The population of the European Union is almost 445 million people, and the total nominal gross domestic product is 17 trillion US dollars. This is the third and second place in the world, respectively.
The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations."
There is no single capital in the European Union, but the Belgian Brussels actually performs this function. Separate European institutions are also located in Luxembourg, Strasbourg (France) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany).
Residents of the European Union enjoy significant advantages resulting from the unity of states with different potential. The stronger “pull up” the weaker, and the absence of borders within the EU increases opportunities for work, trade, travel, and education.
There is a common market in the EU, goods and services move freely between countries. Appropriate standardized laws have been adopted for this purpose. The single internal market provides access to the four freedoms: freedom of movement of goods, services, people and easier access to financial resources.
And there is no passport control in the EU, that is, every resident of the EU can freely travel around the EU, having only, for example, a driver’s license in their pocket.
Ukraine, following the course for membership in the European Union laid down in the Constitution, is also gradually bringing its legislation into line with EU requirements. This is necessary for full-fledged integration and is a kind of “base” for the growth of the national economy, and therefore the standard of living of Ukrainians.
So, to briefly summarize what the European Union is, it can be said that these are advantages for ordinary people, which have become possible thanks to the unity of the democratic states of Europe.
The advantages of freely choosing a country to work and live in, freely travel or study, freely trade and feel protected.
Although the European Union is not a state, it has characteristic state features, such as a flag, an anthem, and a motto. This allows the citizens of the EU to feel their belonging to a single worldview, even on a symbolic level.
The flag of the European Union is a blue background with a circle of 12 golden stars. Unlike, for example, the US flag, the number of stars is not related to the number of countries in the Union. They mark the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe. And the circle represents unity.
The anthem of the European Union became the instrumental version of “Ode to Joy” by one of the greatest European composers, Ludwig van Beethoven, which was written to a poem by the famous poet Friedrich Schiller. The EU anthem reflects the values and ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity common to all Europeans.
The motto In varietate concordia (from the Latin – “Unity in diversity”) emphasizes that the peoples of the continent are united for peace and prosperity, and in this single European family there is a place for different countries and cultures.
So, to summarize, the main emphases of the EU symbolism are equality, unity and completeness – as the ability of people to live in peace and prosperity, regardless of language, national culture or contradictions that existed in the past.
HISTORY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
United for the sake of steel and coal, and turned into the basis of peace and prosperity in Europe. 70 years of EU development on one page.
Europe has not always been united by common values. This continent has experienced the largest number of wars. Throughout history, Europe has been a motley map of various state entities, the borders of which have constantly changed and rarely in a peaceful manner. European countries fought for territory, resources and power not only on their continent, but also competed for the opportunity to influence world politics. The apogee of this struggle was the 20th century with its two world wars, which almost brought Europe to a complete collapse.
It became obvious that the continent could not withstand another such war. The key to understanding was… the economy. It turned out that military conflicts can be avoided if we find the format of an economic union for neighboring countries, agree on the joint use of limited resources and organize a permanent discussion between the states on these issues.
On May 9, 1950, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Robert Schuman, issued a declaration that was called the “Schuman Declaration”. He called on a number of European countries, first of all Germany, the main “opponent” of France, to unite the production of the two strategic resources of that time – coal and steel – under the leadership of a single supranational body.
Thus, in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community was established, which included France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It was she who became the prototype of the future European Union.
In 1957, the participating countries signed the Treaty of Rome. He founded the European Atomic Energy Community (Euroatom), which was supposed to coordinate cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, a new strategic field. The European Economic Community also appeared – in fact, a step towards a common European market for goods and services, with a coordinated economic policy, where there are no import duties. Thus began the movement towards the four freedoms of the EU: free movement of goods, services, labor and capital. It also turned out that the EU countries and their residents have something in common beyond the economy – the desire for freedom, democracy, and equal opportunities.
The commonality of values became the reason for the transformation of this union from an economic one to a “worldview”, which is based on a common vision for development in the fields of culture and art, ecology, medicine, etc.
