European Union

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European Union
European flag
Motto " United in diversity "
Member States 27 member states
Official language 24 official languages
Council President Charles Michel
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
Seat of the organs
legal form Association of states (derived subject of international law )
surface 4,132,796 km²
population 447.1 million
Population density 102 inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 0.218% (2013)
gross domestic product
  • $ 20,008 billion ( PPP ) ( 2. )
  • $ 17,371 billion (nominal) ( 2. )
  • GDP / inh. ( PPP ): $ 39,900
  • GDP / inh. (Nominal): $ 35,700
  • ECSC : 1951, in force in 1952
  • EEC , Euratom : 1957, in force 1958
  • EU : 1992, in force 1993
anthem " Ode to Joy " (instrumental)
holiday May 9 ( Europe Day )
Time zone continental Europe
UTC ± 0 to UTC + 2
UTC + 1 to UTC + 3 (daylight saving time)

Outermost regions
UTC − 4 to UTC + 4

License Plate Standard vehicle license plates of the EU countries have a vertical azure 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 labeling is not uniform.
Internet TLD .eu
EU on a globe.svg

The European Union ( EU ) is a union of states from 27 European countries . Outside of geographic Europe , the EU includes Cyprus and some overseas territories . It has a total of about 450 million inhabitants . Measured in terms of gross domestic product , the EU internal market is the largest common economic area on earth. The EU is an independent legal entity and therefore has the right to inspect and speak at the United Nations .

The most common languages in the EU are English , German and French . In 2012 the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The political system of the EU , 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 interstate 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 six states initially founded the European Economic Community (EEC). A targeted economic integration should prevent military conflicts for 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, other states joined the Communities ( EC ) in several rounds of enlargement . 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. With the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the European Union was founded, which gave it competences in non-economic policy areas. In several reform treaties , most recently in the Lisbon Treaty , the supranational competences of the EU have been expanded and the democratic anchoring of political decision-making processes at Union level improved, above all by further strengthening the position of the European Parliament. A European public sphere and identity as a prerequisite for supranational popular sovereignty are only emerging gradually and not without countercurrents. Since the 1980s, the EU has gained more competences and importance. The constitution of the EU was debated; there also were euroscepticism expressed. Exit scenarios were also regulated in the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 .

19 of the 27 EU countries form an economic and monetary union . In 2002, a common currency for these countries, the euro , was introduced. In the framework of the area of ​​freedom, security and justice , the EU Member States work together on home and justice policy. Through the common foreign and security policy, they endeavor to act together vis-à-vis 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 .

In 2016, the EU was the world's second largest economic area after nominal (behind the USA) and purchasing power-adjusted gross domestic product (behind the People's Republic of China). As an association of states, it is the largest producer of goods and the largest trading power in the world. The Member States have one of the highest standards of living in the world, although there are significant differences between individual countries even within the EU. In the human development index in 2015, 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 rose 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 was reflected in the UK's exit , 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 intensively conducted. On the other hand, the approval ratings for the EU across Europe are currently higher than they have been for decades. With his initiative for Europe , the French President Emmanuel Macron has presented a reform plan that is geared towards the near future and has received a lot of attention .


Already after the First World War there were various efforts to form a union of European states, such as the Paneuropean Union founded in 1922 . However, these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. The decisive starting point for European integration only became the end of the Second World War : By networking the militarily relevant economic sectors, a new war between the former opponents was to be made impossible and, as a result, the political rapprochement and lasting reconciliation of the states involved was to be achieved. In addition, security policy considerations were important: As the Cold War began , the Western European states were to be more closely united and the Federal Republic of Germany was to be integrated into the Western bloc.


in force
European Act
  Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif
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 (JI)
  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

Coal and Steel Community (1951)

The six founding members of the ECSC in 1951 (Algeria was still part of France)

Jean Monnet , then head of the French planning office, suggested that the entire Franco-German coal and steel production be subordinated to a common authority. The 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. On April 18, 1951, this Schuman Plan led to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, colloquially also “ Coal and Steel Union ”) by Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The institutions of this ECSC formed the core of the later EU: a High Authority with supranational competences (which later became the European Commission), a Council of Ministers as the legislature (now the Council of the EU) and a Consultative Assembly (later the European Parliament). However, the competences of the various organs changed in the course of integration - the Consultative Assembly had hardly any say, while the European Parliament today has equal rights with the Council in areas where the ordinary legislative procedure applies.

Treaty of Rome (1957)

Hall and conference venue where the Treaties of Rome were signed in 1957

On March 25, 1957, the so-called Treaty of Rome formed the next step in integration. With these treaties, the same six states founded the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAG and Euratom). The aim of the EEC was to create a common market in which goods, services, capital and labor could move freely. A joint 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 agreement in 1967, however, these institutions were merged and now referred to as organs of the European Communities (EC).

In addition to the stages of advancing integration, there were also setbacks and phases of stagnation. The plan for a European Defense Community (EDC) failed in the French National Assembly in 1954 . In the 1960s, as President of France , Charles de Gaulle slowed the Community's progress with the so-called empty chair policy and with his repeated veto against 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 . Nonetheless, isolated declarations during this period also encouraged the idea of ​​European integration again and again, for example the document on European identity adopted on December 14, 1973 in which the nine member states of the European Communities committed themselves to the “dynamism of European integration” and reaffirmed the “envisaged transformation of all their relations into a European Union” as a common goal.

It was not until the late 1980s that integration gained momentum again. With the Single European Act (EEA) in 1987, the EEC, under Commission President Jacques Delors, developed the plan for a European internal market , in which, by January 1, 1993, all national barriers to Europe-wide trade were to be overcome by harmonizing commercial law.

Maastricht Treaty (1992)

The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 established the European Union. (Place of signature)

The fall of the Iron Curtain , the associated loss of power of the communists in the Eastern Bloc and the change in the system of government in the GDR, Poland, Hungary, the ČSSR as well as Bulgaria and Romania led to the end of the East-West confrontation and thus to the Enabling the reunification of Germany and further integration steps: 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 resolved to establish 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), as it was now also given competences in other policy areas than the economy (for example in 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 improve the functioning of the institutions. Until the Treaty of Lisbon , only the European Communities , but not the European Union itself, had legal personality . This meant that the EC was able to make 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 appear as an independent institution, but only in the form of its individual member states.

The introduction of the euro as the standard currency in 1999. The euro area currently comprises 19 member states.

With the end of the Cold War , overcoming the political division in Europe came into the focus of the EU. It had already grown from six to fifteen members through several rounds of expansion (1973, 1981, 1986, 1995 ); now the Central and Eastern European countries , which had previously belonged to the Eastern bloc , were to become part of the Union. To this end, the EU member states laid down the so-called Copenhagen Accession Criteria in 1993 , with which freedom , democracy , the rule of law , human rights and fundamental civil liberties were defined as fundamental values ​​of the Union. In 2004 and 2007 the two eastward expansions finally took place , with twelve new members joining the EU.

New objectives for the internal development of the European Union were set in 2000 with the Lisbon Strategy , which should take due 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 economic area in the world - an economic area capable of achieving sustained economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion." In its “mid-term review” 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. The successor program to the Lisbon Strategy, Europe 2020 , launched ten years later , formulated essentially similar goals.

Lisbon Treaty (2007)

The signatories of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007
Celebrations after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU in 2012

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 modifying the British discount . 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 enhanced cooperation procedure through the Treaties of Amsterdam and Nice , a possibility was developed to counteract such a blockade of European decision-making processes. Member States wishing to integrate were now able to take deeper 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” also met with criticism, as it threatens to divide the EU. Another problem was the efficiency of the European Commission's work: While individual member states had two commissioners up until 2004, their number was reduced to one commissioner per country after the eastward expansion - 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 , which was supposed to draw up a new basic treaty with which the EU's decision-making process should become 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 downsizing 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 Lisbon Treaty, which took over the essential contents of the constitutional treaty. Ratification was now planned until the European elections in 2009 . On December 1, 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

In 2012 the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades of contribution to the promotion of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

The certificate of the Nobel Peace Prize

Phase of the challenges facing the Union

Since the financial crisis that started in 2007, in some cases with high national debt levels, and the resulting euro crisis , the European Union has experienced economic and social turmoil among some of its members, which in part has a negative impact on the relationship between the member states dependent on financial aid and those 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 budget discipline and debt limitation on the participating member states. The Banking union has transferred to central institutions from 2014 national competence and thus uniform, common rules and regulations in the field of financial market supervision and the restructuring or settlement of credit institutions established in the European Union. Due to the increasing and sustained economic growth of all member states after 2016, the European Union has slowly begun to overcome this crisis. Further institutional reforms such as coordinated economic and social policy or the further development of the ESM into a European Monetary Fund are on the EU's agenda in order to overcome future crises better and faster or to prevent them from arising in the first place.

The refugee crisis from 2015 resulted in disagreement and further critical developments in the European Union . In this overall context, anti-European political currents received further impetus. The refugee crisis is also seen as contributing to the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. The readiness of the various governments of the Member States to accept refugees varied greatly and stood in the way of joint action by the Union's members to overcome the crisis, which the Union as a whole could easily cope with. In some cases, border controls were reintroduced in the Schengen area ; on the other hand, various precautions have been taken to protect the EU's external borders, including: the expansion of Frontex . A plan for the distribution of refugees among member states was only partially implemented and national conservative sometimes overt governments opposed by the ECJ highest court boycotted confirmed by majority. It is not only in this context that the European Union will soon have to decide by what means it should react to open breaches of treaty by these governments in the future, because the Treaty on European Union obliges the member states of the European Union to solidarity and the rule of law (cf. Art. 2  TEU , Art. 3  TEU).

The EU organs elected in 2019 consider global warming and the achievement of effective climate protection to be a priority for political action . On the occasion of the confirmation of the newly formed EU Commission by the European Parliament, President-elect Ursula von der Leyen set 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 next day, November 28, 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency for Europe. As a consequence, the European Commission should orient its entire policy towards the global goal of limiting the temperature of the earth to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times.


The total coastline of the EU is 67,770.9 km. At 4,810 m, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the EU
The total coastline of the EU is 67,770.9 km.
At 4,810 m, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the EU

In total, the national territories of the current Member States together cover an area of ​​4,381,324 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, 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 place in the district of Würzburg .

The territory of the European Union includes outside Europe

Topographically , the European Union is very fragmented. 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 ; it also includes numerous islands; the largest among them Ireland , Sicily and Sardinia .

Due to the plate tectonic shifts , mountains such as the Alps , the Pyrenees , the Apennines and the Carpathians emerged . By subduing the African under the European continental plates there is active volcanism; Among other things, Mount Etna is Europe's highest volcano in the EU.

The highest point is in the Alps between Italy and France at an altitude of 4810 m on Mont Blanc , the lowest at almost seven meters below sea level in the Dutch municipality of Zuidplas .

A total of around half a billion people live in the Member States. On population development : In most countries, the native population is stagnating or declining; Immigration keeps the population at roughly constant levels.

Biogeographically , the European Union has been divided into nine terrestrial regions and five adjoining marine regions by the European Environment Agency .

Founding members

The origins of today's European Union were the European Communities founded in 1951 and 1957 ( ECSC , EEC and Euratom ). Its member states were Belgium , the Federal Republic of Germany , France , Italy , Luxembourg and the Kingdom of the Netherlands .

Three of these founding members - Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - decided in 1958 with the Benelux Treaty, a further intensified economic community, which could serve as a model for the European internal market, which was established in 1993.

A certain importance is still to be assigned to this initial situation: The six founding members are generally considered to be possible integration pioneers in various concepts of graded integration (see: Europe of two speeds ).


Development from 1952 to 2020

In 1973 the United Kingdom , Ireland and Denmark joined the European Community in the first northern expansion . In Norway , which had also signed an accession treaty, its ratification was rejected by the population in a referendum.

In the 1980s, Greece (1981), Portugal and Spain (both 1986) followed as new members. Some of these states had long sought rapprochement with the European Communities, but had not been admitted because of their authoritarian governments. They could only 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 extended to the area of ​​the former GDR .

Austria , Finland and Sweden were incorporated into the recently founded European Union in 1995 with the second northern expansion . In Norway on November 28, 1994 - despite renewed government efforts - a majority (52.2%) of the voters (turnout 88.8%) voted against accession in a referendum.

With the first eastward expansion , ten states joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. These included eight Central and Eastern European countries ( Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Poland , the Czech Republic , Slovakia , Hungary and Slovenia ) as well as the island state of Malta located in the Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus , which geographically belongs to Asia , but this in fact only with the southern part of Greece. On January 1, 2007, Romania and Bulgaria were accepted into the Union as the 26th and 27th member states . As a result of this expansion, the population in the European Union has grown to over half a billion people since 2010. On July 1, 2013, Croatia became the 28th member state.

