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Simple Summaries of EU Legislation


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This article will aim to provide easy to read and understand summaries of EU legislation to help explain the main legal acts passed by the EU.

Check out our previous article on EU law and regulation as well to get familiar with the main types of secondary and primary legislation passed by the European Union - directives, regulations, decisions, and more.

The EU Court of Justice interprets EU law to ensure its equal application in all countries, and deals with legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions.

The following EU legislation summaries are grouped into 32 policy fields, excluding those legal acts that are already clear and short enough or aimed only at a specialist audience.

Summaries of EU legislation

Here are the summaries of EU legislation by topic in alphabetical order:

Agriculture

The common agricultural policy (CAP) ensures a stable supply of affordable and quality food, as well as a significant amount of exports. Moreover, it safeguards the future of rural communities, villages and towns, biodiversity, the soil quality and the landscape.

In 2013, the CAP became fairer, greener, more efficient and innovative. It supports more sustainable and inclusive growth.

Audiovisual and media

The audiovisual and media sector covers the more traditional media such as radio, TV and cinema, as well as many new online media, from digital publications to online services.

Cooperation between member states in the creative sector is encouraged and supported. The Audiovisual Media Services Directive provides the basis for an open and fair EU market for audiovisual services. In addition, the EU runs funding programmes and promotes the distribution of online content, media literacy and pluralism.

Budget

There is an annual budget adopted by the EU. It covers spending on poorer regions, infrastructure, R&D, agriculture and fisheries, as well as its administration costs, and more. The annual budget has a ceiling and consists of contributions from member states (based on their gross national income), customs duties and a proportion of VAT receipts from each country.

Competition

Free competition is fundamental for an open market economy. It stimulates economic performance and gives consumers a broader choice of high-quality products and services and at more competitive prices.

This policy makes sure that competition is not distorted in the internal market. It ensures that similar rules apply to all companies operating within it.

State aid is prohibited, but there are exceptions. Such aid may be justified by services of general economic interest, for example, as long as public interest is not affected.

Consumers

The EU countries have progressively developed measures to defend consumers’ specific interests. The EU aims to harmonise these national measures to guarantee European citizens an equally high level of protection throughout the single market.

The European policy in favour of consumers preserves their health, safety and interests. It promotes consumers’ rights to information and education.

Culture

The EU supports, coordinates and supplements actions to preserve cultural heritage, and promotes cooperation and transnational exchanges between cultural institutions in member countries.

In addition, the EU works with other international organisations regarding issues like trafficking of cultural goods.

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Customs

The Customs Union removes borders between member countries when it comes to the trade of all goods. Customs duties or charges with a similar effect are forbidden.

At external borders, the Common Customs Tariff and the Integrated Tariff (TARIC) are applied to goods from non-EU countries. These goods must comply with the rules of the internal market and with certain provisions of the Common Commercial Policy. Moreover, the Community and Union Customs Codes make certain that member countries’ customs authorities apply the rules equally.

Development

One of the EU’s external policies is international development aid. The main objective is to reduce and eradicate poverty, especially in countries that are in greatest need. The focus is on aspects such as social protection, health, education, jobs, business development, sustainable agriculture and energy. Nowadays the policy includes all developing countries.

Economic and monetary affairs

The Economic and monetary union (EMU) supports the close coordination of the economic policies of the member countries. More than half of them have adopted the euro as their currency.

In addition, the “Stability and Growth Pact” that obliges member states to avoid excessive budget deficits.

Education, training, youth, sport

Education and training, and the policy towards youth and sport are essential. They support growth and employment by encouraging the emergence of a highly qualified and adaptable population. Moreover, they strengthen social cohesion and active citizenship.

The EU’s relevant programmes develop and strengthen these factors, promoting mobility and encouraging international cooperation.

Employment and social policy

The policies regarding European employment, social affairs and equal opportunities aim to improve living conditions. They promote employment, sustainable growth and better social cohesion.

