From the instant you wake up and turn the light on to the minute you decide to download a movie online before going to bed, the EU invisible hand has been influencing the most varied aspects of your day- to- day life. A few illustrative examples were selected to illustrate the rather positive effects of EU action in order to bring up a reflexion on its achievements and its importance in citizens’ lives.There is a clear focus on consumer protection but also in the contributions of the EU to build infrastructure, promote healthy habits and sponsor cultural activities.
You woke up and you just turned your light on. Did you know that the EU has pressured its member states to issue a certificate on energy performance for each house? The goal is to diminish the negative print of human activity on the environment and to stimulate clean energy. Unfortunately, and here, reality is neither black nor white, this has a cost: soaring bills. Environmental friendly policies (including the Emission Trading Schemes) have cost each British household 60 pounds a year. But let’s finish on a positive note: some citizens are ready to pay more if it is going to lead them towards a sustainable future. Let’s hope this is going to be effectively the case and that, in times of crisis like these, funding will be dedicated to this project so the cost the citizen has to pay is not disproportionate.
Coming back to our routine. Right after this long reflexion on electricity bills you decide to take a shower, and, if you are girl, you will put some make up on. Interestingly, the EU has issued a series of regulations since 1978 to control the production and commercialization of cosmetic goods. It finally reached the point, in July 2013, where it established a directive (which is directly enforceable) to ban the commercialization of all products that used animal testing and to put pressure on trade partners to do the same. This was considered a great victory for civil society and animal rights activists.
After making sure your routine is bunny-friendly, it is breakfast time. A tiny insignificant detail can save you time and money. If your toaster breaks, the EU has extended the guarantee on electric products to two years. Moreover, thanks to EU, you are also able to know what you are eating. Indeed, directives institute the obligation of labelling aliments with their ingredients, origin and nutritional information. Looking at the x code of your eggs you can know if they are from biological source, if the hens were kept in a cage or outdoors, and the country of provenience
If after eating your hen- friendly breakfast you decide to go shopping for a birthday gift for a seven-year-old child, you can be quite reassured. Thanks to the RAPEX (Rapid Alert System for non-food consumers’ products) established in 2006, more and more goods that used dangerous chemicals during their production are taken off of store shelves. The EU also intensified active negotiation with China, the country responsible for the fabrication of 80% of toys sold in Europe, to ask for a reinforcement of the control on production chains. Although we can question the efficiency of this system, it is important to know that such mechanism exist.
It is clear now that the Union cares about its citizens’ health and wellbeing. If after buying the toy, you go to the gym, remember that the EU also values healthy habits and is engaged in programs to promote physical activity and to fight diseases such as obesity. Moreover and most importantly, it has created to European Health Insurance card that gives you the same entitlements in a foreign European countries as you would have with your insurance in your home country This enforces the rights of citizens that travel and live in all EU territory being therefore an essential tool to grant effective freedom of movement.
When you are moving from one city to another and crossing a bridge, you can also remember about EU Regional Funds through which the Union contributes to the redistribution of wealth notably through investments in infrastructure. In Bulgaria, between 2007 and 2013, the estimation of the capital allocated for the expansion of its road, rails and ports is of 2 billion Euros.
If your life is not only “metro, boulot, dodo” ( famous French expression for : transports, work and sleeping) you will also be happy to know that the EU has a wide budget for culture. The Commission’s proposition for the multiannual program 2014-2020 is to allocate 1.6 billion Euros to the cultural sector. This funds are invested in national projects such as the construction of the Louvre in the French city of Lens (35 million dedicated, 20% of the project's total budget) but also in transnational initiatives such as CREA.RE reuniting local actors such as the Regional Council of Central Finland, the Municipality of Narni in Italy, the city of Poznan in Poland , the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Province of East Flanders with the goal to integrate the creative sector in the regional political agenda.
Additionally, the EU plays an important role in the promotion of the cultural scene of specific cities with the election of the “capital of culture”, awarded this year to Marseille (France) and Kosice (Slovakia) and in 2014 to Riga (Latvia) and Umea (Sweden). Finally, it also contributes to the preservation of UN patrimonies of humanity, for example, dedicating 7.7 million to the restoration of Pompeii between 2000 and 2006.
After seeing the cultural potential of the continent, you will probably want to travel. The EU grants you passenger rights regarding long delays, assistance in case of denial of boarding, baggage lost and accidents. You can also be sure that your roaming fees won’t be excessively high.
At the end of the day and after planning your trip, when you decide to download something, also remember that the Parliament has recently expressed its opposition to the ACTA treaty as it was negotiated by member states between closed doors. The latter punishes criminally the break of copyright on the internet. This could lead to excessive measures that wouldn’t be justified by the fight for property right. Of course, further lobby can make the parliament modify its position but for now, the citizen’s point of view prevailed.
Overall, the EU exerts its influence through numerous (and sometimes incomprehensive) regulations but there are also actions that contribute to the protection, wellbeing and emancipation of its citizens.
Image Source : Wiki Commons
To go further
On the internet
- Belgium Parliament (2008) L Europe dans votre vie quotidienne
- BBC, EU bans sales of all animal-tested cosmetics. March 11th 2013
- Open Europe. The EU and You : How the EU affects everyday life in the UK. March 18th 2012
- Europa Culture, Budget of the Commission 2014-2020 : 1.6 billion for “Creative Europe”
- Europa Press Release, Commission approves fundings to restore important European heritages.
- Europa Legislation, Cosmetic products until 2013
- Hope, Kerin Infrastructure : EU funding pushes expansion of road, rail and port upgrades. Financial Times. December 4th 2012
On Nouvelle Europe
- Dossier May 2013, Why can we still be (pro) European today?, May 9th 2013
- Claire Bravard, Telecom tariff : from the comepetition policy to regulation, May 9th 2013.