What is European Union?
The European Union (EU) is a unique institution founded in the aftermath of World War II. It has since grown into one of the most powerful economies in the world. The European Union started with only six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
The organisation expanded from western Europe to central and eastern Europe at the beginning of the 21st century. Currently, nineteen (19) more countries have been added: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Treaties after treaties, the EU has now 27 member countries, mainly working together to maintain peace.
What began as a union focused solely on economic stability has since evolved to policy creation and implementation, touching upon the climate, environment and health, justice, security, migration, and eventually, the formation of the Schengen Area. In addition to its economic benefits, membership in the EU also provides citizens with freedoms such as free movement within member countries. Despite recent challenges, the EU remains an important force for peace and prosperity in Europe and worldwide.
With this overview of the European Union, let us understand its functions, goals, and values.
The Main Purpose of the European Union
With the above overview, let us understand the main purpose of the European Union by looking at its functions, goals, and values.
What are the goals of the European Union?
The European Union has grown from an economy-only organisation to one with a more holistic mission. Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty fully encapsulates the organisation’s goals.
- Promote peace and well-being among the citizens
- Offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders
- Work towards the sustainable development of Europe while promoting equality and social justice
- Establish an economic union with Euro as the currency
- Contribute to the sustainable development, peace, and security of the planet
The EU also aims to combat social exclusion and discrimination, respecting the rich cultural and linguistic diversity. Promoting scientific and technological progress in the organisation is also a priority, directly influencing the region’s sustainable development.
For the years 2019-2024, the European Council has laid down a new strategic agenda, highlighting the following four priorities:
- Protecting citizens and freedoms
- Developing a strong and vibrant economic base
- Building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe
- Promoting European interests and values on the global stage
What are the values of the European Union?
All 27-member states hold inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination as crucial pillars of the European Union.
- Human Dignity – Inviolable and the basis of fundamental rights, human dignity must be respected and protected.
- Freedom - Freedom of movement allows citizens to freely move and reside in any EU country. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights protects freedoms such as freedom of thought, religion, expression and information.
- Democracy - The EU is built upon the model of representative democracy, which means that all EU members enjoy political rights. Such political rights include voting in elections to the European Parliament, contesting as a candidate, and voting in their residence country or country of origin.
- Equality - The principle of equality between men and women is central in all areas of European policies. The principle of equal pay became part of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Although inequality has not been entirely eradicated, the EU has made significant bounds.
- Rule of Law - It is the foundation of the EU. Every EU process is voluntarily done. A separate judiciary independently upholds law and justice. The European Court of Justice has final jurisdiction, which has to be respected by all member states.
- Human Rights - Protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, these comprise the right to be free from discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation. Rights to protect personal data and access to justice are also covered.
What are the benefits of the European Union?
From peace and security to global power, the EU gives benefits to improving people’s daily lives. European citizens can travel and work freely throughout the European Union, strengthening their ties. European institutions offer a platform for European citizens to voice their opinions and debate policies that affect them.
Peace and Security
The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. It is the most successful peace project in human history. European citizens are aware of the EU’s role in bringing peace between European countries and between European countries and their neighbours.
Citizens can live or work in any EU country, move their money, freely sell goods, and provide services on the same basis. All these are possible in the world’s most highly developed and open marketplace: the single market.
High food and environmental standards
The food and environment in the EU meet the world’s highest quality standards. Thanks to the member countries’ cooperation, companies or institutions are deterred from selling contaminated food or polluting any areas.
Business and Consumer benefits
Businesses are supported and trained. Consumers in the EU are assured that they can get refunds if they return products. This refund policy is applicable to delayed or cancelled flights. Goods in the EU are also required to meet the world’s best quality and safety standards.
The EU aims to protect all minorities and vulnerable groups. No one is left behind in the organisation regardless of nationality, language group, gender, profession, culture, sexuality, or disability. Citizens are also protected against unfair treatment in the workplace.
With the 27 member countries working together, there is much more voice than 27 nations acting separately. The EU promotes cooperation and collaboration among European countries and provides a shared identity for its member states. Hence, European states also find it much easier to cooperate in an organisation like the European Union.
The European Union and the World
The European Union remains an institution that continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Policies affecting European states serve as a model for other countries and regions that want coordination in their economic, social and political systems.
The EU is the world’s largest trade block and the biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services. It is also the biggest import market for over 100 countries across the globe.
The organisation also plays a significant role when it comes to diplomacy. It promotes security and prosperity, stability, fundamental freedoms, and democracy internationally. As the leading donor of humanitarian aid, the organisation is committed to providing help to man-made and natural disaster victims.
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