The goal is to increase employment and worker mobility, improve the jobs’s quality and working conditions, inform and help workers, combat poverty and social exclusion, encourage equal opportunities and fight against discrimination, as well as modernise social protection systems.

Energy

The EU’s goal is to become a low-energy economy with secure, safe, competitive, locally produced and sustainable energy.

The energy policy ensures the EU energy market functions efficiently and promotes the interconnection of energy networks and efficiency. It deals with energy sources such as fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewables (solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro-electric, tidal).

Enlargement

The enlargement policy currently concerns countries which are applying for EU membership, and the potential candidates from the Western Balkans.

It provides the basis for enlargement and helps prepare applicant countries so that they can assume their obligations as member states immediately. The EU's stabilisation and association process aims to gradually bring the potential candidate countries' legislation and standards closer to its own.

Enterprise

The EU strives to create an environment that nurtures initiative, entrepreneurship and cooperation to maximise business potential.

It wants to ensure a strong, diversified, resource-efficient and competitive industrial base to face better the challenges of the global market.

Environment and climate change

Thanks to the environmental policy, the EU economy becomes more environmentally friendly, its natural resources are protected, as well as the health and wellbeing of people.

However, there are several serious challenges, such as those of climate change, unsustainable consumption and production, pollution.

The EU environmental legislation protects natural habitats, keeps air and water clean, ensures proper waste disposal, educates on toxic chemicals and helps businesses move toward a sustainable economy.

Moreover, the EU is a leader in international negotiations regarding climate change; it actively formulates and implements climate policies and strategies. Its goal is to ensure the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and implementing the EU’s Emissions Trading System.

As a result, EU countries have agreed to meet various targets in the following years. The EU wants to ensure that climate concerns are taken seriously in other policy areas too (for example, transport and energy). It promotes low-carbon technologies and adaptation measures.

External relations

The EU negotiates trade agreements, and cooperates on energy, health, climate and environmental issues. This is often in the context of international organisations such as the United Nations. Moreover, it operates European Neighbourhood Policy programmes in relation to its closest international neighbours.

External trade

The EU is the world's largest exporter. It has exclusive power to legislate on trade matters and to conclude international trade agreements, based on World Trade Organisation rules, on behalf of its member states. This policy covers trade in goods and services, as well as matters such as commercial aspects of intellectual property and foreign direct investment.

The main goal is to protect EU businesses from obstacles to trade. In addition, it assists developing countries to trade by means of lower duties and support programmes.

Fraud and corruption

The goal is to protect the EU’s financial interests, to put taxpayers' money to good use and to tackle organised crime and terrorism.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is responsible for:

  • independent administrative investigations into fraud, corruption and other illegal activity involving EU funds or revenue,
  • investigations of serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU institutions,
  • development of EU anti-fraud policies.

Moreover, the EU institutions’ goals are:

  • modernisation of the set of legal rules regarding corruption,
  • monitoring of developments in efforts to combat corruption in EU countries,
  • support of the implementation of national anti-corruption measures through funding, technical assistance and experience-sharing.

Food safety

This policy wishes to protect consumers, while guaranteeing the smooth operation of the single market. It is built on the concept of traceability both of inputs (e.g. animal feed) and of outputs (primary production, processing, storage, transport and retail sale).

There are agreed EU standards regarding food hygiene, animal health and welfare, plant health and control of contamination from external substances (e.g. pesticides). Moreover, strict checks are conducted at every stage, and imports (like meat) from outside the EU are required to meet the same standards and go through the same checks as food produced within the EU.

Foreign and security policy

This policy enables the EU member countries to have more power globally together than if they were to act alone.

The goal is to preserve peace and international security, as well as to promote democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and freedoms worldwide.

Humanitarian aid and civil protection

EU’s aid, in the form of financing, provision of goods and services, or technical assistance, aims to help prepare for and deal quickly with crises that seriously affect populations outside the Union.