Domain reductions

In addition to these expansions, there was also a reduction in the size of the community in a few cases. Algeria , which previously belonged to France, was no longer part of the EC after its independence in 1962. The autonomous Greenland , which belongs to Denmark , was the first area to leave the Community after a referendum in 1985. In a referendum in 1982 , the Greenlanders decided to leave, which was carried out 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. Art. 188 of the EC Treaty ). However, according to Article 3 Paragraph 1 of the Customs Code , Greenland does not belong to the customs territory of the Community.

On January 1, 2012, the French Caribbean island of Saint-Barthélemy changed its status at its own request to become an area that is only associated with the Union.

On June 23, 2016, in the UK's non-binding referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Union, a majority of 51.9% voted for the country to leave the European Union ( Brexit ) . On March 29, 2017, the Prime Minister initiated the UK's application to leave. However, according to Article 50 (3) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom was initially still part of the Union. The resignation took place on January 31, 2020.

Member States

The following 27 countries are members of the European Union (as of February 1, 2020; the ISO 3166 code used by the EU in brackets ):

Österreich Belgien Bulgarien Republik Zypern Tschechien Deutschland Dänemark Dänemark Estland Spanien Finnland Frankreich Frankreich Griechenland Griechenland Ungarn Irland Italien Italien Italien Litauen Luxemburg Lettland Niederlande Polen Portugal Rumänien Schweden Slowenien Slowakei Island Montenegro Nordmazedonien Kroatien Türkei Türkei Malta Serbien Albanien Kanarische Inseln (Spanien) Azoren (Portugal) Madeira (Portugal) Französisch-Guayana (Frankreich) Guadeloupe (Frankreich) Réunion (Frankreich) Martinique (Frankreich) Mayotte (Frankreich)
Member States (blue) and candidate countries (yellow) of the EU (clickable map)
Map of the territorial scope of the EU treaties according to Art. 355 TFEU ​​with the associated areas and the EU's outermost regions

Special regulations apply to special areas of the European Union .

Areas outside of Europe

The non-European areas of some member states belong to the EU. For other areas dependent on EU member states, however, extensive exemptions apply. A distinction is made between different degrees of integration:

  • Some overseas territories are fully integrated into the national administrative structure; they are seen as part of the mother country 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 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 Article 198 TFEU , according to which the European Union envisages the aim of promoting economic and social development and establishing close economic relations with the associated countries and territories. According to Art. 200 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 neither provide for membership of the European Union nor for their customs territory according to Article 3 (1) of the EU Customs Code . These include the Danish autonomous regions of the Faroe Islands and Greenland and the French overseas territory of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon .

Candidate countries

  • EU
  • Candidate countries
  • Potential candidate countries
  • According to Article 49 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 common understanding, the term “European” is to be understood in a broad sense and includes, for example, the members of the Council of Europe who are geographically located in Asia . However, accession can only take place if the so-called Copenhagen criteria (in particular democracy and the rule of law ) are met. In order to meet these conditions, the EU provides the candidate countries with both advisory and financial assistance. In this way, within the framework of accession partnerships , efforts are being made to align with EU standards. Associated with this is a twinning process with cooperation aids for setting up the administration. To this end, Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAAs) have been concluded with the potential candidate countries, which prepare the accession process. The conclusion of an accession process is an accession treaty, which must be ratified by all EU member states, the applicant countries and the European Parliament .

    A basic distinction is made in technical terminology between “candidate countries” and “potential candidate countries”. There are currently five candidate countries. Negotiations have been taking place with Turkey since 2005 . In December 2005, North Macedonia was granted candidate status, although the date for the start of negotiations is 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 membership application on March 12, 2015. Montenegro was also named an official candidate in December 2010, exactly two years after the application was submitted. Albania and Serbia submitted their membership applications 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 for membership on February 15, 2016. Kosovo , whose independence is recognized by only 22 of the 27 EU member states, plays a special role .

    Neighbore states

    European dwarf states with special EU legal status

    In addition to the candidate countries, the European Union also has 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 internal market . Through the EEA Agreement, the EU's internal market regulations also apply to the EFTA countries in the EEA - but without these being able to participate in decision-making 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 states 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 have been concluded between Switzerland and the European Union , which include the free movement of people and Switzerland's accession to the Dublin and Schengen agreements , as well as economic issues such as the removal of certain non-tariff trade barriers . In addition, Switzerland supported the EU's eastward expansion in 2004 with a cohesion payment of one billion Swiss francs, spread over ten years. In 2014 negotiations began for an EU-Switzerland framework agreement . As a result of the negotiations, a draft contract has been available since November 2018.

    The EU also maintains special political and economic relations with the European miniature states in its immediate vicinity. These special contractual relationships with Andorra , Monaco , San Marino , the State of Vatican City 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. There are also special currency agreements with Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the 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 trying to negotiate 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 in the south and east through the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). Unlike the relations with the EFTA members and the associated small states, however, the ENP takes place entirely within the framework of the common foreign and security policy ( see below ).

    Political system

    Political system of the European Union : the seven organs of the EU in dark blue.

    The political system of the European Union stands out clearly from national political systems . As a supranational association of sovereign states, unlike a confederation of states, the EU has its own sovereign rights; On the other hand, the EU institutions have no competence - unlike a federal state , the EU cannot organize the distribution of responsibilities within its system itself. In accordance with the principle of limited individual authorization, the EU institutions are only allowed to act in the areas that are expressly mentioned in the founding treaties. In the Maastricht ruling in 1993, the German Federal Constitutional Court therefore coined the new term 'association of states' to characterize the EU in terms of constitutional law.

    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 law that the EU itself enacts in accordance with its own legislative process is derived from these treaties and the competencies mentioned therein. However, due to the legal personality that the EU has had since December 1, 2009, as a subject of international law , it can sign international treaties and agreements in its own name (albeit in principle only by a unanimous decision of the Council on Foreign Affairs ). Via the newly created European External Action 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 ECSC and EC , Euratom is the last of the still existing European Communities . In 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 competencies and voting procedures. In principle, the legal acts that are adopted by the European institutions - Commission , Council and Parliament - in accordance with the EU legislative process are binding. Since the governments of individual states can also be outvoted here, one speaks of the supranational (supranational) community method . In some policy areas, such as trade policy, votes are taken unanimously, but the decisions 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): this is a matter of mere cooperation between the governments of the member states, with all decisions being made unanimously and not having direct legal validity.

    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 does not have its own legislative competence. There are no formal decisions here, only an informal vote by the member states in the Council; the commission only acts in a supportive manner.

    The supranational policy fields 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 includes aspects of domestic and judicial policy, including immigration policy , judicial cooperation in civil matters and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters .

    The supranational competencies of the EU in this core area can be seen in several ways:

    • The Council of the European Union decides here mostly according to the majority principle. The veto options of the individual member states are severely 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. So the governments of the Member States cannot 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 , the member states are obliged to implement them in the respective national law (even if 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 (sole 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 (directly applicable in the member states without a national implementation act), EU directives (only binding once they have been implemented in 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 constant since its beginnings in 1952, although the individual competencies of the organs have changed several times. The legal basis for the institutions are Title III of the EU Treaty and Part Six of the FEU Treaty .

    In many ways, the EU shows typical features 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 customs 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 via their EU committees EU policy included. Another special feature is the European Council , the summit of the heads of state and government that takes place every three months . According to the EU Treaty, this institution is supposed to set the general political guidelines of the Union. It thus has a very great influence on the development of the Union, although it is not formally involved in its legislative process.

    The central EU institutions:
    European Parliament
    Members of the European Council 2011
    Council of the European Union Assembly Room
    European Commission building
    • acts as legislator with the Council of the European Union / Council of Ministers
    • shares budgetary powers with the Council and ultimately adopts or rejects the general budget
    • exercises democratic control over all EU institutions including the European Commission and appoints the commissioners
    • consists of 751 MPs elected by EU citizens
    • Based in Strasbourg , General Secretariat in Luxembourg
    • acts as legislator with parliament
    • is composed of the ministers of the member countries depending on the topic (hence also the Council of Ministers )
    • exercises budgetary powers with parliament
    • ensures the coordination of the broad guidelines of economic and social policy and lays down guidelines for the common foreign and security policy (CFSP)
    • concludes international treaties
    • Based in Brussels
    • is the "government"
    • submits proposals for new legislation to Parliament and the Council (sole right of initiative )
    • implements EU policy and manages the budget
    • ensures compliance with EU law ("guardian of the treaties")
    • negotiates international contracts
    • one commissioner per country
    • Based in Brussels
    No image wide.svg No image wide.svg
    Meeting room of the ECJ
    European Court of Auditors building
    European Central Bank in Frankfurt
    • ensures the uniformity of the interpretation of European law
    • is empowered to resolve legal disputes between EU member states , EU institutions, companies and private individuals
    • one judge per country
    • Based in Luxembourg
    • examines the legality and correct use of revenue and expenditure of the EU institutions
    • Based in Luxembourg

    European Council

    President of the European Council
    Charles Michel

    The European Council ( Art. 15  TEU and Art. 235  f. TFEU) is composed of the heads of state and government of the member states and the President of the European Commission , with the Commission President only having an advisory role. It is chaired by the President of the European Council , who is appointed for two and a half years. The European Council sets guidelines and objectives for European policy, but is not involved in day-to-day procedures. Votes in the European Council are generally made “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.

    Council of the European Union

    The Council of the European Union ( Art. 16  TEU and Art. 237  ff. TFEU, also known as the Council of Ministers) is one of the two legislative organs of the EU and represents the member states ( regional chambers ). Depending on the policy area, it is composed of the relevant ministers of the national governments of the member states and, together with the European Parliament, decides on the decisive legal acts. Depending on the policy area, either a unanimous decision or a qualified majority is necessary, whereby the principle of a double majority (of states and residents) applies to majority decisions . In the intergovernmental areas, especially the common foreign and security policy as well as certain areas of trade and social policy, the Council is the only decision-making body of the EU; this is basically decided unanimously.

    The presidency of the Council rotates every six months between the member states, with three successive states working together in a so-called triple presidency . The Council for Foreign Affairs , which is chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is an exception . The respective Council Presidency is supported by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union .

    European Parliament

    Speaker of Parliament
    David Sassoli
    Allocation of seats to the political groups in the EU Parliament April 29, 2021
    A total of 705 seats

    The European Parliament (EP, Art. 14  TEU and Art. 223  ff. TFEU) is the second part of the EU legislature. In addition to its legislative function, it participates in the establishment of the budget and exercises parliamentary control rights. It has been elected directly by the citizens of the member states in the European elections every five years since 1979 and therefore represents the European population.

    After the European elections in 2009 , 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 a similar worldview have come together to form European parties . The strongest group in the European Parliament is currently the Christian Democratic-Conservative Group of the European People's Party (EPP / PPE) with 178 members , followed by the social democratic group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) with 146 members (as of April 29th 2021).

    The European elections will, however, continue to be held within the framework of the nation-state. The number of MPs per country is basically based on the size of the population; However, smaller countries are disproportionately represented in order to enable them to adequately represent their national party landscape.

    The European Parliament has two meeting venues, one in Brussels and a second in Strasbourg. The chairmanship is chaired by the President of the European Parliament (since 2019 the Italian David Sassoli , PES) and his deputies, the fourteen Vice-Presidents. Together they form the presidium .

    European Commission

    Commission President
    Ursula von der Leyen

    The European Commission ( Art. 17  TEU and Art. 244  ff. 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 initiative in EU legislation and therefore proposes legal acts ( directives , ordinances , resolutions ). However, Parliament and the Council are free to amend these proposals afterwards.

    As the executive body, the Commission ensures the correct implementation of European legal acts, the implementation of the budget and the programs adopted. As the “guardian of the treaties”, she monitors compliance with European law and, if necessary, takes legal action before the courts of the European Union . At the international level, she negotiates international agreements in the areas of trade and cooperation in particular and represents the EU in the World Trade Organization , for example .

    The European Commission consists of 28 Commissioners, one from each Member State. The European Council appoints them for five years by qualified majority. However, the European Parliament has a reservation of approval: it can reject the designated commission as a whole (but not individual commissioners) and force them to resign even after they have been appointed by means of a vote of no confidence . In this case the European Council has to propose a new Commission.

    According to their contractual mandate, the commissioners serve the Union alone and are not allowed to take any instructions. The Commission is therefore a supranational body of the EU that is independent of the member states. Within the commission, each commissioner assumes responsibility for a policy area, similar to the ministers in the cabinet of a national government. The political leadership of the commission rests with the commission president ; From 2014 to 2019 this was Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg , since then it has been Ursula von der Leyen .

    The commission has its own administrative apparatus, divided into department-specific general directorates, 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 from it.

    The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ( Art. 18  TEU), who is both a member of the European Commission and Chairman of the Council for Foreign Affairs, has a special function .

