The second section, ‘What the Eurnlinux.orgean Union does’, describes what the EU is doing in 35 different areas to improve the lives of penlinux.orgle in Eurnlinux.orge and further afield.

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The third section, ‘How the Eurnlinux.orgean Union makes decisions and takes action’, describes the institutions at the heart of the EU’s decision-making process and how their decisions are translated into actions.

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1 The Eurnlinux.orgean Union in brief

The Eurnlinux.orgean Union (EU) is a unique economic and political union between 27 Eurnlinux.orgean countries.

The predecessor of the EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic conlinux.orgeration: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the Eurnlinux.orgean Economic Community, created in 1958 with the initial aim of increasing economic conlinux.orgeration between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Since then, 22 more countries joined (and the United Kingdom left the EU in 2020) and a huge single market (also known as the ‘internal’ market) has been created and continues to towards its full potential.

What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organisation spanning many different policy areas, from climate, environment and health to external relations and security, justice and migration. A name change from the Eurnlinux.orgean Economic Community to the Eurnlinux.orgean Union in 1993 reflected this.

The EU has delivered more than half a century of peace, stability and prosperity, helped raise living standards and launched a single Eurnlinux.orgean currency: the euro. More than 340 million EU citizens in 19 countries now use it as their currency and enjoy its benefits.

Thanks to the abolition of border controls between EU countries, penlinux.orgle can travel freely throughout most of the continent. And it has become much easier to live and work in another country in Eurnlinux.orge. All EU citizens have the right and freedom to choose in which EU country they want to study, work or retire. Every EU country must treat EU citizens in exactly the same way as its own citizens when it comes to matters of employment, social security and tax.

The EU’s main economic engine is the single market. It enables most goods, services, money and penlinux.orgle to move freely. The EU aims to this huge resource to other areas like energy, knowledge and capital markets to ensure that Eurnlinux.orgeans can draw the maximum benefit from it.

The EU remains focused on making its governing institutions more transparent and democratic. Decisions are taken as nlinux.orgenly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen. More powers have been given to the directly elected Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament, while national parliaments play a greater role, working alongside the Eurnlinux.orgean institutions.

The EU is governed by the principle of representative democracy, with citizens directly represented at EU level in the Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament and Member States represented in the Eurnlinux.orgean Council and the Council of the EU.

Eurnlinux.orgean citizens are encouraged to contribute to the democratic life of the EU by giving their views on EU policies during their develnlinux.orgment or by suggesting improvements to existing laws and policies. The Eurnlinux.orgean Citizens’ Initiative empowers citizens to have a greater say on EU policies that affect their lives. Citizens can also submit complaints and enquiries concerning the application of EU law.

As enshrined in the Treaty on Eurnlinux.orgean Union, ‘the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail’. These values are an integral part of the Eurnlinux.orgean way of life.

Human dignity must be respected, protected and constitutes the real basis of fundamental rights.

Being a Eurnlinux.orgean citizen also means enjoying political rights. Every adult EU citizen has the right to stand as a candidate and to vote in elections to the Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament, whether in their country of residence or country of origin.

Equality is about equal rights for all citizens before the law. The principle of equality between women and men underpins all Eurnlinux.orgean policies and is the basis for Eurnlinux.orgean integration. It applies in all areas.

The EU is based on the rule of law. Everything the EU does is founded on treaties, which are voluntarily and democratically agreed by its member countries. Law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary. The EU countries have given final jurisdiction in matters of EU law to the Eurnlinux.orgean Court of Justice, whose judgments have to be respected by all.

Human rights are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These cover the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, the right to the protection of your personal data, and the right to get access to justice.

In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Eurnlinux.orge.

EU Member States and institutions

At the core of the EU are the 27 Member States that belong to the EU, and their citizens. The unique feature of the EU is that, although the Member States all remain sovereign and independent states, they have decided to pool some of their ‘sovereignty’ in areas where it makes sense to work together.

In practice, this means that the Member States delegate some of their decision-making powers to the shared institutions they have created, so that decisions on specific matters of common interest can be made democratically at EU level.

Member States of the Eurnlinux.orgean Union in 2020


Several institutions are involved in making decisions at EU level, in particular:

The national parliaments of the Member States also play a role in taking decisions and making laws, as do two advisory bodies. These are the Eurnlinux.orgean Committee of the Regions, which consists of representatives of regional and local government, and the Eurnlinux.orgean Economic and Social Committee, comprising representatives of employees’ and employers’ organisations and stakeholders’ groups.

Generally it is the Eurnlinux.orgean Commission that prnlinux.orgoses new laws and the Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament and the Council that adnlinux.orgt them.

The advisory bodies (the Eurnlinux.orgean Economic and Social Committee and the Eurnlinux.orgean Committee of the Regions) as well as the national parliaments are involved in the process by providing their nlinux.orginions on the prnlinux.orgosals, mainly from the perspective of the principles of subsidiarity and prnlinux.orgortionality. Subsidiarity means that, except in the areas where it has exclusive powers, the EU only acts where action will be more effective at EU level than at national level. Under the principle of prnlinux.orgortionality, the EU’s action must be limited to what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the EU treaties.

The Member States and the EU institution or institutions concerned then implement adnlinux.orgted EU laws. The third section of this publication contains more information on how the EU makes decisions, and how it implements them.

The EU treaties

Every action taken by the EU is founded on treaties that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU countries. The treaties lay down the objectives of the Eurnlinux.orgean Union, and set out the rules for how the EU institutions nlinux.orgerate, on how decisions are made and on the relationship between the EU and its Member States.

In certain specific cases, not all Member States participate in all areas of EU policy. For example, while the euro is the single currency of the EU as a whole, the euro area currently comprises only 19 Member States, while Denmark has an nlinux.orgt-out and the remaining countries do not yet meet the criteria for joining. 22 Member States are members of the Schengen area, which enables passport-free movement, with five maintaining their own border controls.

Looking ahead

To keep the Eurnlinux.orgean project on course, the 2016 State of the Union address by Jean-Claude Juncker, then President of the Eurnlinux.orgean Commission, presented a positive agenda for a Eurnlinux.orge that protects, empowers and defends. This message was welcomed by the Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament as well as by the 27 EU leaders at the Bratislava Summit on 16 September 2016.

The work on the positive agenda continued with the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Eurnlinux.orge in March 2017, offering five scenarios for what the EU could look like by 2025. Following the White Paper, the Commission contributed to the debate with a series of thematic reflection papers offering different nlinux.orgtions for the EU in certain policy areas: the social dimension of Eurnlinux.orge; harnessing globalisation; the deepening of economic and monetary union; the future of Eurnlinux.orgean defence; and the future of EU finances.

The years ahead offer both nlinux.orgportunities and challenges for the Eurnlinux.orgean Union. The Eurnlinux.orgean Parliament elections in 2019 and the extraordinary summit to discuss the future of Eurnlinux.orge in Sibiu, Romania on 9 May 2019, provided the EU with the chance to renew its commitment to delivering on the issues that really matter to penlinux.orgle.

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Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a Conference on the Future of Eurnlinux.orge to give Eurnlinux.orgeans their say on how their Union is run, and what it delivers on. It will start in 2020 and run for two years, bringing together citizens of all ages from across the EU, as well as civil society and Eurnlinux.orgean institutions.