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Key European Union achievements and tangible benefits

Key achievements

Since 1957, the European Union has achieved great things for its citizens and the world:

  • a continent at peace
  • freedom for its citizens to live, study or work anywhere in the EU
  • the world’s biggest single market
  • aid and development assistance for millions of people worldwide

Peace and stability

The EU has delivered over half a century of peace, stability and prosperity. It also plays an important role in diplomacy and works to promote these same benefits – as well as democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law – across the globe.

  • In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its achievements in this field.

70 years of lasting peace

70 years of peace

 

  • The EU’s common foreign & security policy is designed to resolve conflicts and promote international understanding, based on diplomacy and respect for international rules.

Single market

The EU's main economic engine is the single market. It enables most goods, services, money and people to move freely throughout most of the continent.

It has certainly become much easier to move around Europe – all EU citizens have the right to study, work or retire in any EU country. As an EU national, for employment, social security and tax purposes, every EU country is required to treat you exactly the same as its own citizens.

  • Euro– used by over 340 million EU citizens, the euro has eliminated the risk of currency fluctuation and exchange costs, and strengthened the single market – to the benefit of us all.
  • Telephone & digital services – you can use your phone and online services at no extra cost across the EU, thanks to the end of roaming rules.

Citizens’ rights and protections

The Treaty on the European Union gives EU citizens and legal residents a wide range of rights, enacted in EU law across many fields.

Charter of fundamental rights

The Charter brings together all the personal, civic, political, economic and social rights enjoyed by people within the EU.

EU Charter of fundamental rights

Employment rights

Every EU worker enjoys certain minimum rights relating to health and safety at work; equal opportunities; protection against all forms of discrimination; and labour laws.

Digital rights

The EU has taken a strong stance to protect individual rights and personal information in its data protection and privacy laws, to ensure we all have more control over our personal data.

Consumer rights

EU consumers can feel safe in the knowledge that they will get their money back if they return unwanted products, and will receive a refund if they experience any avoidable delays or cancellations while travelling.

And the standards goods in EU shops must meet are among the world's most stringent, in terms of both quality and safety.

Shoppers rights

Business, growth and trade

The EU is the largest trade bloc in the world. It is the world's biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and the biggest import market for over 100 countries.

Free trade among its members was one of the EU's founding principles. This is possible thanks to the single market. Beyond its borders, the EU is also committed to liberalising world trade.

Business

The EU has ensured that you're protected against the downsides of globalisation through EU support for small businesses and rules to make sure big companies pay their fair share of tax. The EU can also help if you’ve been treated unfairly as a business owner.

Successful EU programmes like Erasmus+ can help you help you get training to make the most of your career.

Trade

The EU has achieved a strong position by acting together with one voice on the global stage, rather than with separate trade strategies.

The EU is in prime position when it comes to global trade. The openness of our trade regime has meant that the EU is the biggest player on the global trading scene and remains a reliable partner to do business with.

This agreement, signed in 2018, makes it easier for EU firms to export more to Singapore, helps protect people’s rights at work and the environment and opens up Singapore’s markets to EU companies for services and government contracts.

Food quality and environmental standards

Because EU countries cooperate so closely, our food and our environment meet some of the world’s highest quality standards.

Food

Protecting health is the aim of all EU laws and standards in the farming and food sectors. An extensive body of EU-wide law covers the entire food production and processing chain within the EU, as well as imported and exported goods.

Environment

The EU has developed some of the strictest environmental standards in the world. EU policy seeks to minimise risks to the climate, health and biodiversity.

Renewable energy/energy transition (2018 Energy Directive)

International diplomacy & development

EU countries acting in unison have much more of a voice on the world stage than 27 nations of varying size acting separately. Taken together, the EU institutions and national governments are the world’s leading donor of development assistance and work collectively to promote good governance, fight hunger and preserve natural resources.

Diplomacy & security

Through its political, practical and economic support, the EU has played a crucial role in building peace in the Western Balkans since the Yugoslav wars. One example is the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, which led to a landmark deal in April 2013 that is currently being implemented, with EU support.

Human rights

The EU has developed human rights policy guidelines covering areas such as the death penalty, torture and freedom of expression, both on and offline. The EU's Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) provides support to improve respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries and regions where they are most at risk.

Humanitarian aid

The EU provides assistance to countries and populations, both within Europe and abroad, when major disasters or humanitarian emergencies strike. Collectively, the EU and its constituent countries are the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid. Every year the EU provides food, shelter, protection, healthcare and clean water to over 120 million victims of disasters and conflict in over 80 countries.

Aid, development and diplomacy in action

The EU cooperates with governments in 150 partner countries across the developing world, as well as civil society and international organisations.

For example, in Haiti the EU provides a number of different forms of aid and development assistance, to help the country develop resilience, resolve structural weaknesses and bring short-term relief to the most vulnerable. Since 1994, the EU has provided Haiti with €419 million in aid to:

  • give access to life-saving health services
  • distribute emergency shelter in camps and host families
  • give access to water and sanitation facilities
  • distribute food
  • prevent an increase in malnutrition, outbreaks of epidemics and potential civil unrest
  • reduce vulnerability in camps
  • set up early warning systems and strengthen shelters and infrastructure against recurring hurricanes, floods, and other natural hazards.

EU development aid in Haiti