    After the European elections in 2019 , Ursula von der Leyen was elected as the new Commission President, 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 one of the main issues on the von der Leyen's political agenda.

    Von der Leyen Commission :  
    Office picture Surname Member State national party European party Group in the EU Parliament Associated Directorates-General
    Ursula von der Leyen
    Ursula von der Leyen GermanyGermany Germany CDU EPP EPP SG , SJ , COMM , EPSC
    Executive Vice Presidents
    Department picture Surname Member State national party European party Group in the EU Parliament Associated Directorates-General
    European Green Deal
    Frans Timmermans
    Frans Timmermans NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands PvdA SPE S&D CLIMA
    Europe fit for the digital age

    (including competition )

    Margrethe Vestager
    Margrethe Vestager DenmarkDenmark Denmark RV ALDE RE COMP
    Economy for the people
    Valdis Dombrovskis
    Valdis Dombrovskis LatviaLatvia Latvia Vienotība EPP EPP FISMA
    Vice President
    Department picture Surname Member State national party European party Group in the EU Parliament Directorates-General
    Strengthening Europe in the world

    ( High Representative of the EU for Foreign and Security Policy )

    Josep Borell
    Josep Borrell SpainSpain Spain PSC SPE S&D EEAS , FPI
    Values ​​and Transparency
    Věra Jourová
    Věra Jourová Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic ANO 2011 ALDE RE
    Promotion of the European way of life
    Margaritis Schinas
    Margaritis Schinas GreeceGreece Greece ND EPP EPP
    Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight
    Maroš Šefčovič
    Maroš Šefčovič SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia SMER SPE S&D JRC
    New momentum for European democracy
    Dubravka Šuica
    Dubravka Šuica CroatiaCroatia Croatia HDZ EPP EPP COMM
    More commissioners
    Department picture Surname Member State national party European party Group in the European Parliament Associated Directorates-General
    Budget and administration
    Johannes Hahn
    Johannes Hahn AustriaAustria Austria ÖVP EPP EPP BUDG , HR , DGT , DIGIT , SCIC , OIB , OIL , PMO , OP , OLAF
    Justice and the rule of law
    Didier Reynders
    Didier Reynders BelgiumBelgium Belgium MR ALDE RE JUST , IAT
    Innovation and youth
    Marija Gabriel
    Marija Gabriel BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria GERB EPP EPP RTD , EAC , JRC
    Stella Kyriakides
    Stella Kyriakides Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus DISY EPP EPP SANTE
    Kadri Samson
    Kadri Samson EstoniaEstonia Estonia K ALDE RE ENER
    International partnerships
    Jutta Urpilainen
    Jutta Urpilainen FinlandFinland Finland SDP SPE S&D DEVCO
    domestic market

    (including defense and space travel)

    Thierry Breton 2011.jpg
    Thierry Breton FranceFrance France independent CNECT , GROW , new DG for defense
    Neighborhood and extension
    Oliver Varhelyi
    Olivér Várhelyi HungaryHungary Hungary Fidesz EPP EPP NEAR
    Phil Hogan
    Phil Hogan IrelandIreland Ireland FG EPP EPP TRADE

    (including taxes and customs union )

    Paolo Gentiloni
    Paolo Gentiloni ItalyItaly Italy PD SPE S&D ECFIN , TAXUD , ESTAT
    Environment and oceans
    Virginijus Sinkevičius
    Virginijus Sinkevičius LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania LVŽS independent G / EFA ENV , MARE
    Nicolas Schmit
    Nicolas Schmit LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg LSAP SPE S&D EMPL
    Helena Dalli
    Helena Dalli MaltaMalta Malta MLP SPE S&D JUST , new task force for gender equality
    Janusz Wojciechowski
    Janusz Wojciechowski PolandPoland Poland PiS EKR EKR AGRI
    Cohesion and reforms
    Elisa Ferreira
    Elisa Ferreira PortugalPortugal Portugal PS SPE S&D REGIO , new DG for structural reforms
    Adina Vălean
    Adina Vălean RomaniaRomania Romania PNL EPP EPP MOVE
    Crisis management
    Janez Lenarčič
    Janez Lenarčič SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia independent ECHO
    Ylva Johansson
    Ylva Johansson SwedenSweden Sweden SAP SPE S&D HOME
    The colors indicate the affiliation to the European parties:
  • EPP0 ( 10 : 5 men, 5 women)
  • PES ( 9 : 5 men, 4 women)
  • ALDE ( 4 : 1 man, 3 women)
  • EKR0 ( 1 : 1 man)
  • independent ( 3 : 3 men)
  • European Central Bank

    President of the European Central Bank
    Christine Lagarde

    The European Central Bank (ECB, Art. 282  ff. TFEU) has been determining monetary policy in the 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 directives, but only to the monetary policy objectives set out in the FEU Treaty - in particular to maintain price stability. An important control instrument for this is the setting of the key interest rates . The European Central Bank and the national central banks form the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).

    Court of Justice of the European Union

    The entire judicial system of the European Union is referred to as the Court of Justice of the European Union ( Art. 19  TEU and Art. 251  ff. TFEU). The European Court of Justice ( ECJ , officially only Court of Justice ) is the highest court in the European Union. In addition to the European Court of Justice nor the upstream him since 1989 exists European Court (originally European Court of First Instance ). Both bodies consist of at least one judge per member state, with the ECJ being additionally supported by at least eight advocates general ( Art. 252 ). These are appointed by the governments of the member states by consensus for a period of six years. Every three years, both instances are partially filled. Since the Treaty of Nice, it has been possible to create independent specialized courts below the European Court of Justice .

    The Court of Justice of the European Union is to ensure a uniform interpretation of the law of the European Union. In certain cases, he is empowered to decide for himself on legal disputes between EU member states, EU institutions, companies and private individuals. The progress of the European integration process has been promoted in part independently by the judgments of the ECJ by applying Community law, for the interpretation of which it is responsible, directly in the individual member states.

    European Court of Auditors

    The European Court of Auditors (ECA, Art. 285  ff. TFEU) was created in 1975 and is responsible for auditing all income and expenditure of the Union and for checking the financial management with regard to their legality.

    The European Court of Auditors currently has 27 members, one from each Member State, appointed by the Council of the European Union for a six-year term. The ECA's currently around 800 employees form audit groups for specific audit projects. You can at any time make audit visits to other institutions, in the Member States and in other countries that receive EU aid. However, the ECA cannot impose legal sanctions. Violations are reported to the other bodies so that appropriate measures can be taken.

    The ECA's work reached a broad public in 1998 and 1999 when it refused to issue a statement of assurance to the European Commission. The subsequent resignation of the Santer Commission is not to be understood as an immediate reaction to the report by the Court of Auditors; since since the Court of Auditors has issued statements of assurance (since the beginning of the 1990s), these have always been negative.

    Other facilities

    The Committee of the Regions (CoR), based in Brussels, has represented regional and local authorities in the EU since it was founded in 1992. It has an advisory role in the legislative process and must be heard in particular before decisions affecting regional and local administration. Of the 344 members of the CoR, 24 come from Germany, of which 21 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 EESC is based in Brussels

    The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has existed since 1957. It is supposed to represent “organized citizenship” (following the example of the French Economic and Social Council); its 344 members are made up of one third each from employer and trade union representatives as well as representatives of other interests (such as 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 heard on all questions of economic and social policy.

    The European Ombudsman , based in Strasbourg, is the ombudsman of the European Union and has been investigating complaints about maladministration by its institutions, bodies and offices since 1992.

    The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is an independent control authority of the European Union, established 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 Commissioners for Data Protection and the Protection of Privacy since 2004.

    The European Investment Bank (EIB; Art. 308  ff. TFEU), based in Luxembourg, was established in 1958. The bank is also politically independent and finances itself through bonds on the capital markets. The EIB supports Member States and smaller companies by granting loans to finance projects of European interest, such as infrastructure projects or environmental protection measures.

    INTCEN , based in Brussels, is not an official organ of the EU and has recently been seen as the nucleus of a cross-Union intelligence service .

    Citizenship of the Union

    Common passport design for EU members
    Passport at.jpg
    Passport 2017.jpg
    Nederlanden paspoort 2011.jpg
    Burgundy red, member state name and coat of arms, European Union title and biometric passport icon

    All citizens of a member state of the European Union are citizens of the European Union according to Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Citizenship of the Union gives rise to a number of rights for citizens of the Union, particularly in the other Member States of which they are not citizens.

    The rights include in particular: freedom of movement, prohibition of discrimination, right to vote at local level at the place of residence, right to vote in the European Parliament, diplomatic and consular protection, 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 respond in the same language to obtain. The Treaty of Lisbon led to the European citizens' initiative for the first time an instrument of direct democracy one.


    In the budget of the European Union, the income and expenditure are redefined annually for the following EU budget year. The budget is integrated into a system of a so-called multiannual financial framework (MFF) that has existed since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty 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 decides unanimously in this case, agrees with the European Parliament and converts it into a so-called interinstitutional agreement .

    Share of expenditure in the MFF 2007–13:
  • sustainable growth
  • Natural resources
  • Union citizenship, freedom, security, law
  • The EU as a global partner
  • administration
  • Compensation payments
  • To finance its expenditure the European Union has called. Own funds resulting from contributions from Member States and to a lesser extent from the import - duties composed at the external borders. The contributions of the member states result on the one hand from a share of the sales tax that is to be paid to the EU (so-called VAT own resources ), on the other hand from contributions that result proportionally from the gross national income (GNI) of the states. The so-called British discount is an exception : Since a very large proportion of EU funds are spent on the Common Agricultural Policy , from which the United Kingdom benefits little due to its comparatively small agricultural sector, two thirds of its net contributions have been reimbursed since 1984.

    The budget of the EU and the amount of the contributions to be made by the member states are the subject of various disputes and compromises, especially since the return flows of EU funds to the individual member states vary. In the European Council, therefore, the camps of the net payer and the net recipient states face each other: while the net recipients mostly try to maintain their status, the net contributors try to at least reduce their payments.

    Origin of EU revenue (2011):
  • traditional own funds: 13%
  • VAT own resources: 11%
  • GNI resource: 75%
  • Other income: 1%
  • The expenditure side of the budget is also controversial, although around 90% of it flows back into the Member States. Within the framework of regional structural funding, the EU is trying to bring the standard of living into line in its member states. The flow of funds to the 271 regions into which the EU area is divided (so-called NUTS level 2) is based on the per capita gross domestic product (GDP); the 99 regions with GDP below 75% of the EU average from 2000 to 2002 receive higher grants. However, since the remaining funds of the budget are spent on a policy-related and not 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. A large proportion of this policy-related expenditure is made up of subsidies under the common agricultural policy.

    The multi-year financial framework as a financial planning instrument is drawn up for a period of seven years. The budget, which was foreseen for the years 2007-2013, amounts 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 that the Council of the EU has set 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 budgetary authority of the EU: both institutions can make changes to the preliminary draft budget proposed by the Commission; the Council has the final say on revenue and Parliament on expenditure.

    Multi-year financial framework in € million
    category 2007-2013 2014-2020 Comparison absolutely Comparison in%
    1. Sustainable growth 446.310 450,763 +4,453 +1.0
    1a. Competitiveness for growth and jobs 91,495 125,614 +34,119 +37.3
    1b. Cohesion for growth and jobs 354.815 325.149 −29,666 −8.4
    2. Preservation and management of natural resources 420,682 373.179 −47.503 −11.3
    of which market-related expenses 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
    5. Administration 57,082 61,629 +4,547 +8.0
    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 2014–2020, 39 percent of the total budget is earmarked for the common agricultural policy; 34% go 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 political agreement in February 2013 that the expenditure ceiling for the European Union for the period 2014-2020 is EUR 959,988 million in commitment appropriations. This corresponds to 1.00% of the EU's gross national income .

    Policy areas

    According to Art. 5  TEU, all competences not assigned to the European Union in the treaties remain with the member states. According to the principle of limited individual powers, the Union acts only within the limits of the competences which the Member States have given it in the Treaties in order to achieve the objectives set out therein. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity , the Union will only act in areas that do not fall within its exclusive competence if and to the extent that the objectives pursued can be achieved better at Union level than at the level of the Member States. At the same time, the EU's measures must not go further than is necessary for the objectives set out in the EU Treaty (principle of proportionality ). Despite these restrictive principles, EU legislation also requires national legislation to a large extent : in the Federal Republic of Germany, two thirds of all laws passed in the area of domestic policy can be traced back to initiatives or legal acts at EU level.

    The Treaties give the Union either exclusive competence in a specific area or a competence shared with the Member States . In addition, in certain areas the Union is only responsible for implementing measures to support and coordinate the actions of the Member States ( supporting competence ). According to Art. 3 TFEU, the Union has exclusive competence in the areas of the European Customs Union , the definition of competition rules for the European internal market , the monetary policy of the states participating in the European Monetary Union , the conservation of marine biological resources within the framework of the common fisheries policy and the common commercial policy . The shared responsibilities under Article 4 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 , and 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 .

