What's Europe Ever Done For Us?

100 examples

Here are 100 examples of the European Union Working for its Member States and citizens, spread across 8 categories:

8 categories:

  1. Irish Interests
  2. Political
  3. Justice, Freedom and Security
  4. Economy
  5. Rights
  6. Environment
  7. Consumers
  8. Education and Culture

Irish Interests

Ireland Transformed

Ireland has experienced a profound transformation in political, economic and social terms over the past forty years. The decision of the Lemass government in the 1960s to pursue full membership of the then EEC was a seminal moment in Irish history. Entry to the EEC offered the prospect of economic development in an open market, financial support for development of human and physical infrastructure and an opportunity to break the historic ties with Britain and emerge as a mature, liberal, European democracy.

An IEA study of Ireland’s first twenty five years of EU membership concluded that Europe is not so much the cause of these transformations as their context. For they were only possible with the creation of an international regime which is voluntary, law-based and pluralist, which constrains the naked use of state power, protects small states in international negotiation and supports both individual and cultural freedom.

Irish Men and Women in the EU Institutions

Irish membership of the EU has been characterised by significant contributions to the evolution of the Union’s institutions and policies and has provided a setting within which Irish men and women have played important roles. Successive Irish Presidencies of the Council have underlined the capacity of smaller Member States to show effective leadership as in the response in 1990 to German reunification, the negotiation of the Stability and Growth Pact in 1996 and the agreement on the text of the draft Constitutional Treaty in 2004.

Irish nationals in the Commission such as Dr Patrick Hillery, Peter Sutherland and Ray MacSharry have pioneered important policy advances. For a decade now the top position in the Commission staff Secretary General has been held by Irish officials, David O’Sullivan and Catherine Day. An Irish MEP, Pat Cox, was elected President of the European Parliament. An Irish General, Pat Nash, has commanded a major EU peacekeeping operation in Chad.

Average Wage Increased from 60% of EU average to 138% Since 1973

Before Ireland joined the EEC in 1973 the country had high unemployment, low levels of income and high levels of emigration. Since then the overall success of the economy within the European Union has been reflected in an increase in average earnings from just 60% of the Community average to more than 135% today.

A Million New Jobs Since 1973

Access to the Internal Market, the impact of EU transfers for capital projects and high levels of FDI have contributed to sustained economic growth over a decade which saw as many as a million new jobs created with an increase in employment in sectors with long term potential based on high technological content. Free and fair competition between EU countries has provided a stimulus for trade and investment.

More Opportunity for Women in the Workforce

The number of people in the workforce in Ireland has risen by over 70% since we joined the EEC in 1973. Significantly, the number of women in the workforce has risen from 27% in 1973 to more than 42% today.

€60 Billion in EU Funding Since 1973

Ireland has benefited from transfers from the European Regional, Social and Cohesion Funds. Apart from the substantial financial benefits to the agricultural sector there has been significant investment in up to 150 major infrastructure projects together with important levels of funding for vocational training and research.

EU funding has gone into almost every aspect of Irish life: improving transport and communication networks; increasing trade; creating employment; promoting cultural diversity, peace and understanding; cleaning up the environment; restoring tourism amenities; sustaining country life and protecting human rights.

Continuing EU Funding

Ireland’s economic success in the past twenty years means that the country no longer qualifies for the same volume of EU Structural funding as in the past. In the budget period 2007-2013, Ireland will receive €750 million, half from the Regional Development Fund and half from the European Social Fund.

€40 Billion for Irish Farmers Since 1973

Each year funding of up to €2 billion goes to farming families and to support the development of rural Ireland. Beyond support for more efficient food production the EU funds ensure action on environmental protection. These resources have reached every parish and town land in Ireland.

European Investment Bank: Finance for Key Projects

Since 1973, the European Investment Bank has made loans totaling €10 billion to support investment projects. The €450 million lent in 2008 was directed to key projects in the transport, energy and various research & development sectors.

Nearly 1,000 Foreign Companies, employing 140,000 workers, set up in Ireland

Some 960 foreign companies have set up in Ireland of which more than 430 are from other EU Member States. Many of these have been at the cutting edge of technology and research in sectors such as IT hardware and software, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food products.

Investment by US Companies in Ireland exceeds combined investment in BRICs

For many US and other international companies Ireland is seen as a gateway to the EU Internal Market. In recent years, US investment in Ireland has been greater than combined US investment in China, India, Russia and Brazil. In 2006, US inward investment stood at $83 billion compared with $73 billion in the BRICS.

