If you look at the EU today, the abuses often stand out: at the external borders, human rights are too often only valid on paper, there are Member States that completely refuse to show European solidarity and reports about strange laws that come from Brussels. It is clear that there is much that needs to be improved, but No EU is no solution either. The alternative would be to retreat into national calamity.
And so the greatest merits of the EU are perhaps those that cannot even be enumerated: It is hard to imagine what the world would look like without the European peace project.
But besides the grand vision and many problems, there are also some successes of the EU. Here are some enumerated:
A lot done, still a lot to do
EU recovery plan: support during the Corona crisis
Corona caused economic damage in all EU countries, but not to the same extent everywhere: to help member states rebuild their economies, 750 billion is to be made available over the next three years. Of this, 500 billion will be spent without repayment for particularly affected regions. The remaining 250 billion are to be treated as loans.
Free movement within the EU
EU citizens may move, reside and work freely within the EU plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Travel from the Algarve to Lapland without border controls: After centuries of barriers within Europe, what was once unthinkable is now taken for granted. The Freedom of Movement Act also includes the right to vote in local elections in the country of residence.
Read more: Freedom of movement for EU citizens
Peace within the EU – longer than ever before
Peace among EU member states is now taken for granted – that is historically unique. While alliances and joint trade have always helped to maintain peace between allies at times, never before has this peace lasted as long and as broadly in Central Europe as it has thanks to the EU.
After centuries of "hereditary enmity" and countless wars, joint membership of the EU now provides the framework for the close ties between the neighbouring countries. More than 57 years ago, France and Germany signed the Elysée Treaty and reaffirmed their understanding of friendship last year with the Treaty of Aachen. Franco-German relations are to remain deepened through understanding and exchange.
A few laws that make life better
Abolition of roaming charges
Since 15 June 2017, surfing and making calls within the EU has become a little bit easier. With the abolition of roaming charges, mobile internet, calls and SMS in EU countries are now possible at the service provider's domestic price. Even before that, these charges were gradually capped more and more by the EU, so the days when a single international call multiplied the monthly bill are thankfully finally over.
European data protection
With the European Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018, the EU has achieved a milestone in the defence of citizens' rights against corporations. The law sets uniform standards for data protection in the EU and plays a pioneering role worldwide.
Details: DSGVO: EU General Data Protection Regulation
An example of where the GDPR has a concrete impact: The GDPR shows its first teeth: 50 million fine imposed on Google
Ban on some single-use plastic items
A first step against the plastic flood: In 2019, the directive on the EU-wide ban of single-use plastic articles was adopted. From 2021, plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, stirrers and chopsticks), plastic plates, plastic straws, plastic cotton buds, plastic balloon pens, oxodegradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers and cups are to disappear from our supermarkets.
National implementation: Legal rules: How Germany wants to ban single-use plastic
Transactions without additional fees
The EU guarantees that no additional costs will be incurred when abroad in Europe: Transfers, payments, withdrawals and direct debits to accounts in the eurozone must not cost more than at home.
Read more: Payments, transfers and cheques in the EU
Ban on antibiotic use on healthy animals
As early as 2005, the European Parliament adopted a regulation banning the use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals. Since then, there have already been several reclassifications of antibiotics aimed at further curbing their use. In 2018, it was decided, among other things, that some antibiotics may only be used for humans and imported goods must meet EU standards. The aim is to prevent or slow down the development of antibiotic resistance in germs.
Labelling of nutritional values and allergens on foodstuffs
The EU Food Information Regulation No. 1169/2011 informs consumers about the nutritional content of foods and beverages. Since 2016, this has made it easier for us to decide whether a product is good for us or not: it makes it easier for us to determine the true nutrient content or possible allergenic ingredients of a product behind the companies' advertising.
European funds that make life better
European exchange programme Erasmus
The European Erasmus Programme is the world's largest funding programme for stays abroad at universities. It allows students, but also professionals and young people to participate in a funded exchange abroad in Europe. In 2014 – '20 alone, the program was funded with 14.8 billion, so in June 2019 a milestone was reached: By then, a total of more than 10 million people across Europe had participated in Erasmus+ or its predecessor programmes.
