The EU acts in a wide range of policy areas where its action is beneficial to the Member States. The Union funds these policies through an annual budget which enables it to complement and add value to action taken by national Governments.
The European Union’s activities impact on the day-to-day life of its citizens by addressing the real challenges facing society:
Environment and sustainable developments:
In terms of environment and sustainable development, the EU aims to help prevent climate change by seriously reducing its greenhouse gas emission. The EU has a target to cut emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels, raise energy share of the market to 20% and cut energy consumption by 20%. The EU also managed to convince other major super powers to work in the same direction.
The EU is also tackling a wide range of other environmental issues including noise, waste, exhaust gases, chemicals, industrial accidents and the cleanliness of bathing water.
The EU rightly saw that Europe’s future prosperity would depend on its ability to remain a world leader in technology. The EU's goal is to spend 3% of its GDP on research, mostly spent in areas like health, food and agriculture, ICT, energy, environment, transport, security, etc.
The EU’s solidarity polices are designed to help underdeveloped regions and troubled sectors of the economy, to mitigate market imbalances. European Union funds are used to boost development in regions lagging behind, to rejuvenate industrial areas in decline and to help young people to find work. The funds are known as “Structural Funds”, which top up or stimulate investments by the private sector and by national and regional governments.
Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies
From 2013 onwards the European Commission wants the CAP to give priority to making European agriculture sustainable, giving farmers sufficient protection from volatile markets, preserving biodiversity and protecting local and regional speciality products.
The EU has also begun reforming its fisheries policy. The main aim here is to preserve stocks of fish (such as the endangered blufin tuna) and to reduce the overcapacity of fishing fleets while providing financial assistance for people who leave the fishing industry.
The social dimension
The aim of the EU’social policy is to correct the most glaring inequalities in European society. The European Social Fund (ESF) was established in 1961 to promote job creation and help workers move from one type of work and\or one geographical area to another.
This goes hand in hand with legislation that guarantees a solid set of minimum rights. Some of these rights are enshrined in the Treaties, eg the rights of women and men to equal pay and equal work. Others in directives concerning the protection of workers and essential safety standards. The Charter of Basic Social Rights sets out the rights that all workers in the EU should enjoy: free movement; fair pay; improved working conditions, social protection, protection for children etc.
Who does what?
There are some areas which are of the sole competence of the EU such as a customs union and the monetary policy for countries using the euro, other areas of sole competence of the Member States such as tourism, civil protection and education, and others areas where the competences are shared, these include: the single market, social policy, environment, consumer protection and energy amongst others.