300,000 Jobs created by US Multinationals Underpinned by EU Membership

Ireland’s membership of the European Union underpins more than 300,000 jobs in US multinationals: over 100,000 directly and 200,000 in sub-supply and related industry and services. In 2008, US companies announced 7,500 more jobs and €2 billion in investment in Ireland and US experts state that EU membership has been instrumental in these important investment decisions.

EU Research and Technology Programme

Under the 7th EU Research and Technology Programme, Irish enterprises are receiving substantial levels of financial support for technologically advanced projects in the fields of food production, transport, energy, health, social services and environment. Ireland drew down €200 million from the 6th Framework Programme. The 7th Programme covering the years 2007-2013 has a budget of €50 billion from which Ireland under the national Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation anticipates total receipts of about €600 million, supporting hundreds of individual projects.

European Economic Recovery Plan

The EU response to the global economic crisis includes the €5 Billion Economic Recovery Plan designed to stimulate growth and job creation by backing key investment projects. Among the first of these is the €100 million East-West electricity inter connector linking Ireland to European power sources.

Introduction of the Euro; doing business in EU more convenient and cost effective

The case for adoption of the Euro was compelling having regard to the vital importance of being at the centre of EU affairs for FDI. In the current crisis Euro zone membership has ensured that there was no meltdown like that in Iceland and the stabilising influence of the ECB has provided an environment within which effective national policy responses can be devised and implemented. Lower interest rates have benefited mortgage holders and borrowers

Growing Market as EU Enlarged

Since the introduction of the Internal Market in the early 1990s the European Union has enlarged from twelve to twenty-seven Member States. This has brought the number of potential consumers in the EU to almost 500 million, providing a real momentum for economic growth and development.

25,000 Irish Students have Gained through Erasmus Exchange Programme

To date, some 25,000 young Irish people have participated in the Erasmus Programme, studying at institutions throughout Europe. EU funding in the next few years will provide €80 million to fund Erasmus places for 18,500 Irish third-level students and work placements for 4,000 Irish trainees. As many as 900 Irish schools and 300 adult education organisations will participate in European partnerships.

4,000 Visiting Students Annually Enrich Irish Colleges

The Erasmus Programme is a two-way arrangement. As Irish students travel to colleges and universities across Europe our colleges receive students from the other Member States. These exchanges clearly benefit the individual students but also enrich both the colleges and wider society from their diverse academic and cultural backgrounds.

Significant Support for Northern Ireland Peace Process

The EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (PEACE) has contributed more than €600 million in support of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

Political

EU Laws Set Standards

European laws and regulations have set the standards in areas of critical importance for citizens, notably on agriculture and environment. While it is claimed that the EU makes as much as 80% of our laws this is not borne out by the facts. In Germany the figure is 35%, in Austria 25% and in Ireland 30%. Many of the laws referred to are technical provisions such as variations in milk quotas.

EU Budget: Small in Total but Focused in Operation

The total budget of the EU at €130 billion amounts to no more than 1% of the Union’s GNP. The main headings of EU expenditure are: 44% on Growth and Employment (including the Structural Funds); 43% on Management of Natural Resources (mainly on the Common Agricultural Policy); 6% on external relations (mainly aid and humanitarian assistance) and 6% on Administration. The total staff of the EU institutions is 40,000. Irish public expenditure currently amounts to about €45 billion or 35% of GNP annually.

Reducing Red Tape and Over-regulation

Complaints about over-regulation by the EU are regularly heard. The Commission has given a commitment to reduce regulation and to make the system more transparent. It has weeded out 5,000 pages of EU law and has set itself a target of reducing red tape on businesses by 25% by 2012. Major issues arise in respect of the way in which EU Laws and Directives are transposed into national regulations.

Europe Direct: a More Transparent Europe

Europe Direct has been set up to help citizens get the most out of the EU and to help ordinary Europeans deal with what can be seen as a confusing place. The system can help with queries on rights, on recognition of qualifications, on residence permits etc. Toll free numbers provide easy access to information and assistance.

Consular Protection for all EU citizens

Outside the Union, EU citizens can avail of consular services provided by another EU embassy if their country is not represented. Help can be obtained in situations of illness, accident, becoming a victim of violent crime or requiring urgent repatriation.

The EU: A Force for Democracy

Peace in Europe was advanced when France and Germany came together in the Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950s and the expanding European Union has brought about security and stability across the continent.The opening of membership to Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1980s brought an era of authoritarian rule to an end, while the 2004 and 2007 enlargements saw ten former communist states joining the free association of democratic nations which is the European Union. International security and promotion of human rights have become major issues for the EU.

