News | Wednesday, 07 January 2009

What the EU has done for all of us this year?

Joanna Drake

Several achievements netted by the EU this year make the point and eloquently.
Recently the EU published an account of the ten most salient achievements made this year.
Let’s take children for example. Children remain our greatest treasure.
But why should the EU involve itself in the welfare of children?
How about to protect them from dodgy substances used in toys? In a bid to modernize its 20 year rule the EU last year banned the use of several products and chemicals to make toys totally safe. The lesson learnt from China, where lead was used in toy paint was not lost.
What, again, of the decision to extend the EU’s subsidised milk scheme for schoolchildren? As a result children are being guaranteed a daily doze of calcium, vitamins an proteins- all meant to encourage a healthy life style.
Adults too have had their minds put at rest on the use of chemicals used in industrial processing, construction materials or in everyday items including paints, sprays, toys cleaning products and motor oils. A decision taken by the EU last year allows for the registration, evaluation authorisation and the restrictions of harmful chemicals as of the coming year. The objective is to end the justified fear people have of certain chemicals. The move will protect people and the environment. It will also make European companies using chemicals more competitive.

There’s more
Do you remember the way temporary workers were paid and the conditions they were offered in the past – in ways that benefited largely employers? Last year the EU put an end to that too. Temporary workers now enjoy the same conditions as permanent workers – no distinction at all.
Certain achievements were made for the benefit of particular members of society. Before the EU stepped in, disabled travelers or those that suffered from reduced mobility had little or no protection from airlines that charged them extra fees. Some airlines even refused to take bookings from disabled persons – the cheek!
All that is now history. Airlines, thanks to an EU decision, are now obliged by law to provide disabled passengers with the same facilities enjoyed by other passengers and for free. This move benefits 25% of the EU’s population wanting to take a flight out.
Who can then underestimate the quick and immediate collective response the EU took to shield its citizens from the ravishes of the current financial and economic crises? By pumping in more than €3 trillion into a speedily put together rescue plan the EU provided Member States with more stability than would have been the case if each country had to fight the battle on their own. The global scope of the rescue plan made it possible for every Member State to find its own solutions. In addition the EU guaranteed, through the national governments, people’s savings’ accounts to a minimum of €50,000. In this way nobody lost out to the crises that saw so many people elsewhere lose their lives’ savings.
And how about the EU’s fight in favour of democracy, a cornerstone and a jewel in the EU’s crown? Do you remember Russian military action in Georgia? The EU not only helped negotiate an end to the fighting but was quick to deliver tons of humanitarian aid a reconstruction package and send in a peace monitoring mission. During 2008 election observers were requested from the EU and sent to monitor elections in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They stayed there for several weeks before and after elections were held to assess elections in all their complexity. The EU’s foreign policy enjoys a higher profile than most.
And what about the EU’s globally applauded energy and climate change policy?
Only the EU is committed to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent, to save 20 per cent of energy use through greater efficiency and to meet 20 per cent of energy needs through renewable sources by 2020. Not only will this make our world safer but the move will create jobs- in Germany employment in renewable energy reached 250,000 jobs in 2007. The same can be said of the EU’s maritime policy which stimulates the use of sustainable marine resources, promotes the development of technological techniques for offshore engineering and marine biology. The eventual beneficiary of all this? We, the people!

And even more
There were achievements from which, thankfully Malta did not need to benefit- like the civil protection mechanism which puts every Member States’ resources in fighting forest fires. Man made or natural disasters know no boundaries however and, God forbid, Malta will find the civil protection mechanism coming to its aid should an eventuality strike.
One other major decision the EU took in 2008 was the launch of easy to use information on how the EU spends taxpayers’ money. I know this to be of interest to many. Otherwise how is it I get asked this question so often? A database now makes all the information available on all the funds managed by the Commission.
These were some of the more outstanding achievements recorded by the EU in 2008. There were others and even as we speak the EU is trying to put an end to the fighting going on in Gaza between Israel and the Hamas.
Next year promises to be a difficult year for many. By this time next year there will be a new Commission and a new EU Parliament and a new balance will be published informing us of the ground the EU has covered. It may be illustrious or less so. Be that as it may the EU’s overriding objective will remain the same- a better life for all of us.
That actually is not such a bad thought on which to leave you until we meet again in here next year.
May the New Year bring us all peace, health and a better live than we lived in 2008.

Head of EC representation Joanna Drake’s blog may be found on



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07 January 2009

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