EU – European Union
The EU and its member states are together the world’s largest donor and donor to humanitarian crises. The EU accounts for just over half of the world’s aid, while the United States contributes 20 percent. Note: European Union is also known as EU on AbbreviationFinder.
With a total aid of 75.5 billion euros in 2016, the EU is unthreatened as the world’s largest donor. In addition, there is humanitarian disaster relief (€ 1.77 billion in 2016), which the EU chooses to provide through established aid organizations, such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.
Aid is not an exclusive EU competence. Only about one fifth of European aid is provided through the EU, while four fifths come from Member States’ national aid, which is provided bilaterally.
Since 2003, EU countries have worked to coordinate their national and European aid so that everyone strives for the same goal, does not double support for any country or leaves any poor country completely without. The priority is to eradicate world poverty and create sustainable growth. The assistance goes to initiatives for, for example, health care, education and support for the business community, but at the same time contains demands for democracy and respect for human rights.
In its aid work, the EU has a special trade and aid agreement with 79 so-called ACP countries (many are old colonies of European countries). In 2014, the EU decided to start reducing aid to emerging economies such as China and Brazil and instead focus on the world’s poorest countries.
Despite the world record in aid, EU countries are unable to achieve the agreed goal, namely the UN’s ambition that aid in 2015 would amount to 0.7% of each Member State’s GNI (gross national income). After 2009, it instead fell in several European countries to start rising again only in 2013. In 2016, five EU countries reached the target of 0.7 percent: Denmark, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. The average for EU countries’ aid in the same year was 0.47 per cent of GNI.
Labor market and social policy
EU countries have a common labor market, but the EU’s competence to regulate working life is limited. The individual member states manage employment, wages, the social partners’ relations and, in principle, all social policy.
Labor law and the working environment are the EU’s area, which has led to a number of rules on, among other things, working hours, protective equipment, dangerous environments and in recent years, rules for those who work in the so-called “gig economy”.
The social partners have a strong position as consultative bodies in the EU and are offered to negotiate collective agreements when overall problems in the labor market need to be resolved. Only if the parties fail to do so will the EU take the legislative route.
The EU Treaty gives workers rights such as the right to work in another EU country, the right to transparency and co-determination in working life and the right to organize. Discrimination on the grounds of sex, age or nationality may not occur in recruitment, salary setting or for pension terms.
On the other hand, issues related to unemployment and employment are handled at national level, even though the Member States have had a close exchange in this area since the 1990’s. A European employment strategy is updated annually and the European Commission monitors how the countries work to bring more people into the labor market.
Since the free movement of workers was introduced in 1993, EU citizens can look for work and work in other EU countries. Following the enlargement of the EU to the east in the 2000’s, this has caused irritation in some Member States, as the prosperity gap has led many Eastern Europeans to take up work in Western Europe.
In Sweden, low-wage competition in the labor market has upset some unions. Companies, for example, have the opportunity to place labor temporarily in Sweden for their home country’s salary. The European Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that as long as Sweden does not have universally valid collective agreements, foreign collective agreements can also be considered valid. In 2017, the permitted period that an employee may be posted in another country was shortened and the controls were tightened to avoid cheating.
During the 2000’s, social policy issues sought refuge in EU co-operation, including an exchange of experience on pension systems and social insurance. Since EU citizens working in another EU country are entitled to similar social benefits as the citizens of their host country, some work is also being done to compare and legislate on this.
In several countries, it has been a source of irritation that EU citizens have won the right to the same social safety net as the country’s own citizens. However, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the safety net only applies to those who work in another EU country.
In 2017, the European Commission launched a 20-point “social pillar” to give workers stronger access to a more open and equitable labor market. However, several points worried the Swedish Parliament, which feared that it could lead to more legislation in the labor market, an area that in Sweden is regulated via collective agreements between employers and trade unions.
The EU also pursues (non-binding) cooperation in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. Following the economic crisis, in 2013, 24% or more than 120 million Europeans were considered poor or at risk of falling into poverty. In 2017, the figure was down to 116.9 million. The ambition is that by 2020 at least 20 million people will have been lifted out of the risk zone.
There is an EU fund – Fead – for emergency assistance to the very poorest with necessities such as food, clothing or soap. Fead has EUR 3.8 billion to distribute for the years 2014–2020, but the member state concerned will contribute 15 percent to emergency aid.
The EU Social Fund (ESF) can also be used to combat poverty with more long-term projects. The Social Fund (EUR 70 billion for the years 2014-2020) is primarily used to increase skills in working life, to increase gender equality and integration into the labor market and to combat unemployment.
The Globalization Fund (150 million for the years 2014–2020), can provide adjustment grants when companies have been forced to close down.