    Economic policy

    The history of European unification is shaped by the paramount importance of economic integration steps. Initiated by the communitarisation 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.

    The institutions of the EU today play an important role for European economic policy in several areas: While the agricultural sector is characterized by an EU-wide market regime 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 ensures that they are complied with. The main competence for ensuring fair competition in 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, it 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 is promoting new technologies. Numerous coordination bodies have been set up to develop uniform standards so that the development of the internal market is not hampered by different technical standards.

    The EU also promotes 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 single economic bloc and are represented by the Trade Commissioner in the World Trade Organization .

    Customs union and internal market

    The aim of the EEC Treaty of 1957 was to dismantle trade barriers between the member states and for this purpose envisaged the gradual introduction of the so-called four fundamental freedoms , namely the free movement of goods, capital, services and workers in the territory of the Community. Of particular importance here are the free movement of goods ( Art. 28  ff. TFEU), import and export duties and quantitative import and export restrictions (quotas) within the internal market. Since the 1980s, the fundamental freedoms have been expanded - including through the case law of the ECJ and the Single European Act - in such a way that all other national norms that make international trade in the Community more difficult are also inadmissible. This expanded the economic community into a unified internal market .

    The European Customs Union consists of the EU (dark blue) and the partner countries Turkey , Andorra and San Marino (light blue). A free trade area exists with the EEA states Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

    A customs union has been in force within the European Union since 1968 , which means that trade between different member states must not be hindered by customs duties or duties with the same effect. 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 , as has 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, Art. 34  et seq. TFEU provide for the prohibition of quantitative import and export restrictions between the EU member states. Such restrictions are only permitted if they are for the protection of public safety and order, for reasons of morality and health, for reasons of protecting the life of people, animals and plants, or for safeguarding national cultural assets of artistic, historical or ancient value or for protection industrial property such national legislation is required. There is also a general prohibition of discrimination in the entire territory of the EU, according to which no Union citizen may be discriminated against on the basis of his or her citizenship . With regard to this so-called national equal treatment, merchants who sell goods in another EU member state may not be subjected to any regulations other than those that also apply to residents of the country concerned.

    The case law of the European Court of Justice on the free movement of goods has made this fundamental freedom the engine 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 if they were nationals and do not provide for quotas, are considered inadmissible if they actually make trade between the member states more difficult. According to the ECJ, such regulations have the same effect as quotas and are therefore also in breach of the contract. This also applies to provisions that apply to nationals and foreigners alike: For example, the rule that only beer that was brewed in accordance with the German purity law could be sold in Germany was dropped . Since the purity law applied to both German and foreign manufacturers, it was not disadvantageous, but practically amounted to a ban on imports into Germany for beers produced outside of Germany. However, national regulations that inhibit trade are permitted in cases in which quantitative import and export restrictions would also be permitted. In addition, such regulations are permissible if they are not related to goods, but rather to sales.

    With the Single European Act 1986, the goal of a common internal market was also contractually established. In order to prevent the principle according to which products that can be manufactured and sold in one EU member state may not be banned in the rest of the Union as well, leading to a race to undercut production standards, the member states have compared many of their laws and regulations Administrative regulations and created a large number of EU-wide standards in the Council of the European Union - despite the criticism of the associated centralization.

    Competition policy

    In order to prevent economic cartels and monopolies in the EU and to ensure fair competition in the internal market, the competition authorities of the individual states are supported by the Commissioner for Competition of the European Commission . In addition to controlling the economy, it is also responsible for approving subsidies in the Member States. This is 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 ( Art. 101  ff. TFEU) has made a major contribution 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 competition from other providers had to put on the market. The pressure of competition often led to innovation spurts and falling consumer prices, but also to changed wages and working conditions and in many cases to a reduction in jobs at the companies concerned. Liberalization was and is therefore viewed critically in parts of the public.

    Free movement of services

    While the dismantling of barriers to trade in goods proceeded very quickly after the establishment of the common internal market, barriers to international trade remained in the service sector ( Art. 56  ff. TFEU) for a longer period of time. This problem area was addressed with the European Services Directive of December 12, 2006, which the European Commission regards as an important part of the Lisbon Strategy for the promotion of the European economy. As a guideline , it must be implemented in the respective 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 of procedures. 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 to some extent services of general interest such as care for the elderly, childcare, facilities for the disabled, home education, garbage disposal, transport systems, etc., provided these are already provided under market conditions in the Member State concerned .

    European Economic and Monetary Union

    European Monetary Union
    As of February 1, 2020
  • Members of the Eurozone (19)
  • ERM II members with opt-out clause (1: Denmark)
  • Countries that have applied for ERM II membership
    (2: Bulgaria, Croatia)
  • Other EU members without an opt-out clause (5)
  • Unilateral users of the euro (Montenegro, Kosovo)
  • The introduction of a common European currency ( Art. 127  ff. TFEU) was a topic of discussion in the European Economic Community from an early stage. After initial attempts in this direction, such as the Werner Plan of 1970, failed, the euro was finally introduced as the common currency on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty : in 1999 for the central and commercial banks, in 2002 as a means of payment in cash in all participating member states.

    However, not all EU states are also members of the monetary union. Great Britain and Denmark have reserved the option of not participating in the negotiations, which they have so far made use of. All other countries are fundamentally obliged to participate, but the prerequisite for this is the achievement of certain conditions that are considered to be decisive for the stability of the value of money . These so-called convergence criteria are set out in the Stability and Growth Pact and relate to national debt, interest rates and inflation rates. Sweden is currently avoiding participation in the monetary union by deliberately failing to comply with these convergence criteria, as 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 participated in the monetary union. This means that 19 member states have belonged to the euro area since 2015.

    Even in the run-up to the introduction of the euro, the convergence criteria led to an alignment in the financial and economic policies of the member states that was hardly expected. The governing body of the monetary union is the European Central Bank, which is independent, following the example 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.

    Trade policy

    As part of the common commercial policy, the EU regulates imports and exports to and from third countries ( Art. 206  f. TFEU). The customs union introduced a uniform customs tariff ( TARIC , Combined Nomenclature ), which the Council of the European Union decides by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission. It is an important feature and negotiable object of EU economic policy.

    In principle, the EU's common trade policy is committed to the idea of ​​global free trade , but it can fall back on an extensive set of protective instruments, both tariff and non-tariff, 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 independent members of the WTO , the spokesperson for them here is the European Union, which is 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 ( Art. 38  ff. TFEU) was of outstanding importance in European integration at an early stage. Initiated by the European Commission in 1960, the Council of Ministers introduced the first common agricultural market regime in January 1962 . The aim was an increase in agricultural productivity and the avoidance of price fluctuations, which should guarantee producers a decent standard of living and consumers a stable supply at reasonable prices.

    However, a system of guaranteed prices set up for this purpose had a number of undesirable side effects. On the one hand, it led to production surpluses that were not in line with the market, and on the other, to food prices that were well above the world market level and thus burdened 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 made up well over half of total expenditure. In addition, the guaranteed price system also had negative environmental and developmental consequences, as it made imports more difficult. In this way, agricultural products can be produced more efficiently in emerging and developing countries under certain conditions. In addition to economic framework conditions such as wage levels and transport costs, the climatic conditions and the availability of resources are also essential - especially with regard to water and cultivation areas. Until the 1990s, all reform attempts to dismantle price subsidies failed because of drastic forms of peasant protests and because of the unanimity principle in the Council of the European Union, which was retained here .

    Only became abundantly clear that the planned enlargement without reform of agricultural policy would be the EU budget blow, as the economies of many of the candidate countries was still heavily dominated by agriculture, was in the wake of Agenda 2000 for various quotas, a reduction in prices (with compensation ) and a convergence towards world market prices for agricultural products has been initiated. However, this reform process of the common agricultural policy has not yet been completed.

    Overview of reforms of the common agricultural policy
    year reform aims
    1968 Mansholt plan Reduce the agricultural workforce by approximately half over a ten year period and encourage larger, more efficient farms
    1972 Structural measures Modernization of agriculture, combating overproduction
    1985 Green Paper "Perspectives for the Common Agricultural Policy" Combating overproduction, also in 1985, enactment of a regulation to improve the efficiency of the agricultural structure
    1988 "Guideline for agricultural expenditure" Limiting agricultural spending
    1992 MacSharry reform Basic reform with the objectives: lowering agricultural prices, compensatory payments for the incurred loss of income,
    promoting market mechanisms, measures to protect the environment, and gradually lowering export refunds
    1999 Agenda 2000 Boost competitiveness through price cuts, rural policies, environmental support and food safety.
    Introduction of " Cross Compliance ", modulation of premium payments
    2003 Mid-term evaluation Decoupling of direct payments from production and binding to cross compliance.
    2009 “Health Check” reform Accelerate Agenda 2000 measures while limiting EU agricultural spending.
    2013 CAP reform 2013 Greening, abolition of the last remaining export subsidies , direct payments

    While forestry has so far hardly played a role at EU level, the Common Fisheries Policy ( Art. 38  ff. TFEU) has been an important subject of dispute in the negotiations and in the balancing of political compromises in the Council of the European Union since the early 1970s, although it is only a small part of the EU budget. In 2004 the budget of the fisheries policy was 931 million euros, 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 counter overfishing and the decline in fish stocks, the EU sets fishing quotas for the various Member States and for certain fish species. As part of its structural policy, the EU has on the one hand implemented a reduction in national fishing fleets, on the other hand it is ensuring compensatory measures in particularly affected regions and promoting the use of environmentally friendly technology. Nevertheless, the catch quotas are seen as a major reason why countries like Norway and Iceland, whose economies are heavily influenced by fishing, have not joined the EU.

    Regional policy

    Within the EU there are a number of regions whose economic performance is well below the EU average, mostly as a result of disadvantageous geographic location factors. A classic example of this is the Mezzogiorno in Italy. Such regions - which have increased significantly since 2004 due to the accession of the Central and Eastern European countries - are granted special funding, whereby differences in the level of development of the areas are to be adjusted and regional disparities to be reduced ( Art. 174  ff. TFEU). For this purpose, three so-called structural funds have been set up to ensure that the poorer regions catch up economically. The use of these funds is roughly planned in the EU's seven-year financial perspective (currently for the period 2007-2013).

    The first of the three structural funds is the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Among other things, he supports medium-sized companies so that permanent jobs are created. In order to be able to provide more targeted help, the funds are usually allocated to individual economic sectors . In addition, infrastructure projects are initiated and technical aid measures are applied.

    Typical reference to ERDF support for a construction measure

    The ERDF can work 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 earmarked 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 prevent a shock when subsidies cease to exist due to the transition of a region from Objective 1 to Objective 2: Regions that were previously funded in the Objective 1 category, but whose GDP has increased so much that it is now above 75% of the EU average of the member states before 2004 receive decreasing transitional aid called phasing-in. Other regions, the EU enlargements fell to the since 2004 in the Objective 1 category, but now with the accession of poorer countries, for statistical reasons, the 75 -% - not below criterion is a decreasing transitional aid called phasing-out awarded . 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, applies in all Member States. Its aim is to improve education systems and access to the labor market.

    Finally, the Cohesion Fund, set up in 1993, aims to reduce economic and social disparities between the Member States. Projects in connection with environmental and transport infrastructures in EU member states whose gross domestic product per capita is below 90% of the EU average are eligible under this fund. Since May 1, 2004 these have been Greece, Portugal, Spain, the Republic of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

    The EU plans to spend around 360 billion euros in funding between 2007 and 2013 for regional development in the member states. Often, EU grants are not paid out directly from Brussels, but indirectly via national and regional authorities in the Member States. The European Commission pays money directly to government or private organizations such as universities , companies , interest groups and non-governmental organizations .

    In addition to internal Union projects, the EU also partially supports projects in countries that want to join it. These external grants are used, among other things. the support of neighborhood relations and the stabilization of the recipient countries.

    Foreign and Security Policy

    Common foreign policy

    High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell At the G8 meetings, the EU / EC has been represented as a participant with observer status since 1977.
    High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell
    At the G8 meetings, the EU / EC has been represented as a participant with observer status since 1977.

    The aim of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP, Art. 21  et seq. TEU and Art. 205  et seq. TFEU) are to safeguard the common values ​​and interests of the Union, to strengthen security and peace, to promote international cooperation and the Strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Unlike most other EU policy areas, the CFSP is largely intergovernmental: the governments of the member states unanimously define 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.

    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 Council for Foreign Affairs . About 130 delegations of the European Union to international organizations and in third countries are subordinate to him  . The Lisbon Treaty also provides for the establishment of a European External Action Service , which is composed of these delegations as well as staff from the Council Secretariat and the national diplomatic services and which is also to be fully subordinate to the High Representative ( Art. 27 (3) TEU). This gives it operational independence and can also set its own accents within the framework of the requirements of the council.

