Module 3: European Union

Lesson Title

What does the EU do?
o Innovation policy-Protection of Environment, Energy, Health, social rights
o 10 priorities for Europe

 

Introduction

This lesson present to the students the main strategies of EU in terms of innovation policies and solidarity, as both are critical for stability and progress of the EU. We will also briefly look at the 10 main priorities of EU.

 

Lesson time foreseen

80 minutes = 2 lessons

 

Lesson Content

WHAT DOES EU DO?
 
The European Union acts in a wide range of policy areas where European leaders have judged that joint action is beneficial, including the single market, the euro, promotion of economic growth, security, justice and foreign affairs (see later chapters). Other policy areas include:
— innovation policies, which promote the use of new solutions in fields such as climate and
environmental protection, research and energy;
— solidarity policies (also known as cohesion policies) in regional, agricultural and social
affairs.
 
The EU funds these policies through an annual budget which enables it to complement and add value to action taken by national governments. The EU budget is small in comparison with the collective wealth of its Member States: it represents no more than 1.04 % of their combined gross national income.
 
INNOVATION POLICIES

To accelerate the modernization of the EU industry, the uptake of product and service innovations, use of innovative manufacturing technologies and introduction of new business models is necessary. The Commission develops policies that help speed up the broad commercialization of innovation and engages in many activities that support innovation in the EU mainly through the Horizon 2020 programme. Innovation policies
• Social innovation - Social innovations are new ideas that meet social needs, create social relationships, and form new collaborations.
• Design for innovation - Design creates value and contributes to competitiveness, prosperity, and well-being in the EU. The Commission aims to accelerate the take-up of design in innovation activities.
• Demand-side innovation policies - Demand-side innovation policies support and increase the uptake of innovations in society.
• Public sector innovation - The public sector plays a key economic role as a regulator, service provider, and employer. Jobs provided by public sector account for more than 25% of total employment.
• Public procurement of innovation - The Commission aims to improve public procurement practices and foster the uptake of innovations.
• Workplace innovation - Workplace innovation can be a change in business structure, HR management, relationships with clients and suppliers, or in the work environment itself.
 
Areas of functioning
The environment and sustainable development
In 2008, the European Union made an important contribution to the fight against climate change. The European Council agreed that, by 2020, the European Union would cut its emissions by at least 20 % (compared with 1990 levels), raise renewable energy’s share of the market to 20 % and cut overall energy consumption by 20 %. In 2014, EU leaders agreed the more ambitious target of a reduction of at least 40 % by 2030, as compared with 1990. The EU countries also acted decisively together to help ensure that the United Nations’ conference on climate change in Paris in December 2015 led to a binding agreement by 195 countries on a 2 °C ceiling on global warming. The poorest countries in the world need financial assistance to reduce their emissions and to adapt to climate change. To this end, between 2014 and 2020, the EU will be contributing at least €14 billion from the European Development Fund. The political process of ratification of the Paris Agreement by the EU was finalised on 4 October 2016 when the European Parliament approved the ratification, thereby allowing it to enter into force.
 
The EU countries have agreed on binding legislation aimed at achieving a reduction in harmful emissions within the EU. Much of the effort is about investing in new technology, which also creates jobs and economic growth. An EU-wide ‘emission trading scheme’ aims to ensure that the required reductions in the emission of harmful gases are carried out efficiently.
 
The EU is also tackling a wide range of other environmental issues including noise, waste, the protection of natural habitats, exhaust gases, chemicals, industrial accidents and the cleanliness of bathing water. It also works to prevent natural or man-made disasters such as oil spills or forest fires.
 
The implementation of the European environmental research and innovation policy relies on a systemic approach to innovation for a system-wide transformation. For large extent, it is carried out through the Framework Programs for Research and Technological Development.
 
The current Framework Program (FP) is called Horizon 2020 and environmental research and innovation is envisaged across the entire program with an interdisciplinary approach. Current price estimates suggest that more than 6,5 € billion per year could be made available for activities related to sustainable development during the duration of Horizon 2020, addressing both research and innovation differently from previous FPs. Horizon 2020 is open to cooperation with researchers and innovators world-wide in order to foster co-design and co-creation of solutions that may have a global impact.
 