So, over the next 30 years, the European Communities experienced several waves of expansion, and thus obviously needed new documentation. In 1992, in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the member countries of the communities signed the “Maastricht Treaty”, or “Treaty on the European Union”. A year later, in 1993, the EU as we know it now appeared.
Membership in the EU had such obvious advantages that more and more countries of the European continent began to join it. For this, they carried out important reforms that brought the standard of living in these countries closer to that of the European Union. After all, the philosophy of the existence of the European Union is the equality of the economic and social development of the member countries. This is the reason why one cannot join the EU only at will and why the countries of the post-Soviet space should carry out fundamental reforms in order to adapt their system to the possibility of working according to the rules and procedures of the European Union.
In 2002, the European Union introduced its own currency – the euro, which is used today by 20 countries out of 27 and which has become one of the world’s main reserve currencies.
The biggest wave of EU expansion occurred in 2004, when 10 countries joined the European Union at once – mainly the Eastern Bloc member states and the Baltic States, which were able to freely choose the path of their development after the collapse of the USSR.
The last to join the EU in 2013 was Croatia, which became the 27th member state of the European Union.
In the same year, Ukraine became the next country whose people declared their desire for membership in the European Union. The European sentiments of Ukrainian citizens were not shared by the then pro-Russian President Yanukovych, which eventually led to massive popular protests known as Euromaidan, or the Revolution of Dignity. In an effort to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence, Russia annexed a part of the Ukrainian territory – Crimea and started military aggression on part of the eastern territories of Ukraine – in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing the largest war in Europe since World War II. On February 28, 2022, on the fifth day of the war, Ukraine applied to join the EU. This step was intended to pave a certain path to preserve the chosen direction of development of our state, especially in the dark times of threats to the existence of Ukraine. And also the need to fix and strengthen those European integration reforms and transformations that Ukraine implemented before the start of a full-scale war.
Currently, Ukraine is finalizing the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission, has launched the procedure of self-screening of national legislation for compliance with EU law, in order to take the necessary steps to start negotiations on joining the EU as soon as possible.
GOVERNMENT BODIES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
Who makes decisions in the European Union? How does the European Council differ from the Council of the EU? And what do European commissioners do? A simple explanation is in this section.
The European Union has 7 main governing bodies: the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors.
The European Council is the main political body of the EU, a kind of “collective head of the European Union”. These are meetings-summits at the highest level of the presidents or prime ministers of the member countries with the participation of the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission (both without the right to vote). The task of the European Council is to form priorities and the general line of EU policy. Summits take place at least four times a year.
The Council of the EU unites the governments of the Union countries. But not all representatives at once, but depending on the topic of the meeting. There are a total of 10 configurations of the EU Council: environment, justice, social policy and health care, etc. The Council of the EU belongs to the legislative power. It is like the Upper House of the bicameral parliament, which adopts legislative acts and the EU budget (together with the European Parliament), coordinates the political courses of the member states and makes decisions on the foreign policy of the European Union (within the limits approved by the European Council). The Council of the EU is chaired by states that change every 6 months in a prescribed manner so that each country gets the opportunity to lead the Council. This is how the principle of equality of participants is implemented. The Council of the EU is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the currently presiding country.
The European Parliament acts as a legislative body together with the Council of the EU (by analogy, the European Parliament can be called the Lower House of a bicameral parliament). The European Parliament adopts legislative acts, ratifies international treaties, finally approves the budget of the European Union, supervises its use and controls the activities of individual EU institutions, primarily the European Commission. The European Parliament is elected every five years, and each EU country delegates a fixed number of its deputies, proportional to its population. Thus, densely populated Germany has 96 parliamentarians, and Malta and Estonia – 6 each. Today, there are 705 deputies in the European Parliament. Within the European Parliament, deputies are united in groups, but not on the basis of nationality, but on ideological grounds. The institution itself is considered one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.
The European Commission is the highest executive body following the example of the Cabinet of Ministers (government) in the state. The European Commission has the right of legislative initiative, disposes of the budget and is responsible for the implementation of laws adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The commission consists of 27 member-commissioners, one from each EU country. The functions of commissioners roughly correspond to ministerial portfolios in national governments. Among them are energy, transport, education and other typically “ministerial” fields. Due to its international composition, the European Commission defends the interests of the entire EU, not individual countries.