    Members of the EU and other European organizations

    While the CFSP has repeatedly been successful in everyday diplomacy and, for example, in the case of votes in the General Assembly of the United Nations, a joint approach by the EU states has become the rule, national governments still often pursue their own strategies in international crises. Before the 2003 Iraq war , for example, this led to a violent diplomatic conflict between the EU member states (see 2003 Iraq crisis ).

    The EU's international relations are often regulated in bilateral and multilateral agreements that are geared towards the economic and 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 countries, the South American Mercosur , the North American NAFTA and others. There is a special relationship between the EU and the USA as the two largest economic blocs in the world and the most important Western democratic powers. The EU has also had a special partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with Russia since 1994 . However, the further development of Russian-European relations is controversial among the EU member states.

    Security and Defense Policy

    Main building of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex .

    Finally, the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP, Art. 42  et seq. TEU) plays a special role as part of the CFSP. After the failure of the 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 endeavored to develop independent security-political structures. To do this, it initially relied on the Western European Union and eventually developed the CSDP. This should respect the neutrality of certain member states as well as 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 (Art. 42 (7) TEU).

    The CSDP has some special institutions: the Political and Security Committee , the Military Committee , the Military Staff , the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management and the EU planning cell for civilian and military matters. There is also a European Defense Agency with the task of “helping to identify 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 regulation , through which otherwise topics requiring unanimity can be transferred to the area of ​​majority decisions, is not applicable to the CSDP. However, if a group of member states in the CSDP wants to advance faster than others, they have the option of permanent structured cooperation ( Art. 46  TEU), which essentially corresponds to enhanced cooperation in other policy areas.

    The aim of the CSDP is to fulfill the so-called Petersberg tasks , namely humanitarian tasks and rescue operations, peacekeeping tasks and combat operations in crisis management, including peace-making measures. To this end, the EU states can undertake joint military missions, which first happened in 2003 in Operation Artemis in Eastern Congo . According to the text of the treaty, the CSDP could also lead to a common European defense, i.e. a European army . However, this would require a unanimous decision by the European Council , which currently seems unlikely - especially because 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 peace mission EUFOR , on a voluntary basis and in accordance with national legal requirements (Germany, for example, only with the consent of the Bundestag ). The EU Battlegroups , which have been set up since 2005 and consist of two multinational combat units with a strength of 1,500 soldiers each, who are to be ready for action at short notice in the event of a crisis , are aimed at increased practical cooperation within the framework of the CSDP . They are provided by a group of member states for six months and then dissolved again. However, these supranational associations have not actually been used since their introduction due to disputes over funding.

    At the end of 2017, 25 of the then 28 member states signed an agreement on permanent structured cooperation ( PESCO ) in defense and security policy, which provides for joint operations and armament projects as well as regular increases in defense spending by the participating states . With the exception of Great Britain, which is dealing with Brexit , the EU members Denmark and Malta have not joined the agreement .

    European neighborhood policy

  • EU
  • Candidate countries
  • EFTA
  • Eastern partnership
  • Relations with its immediate neighbors in the south and east of the EU, with whom it has concluded a dense network of treaties since 2004 as part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), are an important component of European foreign policy. 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. In parallel to this neighborhood policy, the Union for the Mediterranean was founded in 2008 with the states in North Africa and the Middle East (including Turkey and Israel ) , which ties in with 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 the former Union republics of the Soviet Union.

    The ENP is aimed primarily at those states that are looking for close relations with the EU but will not be able to join it in the foreseeable future for political or geographical reasons. The countries in the Western Balkans that are considered potential candidate countries are therefore not included in the ENP. These are prepared for membership in so-called Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA). The applicant states will be tied more economically and politically to the EU, which should make the accession talks easier.

    Both the ENP and the negotiations with the candidate countries are not in charge of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, but of the Commissioner for Enlargement of the European Commission. However, he must coordinate closely with the High Representative in order to ensure the coherence of European foreign policy.

    Development policy

    Recipient countries of privileged EU development aid

    The European Union is also active in development policy ( Art. 208  ff. TFEU). The European states are responsible for the damage caused by their rule during colonization, especially in Africa and parts of South America. In contrast to foreign and security policy, decisions on development policy measures are made in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure , i.e. with equal participation by the European Parliament.

    The individual measures include the trade concessions for developing countries through the general system of preferences, the raw materials regime and, in particular, humanitarian aid through the responsible European office, ECHO . In addition, a number of states are granted additional trade privileges 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 regions (so-called ACP countries ) and which replaced the previous Lomé agreements . Most of these agreements require the partner countries in return for compliance with certain democratic and constitutional standards.

    The European Investment Bank also contributes to development policy and, together with the European Development Fund, also provides the majority 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 . The core of this is bilateral agreements with the individual states which, in addition to extensive freedom from customs duties, provide for further trade policy concessions as well as cooperation in the technical and economic area.

    Justice and Home Affairs

    The Schengen area has led to the abolition of border controls. (open "Schengen border" near Kufstein , Tyrol)

    Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the European Union has had jurisdiction over justice and home affairs. The third pillar created at the time contains regulations for cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs. Matters of common interest are 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 to combat terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime.

    The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the broader objective 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 policy in the area of ​​border controls, asylum and immigration ( Art. 77  ff. TFEU, formerly known as accompanying measures for the free movement of persons ), this also includes judicial cooperation in civil matters (JZZ, Art. 81 TFEU) and police and judicial cooperation in Criminal matters (PJZS, Art. 82  ff. TFEU). Through the PJZS, the EU can, among other things, set minimum standards in criminal procedural law , such as the rights of the accused ( Art. 82 TFEU). For certain cross-border criminal offenses, 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 ( Art. 83 TFEU).

    The Europol headquarters in The Hague

    After the Council initially decided unanimously in 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 policy. However, some Member States, namely Great Britain , Ireland and Denmark , have derogations; they only take part in the joint measures to a limited extent. On the other hand, some non-EU countries, namely Iceland , Norway and Switzerland , have also joined the Schengen Agreement and must therefore implement certain decisions made by the EU in this context.

    To implement the common justice and home affairs policy, the European authorities Europol and Eurojust were set up to coordinate the cooperation of 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 up for investigation. 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 . The measures taken within the framework of 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 criminal offenses according to Art. 86 , including those detrimental to the financial interests of the Union, has been in progress for several years, but was not implemented by the European Council until 2016, despite the consent of the European Parliament In 2017 it was decided to implement it in the initially smaller framework of structured cooperation.

    Education policy and research funding

    The Bologna Process is designed to create a European higher education area.
    Erasmus + , the EU's umbrella program for education, training, youth and sport

    The change in European countries from traditional industrial to potential information and knowledge societies, triggered by technological innovation and global networking opportunities, has meant that the EU bodies that deal with education policy ( Art. 165  et seq. meanwhile develop significant activities here. The Lisbon Strategy adopted in 2000, like its successor Europe 2020 program , sees education policy as the most important instrument for promoting the European economy. It aims to create a European education and employment area under the sign of lifelong learning .

    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 named Bachelor and Master based on the Anglo-Saxon model . While the bachelor's degree usually lasts three to four (in Germany three) years of study and should offer the first professional degree, the master's lasts one to two (in Germany two) years and serves to specialize. This can be followed by a doctorate to achieve a doctorate , which is already the highest academic degree in Europe.

    In order to promote free movement and mobility of learners in Europe, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) was also introduced, a scheme for the standardization of qualification requirements, within which defined competencies are assigned to specific levels. This system is intended to make educational qualifications more easily comparable 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 in order to recognize study stays abroad facilitate and promote the pan-European mobility of students.

    In analogy to higher education, a credit point system is also being developed for vocational training. This is intended to enable individual learners throughout Europe to document their learning success or the competence they have acquired. The points should also be credited everywhere in Europe. The aim is to increase the permeability of the different education systems in Europe, which, however, 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 education. In July 2004, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal to merge these programs into a single lifelong learning program, divided into four different areas of education: general (school) education, vocational education, higher education and adult education. Among the currently existing cooperation measures of a general educational nature, the Erasmus university program is particularly well-known, which promotes cross-border cooperation and the exchange of students and lecturers. There is also the Comenius program , 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 program, which is responsible for adult education . Since 2014, these European educational programs have been coordinated together under the umbrella of the Erasmus + program .

    In addition to teaching, the EU is also active in research funding ( Art. 179  ff. TFEU). The European Research Council founded by the European Commission , which began its work at the beginning of 2007, is intended to support basic scientific research. A total of 22 academics appointed to the Research Council award project funds of initially one billion euros annually according to criteria of excellence and regardless of regional distribution, regardless of political influence. In addition to the thematic programs previously funded, there are now also general funding for research without direct application (so-called frontier research , ie “research at the limits of knowledge”). The program should include serve to make the EU more attractive as a research location for highly qualified people, to better identify outstanding scientific talents and to fill gaps in top-level research primarily by promoting young scientists.

    Social and employment policy

    A European health insurance card

    Although the harmonization of social standards was one of the goals of the European Economic Community from an early stage , the national reservations of sovereignty and the demand for the principle of subsidiarity are generally more pronounced here than in economic policy. This is why the unanimity principle applies in the Council of the EU on certain issues in this policy area, for example in the area of social security ; the European Parliament only has to be heard and has no co-determination rights. The importance of national policy-making in these areas is accordingly 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 make up a large share of the national budget in all EU member states - and thus also of the political leeway - the governments have little interest in transferring powers in this area to the EU. In other areas, however, such as occupational safety or gender equality , the ordinary legislative procedure applies .

    The EU's social policy ( Art. 151  et seq. TFEU) is therefore mainly based in material terms on the European Social Fund established in 1960 , its funds 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 to have a normative effect on the social policy of the member states. This can be seen, among other things, in the accentuated EU gender equality policy in terms of implementing the gender mainstreaming concept, in anti-discrimination guidelines and in guidelines for the compatibility of family and work .

    With the Amsterdam Treaty, the EU has also made an active employment policy its program ( Art. 145  ff. 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 sought, which is primarily aimed at better qualification of jobseekers and at labor market flexibility. The EU is also promoting coordination of labor market policy among the member states.

    Consumer protection

    In 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty, consumer protection interests were included in the European treaty for the first time ( Art. 12 , Art. 169 TFEU). The primary goals are not only uniform quality standards in production and trade, but also health protection as well as education and information for consumers. This can be seen, for example, in the mandatory labeling of genetically modified products .

    After the deficits in consumer protection that became apparent during the BSE bovine epidemic, the European Commission set up the General Directorate for Health and Consumer Protection in 1999 , which is responsible, among other things, for plant protection, veterinary and food controls. For example, the free movement of 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, which was introduced in 1985, places the burden of proof for a faultless product in the event of damage on the manufacturer, 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 unfair contract clauses, especially in cross-border traffic.

    Environmental policy

    The yellow lady's slipper is protected in the EU by the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive .

    An active environmental protection policy ( Art. 191  ff. TFEU) has been practiced by the European Economic Community since the early 1970s, for example in the areas of water protection, air pollution control and waste disposal. Initially, after-care environmental protection in the sense of eliminating damage that has occurred was in the foreground, meanwhile the principle of prevention is increasingly emphasized. Since the Treaty of Amsterdam , environmental protection has been a cross-cutting principle that must be taken into account in all EU measures. When planning economic and infrastructure projects, for example, an environmental impact assessment must be carried out, which, as a uniform administrative procedure, precedes the approval of structural measures.

    Legislative acts in environmental policy are generally adopted in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure . Individual states have the option of applying stricter environmental standards than those that apply to the entire EU, provided that this does not result in trade barriers.

    The Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive aims to preserve natural habitats for wild animals and plants and thus biological diversity. Designated protected areas in the EU member states are to develop into a European ecological network ( Natura 2000 ). This networking serves the preservation, (re) establishment and development of ecological interrelationships as well as the promotion of natural expansion and repopulation processes. It is thus the central legal instrument of the European Union to implement the commitments made by the member states in 1992 to protect biological diversity ( Convention on Biological Diversity , CBD, Rio 1992).

    The EU is providing this financial assistance to Member States for the designation of SCIs ( Site of Community Importance - SCI) and Special Protection Areas ( Special Protected Area - SPA) are available. At the end of 2013 there were 27,308 SCI and SPA areas with 1,039,332 km², 787,767 km² land area, 251,565 km² sea area.

    Climate and energy policy

    EU energy efficiency label

    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 in this regard, with the commitment and success of individual member states fluctuating. The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is to be achieved through various measures, above all through EU emissions trading . In addition, with the ALTENER program, the EU is promoting the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energies .

    Climate policy has developed into one of the most dynamic policy areas in the EU in recent years. Organizationally, 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 is now independent of the Environment Commissioner .