New calls for research and innovation proposals have been opened on 14 October 2015. Information is contained in the Horizon 2020 participant portal.
 
Technological innovation
Joint research at EU level today is designed to complement national research programs. It focuses on projects that bring together a number of laboratories in several EU countries. It also supports fundamental research in fields such as controlled thermonuclear fusion — a potentially inexhaustible source of energy for the 21st century. Moreover, it encourages research and technological development in key industries such as electronics and computers, which face stiff competition from outside Europe.
 
The EU’s goal is to spend 3 % of its GDP on research. The main vehicle for funding EU research is a series of ‘framework’ programs. ‘Horizon 2020’ is the eighth research and technological development framework program and covers the period 2014-2020. Most of the €80 billion-plus budget is being spent on research in areas like health, food and agriculture, information and communication technologies, nanoscience, energy, the environment, transport, security and space and socioeconomic sciences. Other programs promote international cooperation on leading-edge research projects and provide support for researchers and their career development.
 
Energy
The concept of introducing a mandatory and comprehensive European Union energy policy was approved at the meeting of the informal European Council on 27 October 2005 at Hampton Court. The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 legally includes solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU. Prior to the Treaty of Lisbon, EU energy legislation has been based on the EU authority in the area of the common market and environment. However, in practice many policy competencies in relation to energy remain at national member state level, and progress in policy at European level requires voluntary cooperation by members states.
 
In 2007, the EU was importing 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, which then made it the world's leading importer of these fuels. Only 3% of the uranium used in European nuclear reactors was mined in Europe. Russia, Canada, Australia, Niger and Kazakhstan were the five largest suppliers of nuclear materials to the EU, supplying more than 75% of the total needs in 2009. In 2015, the EU imported 53% of the energy it consumes. In January 2014, the EU agreed to a 40% emissions reduction by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and a 27% renewable energy target. The target is the most ambitious of any region in the world, and is expected to provide 70,000 full-time jobs and cut 33 billion € in fossil fuel imports.
 
SOLIDARITY POLICIES
 
To make sure the single market (see Chapter 6) works properly, imbalances in that market need to be corrected. That is the purpose of the EU’s ‘solidarity policies’, designed to help underdeveloped regions and troubled sectors of the economy. The EU also contributes to help restructure industries which have been hard hit by fast-growing international competition.
 
Regional aid and cohesion policy
2014-2020: € 352 billion or 34 % of the EU budget in the EU’s Member States invested in infrastructure, business, environment and training of workers for the benefit of poorer regions and citizens, through:
• The European Regional Development Fund is used to finance regional development projects and to boost the economy in regions that are lagging behind. This includes the redevelopment of declining industrial areas.
• The European Social Fund is used to finance vocational training and to help people find work. A new initiative with a budget of €6 billion has been designed to help young people enter the job market in regions where youth unemployment tops the 25 % mark. Funding is particularly directed towards ensuring that the unemployed receive relevant training.
• The Cohesion Fund finances transport infrastructure and environmental projects in EU countries whose GDP per capita is lower than 90 % of the EU average.
 
The common agricultural policy and common fisheries policy
The aims of the EU’s common agricultural policy, as set out in the original Treaty of Rome from 1957, were to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers, to stabilize markets, to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices and to modernize farming infrastructure. These goals have largely been achieved. Moreover, consumers today enjoy security of supply and the prices of agricultural products are kept stable, protected from fluctuations on the world market. The common agricultural policy is financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
 
The new role of the farming community is to ensure a certain amount of economic activity in every rural area and to protect the diversity and sustainability of Europe’s countryside. This diversity and the recognition of a ‘rural way of life’ — people living in harmony with the land — are an important part of Europe’s identity. Furthermore, European agriculture has an important role to play in combating climate change, protecting wildlife and feeding the world.
Moreover, there are schemes in place designed to promote and protect the names of local and regional quality agricultural products and foodstuffs in the EU.
 
The social dimension
The aim of the EU’s social policy is to correct the most glaring inequalities in European society. The European Social Fund was established in 1961 to promote job creation and help workers move from one type of work and/or one geographical area to another.
 
