Europe and you in 2006 - A snapshot of EU achievements

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Europe and you in 2006 - A snapshot of EU achievements

European Commission

    Directorate-General for Communication Manuscript completed in November 2006

    Europe and you in 2006

    A snapshot of EU achievements

    European Union

The EU reconnecting with citizens

The European Union is less complicated than it appears.

    Europe and you in 2006 is an attempt to show that, in its everyday activities, the Union in fact addresses many of your concerns as citizens, consumers or workers.

    We have made a selection of 10 concrete examples out of the many areas where the EU is active. Each one demonstrates in a different way what the EU has done in 2006 to promote your economic and social well-being, how it has acted to protect the environment or how it is increasingly helping out in global hot spots.

    The European Commission launched an EU-wide consultation process in February to get the Union to connect with citizens whose worries over Europe were evident when voters in France and the Netherlands rejected the draft EU Constitution in mid-2005. Results of the consultation, involving stakeholders from all over Europe, from public bodies to private citizens, will be published in spring 2007.

    In the meantime, we have put several other measures in place in order to give individual citizens more say on EU issues. One example is the Debate Europe

    website. We also have a network of more than 400 local Europe Direct information

    centres in all EU countries. You can also call the freephone helpline of the Europe Direct contact centre from anywhere in the EU on 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11.

Margot Wallström

    Margot Wallström is Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for communication. You can reach her at her personal blog at:

    Europe and you in 2006 A snapshot of EU achievements

    Cheaper phone calls when travelling

    No more misleading claims on food

    EU entry for Bulgaria and Romania

Slovenia adopts the euro

Reducing risks from chemicals

Sugar reform will cut prices

The EU acts in crisis regions

More service jobs through fair and open competition

    First successful space test for Galileo

Tackling illegal immigration

Cheaper phone calls when travelling

    The European Commission acted decisively to cut the cost of using your mobile phone in another EU country. Prices have begun to fall and big cuts will come in 2007.

Mobile phone operators have treated roaming using your mobile phone while on the

    move in the EU as a cash bonanza, charging excessive rates unrelated to the cost of providing the service. Prices for calling from one EU country to another were on average four times higher than a domestic call unacceptable in what is supposed to

    be Europe’s integrated single market. Because roaming calls involve operators in two countries, it is difficult for EU members to regulate prices at national level. This is why the EU stepped in.

    EU leaders called for action in March. In July, the Commission published a draft law that will be in place by the 2007 holiday season. It will cut prices across the board, bringing down the highest rates by up to 70 %.

Already in 2005, the Commission tried to ‘name and shame’ mobile operators into

    lowering prices by publishing their roaming rates on the internet. As this resulted in limited, largely token cuts, the EU decided to legislate instead.

No more misleading claims on food

    A new EU regulation on health and nutrition claims was agreed. It will help consumers to choose healthier foods and to tackle obesity.

    The new EU law ensures that any claims about health or nutritional values on food packages or in advertising must be truthful, not misleading, and based on scientific facts.

    Claims such as 'low fat', 'low sugar' have been harmonised so that they mean the same thing in all EU countries.

Claims about nutrition can only be made if the product meets a so-called nutritional

    profile. Food products with lots of fat and sugar cannot be labelled with claims such as 'contains vitamin C'. If one nutrient (e.g. sugar) is out of line with the nutritional profile, a claim can still be made but the product must be clearly labelled as 'high in sugar'.

    In addition to offering consumers clear, truthful and reliable information, the new rules also enable those companies whose products offer genuine health advantages to compete fairly throughout Europe’s single market.

All this forms part of the EU’s attempt to tackle obesity in Europe. Poor nutrition is

    one of the main causes of many avoidable diseases and obesity. Studies have shown that about 400 000 children become obese or overweight every year.

EU entry for Bulgaria and Romania

    The EU agreed final arrangements to enable Bulgaria and Romania to join in January 2007. This raises the number of members from 25 to 27.

    The 27-nation EU with a population of nearly half a billion citizens will become the world’s largest economic area providing new opportunities to all its citizens and


    After 15 years of bold and significant reforms, the two new countries are in a position to take on the rights and obligations of EU membership. Their accession is part of the EU's historic enlargement towards the east, finally overcoming the Cold War divisions in Europe, consolidating peace and stability.