EU Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Aid

The Union’s European Security and Defence Policy ESDP includes a growing capacity for a range of missions from humanitarian and rescue operations to peacekeeping duties, crisis management and peacemaking under the terms of the UN Charter. Significant missions have been undertaken in Bosnia, Macedonia and Chad. Particular attention is given to civilian projects in areas such as judicial reform, creation of modern police forces and actions to combat corruption.In a recent example, the Commission has allocated €8 million to support vulnerable people affected by the breakdown of essential health and water services in Zimbabwe. These funds are to be channeled through the Humanitarian Department.

European Voluntary Service

The European Voluntary Service provides opportunities for young people, between the ages of 18-25, to spend between six to twelve months in another country. EVS projects help in areas such as the environment, arts and culture and sports and leisure.

Promoting Democracy: EU Observers in Action

The EU works to promote and expand democracy through its external action. EU observers monitor several elections every year. This vigilance helps to boost confidence in the electoral process and legitimise it in local people’s eyes. In the 2006 election in Congo, the first for more than four decades, over 100 teams of EU observers made a positive input to a historic exercise in democracy.

Global Solidarity: Aid from Europe

The EU is the world’s biggest donor of development and humanitarian aid. In 2007 the EU and its Member States committed €48 billion equivalent to 50% of global development assistance. Working with international organisations and NGO's the EU is not alone providing aid but seeking to promote economic, rural, administrative and social development. The EU supports the UN Millennium Development Goals with the overarching aim of eradicating poverty in Africa and the rest of the developing world.

Win-win Enlargement

From the original EEC of six members the European Union has grown to a 27-country union today with further candidates for membership, including Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia. Enlargement has been to everybody’s benefit, politically, economically and socially. The EU provides extensive support for the candidate countries and for neighbouring countries with future prospects of membership. Initiatives such as the European Neighbourhood Policy, Eastern Partnership and the Barcelona Process in the Mediterranean region are intended to strengthen ties with the Union’s neighbours.

Area of Justice, Freedom and Security

Justice, Freedom and Security

Maintaining and developing the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice is a key objective of the recent European treaties. At The Hague in 2004, the European Council adopted a comprehensive programme to advance its objectives: a common asylum system; a policy plan on legal immigration; combating terrorism; enhancing exchange of information for law enforcement purposes and developing judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

While specific EU legislative procedures to deal with these issues are being developed there are special arrangements for Ireland and the United Kingdom taking account of the existence of the Common Travel Area between the two countries. Ireland has an opt-out in respect of certain provisions but with the possibility of participation on a case-by-case basis.

Europol: Policing Europe together

Europol is the the EU law enforcement agency, bringing police forces across Europe together in preventing and combating the many serious forms of international organised crime. Europol supports the law enforcement activities of the Member States across a broad range of criminal investigation and enforcement from drug trafficking to money laundering. Europol operates through facilitating the exchange of information, providing operational analysis, generating threat assessments and analysing intelligence and providing technical support. Europol is accountable to the Council of Ministers which reports to the European Parliament on its activities. At Garda Headquarters there is a Europol National Unit providing a point of international contact while Garda Liaison Officers participate in EU Working Groups.

Eurojust: Investigating and Prosecuting Cross-border Crime

Eurojust is a permanent network of judicial authorities established in 2002 to enhance the effectiveness of the Member States in dealing with the investigation and prosecution of serious cross-border and organised crime. With headquarters at The Hague, Eurojust hosts meetings between investigators and prosecutors from different states dealing with individual cases and at a strategic level and with specific types of criminality. Ireland is represented in the College of Eurojust by Jarlath Spellman from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The European Arrest Warrant

A European Arrest Warrant, valid throughout the EU, has replaced extradition procedures between the 27 Member States in respect of certain serious offences . The introduction of the Warrant means faster and simpler surrender procedures and no political involvement.
Member States can no longer refuse to surrender to another Member State their own citizens who have committed, or who are suspected of having committed, a serious crime. A celebrated example of the effectiveness of the new system was the return to the UK from Italy of one of those involved in an unsuccessful terrorist attack on London in 2005.

Fighting Trafficking in Human Beings

Trafficking in human beings, for sexual exploitation or work, is a violation of fundamental human rights which affects vulnerable groups such as women and children. The EU is focusing action on protection of vulnerable groups and on combating the phenomenon by strengthening co-operation and co-ordination between police and judicial authorities. The EU is introducing a framework of common provisions to tackle certain issues such as child pornography and child sex tourism and to facilitate the search for missing or sexually exploited children. Particular emphasis is placed on measures to combat trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Europe Combating Discrimination

The European Union places particular emphasis on combating discrimination of all kinds. Action programme's have been implemented on issues related to equal opportunities for men and women, the concerns of disabled and older people, racism and xenophobia and anti semitism. The European Fundamental Rights Agency has been established. Among the many current activities and initiatives may be listed:a campaign ‘For Diversity, Against Discrimination’ aimed at employees, young people and employers; International Day against Homophobia; European Day on Solidarity and Co-operation between Generations; International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and International Roma Day. Particular emphasis is being placed on a campaign on the continuing problem of the Gender Pay Gap.

