The EU has made our lives much better in so many ways – and even though there is undoubtedly room for improvement, these achievements are often taken for granted, or go unnoticed.
In today’s globalised world, we share a collective responsibility for a range of vital questions, whether it’s our natural environment, our safety, or the food that we eat. Check out some of the achievements that demonstrate the need for – and the importance of – European collaboration. There is so much we have in common, and the value of our connections is greater than our differences.
In 2018 the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to ban single-use plastics. Straws, plates, knives and forks – all of this stuff goes into our oceans and makes up over 70% of marine litter. All of it will be banned from the EU market from 2021. Supermarket chains across the EU have started removing single-use plastic products in response to these laws.
A massive 1322 endangered animals and plants are currently protected under EU law. Insects, large mammals, moss, trees – you name it. Plants and animals know no national borders. Protecting them is a joint effort. And a shared responsibility.
The EU is working to prevent hidden costs and poor-quality products entering online markets. It does this by simplifying legislation in order to impose a minimum 2-year warranty on all items.
If you’re going to buy it, you want to be able to trust it.
In the last 5 years the EU has fined multinationals over 12 billion Euros in cartel and antitrust cases. The EU is recovering 16 billion Euros in unpaid taxes from Apple. It has fined Google 50 million Euros for violating privacy laws, and launched a formal investigation into Facebook over a massive data breach.
Who’s getting away with it now?
The EU protects food standards across borders with EU-wide laws that cover the food production and processing chain – as well as imported and exported goods. This ensures that all products, from organic to genetically modified food, list their ingredients and allergen information.
So whether it’s avocados or apples, you know what you’ve got on your plate.
In the past 10 years the EU has simplified international bank transfers with the SEPA system and said ‘farewell’ to charges. SEPA uses a single set of standards that means euro payments across borders are as easy as national transfers. And they happen in minutes! You don’t wait to receive the money you’ve earned, and you don’t pay any more than you would for a domestic transaction. Even if you’re not paying in Euros, SEPA rules mean that your bank has to tell you the cost of a currency conversion before they make a payment abroad. Keeping things clear is worth a lot.
What are the four freedoms?
They can be divided into two categories:
1) what you put into the economy – people + capital
2) what you get out of the economy – goods + services.
The immense achievement of European integration is that these people, goods, services and capital can move freely within the EU. These four freedoms are the cornerstones of the European ideal; they affect the lives of everyone in the EU – and because they are given equal importance, they support our continent’s economic and political unity.
From ebola vaccines to space exploration, cancer and HIV treatments to energy production (tidal energy, new batteries and fuel solutions, improved wind power) and machinery (drones, electric aircraft, electric cars), the EU is the most important funder of experimental research in Europe.
It’s research that uses the collective intelligence of 28 nations. Smarter together.
EU institutions endeavour to be open and work as closely with citizens as possible – so Council ministers legislate in public, and anyone has the right to request access to EU Council documents. This means that the European Union offers one of the most transparent decision-making processes in the world. It’s democracy that we can all be part of.