Skip to main content

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

Situation in Europe from 1500 until 2000 with long periods of war until the 1950s when a period of peace begins.


  • 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.
341 million
The number of people who use the euro every day in 20 countries
17 million
Live or work
17 million EU citizens live or work in another EU country
Extra cost
Phone and online services at no extra cost across the EU

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

Zero tolerance for discrimination
Free speech
For all
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression

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.

Retire abroad

The maximum number of hours a worker in the EU can work in any 7-day period
The minimum period of paid leave guaranteed for each worker per year

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.

Right to be forgotten

Online shopping
74% of internet users aged 16 to 74 in the EU shop online
Protection of personal data
Everyone has the right to the protection of 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

Added fees
For credit or debit card purchases in the EU
€100 000
Bank deposits of up to €100 000 are always protected

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.


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.

Wider market
Free movement
Businesses from one EU country are free to offer goods and services in another EU country without being based there
640 000
Almost 640 000 people studied, trained or volunteered abroad in 2020


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.

World trade
The EU accounts for around 15% of the world’s trade in goods
Global trade
EU, China, US
The EU, China and the United States are the three largest global players in international trade

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.


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.

Antibiotic growth promoters
Antibiotic growth promoters have not been used in the EU since 2006
EU quality scheme
3500 products registered under an EU quality scheme


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.

Climate neutral target
2050 - EU aims to become climate neutral
Greenhouse gas
2014 - The year the EU reached its 2020 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20%

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.

120 million
Beneficiaries of humanitarian funding
Number of people who receive humanitarian funding each year from the EU
€2.4 billion
Humanitarian budget in 2021
In 2021, the humanitarian budget of the European Commission exceeded €2.4. billion

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

21 countries
Humanitarian air bridge
In 2020 and 2021, European Union Humanitarian Air Bridge assisted 21 countries
World top donor
In 2020, the EU disbursed 54,51% in development assistance

Video gallery