Continuing the Fight Against Terrorism

The EU works to provide a tailored response to the threat of terrorism, which became a tragic reality in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005, with four pillars: prevent, protect, pursue and respond. Policy emphasises co-ordination between law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities and worldwide international co-operation. Exchange of information, co-operation between Europol and Interpol, agreements between the EU and US on a variety of issues, combating the financing of terrorism by freezing funds and application of the European Arrest Warrant. The EU is working on civilian crisis management and civil protection measures and has established the European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders of the EU, known as FRONTEX.

DAPHNE: Action to Combat Violence Against Women and Children

The EU has responded to the various global initiatives to eliminate violence against women and children such as the Beijing and Stockholm Declarations and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with the DAPHNE Programme's the third of which begins in 2009. DAPHNE III has the general objective of protecting women and young people against all forms of violence and to attain a high level of health protection, well being and social cohesion .DAPHNE has funded more than 400 projects across the Member States. In Ireland DAPHNE has supported activities and research by the Immigrant Council, the Rape Crisis Centre and COSC the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

United Fight Against Organised Crime

The European Union has an integrated approach to organised crime which threatens the European economy and society. The phenomenon of organised crime covers trafficking in human beings, arms and drugs; economic and financial crime; corruption; money laundering; cyber crime and environmental crime. A ten-year plan, in line with the UN Convention Against Organised Crime, covers joint actions on each of the categories identified with emphasis on co-operation between border, police and judicial systems.

Enhancing Data Protection

The European Data Protection Supervisor is an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and privacy and promoting good practice in the EU institutions and bodies. It operates by monitoring the processing of personal data by the EU administration; advising on policies and legislation that affect privacy; and co-operating with similar authorities to ensure consistent data protection. Development of a positive data protection culture is a priority.

Passport Free Travel: The Schengen Agreement

In 1985, five Member States (France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to create a territory without internal borders which became known as the ‘Schengen Area’.This initiative has been gradually extended until today there are 25 Schengen countries: 22 EU Member States and three non-EU states (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania are yet to join and the UK and Ireland have opted to stay out because of their Common Travel Area arrangement. The Schengen Agreement provides for the abolition of checks at common borders and a common definition of the conditions for crossing external borders. In practical terms there is separation in air terminals and ports of people traveling within the Schengen area and those arriving from countries outside the area. Schengen includes rules governing responsibility for applications for asylum and strengthens judicial co-operation.

Economy

Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs

At the Lisbon Summit in 2000, EU leaders set out a new strategy to modernize Europe with the linked aims of sustained economic growth, more jobs, social cohesion and the protection of the environment. The strategy seeks to strengthen competitiveness in the face of global developments. A major component of the strategy is a commitment to increase expenditure on Research & Development to a minimum 3% of GDP. By co-operating together the EU Member States can deliver results in areas of real concern to their citizens.

European Social Fund / Training and Better Skills

The European Social Fund is devoted to promoting employment in the EU. It assists the national education and training services to equip workers and companies with the skills needed in a challenging, global environment. In the period 2007-2013 some €75 billion will be distributed to the Member States and regions. In Ireland priority is now given to two key areas: improving workers’ skills and productivity and giving extra help to marginalised groups. Over the period 2007-2013 the ESF will provide some €375 million to support national programme's.

EU Internal Market: Opportunity for Growth and Jobs

The EU Single Market is unique as it guarantees free movement of people, goods, services and capital providing the possibility for EU citizens to live, work, study and do business throughout the 27 Member States and to enjoy a wide choice of competitively priced goods and services. EU policies and regulations concentrate on dismantling barriers, harmonising legislation in relevant areas and responding to the challenges of globalisation and technological advance.

Supporting Regional Development

Unity and solidarity are some of the most significant aims for the European Union. The Union’s regional and structural policies have reflected the principle that equal standards and rights should be available to citizens in every part of the Union. The EU budget perspectives for the period 2007-2013 include provision for expenditure of up to €350 billion on regional development projects.

Freedom of Movement: Border less Europe

EU citizens have the right to travel, live and work anywhere in European Union countries. This means that they have opportunities to learn more and explore new cultures. Young people in particular have benefited from these freedoms.

