Religion in EU

The EU has no formal connection to any religion. The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”. Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or a god, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.

Christians in the European Union are divided among members of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern Rite), numerous Protestant denominations (Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed forming the bulk of this category), and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million, and an estimated Jewish population of over a million. The other world religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism are also represented in the EU population.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/it/illustrations/religione-ges%C3%B9-battesimo-fede-1976784/

According to new polls about religiosity in the European Union in 2015 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union. Catholics are the largest Christian group, accounting for 45.3% of the EU population, while Protestants make up 11.1%, Eastern Orthodox make up 9.6%, and other Christians make up 5.6%.

Affiliation% of EU population
Christian71.6
Catholic45.3
Protestant11.1
Eastern Orthodox9.6
Other Christian5.6
Muslim1.8
Other faiths2.6
Irreligious24
Non-believer/Agnostic13.6
Atheist10.4
Wikipedia, Religious affiliation in the European Union (2015)


Eurostat’s Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52% of EU citizens believed in a god, 27% in “some sort of spirit or life force”, and 18% had no form of belief.

Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16%) and the Czech Republic (19%).The most religious countries were Malta (95%, predominantly Roman Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90% of citizens professing a belief in their respective god.

Across the EU, belief was higher among women, older people, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 or 16, and those “positioning themselves on the right of the political scale”.

Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Religion (10.01.2020)

Foreign relations

Foreign policy co-operation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the EU’s common commercial policy. Steps for a more wide-ranging co-ordination in foreign relations began in 1970 with the establishment of European Political Cooperation which created an informal consultation process between member states with the aim of forming common foreign policies. In 1987 the European Political Cooperation was introduced on a formal basis by the Single European Act. EPC was renamed as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the Maastricht Treaty.

The aims of the CFSP are to promote both the EU’s own interests and those of the international community as a whole, including the furtherance of international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The CFSP requires unanimity among the member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP sometimes lead to disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq.

The coordinator and representative of the CFSP within the EU is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy and defence matters, and has the task of articulating the positions expressed by the member states on these fields of policy into a common alignment. The High Representative heads up the European External Action Service (EEAS), a unique EU department that has been officially implemented and operational since 1 December 2010 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union.

Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Foreign_relations (23.12.2019)

Open call for European Solidarity Corps Volunteering Project

Care2Travel is looking for 3 volunteers from the European Union for a 6 months ESC volunteering project in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania to teach English in villages through Non-formal activities.

Starting date: 29th of June 2020.

You are the best person for us:

  1. If you are aged 18-30 years old
  2. If you are interested in the topic of the project

If you are available to start at the end of June More details about the project can be found in the attached Infopack.

What are you waiting for?! Travel to Romania and “Teach English in Villages through Non-formal Activities!” You won’t regret it!

Application deadline: ASAP. In case you are interested, please send an e-mail to kinga.kovacs@care2travel.org 📩

Home affairs and Migration

Since the creation of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of justice and home affairs; initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism. Accordingly, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition, family law, asylum law, and criminal justice. Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties. In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation. By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/it/photos/discriminazione-fico-paura-mondo-4731780/

The Union has also established agencies to co-ordinate police, prosecutorial and immigrations controls across the member states: Europol for co-operation of police forces, Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. The EU also operates the Schengen Information System which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities. This co-operation had to particularly be developed with the advent of open borders through the Schengen Agreement and the associated cross border crime.

Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Legal_system_and_Justice (23.12.2019)

Legal system and Justice

The EU is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties. These are power-giving treaties which set broad policy goals and establish institutions with the necessary legal powers to implement those goals. These legal powers include the ability to enact legislation which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants. The EU has legal personality, with the right to sign agreements and international treaties.

Under the principle of supremacy, national courts are required to enforce the treaties that their member states have ratified, and thus the laws enacted under them, even if doing so requires them to ignore conflicting national law, and (within limits) even constitutional provisions.

The direct effect and supremacy doctrines were not explicitly set out the European Treaties but were developed by the Court of Justice itself over the 1960s, apparently under the influence of its then most influential judge, Frenchman Robert Lecourt.

Courts of Justice

The judicial branch of the EU—formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union—consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court The Court of Justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions, and cases referred to it by the courts of member states. Because of the doctrines of direct effect and supremacy, many judgments of the Court of Justice are automatically applicable within the internal legal orders of the member states.

Photo: https://www.needpix.com/photo/download/1128823/justice-right-legal-lawyer-word-letters-law-free-pictures-free-photos

The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU’s courts, and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service. Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.

Fundamental rights

The treaties declare that the EU itself is “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities … in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty gave legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The charter is a codified catalogue of fundamental rights against which the EU’s legal acts can be judged. It consolidates many rights which were previously recognised by the Court of Justice and derived from the “constitutional traditions common to the member states.” The Court of Justice has long recognised fundamental rights and has, on occasion, invalidated EU legislation based on its failure to adhere to those fundamental rights.

Signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership previously, the EU itself could not accede to the Convention as it is neither a state nor had the competence to accede. The Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the ECHR have changed this: the former binds the EU to accede to the Convention while the latter formally permits it.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/it/illustrations/destra-diritti-umani-umano-le-mani-597133/

The EU is independent from the Council of Europe and they share purpose and ideas especially on rule of law, human rights and democracy. Further European Convention on Human Rights and European Social Charter, the source of law of Charter of Fundamental Rights are created by Council of Europe. The EU also promoted human rights issues in the wider world. The EU opposes the death penalty and has proposed its worldwide abolition. Abolition of the death penalty is a condition for EU membership.

Source

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Legal_system_and_Justice (23.12.2019)

Transport

Safe, sustainable and connected transport

EU transport policy helps keep the European economy moving by developing a modern infrastructure network that makes journeys quicker and safer, while promoting sustainable and digital solutions.

Transport is a cornerstone of European integration and is vital for fulfilling the free movement of individuals, services and goods. Transport is also a major contributor to the economy, representing more than 9% of EU gross value added (the contribution to the economy). Transport services alone accounted for around €664 billion in gross value added in 2016 and they employ around 11 million people.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/it/photos/piano-viaggio-esplorare-scopri-841441/

The implementation of sustainable and innovative means of transport plays an important role in the EU’s energy and climate objectives. As our societies become ever more mobile, EU policy supports transport systems to meet the major challenges:

* congestion: which affects both road and air traffic

* sustainability: transport still depends on oil for most of its energy needs, which is environmentally and economically untenable

* air quality: by 2050, the EU must cut transport emissions by 60% compared with 1990 levels, and continue to reduce vehicle pollution

* infrastructure: the quality of transport infrastructure is uneven across the EU

* competition: the EU’s transport sector faces growing competition from fast-developing transport markets in other regions

Source

https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/transport_en (23.12.2019)

Trade

Towards open and fair world-wide trade

The European Union is one of the most outward-oriented economies in the world. It is also the world’s largest single market area. Free trade among its members was one of the EU’s founding principles, and it is committed to opening up world trade as well.

From 1999 to 2010, EU foreign trade doubled and now accounts for over 30% of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP). The EU is responsible for the trade policy of the member countries and negotiates agreements for them. Speaking as one voice, the EU carries more weight in international trade negotiations than each individual member would.

The EU actively engages with countries or regional groupings to negotiate trade agreements. These agreements grant mutually-beneficial access to the markets of both the EU and the countries concerned. EU companies can grow their business, and can also more easily import the raw materials they use to make their products.

Each agreement is unique and can include tariff reductions, rules on matters such as intellectual property or sustainable development, or clauses on human rights. The EU also gets input from the public, businesses, and non-government bodies when negotiating trade agreements or rules.

The EU supports and defends EU industry and business by working to remove trade barriers so that European exporters gain fair conditions and access to other markets. At the same time, the EU supports foreign companies with practical information on how to access the EU market.

The EU also works with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help set global trade rules and remove obstacles to trade between WTO members.

Source

https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/trade_en (23.12.2019)

Ciò che resta di un anno di volontariato europeo

Carissimi, sono ancora a scrivervi da Nea Moudania, Halkidiki, Grecia, ma non ancora per molto, anzi, probabilmente per l’ultima volta. Il mio periodo di volontariato sta infatti volgendo al termine, e presto dovrò pensare al prossimo passo verso il mio futuro. Fino a quel momento però mi godo le ultime settimane in Grecia, un paese con il quale durante questi dodici mesi ho avuto un vero e proprio rapporto da odi et amo. L’esperienza maturata e il percorso intrapreso sono stati lunghi e profondi, e mi sento cambiata, spero in meglio, grazie a tutto quello che ho vissuto e forse soprattutto dopo le difficoltà affrontate e superate con le mie forze. Vorrei cercare di delineare e descrivere senza troppe banalità che cosa hanno significato per me questi mesi e che cosa mi lascerà per sempre il fatto di essere partita attraverso i corpi europei di solidarietà.

La fine del progetto coincide anche con al scrittura di un documento che attesti le competenze acquisite, una sorta di passaporto delle abilità personali che ognuno di noi possiede ma che è molto difficile inserire in un curriculum. Sono qualcosa che può andare al di là delle cosiddette soft skills, così come non si limitano all’esperienza pratica di lavoro nella propria associazione ospitante all’estero. Il nome che è stato scelto per quello di cui mi appresto a parlare è key competences, e ritengo significativo che vengano ritenute chiave, o al plurale delle chiavi in senso più metaforico per facilitare un’apertura futura e più ampia. Mi sono dunque ritrovata a riflettere su quali e in quale forma io abbia ottenuto queste chiavi per il mio futuro, e la risposta non può essere secca e definitiva, poiché sento che il mio percorso di formazione sia iniziato molto tempo fa e che la mia partecipazione a questo progetto abbia contribuito alla mia crescita personale aggiungendo ogni giorno un tassello al puzzle che sto provando a comporre per arrivare a capire sempre meglio chi sono e cosa voglio.
Nella lista di queste competenze ci sono otto voci, che vanno dalle abilità linguistiche a quelle digitali, matematiche e letterarie, imprenditorialità, senso di cittadinanza, sensibilità culturale ed infine la capacità di relazionarsi e imparare. Va da sé che ogni volontario durante la sua esperienza sviluppi alcune voci in maniera maggiore rispetto ad altre, e questo vale anche per me; tuttavia sento che ciò che ho vissuto mi ha portato una consapevolezza rinnovata nei confronti del mondo che mi circonda.