    The energy policy of the European Union has only been institutionalized by contract since the Treaty of Lisbon ( Art. 194 TFEU). Individual energy policy initiatives (to promote energy efficiency or to unbundle energy supply companies) had already been made via the detour of environmental or competition policy. The goals of energy policy are a functioning energy market, guarantee of energy supply, the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energies as well as the integration of the energy networks between the member states. According to Art. 192, measures that affect 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 compared to 1990 levels by 2020 and to increase the share of renewable energies to an average of 20% by 2020. In January 2008 the European Commission adopted binding requirements for the individual member states. The Directive 2009/28 / EC requires Member States to set national indicative targets for the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption, with the countries of the conveyor systems individually expressly free hand is left with respect.

    The political guidelines of the new Commission President Jean Claude Juncker plan to reform and restructure Europe's energy policy and 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 number one in the world for renewable energies.

    Transport and Space Policy

    The EU's transport policy ( Art. 90  ff. 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 trans-European networks (TEN, Art. 170 TFEU), which are to connect the various European regions with one another by 2020. This TEN project includes roads, railways, inland waterways, combined transport (connection of different modes of transport), ports, airports and transhipment facilities for long-distance freight, but also information, navigation and traffic management systems.

    The Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden is part of the Trans-European Network

    In addition, the goal of environmental compatibility also plays an important role in EU transport policy. The European Commission is responding to the increasing burden on the resident population and the environment resulting from road traffic and aviation with proposals that provide for increased technical environmental standards for vehicles and that road and environmental costs are increasingly being passed on to users.

    In addition, the Commission is primarily committed to promoting rail transport: as early as 1996 it presented a white paper on the “revitalization of European railways”, which provides for the creation of so-called trans-European freeways for freight rail traffic. In one segment of the TEN development there are major projects such as the high-speed line Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London.

    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 treaty, the EU-ESA framework agreement . The European Space Council established for this purpose is responsible for EU space policy and coordination with ESA and other partners .


    Nokia headquarters in Espoo . 164 Fortune Global 500 companies are based in the European Union.
    Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague . Largest company in the European Union in terms of turnover and profit.

    With a nominal gross domestic product of 14.82 trillion euros (as of 2016), the European Union is the largest domestic market in the world, and it generates around a quarter of global GDP. The per capita income is subject to strong fluctuations depending on the country 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, and lowest in Bulgaria with 6,600 dollars.

    The main economic sectors are industry and services , while agriculture makes up only a small part of the European economy. The economic growth in the EU was 2.2% on average between 2000 and 2008. As a result of the global financial and economic crisis , the EU experienced a recession of 4.4% in 2009 . The effects on economic growth and unemployment figures in the EU as a whole are clearly reflected in the relevant statistics, as are the differences between the EU member states in this regard. In the two following years GDP rose again (2010 by 2.1%, 2011 by 1.7%), in 2012 it fell again slightly by 0.5%. A recovery began in 2013 and the economy grew by 0.2%. From 2014, economic output grew by almost 2% annually and was thus back to 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, the energy intensity of the European economy (energy consumption in kilograms of oil equivalents per 1000 € GDP) was 151.6 in 2008 (for comparison: 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 , making the EU the highest surplus of all economic areas.

    gross domestic product

    The development of the gross domestic product ( purchasing power parity ) of the European Union compared to countries outside the EU (data from the IMF , October 2020).

    GDP (PPP) in millions of international dollars
    2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
    European UnionEuropean Union European Union 16,935,925 16,323,553 16,851,911 17,505,664 17,751,305 18,087,168 18,647,193 19.205.364 20.008.129 20.852.702 22,042,076 20.720.129
    United StatesUnited States United States 14,718,575 14,418,725 14,964,400 15,517,925 16.155.250 16,663,150 17,348,075 17,947,000 18,569,100 19,390,600 20,580,250 21,433,225
    China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 9,967,491 10,967,158 12,278,553 13,717,181 15,045,546 16,468,201 17,960,665 19,392,357 21,291,766 23.159.107 25,278,767 23,393,004
    JapanJapan Japan 4,281,271 4,075,361 4,319,504 4,388,645 4,547,355 4,684,185 4,759,639 4,830,065 5,237,790 5,428,813 5,596,959 5,450,654
    BrazilBrazil Brazil 2,559,420 2,575,603 2,803,353 2,973,104 3,085,869 3,230,733 3,287,201 3,192,405 3,141,335 3,240,319 3,366,379 3,222,990
    RussiaRussia Russia 3,291,844 3,057,427 3,234,166 3,441,691 3,628,008 3,734,307 3,823,996 3,717,617 3,799,696 4,007,831 4,227,428 4,135,992
    IndiaIndia India 4,354,646 4,759,787 5,312,261 5,781,844 6.219.193 6,740,182 7,347,154 7,965,162 8,662,350 9.459.002 10,485,230 9,542,255

    Economic development

    GDP growth rates of the EU member states
    Member State 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2006-2016
    BelgiumBelgium Belgium 2.5 3.4 0.7 −2.3 2.3 1.8 0.1 −0.1 1.5 1.6 1.2 12.6
    BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 6.9 7.3 6.0 −3.6 1.3 1.9 0.0 0.9 1.3 3.6 3.4 29.0
    DenmarkDenmark Denmark 3.9 0.9 −0.5 −4.9 1.9 1.3 0.2 0.9 1.7 1.6 1.3 8.3
    GermanyGermany Germany 3.7 3.3 1.1 −5.6 4.1 3.7 0.5 0.5 1.6 1.7 1.9 16.5
    EstoniaEstonia Estonia 10.3 7.7 −5.5 −14.7 2.3 7.6 4.3 1.4 2.8 1.4 1.6 19.2
    FinlandFinland Finland 4.1 5.2 0.7 −8.3 3.0 2.6 −1.4 −0.8 −0.6 0.3 1.4 6.2
    FranceFrance France 2.4 2.4 0.2 −2.9 2.0 2.1 0.2 0.6 0.9 1.1 1.2 10.2
    GreeceGreece Greece 5.7 3.3 −0.3 −4.3 −5.5 −9.1 −7.3 −3.2 0.4 −0.2 0.0 −20.5
    IrelandIreland Ireland 5.9 3.8 −4.4 −4.6 2.0 0.0 −1.1 1.1 8.5 26.3 5.2 42.7
    ItalyItaly Italy 2.0 1.5 −1.1 −5.5 1.7 0.6 −2.8 −1.7 0.1 0.8 0.9 −3.5
    CroatiaCroatia Croatia 4.8 5.2 2.1 −7.4 −1.7 −0.3 −2.2 −1.1 −0.5 1.6 2.9 3.4
    LatviaLatvia Latvia 11.9 9.9 −3.6 −14.3 −3.8 6.4 4.0 2.6 2.1 2.7 2.0 19.9
    LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 7.4 11.1 2.6 −14.8 1.6 6.0 3.8 3.5 3.5 1.8 2.3 25.3
    LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 5.2 8.4 −1.3 −4.4 4.9 2.5 −0.4 4.0 5.6 4.0 4.2 32.7
    MaltaMalta Malta 1.8 4.0 3.3 −2.5 3.5 1.4 2.6 4.5 8.3 7.4 5.0 39.3
    NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 3.5 3.7 1.7 −3.8 1.4 1.7 −1.1 −0.2 1.4 2.0 2.2 12.5
    AustriaAustria Austria 3.4 3.6 1.5 −3.8 1.9 2.8 0.7 0.1 0.6 1.0 1.5 13.3
    PolandPoland Poland 6.2 7.0 4.2 2.8 3.6 5.0 1.6 1.4 3.3 3.8 2.8 41.7
    PortugalPortugal Portugal 1.4 2.4 0.0 −2.9 1.9 −1.3 −3.2 −1.4 0.9 0.6 1.4 −0.2
    RomaniaRomania Romania 8.1 6.9 8.5 −7.1 −0.8 1.1 0.6 3.5 3.1 3.9 4.8 32.6
    SwedenSweden Sweden 4.7 3.4 −0.6 −5.2 6.0 2.7 −0.3 1.2 2.6 4.1 3.2 21.8
    SpainSpain Spain 4.2 3.8 1.1 −3.6 0.0 −1.0 −2.9 −1.7 2.4 3.2 3.2 8.7
    SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 8.5 10.8 5.6 −5.4 5.0 2.8 1.7 1.5 2.6 3.8 3.3 40.2
    SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 5.7 6.9 3.5 −7.8 1.2 0.6 −2.7 −1.1 3.1 2.3 2.5 14.2
    Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 6.9 5.5 2.7 −4.8 2.3 2.0 −0.8 −0.5 2.7 4.5 2.4 22.9
    HungaryHungary Hungary 3.9 0.4 0.9 −6.6 0.7 1.7 −1.6 2.1 4.2 3.1 2.0 12.8
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 2.5 2.6 −0.6 −4.3 1.9 1.5 1.3 1.9 3.1 2.2 1.8 13.9
    Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus 4.5 4.8 3.9 −1.8 1.3 0.4 −3.2 −6.0 −1.5 1.7 2.8 6.9
    European UnionEuropean Union European Union 3.3 3.1 0.4 −4.4 2.1 1.7 −0.5 0.2 1.6 2.2 2.1 11.8
    Euro symbol.svg Eurozone 3.2 3.0 0.4 −4.5 2.1 1.5 −0.9 −0.3 1.2 2.0 2.1 9.8


    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 onwards are clearly visible :

    Unemployment rate in%
    country 2006 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
    BelgiumBelgium Belgium 8.3 7.0 7.9 8.3 7.0 7.3 8.3 8.5 8.5 7.8 7.1 6.0
    BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 9.0 5.9 6.8 10.3 11.3 12.3 13.0 11.4 9.2 7.6 6.2 5.2
    DenmarkDenmark Denmark 3.9 3.4 6.0 7.5 7.6 7.5 7.0 6.1 6.2 6.2 5.7 5.0
    GermanyGermany Germany 10.1 7.4 7.6 7.0 5.8 5.4 5.2 5.0 4.6 4.1 3.8 3.4
    EstoniaEstonia Estonia 5.9 5.5 11.4 18.5 13.1 10.6 8.8 7.7 6.2 6.8 5.8 5.4
    FinlandFinland Finland 7.7 6.4 8.2 8.4 7.8 7.7 8.2 8.4 9.4 8.8 8.6 7.4
    FranceFrance France 8.8 7.4 9.1 9.3 9.2 9.8 10.3 10.3 10.4 10.1 9.4 9.1
    GreeceGreece Greece 9.0 7.8 9.6 12.7 17.9 24.5 27.2 26.5 24.9 23.6 21.5 19.3
    IrelandIreland Ireland 4.5 6.4 12.0 13.9 14.7 14.7 13.1 11.3 9.4 8.4 6.7 5.8
    ItalyItaly Italy 6.8 6.7 7.7 8.4 8.4 10.7 12.1 12.7 11.9 11.7 11.2 10.6
    CroatiaCroatia Croatia 11.6 8.7 9.2 11.8 13.7 15.8 17.4 17.2 16.1 13.3 11.2 8.5
    LatviaLatvia Latvia 7.0 7.7 17.5 19.5 16.2 15.0 11.9 10.8 9.9 9.6 8.7 7.4
    LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 5.8 5.8 13.8 17.8 15.4 13.4 11.8 10.7 9.1 7.9 7.1 6.2
    LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 4.6 4.9 5.1 4.6 4.7 5.0 5.7 6.1 6.5 6.3 5.5 5.6
    MaltaMalta Malta 6.8 5.9 6.5 7.0 6.4 6.4 6.2 6.9 5.4 4.7 4.0 3.7
    NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 5.0 3.7 4.4 5.0 5.0 5.8 7.3 7.4 6.9 6.0 4.9 3.8
    AustriaAustria Austria 5.3 4.1 5.3 4.8 4.6 4.9 5.4 5.6 5.7 6.0 5.5 4.9
    PolandPoland Poland 13.9 7.1 8.1 9.7 9.7 10.1 10.3 9.0 7.5 6.2 4.9 3.9
    PortugalPortugal Portugal 8.9 8.8 10.7 12.0 12.9 15.8 16.4 14.1 12.6 11.1 9.0 7.1
    RomaniaRomania Romania 7.2 6.4 5.6 7.0 7.2 6.8 7.1 6.8 6.8 5.9 4.9 4.2
    SwedenSweden Sweden 7.1 6.2 8.3 8.6 7.8 8.0 8.0 7.9 7.4 6.9 6.7 6.3
    SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 13.5 10.1 10.7 14.9 13.6 14.0 14.2 13.2 11.5 9.6 8.1 6.5
    SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 6.0 4.4 5.9 7.3 8.2 8.9 10.1 9.7 9.0 8.0 6.6 5.1
    SpainSpain Spain 8.5 11.3 17.9 19.4 20.6 23.9 26.1 25.2 22.1 19.6 17.2 15.3
    Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 7.1 4.4 6.7 7.3 6.7 7.0 7.0 6.1 5.1 4.0 2.9 2.2
    HungaryHungary Hungary 7.5 7.8 10.0 11.2 11.0 11.0 10.2 7.8 6.8 5.1 4.2 3.7
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 5.4 5.6 7.3 7.9 7.7 8.1 7.7 6.6 5.3 4.8 4.3 4.0
    Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus 4.6 3.7 5.4 6.3 7.9 11.9 15.9 16.1 15.0 13.1 11.1 8.4
    European UnionEuropean Union European Union 8.2 7.0 9.0 9.6 9.7 10.5 10.9 10.2 9.4 8.5 7.6 6.8
    United StatesUnited States United States 4.6 5.8 9.3 9.6 8.9 8.1 7.4 6.2 5.3 4.9 4.4 3.9
    JapanJapan Japan 4.1 4.0 5.1 5.0 4.6 4.3 4.0 3.6 3.4 3.1 2.8 2.4

    Domestic trade

    In terms of exports and imports, in 2015 the EU carried out 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.