Euro: One Currency, Lower Interest Rates

The Euro has produced many tangible benefits from the practical advantages of traveling with a single currency to economic growth and stability and the strengthening of the EU’s international role. The European Central Bank plays a key role in fighting inflation and stabilising the Euro zone economy, particularly at a time of international turbulence.

European Investment Bank: Financing Investment

The European Investment Bank is Europe’s key financing institution, facilitating major infrastructure projects and supporting the growth of small and medium sized enterprises. The EIB made loans totaling €57 billion in 2008, including €8 billion for small and medium-sized businesses (SME's). This brought the total of EIB loans outstanding to €350 billion. Recent EIB projects in Ireland include loans for ESB transmission and distribution networks, the second Dublin Airport Terminal and the Biomedical Sciences Research Centre at TCD. The EIB has announced a €300 million fund for loans to Irish SME's.

CEDEFOP: The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training was established in 1975 to promote and develop vocational education and training in the EU. It was one of the first specialised and decentralised agencies set up to provide scientific and technical know-how and promote exchanges of ideas between different European partners. Its tasks include: promoting and coordinating relevant research; dissemination of information; encouragement of joint approaches to training and education issues. Located in Thessaloniki, CEDFOPO has a tripartite structure with representation of Member Stare governments, trade unions and employers. Ireland is represented by nominees of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and of IBEC and ICTU.

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

The European Foundation was set up in 1975 to contribute to the design and planning of better living and working conditions in Europe. Its offices are at Loughlinstown House, Dublin and it has a tripartite governance structure with representatives of the national governments and employer and trade union interests. The Foundation has core activities in the field of research and information and communication. It provides information, advice and expertise on living and working conditions, industrial relations and managing change for key actors in the field of EU Social Policy on the basis of comparative information, research and analysis..

Higher Standards: Food and Veterinary Office of the EU

The Food and Veterinary Office is part of the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection and is based in Grange, Co.Meath. The Office has a staff of approximately 160 including 80 inspectors who carry out on-the-spot inspection missions. The FVO promotes effective control systems in the food safety and quality, veterinary and plant health sectors. It checks on compliance with the requirements of EU food safety and quality, veterinary and plant health legislation within the EU and in third countries exporting to the EU and contributes to the development of EU policy in the food safety and quality, veterinary and plant health sectors.

Working Abroad: Practical Help is at Hand

EURES is a network devoted to assisting job mobility in the EU. It has a job-search database and provides advice and information about living and working conditions. Eures has over 700 advisers to counsel job seekers and employers. Partners in the network include public employment services in Ireland, FAS trade union and employers’organisations. EURES assists employers wishing to recruit workers from other countries and provides specific advice and guidance to workers and employers in cross-border regions.

Supporting Ideas and Innovation: The European Patent Convention

The EU has produced laws aiming at protecting intellectual property industrial designs, patents and copyrights. Corporate and individual knowledge is protected. The European Patent Organisation was established in 1977 and now extends beyond the EU to include 35 Member States. It works to strengthen co-operation between European states in respect of the protection of inventions by developing a single procedure for the grant of patents and establishing certain standard rules governing patents. The organisation has its offices in Munich and Ireland is represented by officers from the Irish Patents Office and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

Keeping Europe in Touch: Trans-European Networks

Trans-European Networks TENS help the movement of goods and people across Europe through rail and road links while taking full account of environmental concerns. TENS also facilitate distribution of electricity and gas through efficient grids and improvement of essential communications, including positioning systems, through the Galileo satellite.

MEDIA project: Support for Film and Audio-visual Industry

The MEDIA project aims to stimulate the creative aspects of film development in the EU and provide funding and other support for training, production and distribution. More than 300 projects have received almost €20 million to develop scripts and distribution of 1,500 film and TV projects has been supported.

Connecting Communities: The INTERREG Initiative

The INTERREG initiative has been developing the economies and communities of cross-border regions across the EU. Support has been given to improving cross-border transport links between Dublin and Belfast and between Helsinki and St Petersburg. These programmes contribute to cross-border co-operation and reconciliation.

Improved Access to Technology

The information society is now a reality. The i2010 initiative is designed to give all EU citizens regardless of age, physical ability and location – access to the opportunities offered by information and communications technologies. Availability of high-speed broadband is being facilitated by European funding.

Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights brings together all the separate documents about the rights of European citizens as well as the judgments made by the official European courts. The Charter also sets down certain fundamental economic and social rights. The Charter does not expand the powers of the EU or give European citizens any new rights. It makes rights more visible and means that Europeans will be better placed than they have ever been to get the most out of the EU. The Charter has political status but until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, it is not fully legally binding.

