (promotion of artistic and cultural activities), Ariane (promotion of books, reading and translation) and Raphael (promotion of cultural heritage of European importance). In the years 2000 to 2004, a total of 167 million euros were spent on projects aimed at a common cultural area as part of the successor program Culture 2000 . Culture 2000 was extended by two years in 2004 and was then replaced by the Culture Funding Program 2007-2013. The majority of EU funding for culture, around 80%, comes from the EU Structural Funds , but accounts for only around 3% of all Structural Funds.
The European Capital of Culture campaign sets a special tone . This title has been awarded annually since 1985 to one or two European cities that host numerous cultural events during the year. The cities awarded in this way enjoy increased attention. In 2020, this status is held by the cities of Galway (Ireland) and Rijeka (Croatia).
The European Film Prize is awarded annually in over 20 categories. Since 1997 nominated films have been shown there, e.g. supported with EU funds from the MEDIA programme.
The symbols of the European Union correspond functionally to the national emblems and other symbols of national states. They are intended to reflect the policies of the European Union as a community of nation states. These symbols include the European flag, the European anthem, Europe Day, the European motto and the euro currency .
The European flag features a wreath of twelve golden five-pointed stars on an azure background. Their number does not symbolize the number of member states, but is intended to express "perfection, completeness and unity". The flag has been used as an official emblem by the Council of Europe since 1955 and by the EC since 1985.
The European Anthem is the instrumental version of the last movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th Symphony . In 1972 the melody was adopted by the Council of Europe and in 1985 by the EC as an anthem. It stands alongside the national anthems of the member states and symbolizes the values that we all share and unity in diversity.
With events and advertising, Europe Day is intended to commemorate the Schuman Plan of May 9, 1950, which is now regarded as the cornerstone of European unity. The 1985 Milan Council decided that to commemorate this event, the European Union would commemorate the annual Europe Day, which has seen numerous events and celebrations since 1986. In addition, the Council of Europe has been celebrating its own Europe Day since 1964: However, this is four days earlier and commemorates the founding of this institution on May 5, 1949.
The Europe motto is the motto United in diversity , which is intended to express the common, but nationally different, European identity. He was selected in 2000 in a competition among students from 15 European countries.
It was not until the European Year of Education through Sport (2004) that the EU started to get involved with sport. UEFA has always argued that sport is outside the EU's jurisdiction . With the Bosman decision in 1995, the ECJ made it clear that professional sport is part of the economy and that the European treaties therefore apply. During a hearing in 2006, it was found that the organization of national football leagues ran counter to the European treaties, since the different sizes of national markets impeded the development of football clubs . if e.g. For example, if Ajax Amsterdam wanted to play in the Bundesliga , this was entirely compatible with European law.
The EU's 2007 white book on sport lists the problems that arose from the end of the amateur statute (thus elite sport is generally an economic good); however, it continues to be treated as an amateur sport under of the Lisbon Treaty. Although EU funds are now being made available for sport (mobility, integration of foreigners, health prophylaxis, etc.), there is still no EU sport policy of its own.
From the beginning of the 1980s, the European Commission and the governments tried to achieve a higher level of active approval of the population for the unification process. Based on the Adonnino report on “Citizens’ Europe”, which was adopted by the European Council in 1985, a large number of partly symbolic, partly political measures were implemented in order to make the European community tangible in everyday life and to promote a common European identity . These ranged from the EU symbols to the European driver's license, the Erasmus student exchange program , Union citizenship , the creation of a European ombudsman and the individual right to petition the European Parliament through to the EU-wide right to vote in local communities at the place of residence. The Schengen Agreement , which dispenses with controls on cross-border passenger traffic in a large part of the EU, and the euro as a common currency also play a greater role .
To what extent this can help a European sense of identity remains to be seen. Although the majority of the European population is in principle positive about their country's membership of the EU, they are somewhat more skeptical when it comes to the institutions of the EU. This skepticism results from the fact that traditionally not the EU, but the nation state represents the political orientation framework for Europeans, in which the citizens articulate their interests. Media, education systems, and political, economic, and social interest groups are primarily organized at the national level. Attempts to extend corresponding structures to the European level prove difficult. In addition to different cultural traditions, it is above all the language barrier that excludes large parts of the population from participation and hinders the development of a European public sphere .
crises and prospects
The singular mixture of supranational and intergovernmental structural features of the EU association of states and its organs was and is the subject of a wide range of criticism on the one hand and different target perspectives for the future development of the European Union on the other. A recurring theme both in the criticism and in institutional reforms is a democratic deficit that is said to exist in the representative and decision-making bodies of the EU .
The euro crisis triggered by the financial crisis from 2007 and the refugee crisis from 2015 have given impetus to the spread of EU skepticism . According to Eurostat , around 15 percent of respondents had a negative image of the EU in 2007; in 2013 the figure was 28 percent. No member state is completely exempt from the negative trend. The largest decreases were recorded in Greece (from 47 to 16 percent), Portugal (from 55 to 22 percent), Spain (from 59 to 26 percent) and Italy (from 49 to 26 percent). The declining approval of the EU in parts of the Union citizenry goes hand in hand with the strengthening of right-wing populist tendencies and parties. However, this is not primarily the case (apart from Greece) in the member states most affected by the debt crisis; Rather, increases in this regard were observed in the 2014 European elections, especially in France ( Front National ), the United Kingdom ( UK Independence Party ) and Denmark ( Dansk Folkeparti ).
Populists and Eurosceptics achieve success by portraying European politics as the cause of a not inconsiderable part of self-inflicted national problems that the population perceives as central: Economically, the EU is held responsible for intra-societal distribution injustices and for escalating conflicts among the members the euro zone. Culturally, it is associated with uncontrolled immigration and seen as a threat to national autonomy. Politically, it is accused of democratic and constitutional deficits. The political scientist Zielonka sees in the integration process of the European Union both elements of a central state in the sense of the Westphalian system and those of a polycentric neo-medieval empire, like the Holy Roman Empire , realized.
With the Brexit referendum in 2016 in particular , the process of continued European integration has clearly come to a standstill. Recently, Churchill 's vision of the United States of Europe has once again been emphatically contrasted with a Europe of fatherlands in the spirit of de Gaulle in the EU finality debate . In his widely acclaimed speech of September 26, 2017 at the Sorbonne , French President Emmanuel Macron aims to revive EU integration efforts under the impact of the crisis . Among other things, Macron is striving for a mild transfer union and a common budget for the European Union to finance infrastructure measures and development measures in the EU.
In terms of the economic convergence of the Union, Germany's pronounced trade surplus is problematic compared to the other EU member states. One of the main causes of the steadily increasing trade surplus is that all members of the euro zone except Germany have increased wages by quotas in recent decades, as proposed by the European Central Bank, while wages in Germany have often not even been increased by productivity gains , so that Germany, measured in terms of unit labor costs, has become a low-wage state in some areas.
The Corona crisis in spring 2020 is seen as a multifaceted test for the EU. Border controls and border closures between various member states stand in the way of freedom of movement. The scarcity of intensive care capacities and infection protection clothing has encouraged national egoism and mutual competition between EU member states on the world market. State budgets in distress, especially in southern member states, as a result of the shutting down of all public life, including most economic sectors (shutdown) to reduce the risk of infection, raise questions about effective financial aid from the community and are becoming a touchstone for solidarity and cohesion in the European Union. The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen sees the two current priorities in the political orientation of the EU, climate protection policy and digitization , as a result of the corona pandemic, expanded by a third: medical care.
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