Per quanto possa sembrare inverosimile, ricordo dei momenti precisi in cui ho percepito il cambiamento e la crescita che stavo attraversando, quando ho visto mutare la mia attitudine verso le situazioni e ho riscoperto una forza che non ricordavo di avere o che forse stavo vedendo per la prima volta in me. Circa a quattro mesi dall’inizio del volontariato ho iniziato a percepire un’ondata di insoddisfazione crescente invadermi, e mi sono trovata sul punto di abbandonare il progetto per dedicarmi ad altro. È stato in quel momento che ho deciso di aprirmi con i responsabili della mia organizzazione, You in Europe, e parlare delle difficoltà che stavo attraversando e delle mie paure e insicurezze. Da quel momento in poi, e con l’aiuto delle persone che mi stavano accanto, sono riuscita giorno dopo giorno a comprendere che se avessi voluto vedere un cambiamento nelle cose che stavo facendo, quello doveva partire innanzitutto da me stessa. Ho sviluppato un’attitudine attiva e propositiva verso tutto quello che mi trovavo di fronte, scacciando la negatività e la voglia di lasciar andare tutto, ma senza abbattermi cercavo soluzioni per ogni problema e alternative pratiche per affrontare ogni sfida che incontravo. Questa forma mentis mi è poi tornata utile durante la quarantena, quando ognuno di noi si è trovato solo con se stesso ad affrontare un periodo particolarissimo del nostro presente.

Ma non solo: ho avuto la possibilità di stimolare la mia creatività e di implementare nuovi progetti e idee, rendendomi conto ancora una volta che il cambiamento e il miglioramento devono partire da me e non posso aspettare che vengano dall’esterno. Questo discorso vale per qualsiasi campo, e certamente mi ha aiutata anche nella gestione dei rapporti interpersonali e in come ho cambiato prospettiva nell’approcciarmi all’altro.
Ne hanno risentito positivamente la mia indipendenza e organizzazione personale, poiché ora mi sento pronta ad affacciarmi al mondo del lavoro non solo con delle competenze pratiche, ma con uno sguardo diverso sia verso gli altri sia nei confronti di me stessa.

Consiglierei quindi di partire per un’esperienza di volontariato europeo? Certamente. Prima di partire mi ripetevo spesso che, anche nel caso le cose si fossero messe male, ne sarei uscita con qualcosa in più, non in meno. E ne sono ancora profondamente convinta: da questi dodici mesi ho solo guadagnato tantissimo, e non solo non ho perso nulla, ma ho trovato una nuova forza che risiedeva dentro di me e aspettava solo il momento giusto per manifestarsi.

Con questo si conclude la mia esperienza a Nea Moudania e la scrittura di questo umile blog, voglio salutarvi con l’augurio di poter sperimentarvi a fondo come io ne ho avuta la possibilità grazie ai progetti ESC, e di ricordarvi sempre che esiste una soluzione per ogni problema, basta avere gli occhi per vederla.

Federica

Taxation

Towards fair, efficient and growth-friendly taxes

The EU does not have a direct role in collecting taxes or setting tax rates. The amount of tax each citizen pays is decided by their national government, along with how the collected taxes are spent.

Photo: https://www.piqsels.com/en/public-domain-photo-jrxaf

The EU does however, oversee national tax rules in some areas; particularly in relation to EU business and consumer policies, to ensure:

  • the free flow of goods, services and capital around the EU (in the single market)
  • businesses in one country don’t have an unfair advantage over competitors in another
  • taxes don’t discriminate against consumers, workers or businesses from other EU countries

The single market allows goods and services to be traded freely across borders within the EU. To make this easier for businesses – and avoid competitive distortions between them – EU countries have agreed to align their rules for taxing goods and services. Certain areas benefit from specific agreements, such as value added tax (VAT) or taxes on energy products and electricity, tobacco and alcohol.

Photo: https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-xpfmd

The EU also works with EU countries on the coordination of economic policies and corporate and income taxes. The aim is to make them fair, efficient and growth-friendly. This is important to ensure clarity on the taxes paid by people who move to another EU country, or businesses that invest across borders. This coordination also helps to prevent tax evasion and avoidance.

Source

https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/taxation_en (23.12.2019)