Access to the European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the institutions and bodies of the European Union. Any citizen or resident of an EU Member State or businesses, associations or other bodies with a registered office in the Union, can make a complaint to the Ombudsman.

The European Parliament and the Citizen

Any citizen, acting individually or jointly with others, may exercise the right of petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and which affects them directly.

The European Parliament and Human Rights

The European Parliament seeks to ensure that rights and freedoms are defended and promoted within the EU. The Parliament has standing committees on Human Rights, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, Civil Liberties, Legal Affairs etc. Each year the Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to honour individuals or organisations anywhere in the world for their efforts on behalf of human rights, democracy and freedom of expression. Among the winners have been Nelson Mandela, Alexander Dubcek and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Argentina pursuing justice for those who ‘disappeared’ under military dictatorship.

European Parliament Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction

The post of EP Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction was created in 1987. In order to help children from bi national marriages that have broken down who have been abducted by one or other parent. The role of the Mediator is to try to find a voluntary agreement between the parents. Ireland’s Mary Banotti was Mediator from 1995 to 2004. The latest report of the Mediator’s activity indicates that a total of 30 cases were being processed in the difficult context of diverse legislative and administrative systems..

Effective Rights for Travelers

The EU has agreed rules on air passengers’ rights, covering issues such as rights for those delayed by more than a few hours or subject to cancellation without prior notice. Airlines are made responsible for making provision for compensation, availability of refreshments, communication and, if appropriate, accommodation.

Ensuring Health and Safety at Work

Health and Safety at Work is one of the most important and advanced areas of EU Social Policy with substantial legislation and with programme's of information, guidance and promotion. The extensive EU agenda covers workers’ health, safety provisions in respect of equipment, noise, radiation, chemicals and carcinogens etc. Specific groups covered: self-employed; temporary workers; young people at work; pregnant women; fishermen.

Promoting Equality for Men and Women

Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of EU law. The basic rules were set out in the 1974 Social Action Programme introduced by Commission Vice President Patrick Hillery. EU policy includes active measures and gender mainstreaming.

Workers’ Rights: Posted, Agency Workers; Social Security Rights; Working Time

The EU has minimum requirements in the field of labour rights and work organisation. There are now over 400 pieces of separate EU legislation in this field. A summary contains references to issues such as collective redundancies, working hours, consultation of workers, equal treatment, parental leave, part-time work and the position of posted and agency workers.

Equal Rights for Mothers and Fathers: Parental Leave

The right to parental leave for both father and mother is an important element of the EU’s social policies. In Ireland this right is given legal status through the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act of 2006.

EU Policy on Poverty and Social Inclusion

In 2000 the European Council pledged to make a decisive impact on poverty by 2010 within the context of the Lisbon Strategy. This was to be achieved through a process of pooling knowledge, experience and best practice from the various Member States. Each Member State produces Social Inclusion Plans, setting objectives and key targets and identifying implementation measures and indicators across relevant policy areas. The Irish National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 sets out a comprehensive programme of action.

EU policy on poverty arose from an Irish initiative in 1973, immediately after the country’s entry to the then EEC. The Irish Government responded to the Commission draft Social Action Programme introduced by Commission Vice President,Dr Patrick Hillery by proposing action on poverty and, in 1974, a European Programme to Combat Poverty was adopted by the Council.

PROGRESS Programme: Employment and Social Solidarity

With a budget of €740 million for the period 2007-2013, the PROGRESS programme covers four key policy areas: employment; social inclusion and protection; working conditions; non-discrimination and gender equality. It funds activities and studies by the Member States, local and regional authorities, research institutes, social partners and NGO's. In Ireland, the Office for Social Inclusion (within the Department of Social and Family Affairs) participates in the PROGRES Programme.

Environment

Setting High Environmental Standards

Environmental initiatives are now at the top of the EU agenda. Beyond protection of threatened aspects of the environment is a recognition that a ‘green’ agenda is essential for economic and social progress. The EU is leading the worldwide drive towards an effective follow-on programme after Kyoto.

Cleaning Up: EU Waste Strategy

EU Strategy on Waste and Recycling is making a vital contribution to the quality of life of EU citizens. More than 2 billion tonnes of waste are produced each year (that’s 3.5 tonnes for each one of us) and this must be dealt with through waste prevention and reduction, more recycling and more efficient and eco-friendly disposal methods. EU Directives set strict technical and economic guidelines for action in every Member State.

Developing our Renewable Energy Sources

EU targets call for a doubling of the share of renewable energy sources by 2010. Policy envisages increasing utilisation of sun, wind and water power; development of relevant technologies with the prospect of employment creation; and introduction of relevant economic and fiscal regimes. More than 1.5 million people are employed in relevant sectors such as biomass, wind and hydro.