All possibilities: Erasmus+: Home page
European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund
EU funding supports regions according to their structural development and thus ensures a kind of European redistribution. In the new funding period 2021 – '27, there will be increased investment in ecological and social transformation.
Joint European Research Funds
In the financial framework 2014-'20, 80 billion euros were available to fund European research and science projects. It is the world's largest single funding programme for research and innovation, and negotiations are currently underway for the next period up to 2027.
Read more: EU research funding - to get started
Rights and securities that make life better
European Convention on Human Rights
In 1950, the Council of Europe adopted the European Convention on Human Rights. It is a catalogue of fundamental and human rights, the implementation of which is enforceable by every person. Its observance is monitored by the European Court of Human Rights.
Read more: European Convention on Human Rights
European Social Charter
The European Social Charter is a binding international agreement adopted by the Council of Europe and ratified by most member states. It guarantees the economic, social and cultural rights of EU citizens.
Read more: European Social Charter | bpb
Common food standards
Common food standards apply within the EU. With such regulations and directives, Europe-wide minimum standards are ensured, which may not be fallen short of. The EU focuses on the areas of food hygiene, animal and plant health and contamination and residues. EU authorities check compliance with the standards.
Read more: Food safety in the EU | European Union
Medical costs abroad in the EU are reimbursed by your own health insurance company
In the event of an accident or illness, the European Health Insurance Card covers medical expenses abroad in the EU. All benefits are reimbursed that would also be reimbursed in the country of origin. In this case, all EU member states, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and, since 2010, Algeria, Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Kosovo, Libya, Macedonia, Morocco, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Vatican City State belong to the EU.
2-year warranty for all products throughout the EU
The 2-year warranty is generally known. In fact, it has only been set at a minimum of 2 years by EU law. Buyers can demand free repair or replacement of the goods within a reasonable period of time. If this is not possible, the purchase price must be refunded or reduced. Once the product has been repaired or replaced, a new warranty period begins, again with a duration of two years.
Read more: dealer warranty
Right of withdrawal when buying products in the EU
Most people are also familiar with the 14-day right of withdrawal. It has applied throughout Europe since 2014. Among other things, special attention was paid to the duty to inform.
EU passenger rights in all EU Member States
The Air Passenger Rights Regulation of 2004 grants passengers the same rights at all airports within the EU in the event of delays, cancellations and denied boarding, e.g. due to overbooking. These rights also apply to flights from outside the EU. The decisive factor is that the airline must have a licence within the EU.
Read more: Air passenger rights at a glance
EU rights of rail passengers
Rail passengers within the EU enjoy the same rights. These include, for example, delays or the cancellation of trains. In addition, the railways also have an obligation to provide information, e.g. about barrier-free stations.
Read more: Rail passenger rights – Your Europe
EU safety net for consumer products
An EU rapid alert system ensures data collection and information sharing in the European market: Every day, the European Commission receives notifications about dangerous products in the European market. The RAPEX rapid alert system enables the rapid exchange of information between national authorities. There are also safety precautions for purchases on the Internet, such as a seal that guarantees self-commitment to product safety.
Reduction of hazardous chemicals in products
Human health is not the only focus of the REACH regulation. The reduction of animal testing through alternative methods and the improvement of the competitiveness of the chemical industry are also taken into account.
REACH guarantees a uniform Registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction From chemicals. The regulation also guarantees the right to information about the dangers. For consumers, this regulation has great added value, because chemicals are everywhere in everyday life, for example in clothing or electrical appliances.
Free movement of goods, services and capital
Free movement of goods means the "abolition of customs duties and quantitative restrictions" within the EU. Services may be temporarily provided in another EU member state due to the free movement of services. The 2004 Maastricht Treaty also banned restrictions on capital movements and payments within the EU.
And of course: the single currency
The introduction of the euro is not only an economic factor – the common currency also makes travelling in the EU much easier and allows the Member States to grow closer together.
Read more: A brief historical overview of the euro