The basis of this policy are the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. There are 3 main elements: emergency aid, food aid, and aid for refugees and displaced individuals. The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) coordinates this action and cooperates with partners such as the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

Human rights

EU countries have common values and principles such as respect for human rights and dignity, as well as freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

Since 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights has been legally binding on the EU institutions and national governments when they are implementing EU law. However, it doesn’t establish any new rights but instead serves to gather together existing rights.

Digital single market

The EU aims to grant access to digital opportunities for people and businesses, taking full advantage of the potential of digital data to benefit the economy and society.

Moreover, it aims to make its single market fit for the digital age. This is why it is eliminating unnecessary regulatory barriers and moving from individual national markets to a single EU rulebook.

Institutional affairs

The member states have given certain powers to the EU institutions. The EU has its own exclusive powers as well as others it shares with the member countries. They have also retained certain powers for themselves.

The subsidiarity principle is a key element that determines when the EU is competent to legislate, and results in decisions being taken as closely as possible to citizens.

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Internal market

The EU’s internal market is a single one in which the free movement of goods, services, capital and people is secured, and where citizens are free to live, work, study, do business.

Since its creation, the single market has opened itself more to competition, created jobs, and reduced many trade obstacles. The European legislation aims to take further advantage of the opportunities afforded by the single market to boost employment and confidence in European business.

Justice, freedom and security

The activities of the European Union aim to ensure the free movement of people and to provide them with a high level of protection. The policy areas include the management of the EU’s external borders, judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, as well as police cooperation. Also included are asylum and immigration policies and the fight against crime (terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime, sexual exploitation of children, trafficking, illegal drugs, etc.).

Maritime affairs and fisheries

The EU's maritime policy regards matters such as fisheries, employment, transport, research, environment, offshore energy and tourism.

The common fisheries policy (CFP) manages fisheries and aquaculture. Its main goal is to ensure sustainable fisheries and end wasteful fishing practices, as well as to create jobs and growth in coastal areas.

Public health

The EU strives for better health protection. It wants to improve public health, prevent diseases and threats to health (including those related to lifestyle), and to promote research.

The EU doesn’t define health policies, the organisation and provision of health services and medical care. Instead, it improves national policies and supports cooperation between member states in the field of public health.

Regional policy

This policy is created to reduce the economic, social and territorial inequalities between EU regions by supporting job creation, competitiveness, economic growth, improved quality of life and sustainable development.

The EU helps regions to overcome their handicaps and disadvantages.

Billions are being invested to deliver growth and jobs, to manage climate change, energy dependence and social exclusion.

Research and innovation

The Treaty of Lisbon strengthens EU action in the field of research with the purpose of creating a European Research Area.

The goal is to establish the EU as a leading knowledge-based economy, producing world-class science and innovation to ensure Europe's global competitiveness.

Taxation

Tax policy in the EU has 2 components: direct and indirect taxation. Direct taxation is the sole responsibility of member countries, while the indirect one affects the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services in the single market.

However, regarding direct taxation, the EU has established some coherent standards for company and personal taxation. Member states have taken joint measures to prevent tax avoidance and double taxation.

When it comes to indirect taxation, the EU coordinates and harmonises law on VAT and excise duties. It ensures that competition on the internal market is not distorted by variations in indirect taxation rates and systems giving businesses in certain countries an unfair advantage over others.

Transport

This policy is to ensure the smooth, efficient, safe, and free movement of people and goods throughout the EU. This is achieved by means of integrated networks using all modes of transport (road, rail, water, air). In addition, the policy deals with issues like climate change, passenger rights, clean fuels, and cutting customs-related red tape at ports.

Conclusion

Hopefully these summaries of EU legislation have helped you become more familiar with the various types of EU laws and goals in each sphere. The various policies provide a basis for international agreements and cooperation, with the improvement of different areas as the main objective.


If you need more information and expert legal advice regarding the EU legislation and its implementation in Bulgaria, contact our experienced lawyers.

 

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