    Thanks to the efforts of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, together with support from the EU, economic growth has been strong and the unemployment rate has fallen sharply in both countries.

    The focus is now on building a new consensus on enlargement, which recognises the strategic value of this policy while ensuring the Union's capacity to function. After the accession of Bulgaria and Romania this process continues with the countries of south-eastern Europe: Turkey and Croatia, and the other countries of the western Balkans. The EU is cautious about taking on any new commitments, but abides by all existing commitments made to these countries.

Slovenia adopts the euro

     thSlovenia passed the test in 2006 to become the 13 EU country to use the euro

    the first of the 2004 intake of members to do so. The single currency is used by two thirds of the EU population.

    The euro becomes Slovenia’s official currency in January 2007. All EU countries can adopt the euro when they meet the criteria that have been agreed for a well-run economy. Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom have chosen not to join at present, while most other non-euro countries have set target dates for entry.

    The year 2006 was also the first year since 2000 that the main EU economies kept their budget deficits under the agreed ceiling of 3% of GDP. The monetary stability provided by the euro and the new business opportunities in the EU’s single market

    helped the economy to grow, leading to lower unemployment in 2006.

    To speed up the process of job creation, the EU countries revamped the programme to coordinate their efforts to promote jobs and growth, sometimes known as the Lisbon


Reducing risks from chemicals

    The EU agreed new rules to make the manufacture and use of chemical substances safer for workers and consumers and less harmful for the environment.

The regulatory system known as REACH (for Registration, evaluation and

    authorisation of chemicals) will provide full information on the possible hazardous properties of more than 30 000 chemicals and how to handle the associated risks.

    REACH is a radical step forward, filling many gaps in our knowledge, especially with regard to chemicals that have been in use for a long time. The new system covers all substances imported into or produced in the EU, even in small quantities. The toughest regulation covers products which are imported or manufactured in large quantities or which have a high degree of toxicity. REACH also contains provisions for hazardous chemicals to be replaced by safer alternatives where these are available.

It differs from previous legislation by requiring importers and producers and not the

    public authorities to test and register their substances and take appropriate risk management measures. Compliance procedures for small firms (SMEs) are less onerous than for larger ones.

    REACH also imposes restrictions on the testing of chemical substances on animals.

Sugar reform will cut prices

    The EU introduced far-reaching measures in June to cut sugar prices and end overproduction as part of its long-term programme to reform its costly common agricultural policy (CAP).

    Unchanged for 40 years, the EU support system for sugar had resulted in internal prices that were three times the world level while its subsidised exports of surplus production put downward pressure on world market prices. The new measures will make the sugar sector more market-oriented and competitive in the coming years. Sugar farmers will be compensated for loss of earnings through a system of direct payments.

    The production cuts will bring supply and demand into better balance so that the need for sugar in Europe can be met from European production and imports from the EU’s

    African, Caribbean and Pacific partner countries and from the world’s least developed

    countries. The reform is therefore part of the effort to ensure a fairer system for world trade.

    The reform of the sugar sector is the latest in a series of CAP reforms that has brought down farm spending from a peak of 70% of the EU budget in the 1970s to the present level of just 37%.

The EU acts in crisis regions

    In a significant expansion of its international role, the EU sent troops in 2006 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and south Lebanon two high-risk


    Sometimes criticised for its inability to respond to crisis situations, the EU and its member states sent a military force to the Congo to help maintain calm and stability during the presidential and parliamentary elections the first in more than 40 years.

    The 3 500-strong force is under German command. The first round of the elections took place on 30 July, the second at the end of October.

    Following the fighting in south Lebanon between Israeli forces and elements of Hezbollah in July and August, a number of member states, led by France and Italy, contributed 7 500 troops to strengthen the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). A statement from the Council of the European Union on 25 August declared The significant overall contribution of the member states to UNIFIL demonstrates that the EU is living up to its responsibilities.

    The 2006 troop deployments follow earlier, more limited, operations in the Balkans where the EU has taken command of the multinational stabilisation force in Bosnia and Herzegovina and stationed a police mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

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