The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers, which became an integral part of the EU Treaty in 1997, sets out the rights that all workers in the EU should enjoy: free movement; fair pay; improved working conditions; social protection; the right to form associations and to undertake collective bargaining; the right to vocational training; equal treatment of women and men; worker information, consultation and participation; health protection and safety at the workplace; and protection for children, the elderly and the disabled.
 
TEN PRIORITIES FOR EUROPE

1. Jobs, Growth and Investment - Since the global economic and financial crisis, the EU has been suffering from low levels of investment. Coordinated efforts at European level are needed to put Europe on the path of economic recovery. The Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called Juncker Plan, focuses on creating jobs and boosting growth by making smarter use of financial resources, removing obstacles to investment and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects.
2. Digital Single Market - The internet and digital technologies are transforming our world. But existing barriers online mean citizens miss out on goods and services, internet companies and start-ups have their horizons limited, and businesses and governments cannot fully benefit from digital tools. It's time to make the EU's single market fit for the digital age – tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one. This could contribute €415 billion per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
3. Energy Union and Climate - A European energy union will ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy. Wiser energy use while fighting climate change is both a spur for new jobs and growth and an investment in Europe's future. The state of the energy union shows progress made since the energy union framework strategy was adopted to bring about the transition to a low-carbon, secure and competitive economy.
4. Internal Market - The single market is one of Europe’s major achievements and its best asset in times of increasing globalisation. It is an engine for building a stronger and fairer EU economy. By allowing people, goods, services and capital to move more freely it opens up new opportunities for citizens, workers, businesses and consumers - creating the jobs and growth Europe so urgently needs. More integrated and deeper capital markets will channel more funding to companies, especially SMEs, and infrastructure projects. Better worker mobility will let people move more freely where their skills are needed. And combatting tax evasion and tax fraud will ensure that all contribute their fair share.
5. A deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union - The Commission's work on completing the economic and monetary union builds on the Five Presidents' Report, which set out four areas where work is needed. The Five Presidents' Report is the result of numerous consultations between the Sherpas of Member States, the Sherpas of the Presidents of the EU institutions involved and the Five Presidents.
6. A balanced EU-US Free Trade Agreement - In the modern global economy trade is essential for growth, jobs and competiveness, and the EU is committed to maintaining an open and rules-based trading system. With the rising threat of protectionism and weakened commitment of large players to global trade governance, the EU must take the lead. EU trade policy helps to create new jobs and new trade and investment opportunities for companies, big and small. For consumers, trade agreements cut prices and widen choice, while keeping the EU's high standards for consumer protection, social rights and environmental rules. Our trade policy also boosts Europe's influence in the world, project our values and attract more investment.
7. Justice and Fundamental Rights - The EU is not simply a common market for goods and services. Europeans share values that are spelled out in the EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We must never lose sight of those values in our efforts to fight terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling and cybercrime. We want to make life easier for Europeans who study, work or get married in other EU countries. One of our main goals is therefore to build bridges between the different national legal systems across the EU. A borderless and seamless European justice area will ensure that citizens can rely on a set of rights all across the continent.
8. Migration - The plight of thousands of migrants putting their lives in peril to cross the Mediterranean has shocked. It is clear that no EU country can or should be left alone to address huge migratory pressures. The European Commission's agenda on migration sets out a European response, combining internal and external policies, making best use of EU agencies and tools, and involving all actors: EU countries and institutions, international organisations, civil society, local authorities and national partners outside the EU.
9. A stronger Global Actor - The EU needs a strong common foreign policy to
a. respond efficiently to global challenges, including the crises in its neighbourhood,
b. project its values
c. reject protectionism and keep EU trade standards, and
d. contribute to peace and prosperity in the world.
10. Democratic Change - For the first time, in 2014, EU countries had to take the results of the elections into account when proposing a candidate for European Commission President. Albeit an important step, this is only the first of many in making the European Union more democratic and bringing it closer to its citizens. Europeans have the right to know who Commissioners and Commission staff, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the Council meet in the context of the legislative process. The Commission is committed to bringing a new lease of life to the relationship with the European Parliament, as well as to working more closely with national parliaments.
 
 

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