Because the European Union started as an economic community, economic policy is still an important area in the EU. The European Union seeks to engage in cooperation to protect the environment. It seeks to promote the protection of natural assets and stop climate change.
In keeping with its values, the European Union seeks to promote the wellbeing, security and interests of the citizens. The Union wishes to keep the EU economy stable and competitive compared to the other countries in the world. Efforts are made to prevent internal disagreements. Every attempt is made to solve problem through negotiations.
There are no customs duties between EU member states. Also, imports from developing countries are duty-free or the duties are lowered. This is one way in which the EU tries to eliminate poverty. The European Union holds an important position in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Trade relations are maintained, in particular, with the Mediterranean countries, Russia, the United States and China. The European Union seeks to promote the trade relations and interests of its member states every way it can. Member states may also sign bilateral trade agreements with other countries as long as they are not in conflict with the EU laws and agreements.
The objective of the European Union’s economic policy is to create a stable and prosperous euro zone. A common currency improves companies’ competitiveness and increases economic stability. The European Central Bank regulates the interest rates and is able to control inflation and exchange rates. The European Union pays members states various subsidies, for example for development projects. The subsidies are designed to improve the local standard of living and distribute wealth to the poorest areas in Europe.
The main objective of Europe's agricultural policy is to develop the countryside. The European Union wants to ensure continued agricultural production in all parts of Europe. The quality of food, package labelling and plant protection are controlled. The objective is to ensure that the products produced in the various parts of Europe are safe, clean and of high quality and grown with due respect for the environment. Efficient regulation limits over-production but ensures the capacity to increase production whenever necessary.
In Finland, there is a lot of discussion about the Union’s agricultural policy. Everybody has heard about EU subsidies and directives. Agricultural policy affects people’s daily life and eating habits directly. EU subsidies are direct monetary aid to farmers in areas where farming and livestock raising are less profitable than in the fertile Central Europe. Support can also be asked for development and construction projects and one-off investments to develop agriculture. Although people are often annoyed by the directives, they ensure safe and high-quality products. Every consumer in Finland is happy to see that the labels on food packages are always in Finnish even if the product has been imported from a far-away country.
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The environmental requirements of the European Union are the strictest in the world. The EU takes the protection of nature and the environment seriously. Endangered species and their habitats are protected. Natural resources need to be used efficiently. Another objective of the environmental policy is to promote inventions and encourage all companies to respect the environment in their operations. Environment-friendly products and operations are supported. Energy-saving is encouraged andrecycling increased.
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Employment policy plays an important part in the European Union’s strategy. As a result of the economic recession and developments in the world trade, unemployment has increased in Europe. The European Union seeks to keep the jobs in Europe and help the unemployed to find work. Investments are made in education and research. Efforts are made to predict changes in the economy better. The European Union is doing its best to solve the world economic crisis and ensure that no EU member state will get into financial difficulties.
The support measures taken by the EU help prevent poverty and social exclusion. The Union takes steps to improve employment. Sound pension systems are encouraged. The European Union passes laws that uphold workers’ rights. The Union tries to influence the member states to make their social security systems work efficiently. Working conditions and employee wellbeing are improved. Training is supported to maintain the employees’ professional skills in a changing world.
The European Union grants financial aid for developing education and research. During recessions it subsidizes public building projects that give work to a large number of people. The Development Fund supports new inventions and environment-friendly projectsthat increase Europe’s level of expertise in the markets of the future.
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The European Union’s security policy focuses on Europe’s internal affairs. The European Union has founded a common European law enforcement agency called Europol (Europol). Through Europol the police authorities of the various countries can cooperate and solve international crimes. Europol specialises in the prevention of drug traffic, illegal immigration, human trafficking and money laundering. Cooperation between law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges and police is promoted by Eurojust. It concentrates on organised cross-border crime. Its goal is to bring criminals to justice as quickly as possible.
A new development in the security sector is the possibility of a common defence policy. In particular, cooperation is being planned to prevent acts of terrorism. The idea is to create a Rapid Reaction Force for the European Union that can be sent to control emergencies. The Rapid Reaction Force consists of the troops of the member state armies, and so it is not a question of a separate ‘Euro army’. The European Defence Agency coordinates cooperation and develops compatible weapon systems. The European Union sends troops on various peace-keeping missions.
Previously, every member state was responsible for its own foreign policy. As cooperation between countries increases and in the face of global problems, small European nations can express their opinions more effectively through the Union. This is why cooperation in the field of foreign policy was increased by the Treaty of Lisbon. A President and Foreign Minister were elected for the European Union who can take part in international conferences. In this way, even small countries can make themselves heard among the great powers of the world. In its foreign policy, the European Union continues to follow its values. If possible, all problems will be solved through negotiations. The European Union wishes to secure peace and avoid war.
The general policy of the European Union is influenced by the political trends in the member states and the policies pursued by the MEPs. Also, the world situation in general determines what political solutions are found to be important at any given time.
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