    Internal trade of the European Union (2015)
    country Imports
    (in million euros)
    (in million euros)
    (in million euros)
    (in million euros)
    domestic trade
    (in million euros)
    BelgiumBelgium Belgium 338.200 62.7 212.100 358,900 71.9 258.100 470.200 8.67
    BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 26,400 64.4 17,000 23,200 64.2 14,900 31,900 0.41
    DenmarkDenmark Denmark 77,100 69.4 53,500 85,900 61.2 52,600 106,100 1.88
    GermanyGermany Germany 946,400 65.7 612,600 1,198,300 57.9 693,900 1,306,500 21.82
    EstoniaEstonia Estonia 13,100 81.7 10,700 11,600 75.0 8,700 19,400 0.27
    FinlandFinland Finland 54,200 72.9 39,500 53,600 58.8 31,500 71,000 1.24
    FranceFrance France 516.100 68.3 352,700 456,000 58.8 268.200 620,900 11.02
    GreeceGreece Greece 43,600 52.8 23,000 25,800 53.9 13,900 36,900 0.69
    IrelandIreland Ireland 64,300 67.8 43,600 108,600 53.9 58,500 102,100 1.63
    ItalyItaly Italy 368,600 58.5 215,600 413,800 54.9 227.200 442,800 7.87
    CroatiaCroatia Croatia 18,400 77.7 14,300 11,600 65.5 7,600 21,900 0.23
    LatviaLatvia Latvia 12,900 79.8 10,300 10,900 68.8 7,500 17,800 0.23
    LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 25,500 66.7 17,000 23,000 61.7 14,200 31,200 0.39
    LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 21,100 72.5 15,300 15,600 84.0 13,100 28,400 0.54
    MaltaMalta Malta 5,200 65.4 1,800 2,300 43.5 1,000 2,800 0.06
    NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 455,900 45.6 208,100 511.200 75.5 386.100 594.200 10.30
    AustriaAustria Austria 139,900 76.7 107,300 137,300 70.0 96,100 203,400 3.49
    PolandPoland Poland 173,600 70.1 121,700 178,700 79.2 141,600 263,300 3.68
    PortugalPortugal Portugal 60,100 76.5 46,000 49,800 72.7 36,200 82,200 1.42
    RomaniaRomania Romania 63,000 77.1 48,600 54,600 73.6 40,200 88,800 1.22
    SwedenSweden Sweden 124,000 69.8 86,600 126,100 58.4 73,700 160,300 2.87
    SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 66,300 78.6 52,100 68,100 85.5 58,200 110,300 1.56
    SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 26,800 69.8 18,700 28,800 76.0 21,900 40,600 0.62
    SpainSpain Spain 278,800 60.2 167,900 254,000 65.0 165,100 333,000 5.24
    Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 126,600 77.1 97,600 142,600 83.4 118,900 216,500 3.11
    HungaryHungary Hungary 83,500 76.2 63,600 88,800 81.4 72,300 135,900 2.01
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 564,000 53.6 302,300 415,000 44.5 184,500 486,800 7.64
    Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus 5,000 74.0 3,700 1,600 56.3 900 4,600 0.10
    European UnionEuropean Union European Union 4,698,600 63.1 2,963,200 4,855,700 61.0 2,963,200 --- 100

    Foreign trade

  • EU (2015)
  • Top 10 trading partners (2015)
  • Top 11-20 trading partners (2015)
  • The development of the EU's foreign trade volume from 2007 to 2013
    Top 20 main trading partners of the European Union (2015)
    rank Main trading partner Imports
    (in million euros)
    (in million euros)
    (in million euros)
    - European UnionEuropean Union Total EU trade volume 1,724,867 100 1,789,063 100 3,513,929 100
    1 United StatesUnited States United States 246.211 14.3 369,549 20.7 615.760 17.5
    2 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 1 350.257 20.3 170.399 9.5 520.657 14.8
    3 SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 102,299 5.9 150,833 8.4 253.132 7.2
    4th RussiaRussia Russia 135,876 7.9 73.905 4.1 209.781 6.0
    5 TurkeyTurkey Turkey 61,574 3.6 78,959 4.4 140,533 4.0
    6th NorwayNorway Norway 74,313 4.3 48,867 2.7 123.180 3.5
    7th JapanJapan Japan 59,726 3.5 56,572 3.2 116,298 3.3
    8th Korea SouthSouth Korea South Korea 42,327 2.5 47,882 2.7 90.209 2.6
    9 IndiaIndia India 39,449 2.3 37,919 2.1 77,368 2.2
    10 BrazilBrazil Brazil 30,879 1.8 34,588 1.9 65,468 1.9
    11 CanadaCanada Canada 28,223 1.6 35.210 2.0 63,433 1.8
    12th Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 21,506 1.2 40,248 2.2 61,754 1.8
    13th United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 9,364 0.5 48,480 2.7 57,844 1.6
    14th MexicoMexico Mexico 19,675 1.1 33,657 1.9 53,333 1.5
    15th SingaporeSingapore Singapore 18,898 1.0 29,690 1.7 48,588 1.4
    16 South AfricaSouth Africa South Africa 19,345 1.1 25,454 1.4 44,798 1.3
    17th TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 25,487 1.5 18,456 1.0 43,943 1.3
    18th AlgeriaAlgeria Algeria 20,868 1.2 22,289 1.2 43,157 1.2
    19th AustraliaAustralia Australia 9,555 0.6 31,634 1.8 41,190 1.2
    20th VietnamVietnam Vietnam 29,958 1.7 8,438 0.5 38,396 1.1

    1 excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan


    Population pyramid of the EU in 2016

    Based on an estimate by Eurostat , there were 507,416,607 inhabitants in the European Union in 2014 on an area of ​​4,324,782 square kilometers. With a population density of 116 inhabitants / km², 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 million inhabitants, the least populous Member State is Malta with 0.4 million inhabitants. The birth rates in the European Union are very low with an average of around 1.6 children per woman. The highest birth rates are found in Ireland with 16.88 births per thousand inhabitants per year and France with 13.01 per thousand inhabitants per year. Germany has the lowest birth rate in the European Union with 8.22 births per thousand inhabitants and year.

    Map of the EU NUTS 2 areas by population density from 2014
    Irish school children. Ireland has the highest birth rate in the EU at 16.88 births per thousand people.
    Population and area of ​​the 27 member states of the European Union
    (estimate January 1, 2014)
    Member State population Percentage
    to the EU
    to the EU
    density Ew./km²
    European UnionEuropean Union European Union 445.328.346 100 4,234,564 100 105.2
    BelgiumBelgium Belgium 11,203,992 2.52 30,510 0.7 352.0
    BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 7,245,677 1.68 110,912 2.6 68.5
    DenmarkDenmark Denmark 5,627,235 1.26 43.094 1.0 128.1
    GermanyGermany Germany 83,000,000 18.64 357.021 8.4 229.9
    EstoniaEstonia Estonia 1,315,819 0.30 45.226 1.1 29.6
    FinlandFinland Finland 5,451,270 1.22 337.030 8.0 15.8
    FranceFrance France 65.856.609 14.79 643,548 15.2 99.6
    GreeceGreece Greece 10,992,589 2.42 131,957 3.1 85.4
    IrelandIreland Ireland 4,604,029 1.03 70,280 1.7 64.3
    ItalyItaly Italy 60,782,668 13.65 301,320 7.1 200.4
    CroatiaCroatia Croatia 4,246,700 0.95 56,594 1.3 75.8
    LatviaLatvia Latvia 2,001,468 0.45 64,589 1.5 35.0
    LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 2,943,472 0.66 65,200 1.5 51.4
    LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 549.680 0.12 2,586 0.1 190.1
    MaltaMalta Malta 425.384 0.10 316 0.0 1,305.7
    NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 16,829,289 3.78 41,526 1.0 396.9
    AustriaAustria Austria 8,507,786 1.91 83,858 2.0 99.7
    PolandPoland Poland 38,495,659 8.64 312,685 7.4 121.9
    PortugalPortugal Portugal 10,427,301 2.34 92,931 2.2 114.4
    RomaniaRomania Romania 19,942,642 4.48 238.391 5.6 90.2
    SwedenSweden Sweden 9,644,864 2.17 449.964 10.6 20.6
    SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 5,415,949 1.22 48,845 1.2 110.8
    SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 2,061,085 0.46 20,253 0.5 101.4
    SpainSpain Spain 46.507.760 10.44 504.782 11.9 93.4
    Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 10,512,419 2.36 78,866 1.9 132.8
    HungaryHungary Hungary 9,879,000 2.22 93.030 2.2 107.8
    Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus 858,000 0.19 9,250 0.2 86.6


    There are 15 cities with a million inhabitants in the European Union  . Due to the differently tailored urban areas, a size comparison is more meaningful for the associated metropolitan regions : With the metropolitan region of Paris ( aire urbaine de Paris ), the largest metropolitan region of the European Union with around 12.5 million inhabitants is located in France. However, there are also statistics that work with different spatial delimitations and thus come to different population figures and possibly deviating rankings, such as 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).

    Metropolitan areas of the European Union (capitals in bold)
    rank Surname Check-
    Ew. /
    was standing
    1 Berlin 3,644,826 892 4,090 December 31, 2018
    2 Madrid 3,266,126 607 5,381 Jan. 1, 2019
    3 Rome 2,651,040 1,285 2,063 Oct 31, 2013
    4th Paris 2,273,305 105 21,651 Jan. 1, 2013
    5 Vienna 1,889,083 415 4,257 Jan. 1, 2018
    6th Bucharest 1,883,425 228 8,260 Oct 20, 2011
    7th Hamburg 1,841,179 755 2,439 December 31, 2018
    8th Budapest 1,754,000 525 3,306 Jan. 1, 2015
    9 Warsaw 1,783,321 518 3,443 June 30, 2019
    10 Barcelona 1,636,762 100 16,368 Jan. 1, 2019
    11 Munich 1,471,508 310 4,747 December 31, 2018
    12th Milan 1,315,416 160 8,221 Oct 31, 2013
    13th Sofia 1,301,683 492 2,646 Dec 31, 2012
    14th Prague 1,243,201 496 2,527 Dec 31, 2013
    15th Cologne 1,085,441 405 2,584 Nov 30, 2020


    In the EU today, 24 languages ​​are 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 further official languages in 2007 and Croatian in 2013 . Of the official languages, English , French and German are used as internal working languages ​​in order to facilitate communication between the staff of the European institutions. Depending on the institution, one of these three working languages ​​has emerged as predominant (e.g. English in 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 watch the debates through headphones. The MPs therefore mostly speak in their national language, civil servants and invited experts often use English or French.

    The language question was determined by the first regulation ever issued by the EEC (for the text of Regulation 1/1958 see below). The legal basis for the regulation is Article 342 TFEU:

    "Regardless of the statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the regulation of the language issue for the organs of the Union is unanimously adopted by the Council through regulations."

    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 of the EU Treaty and to receive an answer in the same language. In addition to these official languages, there are numerous minority languages, such as B. Catalan or Basque in Spain or Russian in the Baltic countries. The EU declares that it will respect languages ​​and linguistic diversity.

    There are also other programs, 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 is committed to promoting languages ​​and linguistic diversity, i. H. also to respect and respect the minority languages ​​in the European Union .

    The six most spoken languages ​​in the European Union in 2005
    language Official language in the Member State spoken as mother tongue (proportion of the population) spoken as a foreign language (proportion of the population) Total speakers in the EU (proportion of the population)
    German GermanyGermany Germany Austria Luxembourg Belgium Italy
    18% 14% 32%
    English 1 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom Ireland Malta
    13% 38% 51%
    French FranceFrance France Belgium Luxembourg Italy
    14% 14% 28%
    Italian ItalyItaly Italy 13% 03% 16%
    Spanish SpainSpain Spain 09% 06% 15%
    Polish PolandPoland Poland 09% 01 % 10%
    1: With the exit of the United Kingdom, the proportion of the population with English as their mother tongue in the European Union fell significantly, so that the ranking is no longer up to date.