The Court of Justice of the European Union, also known as the Court of Justice, covers the entire judicial power of the EU. It ensures uniform interpretation and application of European law and resolves disputes between EU member states, EU institutions, businesses and even private individuals. It consists of two bodies: the European Court of Justice, which is the highest branch of the EU judicial system, and the General Court, i.e. the Court of general jurisdiction.
The European Central Bank, together with the national central banks, forms the European System of Central Banks and thus determines the monetary policy of the Eurozone (EU countries that use the euro instead of their national currency) and ensures price stability by regulating the money supply. The European Court of Auditors, aka the Chamber of Accounts, supervises the proper use of the EU budget and evaluates financial management. Importantly! The European Council, the Council of the EU and the Council of Europe are three different bodies, the latter of which has no relation to the European Union as such. The Council of Europe is an international organization of 47 countries that in one way or another are in the European space.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) operates under the Council of Europe, which decides on the interpretation and application of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and also does not concern the Court of the European Union.
THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE EUROZONE, SHENGEN AND VISA FREE - WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
The European Union is not the same as the Schengen area, and the Eurozone is something else altogether. What do these three concepts mean? And why visa-free for Ukrainians?
In 1985, an agreement was signed in the Luxembourg city of Schengen, according to which five countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany and France – agreed to gradually abolish border controls among themselves and ensure freedom of movement for all citizens of EU countries and citizens of third countries who signed this agreement.
Today, the Schengen area includes 22 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which are not part of the EU. In addition, the micro-states of Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, which are also not members of the European Union, are “in Schengen”.
For a long time, the need to obtain a Schengen visa prevented citizens of Ukraine from traveling freely in Europe. But since June 11, 2017, visa requirements for Ukrainians have been abolished, and a visa is no longer required for entry to Schengen countries. The Eurozone, in turn, is a group of 19 EU countries whose official currency is the euro. It was formally founded in 1999, but the currency itself appeared in 2002.
The seven EU countries that are not currently part of the Eurozone should join it when their economies meet the “convergence criteria”. This is necessary in order to avoid possible crises in the event of the unification of economies of different capacities (mostly, the Eurozone does not include “new” EU members, such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and others).
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT EU
The population of the European Union is almost 445 million people, and the total nominal gross domestic product is 17 trillion US dollars. This is the third and second place in the world, respectively, which makes the EU one of the most powerful world economies that provides a high standard of living for people. how tall For example, the minimum wage in the European Union varies between 400 and 1,500 euros, depending on the country. Yes, somewhere it is lower, somewhere higher, but every resident of the EU can freely and legally go to work in any other EU country - as easy as, for example, moving from one region to another in Ukraine. The prosperity of the European Union became possible thanks to unity and the four freedoms: the movement of goods, services, people, and easier access to financial resources. There is room for everyone in this huge market, and the high purchasing power of EU residents makes it so attractive to the world's entrepreneurs.
What myths about European integration are used by its opponents and why do they do it?
There are several myths surrounding European integration. The most common ones are: a) that European integration means giving up sovereignty (the myth of external power); b) that Ukraine will never become a member of the EU; c) that if it does, it will only become a raw material appendage.
These myths are usually used by pro-Russian political forces whose goal is to reduce public support for European integration and, as a result, to slow down Ukraine’s movement towards the EU. The same forces used to discredit the Association Agreement with the EU and the visa-free regime in much the same way. They said it would never happen, and we did not need it.
However, practice proved the opposite. After the Association Agreement came into force, the EU became Ukraine’s largest trading partner. In 2019 alone, we exported about 20 billion euro worth of goods and services there. And visa-free travel has opened up the opportunity for many Ukrainians to see Europe and increased the international value of the Ukrainian passport.
No country in the European Union has lost its sovereignty and pursues its own policy, consistent with the EU’s general course.