Improved Bathing Water Standards

Since the 1970s the EU has been monitoring bathing water quality. Information is readily available on whether beaches meet strict quality standards. Directives ensure that the most sophisticated science is used to monitor the quality of bathing water. The Blue Flag programme has stimulated action to clean up our beaches and ensure cleaner bathing water and, in 2009, almost 80 Irish beaches have been awarded Blue Flags.

Promoting Bio diversity

The Natura 2000 initiative seeks to advance the principle of sustainable development. A network of Special Areas of Conservation is designed to protect nearly 200 threatened species and 800 species listed under the Habitats Directive, and covers Special Protection Areas classified under the Birds Directive for some 200 endangered birds and wetlands.

Eco-Label Scheme: Product Standards for a Better Environment

The Eco-label was first introduced in 1993. It is the EU flagship brand for products and services which meet certain ecological standards and represent a better choice for the environment. Organisations are encouraged to publicise the label, promote availability of eco-labeled products and improve consumer awareness of the environment.

2. Fighting Climate Change: The EU Emissions Trading Scheme

The European Union Emission Trading Scheme ETS helps fight climate change by developing a commercial approach to the reduction of emissions. Companies are allocate a CO2 allowance that it can emit, established under a national plan and subject to reduction over time. A company exceeding its allowance must buy carbon credits from another enterprise which has emitted less than its own allowance. In the first year, 360 million tonnes of CO2 credits were traded in a market worth €7.2 billion

REACH: keeping hazardous substances out of reach

The REACH policy registration, evaluation, authorisation of chemicals provides that European companies must assess and manage any risks arising from the chemicals that they manufacture, import and use. The policy seeks a balance between protection of consumers and opportunities for innovation in the chemical industry.

Protection of the Marine Environment: Pollution Prevention and Control Project

From monitoring fishing catches and threatened marine species and safeguarding fragile coastlines to tackling criminal activity at sea, the EU is a major player at international level. The EU is developing a comprehensive European Maritime policy.

Cleaner Car Emissions: Catalytic Converters

Thanks to catalytic converters, introduced under EU regulations, new cars in Europe emit up to 95% less toxic gas than they did 20 years ago. New technologies are contributing to this important development.

Consumers

European Health Card: Help for Travelers

The European Union Health Insurance Card was introduced in 2004 and can be used in some 30 countries. It helps simplify procedures for getting medical care in another European country. It is totally free and replaces all the old forms such as E111.

Promoting Standards: European Medicines Agency EMEA

The European Medicines Agency is a decentralised EU body with responsibility for the protection and promotion of public and animal health through the evaluation and supervision of medicines for human and veterinary use. The EMEA is responsible for the scientific evaluation of applications for European marketing authorisation for medical products a Community Marketing Authorisation is valid in all EU and European Economic Area countries. The safety of medicines is monitored constantly by the EMEA. The Agency plays a role in stimulating innovation and research in the pharmaceutical sector.

Reduced Mobile Phone Roaming Charges

Liberalisation of telecommunications markets together with advances in technology have resulted in a steady decrease in prices for EU consumers. Now the EU has taken important steps to reduce roaming charges for citizens moving within the Union.

Enforcing High Food Standards: the Whole Food Chain; ‘Farm to Fork’

The EU is concentrating on making the whole food chain as safe as possible through the ‘farm to fork’ approach. Producers, processors and importers must ensure their foodstuffs and ingredients can be traced through the food chain. Priority is given to the use of GM organisms, animal welfare and health and nutrition.

Low price Air travel: EU Blacklist of Unsafe Airlines

The EU has provided not only cheaper but safer flights and increased competition between air carriers. Since 1993 the EU, together with neighbouring countries, has become a huge single market for air travel. The European Commission Blacklist of Unsafe Airlines was first published in 2006, naming and shaming operators not meeting international standards.

Public Health Policies: Health Emergency and Disease Information System

The public health issues dealt with by the EU are numerous and cover a number of different areas, concerning men, women and children. EU provisions cover united responses to potential pandemics, such as avian flu, creating an early-warning system and a ‘Health Emergency and Diseases Information System’.

More Choice for Consumers; Consumer Safety

The Internal Market of the EU provides consumers with increasing choice of products and services. Consumer safety is a priority and EU rules are designed to ensure that everyone benefits from the highest level of protection. A rapid information exchange service (RAPEX) has been established to notify consumers of any risks.