    Religions and worldviews

    The Christianity in most EU countries, the predominant religion. Catholicism dominates in the southern member states and Protestantism in the north . Greece , Cyprus , Romania and Bulgaria are Orthodox countries. Possible candidate countries with a predominantly Muslim population are Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina . Around a quarter of EU citizens now belong to no religion.

    Religion in the European Union (2015)
    Religion / belief Population share
    Christianity 71.6%
    - Roman Catholic 45.3%
    - Protestant 11.1%
    - orthodox 9.6%
    - other Christian denominations 5.6%
    other religion 4.5%
    - Muslim 1.8%
    - Buddhist 0.4%
    - Jewish 0.3%
    - Hindu 0.3%
    - Sikhist 0.1%
    - other religions 1.6%
    no religion 24.0%
    - not believing / agnosticism 13.6%
    - atheism 10.4%

    living conditions

    The United Nations Development Program classifies all member states as "very high human development" states, as they all have a 2019 human development index (HDI) of more than 0.8. The HDI 2019 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 2016 was 81 years in the EU. For men it was 78.2 years and for women 83.3 years. Life expectancy in the European Union was more than 10 years above the global average of almost 70 years. EU citizens had the longest average life expectancy in Spain at 83.5 years, while citizens of Lithuania, Bulgaria and Latvia had the shortest life expectancy within the EU at 74.9 years each. Life expectancy is particularly high in southern European countries, although these are not necessarily among the richest countries in the Union; the lower ranks in this regard are all occupied by Eastern European countries.

    rank Country Life expectancy (
    Life - as expected
    Life expectancy (
    1 SpainSpain Spain 83.5 80.5 86.3
    2 ItalyItaly Italy 83.4 81.0 85.6
    3 Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus 82.7 80.5 84.9
    4th FranceFrance France 82.7 79.5 85.7
    5 LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 82.7 80.1 85.4
    6th MaltaMalta Malta 82.6 80.6 84.4
    7th SwedenSweden Sweden 82.4 80.6 84.1
    8th AustriaAustria Austria 81.8 79.3 84.1
    9 IrelandIreland Ireland 81.8 79.9 83.6
    10 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 81.7 80.0 83.2
    11 BelgiumBelgium Belgium 81.5 79.0 84.0
    12th GreeceGreece Greece 81.5 78.9 84.0
    13th FinlandFinland Finland 81.5 78.6 84.4
    14th PortugalPortugal Portugal 81.3 78.1 84.3
    15th SloveniaSlovenia Slovenia 81.2 78.2 84.3
    16 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 81.2 79.4 83.0
    17th GermanyGermany Germany 81.0 78.6 83.5
    - EuropeEurope European Union 81.0 78.2 83.6
    18th DenmarkDenmark Denmark 80.9 79.0 82.8
    19th Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 79.1 76.1 82.1
    20th CroatiaCroatia Croatia 78.2 75.0 81.3
    21 EstoniaEstonia Estonia 78.0 73.3 82.2
    22nd PolandPoland Poland 78.0 73.9 82.0
    23 SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 77.3 73.8 80.7
    24 HungaryHungary Hungary 76.2 72.6 79.7
    25th RomaniaRomania Romania 75.3 71.7 79.1
    26th BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 74.9 71.3 78.5
    27 LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 74.9 69.5 80.1
    28 LatviaLatvia Latvia 74.9 69.8 79.6


    The first European Capital of Culture became Athens in 1985

    With the common cultural policy, the EU wants to make “a contribution 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” ( Art. 167 TFEU). The goal of cultural cooperation between the member states of the EU is often summarized under the heading of the European cultural area .

    The EU's cultural commitment from 1996 to 1999 was expressed in 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 as part of the successor program Culture 2000 for projects aimed at a common cultural area. Culture 2000 was extended by two years in 2004 and was then replaced by the 2007-2013 cultural funding program. The bulk of the EU funding for culture of around 80% comes from the EU structural funds , but only accounts for around 3% of all structural funds .

    The European Capital of Culture campaign sets a special tone . This title has been awarded annually to one or two European cities since 1985, where numerous cultural events take place in the corresponding year. The cities that have been awarded this prize are attracting increased attention. In 2020 this status will be 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 made there, among others. supported by EU funds from the MEDIA program.


    European Union flag

    The symbols of the European Union functionally correspond to the national emblems and other symbols of nation states. They should reflect the politics 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 as the currency .

    European flag

    The European flag shows 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.

    European anthem

    European anthem

    The European anthem is the instrumental version of the last movement of the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven . In 1972 the tune was adopted by the Council of Europe and in 1985 by the EC as an anthem. It appears alongside the national anthems of the member states and symbolizes the values ​​that everyone shares, as well as unity in diversity.

    Europe day

    The Europe Day will with events and advertising to the Schuman Plan of May 9 remember in 1950, which is now seen as a cornerstone of European unification. At the Milan Council in 1985 it was decided to commemorate this event annually on the European Union's Europe Day, on which numerous events and festivities have been taking place 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.

    European motto

    The European motto is the motto Unified in diversity , which is intended to express the common but nationally different European identity. It was selected in 2000 in a competition among schoolchildren from 15 European countries.


    Winning the Ryder Cup in 2006

    It was only with the European Year of Education through Sport (2004) that the EU began to deal with sport. The UEFA had always argued that the sport is moving outside the EU competence. 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 was contrary to the European treaties, as the different sizes of national markets impaired the development of football clubs . If z. B. Ajax Amsterdam wants to play in the Bundesliga , this is entirely compatible with European law.

    The 2007 White Book Sport of the EU lists the problems that arose as a result of the end of the amateur statute (top-class sport is therefore usually an economic asset); however, it continues to be treated as an amateur sport in accordance with Section 165 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is true that EU funds are now made available for sport (mobility, integration of foreigners, health prophylaxis, etc.), but so far there is no EU sport policy of its own.

    In the Ryder Cup , the team made up of Europeans is currently competing under the EU flag. In other competitions in which a team competes in Europe , this refers more to the continent, not to the EU.


    Young EU citizens as part of the Erasmus program in Groningen

    From the beginning of the 1980s, the European Commission and the governments tried to achieve a higher 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 and partly political measures were implemented 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 driving license, the Erasmus student exchange program , Union citizenship , the creation of a European Ombudsman and the individual right to petition the European Parliament to the EU-wide right to local elections at the respective place of residence. The Schengen Agreement , which dispenses with controls on cross-border movement of people in a large part of the EU, and the euro as the 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 EU membership, they are somewhat more skeptical about the EU institutions. This skepticism results from the fact that traditionally it is not the EU but the nation-state that represents the political framework for Europeans in which the citizens articulate their interests. The media, education systems and political, economic and social interest groups are primarily organized on a national level. Attempts to expand such structures to the European level are difficult. In addition to different cultural traditions, it is above all the language barrier that excludes large parts of the population from appropriate participation and hinders the development of a European public .

    Crises and perspectives

    The singular mixture of supranational and intergovernmental structural features of the EU state union and its organs was and is on the one hand the subject of diverse criticism and on the other hand different perspectives for the future development of the European Union. A recurring theme of both criticism and institutional reforms is a democratic deficit , which is said to be of the representative and decision-making bodies of the EU , which has been counteracted in the past development, among other things, by strengthening the position of the European Parliament and shaping Union citizenship .

    The euro crisis triggered by the financial crisis from 2007 and the refugee crisis from 2015 have boosted the spread of EU skepticism . According to Eurostat , around 15 percent of those questioned had a negative image of the EU in 2007; in 2013 it was already 28 percent. No member state is completely excluded from the negative trend. The largest decreases were seen 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 decline in support for the EU in parts of EU citizenship goes hand in hand with the rise of right-wing populist currents and parties. But this is not primarily the case (apart from Greece) in the member states most affected by the debt crisis; rather, there were increases in this regard 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 the not inconsiderable part of self-inflicted national problems that are perceived as central by the population: Economically, the EU is made responsible for intra-social distribution injustices and for escalating conflicts among its members the euro area. In cultural terms it is associated with uncontrolled immigration and seen as a threat to national independence. Politically, it is held up against democratic and constitutional deficits. The political scientist Zielonka sees elements of a central state in the sense of the Westphalian system as well as those of a polycentric neo-medieval empire, as it was the Holy Roman Empire , realized in the integration process of the European Union .

    With the Brexit referendum in 2016 in particular , the process of continued European integration clearly stalled. Churchill's vision of the United States of Europe has recently been emphasized again in the EU finality debate against a Europe of fatherlands in the sense of de Gaulle . In his much-noticed speech on September 26, 2017 at the Sorbonne , France's 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 joint European Union budget to finance infrastructure and development measures in the EU.

    In terms of the Union's economic convergence, Germany's pronounced trade surplus with the other EU member states is problematic . One of the main causes of the steadily rising trade surplus is cited as the fact that all members of the euro zone except Germany have raised their wages by quotas in the last few decades , as the European Central Bank is proposing, while wages in Germany have often not even increased in line with productivity growth so that, measured in terms of unit labor costs, Germany has become a low-wage country in some areas.

    The Corona crisis in spring 2020 is seen as a diverse test for the EU . Border controls and border closings between various member states stand in the way of freedom of movement. The shortage of intensive care capacities and infection protection clothing has given rise to national egoisms and mutual competition between the EU member states on the world market. Ailing national budgets, especially in southern member states, as a result of the shutdown 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 corona pandemic as adding a third focus to the two current priorities in the EU's political orientation, climate protection policy and digitization : medical prevention.

    See also

    Portal: European Union  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the European Union


    Overview works
    • Ruth Reichstein: The 101 Most Important Questions - The European Union. ( CH Beck Paperback , Volume 7034), 4th, revised and updated edition, CH Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-68396-1 .
    • Werner Weidenfeld : The European Union. 3rd, updated edition. UTB / Fink, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-8252-3986-2 .
    • Andreas Wehr: The European Union. 2nd, updated and expanded edition. Papyrossa, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-89438-498-2 .
    Political science

    Web links

    Commons : European Union  - album with pictures
    Wikimedia Atlas: European Union  - geographical and historical maps
     Wikinews: European Union  - in the news
    Wiktionary: European Union  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Wiktionary: EU  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Official sites
    Independent information and media portals

    Individual evidence

    1. The Council has its seat in Brussels, some meetings it holds in Luxembourg.
    2. The European Parliament has its seat in Strasbourg , additional plenary sessions and committee meetings take place in Brussels , and its general secretariat is in Luxembourg .
    3. The Commission is based in Brussels and has offices in Luxembourg.
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    13. Peter Krüger : "The unpredictable Europe: Epochs of the integration process from the late 18th century to the European Union." W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-016586-0 , p. 207 (beginning of the Cold War); Gustav Schmidt: “The Treaties of Rome and the (Cold War) East – West Conflict” ( Memento of December 24, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on March 29, 2008.
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    100. (PDF)
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    127. Quoted from Claus Offe : Europe in the trap . Berlin 2016, p. 102 f.
    128. Offe 2016, p. 84. “The populist right was or remained strong in the“ core countries ”of the EU (in addition to the three mentioned member states in Germany, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands); also, albeit partly for different reasons, in Central and Eastern Europe. This pattern supports the assumption that the right-wing populist and conservative-Eurosceptic mobilization successes are driven by fears of the relative winners: by the economic fear of having to pay taxpayers for the debts of the peripheral countries, by the political fear of being patronized by "Brussels" , or of a cultural panic in which citizens of member states let themselves be displaced in view of euro mobility and increasing refugee and labor migration. "(Offe ibid, p. 85)
    129. Jürgen Rüttgers , Frank Decker : What's wrong with Europe? In: Jürgen Rüttgers, Frank Decker (Ed.): Europe's end, Europe's beginning. New perspectives for the European Union . Frankfurt / New York 2017, p. 10.
    130. ^ Jan Zielonka: Europe as Empire: The Nature of the Enlarged European Union . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006, ISBN 0-19-929221-3 , pp. 14-17.
    131. ^ Speech by President Macron at the Sorbonne on September 26, 2017 (French); German translation in full
    132. ^ Renewed criticism of the German export surplus .
    133. EU wants to protect Europe from Germany . Zeit Online , November 2013
    134. ^ Germany on the way to becoming a low-wage country.
    135. “There is no going back.” Europe must become greener and show more solidarity: EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen on the lessons of the crisis and the question of why headache medicines are political. Interview with Ursula von der Leyen in der Zeit , April 8, 2020, p. 3.
    This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on June 15, 2005 .