In 2010, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that Ukraine is a European state that can apply for EU membership like any other European country that adheres to the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law. This possibility is defined in Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. And on June 23, 2022, Ukraine became a candidate for EU membership. This historic event clearly demonstrates the position of the European Union – Ukraine belongs to the European family and we are welcome there.
In order to meet the criteria for EU membership, we need to do our “homework” – similar to what other countries that joined the EU have done. For example, Lithuania, Poland or Croatia. In turn, the European Union is helping us to achieve this goal – including financially – and to implement the necessary reforms.
FACT: there is no alternative to Ukraine’s path to a united Europe.
Ukraine is an integral part of European civilization and shares with other countries of the continent the values of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and dignity.
The European course is declared in the Constitution of Ukraine, and Ukrainians started the Revolution of Dignity in 2013 under the slogans of continuing European integration.
Accession to the EU opens up wide opportunities for Ukraine’s technological, social, economic development and welfare growth.
The implementation of EU standards in a number of sectors will lead to long-term positive results: increased competitiveness of Ukrainian goods, GDP growth, investment attraction, and post-war reconstruction.
This is evidenced by the example of countries that have gone through the EU integration process before Ukraine.
*based on the materials of the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the EU Delegation to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
FACT: In Europe, interests are implemented through cooperation, not through violence.
European integration is based on the idea of rejecting imperialism and wars of conquest. After the Second World War, the people of the continent realized that it was better to cooperate than to quarell.
The EU has built a system of equal partnerships between member states, regardless of their size and potential.
The EU is based on a solid legal framework developed over decades of integration. The interests of the stronger and the weaker are carefully balanced.
All countries have joined the European Union exclusively on a voluntary basis, motivated by their own interests and making efforts to do so. Similarly, Ukraine is doing its homework to meet the accession criteria.
The welfare of the European Union is based on creating favorable conditions for business, a high level of education and science, trust and cooperation. In the 21st century, Europeans no longer conquer, colonize or exploit anyone.
*based on the materials of the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the EU Delegation to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
FACT: Europeans are rooting for Ukraine and its fight for freedom.
The EU responded to Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine with unprecedented consolidation and support. Millions of Ukrainians have taken refuge in European countries.
- €76 billion mobilised by the EU and its Member States in solidarity with Ukraine and its people
- €38.8 billion to fortify Ukraine’s overarching economic, societal, and financial resilience
- €20 billion in military assistance measures to aid Ukrainian armed forces
The EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes have facilitated the export of a staggering 49 million tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural products. These vital corridors not only ensure the export of agricultural goods but also the import of requisite commodities. The total trade value realised through this corridor is estimated to be around €99 billion.
Through the activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU has efficiently channelled aid to Ukraine from all 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Türkiye.
Most EU countries, even the smallest ones, supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition. The Ukrainian Defense Forces receive the latest Western weapons and military equipment, and are trained at European training grounds.
The level of support for Ukraine in the EU remains consistently high. The Flash Eurobarometer survey confirms that Europeans approve of the EU’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Thus, 86% approve of the EU continuing to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by the war, 77% agree to accept refugees in the EU and 71% support the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia.
About two-thirds of Europeans believe that the EU should support Ukraine’s path to European integration and its accession to the Single market – 67% and 65% respectively. Finally, 65% favor financial and economic support for Ukraine, and 57% believe that the EU should support the purchase and supply of military equipment and provide appropriate training for Ukrainians.
*based on the materials of the European Commission, the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, the EU Delegation to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.
The Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine was opened in Kyiv in September 1993. Starting from 1 December 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty entering into force, the Delegation of the European Commission is transformed into the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine.
The Delegation in Kyiv is one of over 130 European Union Delegations around the world. The Delegation has the status of a diplomatic mission and officially represents the European Union in Ukraine.
The Delegation’s mandate includes the following:
– to promote the political and economic relations between Ukraine and the European Union by maintaining extensive relations with governmental institutions and by increasing awareness of the EU, its institutions and its programs;
– to monitor the implementation of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine;
– to inform the public of the development of the EU and to explain and defend individual EU policies;
– to participate in the implementation of the European Union’s assistance programs.