Ban on Cosmetic Testing on Animals

The EU bans cosmetic testing on animals. Moves are underway to refine, reduce and replace animal testing wherever possible. The European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing has been established.

Pet Passport Scheme

Since 2004 the European pet passport has made it much easier for pets to travel with their owners throughout Europe. The passport gives details of important vaccinations and other relevant medical treatments undergone by the pets.

Quality TV Across Borders

The EU’s ‘Television Without Frontiers’ policy aims at safeguarding the competitiveness of the economically important European TV industry, ensuring Europe’s characteristic cultural diversity and protecting consumers from harmful images and advertising.

European Identity on the Internet: The ‘.eu’ Identity

The ‘.eu’ domain name has been introduced. This provides a truly European label on the internet for EU companies and extends the protection of EU laws as regards privacy and personal data protection.

A Single European Emergency Number – 112

Number 112 is the single European emergency number and in some countries is the only emergency call number. In others, such as Ireland, the traditional 999 number continues with the 112 option. A single number across Europe meets the needs of travelers.

Education and Culture

Erasmus Programme for Students: 20 years achievement

Over 1.2 million students have benefited from the ERASMUS Programme which gives them the possibility to experience different national cultures and broaden their personal horizons through academic studies at colleges in another EU Member State.

Recognition of Education Qualifications: The Bologna Programme

The Bologna process seeks to create a European Higher Education Area, making it easier for people to move around the continent for study. The process covers 46 countries and builds on the experience of over a million Erasmus students.

Leonardo da Vinci Programme: 20 Years of Support for Vocational Training

The Leonardo da Vinci programme designed to help people across Europe to get access to vocational training – has been running for 20 years and in the past six years has devoted €1.15 billion to fund projects in 33 countries.

European Strategy for Culture

The European Strategy for Culture was introduced in May 2007, setting a series of objectives for the Member States, Community institutions and the culture sector. It aims to promote cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and culture as a catalyst for creativity within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy. Between 2007 and 2013 the EU will invest €400 million to promote the transnational mobility of people working in the cultural sector, increase the circulation of cultural and artistic products and encourage intercultural dialogue in Europe.

Language Diversity in Europe

The EU is characterised by the diversity of its history and culture. The co-existence of many languages is a powerful symbol of the aspiration to be united in diversity. The EU has 23 official languages, including Irish, and as many as 60 more spoken in its regions.
The EU is developing policies to encourage and assist citizens in acquiring language skills. Key issues include the role of languages in developing mutual understanding in a multicultural society, encouraging European citizens to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue and the place of media and new technologies in serving as a bridge between speakers of different languages.

Preserving Our Heritage

Preserving Europe’s rich heritage is of the greatest importance for this and future generations. The European Union Prizes for Cultural Heritage the Europa Nostra Awards are awarded every year to honour outstanding examples of heritage protection.
Recent Irish winners have included the restored Palm Houses in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens, the restoration of the neo-gothic Sligo Courthouse, an Inventory of Ireland’s Historic Gardens and the work of Desmond Guinness on preservation of Ireland’s Georgian buildings and streetscapes.

Stimulating Creativity and Innovation

Europe needs to boost its capacity for creativity and innovation for both social and economic reasons. The European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009 aims to stimulate debate and action across a broad range of fields and contexts from works of art to industrial design, from scientific breakthroughs to life-long learning. The Year will concentrate on raising public awareness and disseminating information about good ideas and good practices. A Conference on ‘Building Ireland’s Cultural and Creative Economy’ has been held in Dublin to advance these important concepts.

Progressive Youth Policies

The Maastricht Treaty included provision for encouragement of youth exchanges and exchanges of socio-educational instructors. Over time a framework for co-operation in the youth field was established with four priorities: participation, information, voluntary activities and greater understanding of youth issues. A number of initiatives have been taken to foster young people’s active citizenship,including the Youth Portal in the EU website and the Youth in Action Programme, and to include a youth dimension in other EU policies. The European Youth Pact aims at improving the education, training and employability of young people. These initiatives involve Irish organisations such as the National Youth Council and the Irish section of the European Anti Poverty Network.

Promoting Sport Across the Union

In July 2007 the Commission adopted a White Paper on Sport to raise awareness of the needs of the sports sector and to ensure that the interests of sport are taken into consideration in developing EU policies. Sport remains within the competence of the Member States but ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will give the Union a greater role.
Current activities include promotion of co-operation on the critical issue of Doping in Sport. Implementation of the basic EU principles of freedom of movement of people and freedom to provide services has led to decisions in the field of sport such as the Bosman Judgement which changed the whole system of transfers of football players.
Particular attention is given to the fight against racism and violence in sports.