Given that the economic activities of the Member States are guided by European law, the activities of individual citizens are influenced and governed to a large extent by the common policies which dictate that law. Regulations on the right of entry and residence in the Member States, freedom of movement of workers, freedom of establishment of and provision of services by individuals and businesses, vocational training, protection of the environment and of the consumer, to mention but a few, are all the outcome of the various common policies. It is true that because of the complexity of European law and the inertia of public administrations, certain categories of citizens still have difficulties in the exercise of their rights of free movement and residence, but these exceptions, which should be rapidly corrected, do not invalidate the rules of the free movement of persons and of non-discrimination.
The Union also contributes to the elevation of the standard of living of its citizens. There are certainly still important differences in prosperity between the various regions of the Union, which this endeavours to iron out [see chapter 12]. However, a European social model exists already and guarantees, not only fundamental human rights and the democratic and pluralistic principles, but also fundamental rights of workers: training adapted to the technical progress, fair pay allowing decent living conditions and social protection covering the hazards of life, illness, unemployment and old age [see section 13.5]. This social model, which is defended by the majority of political parties in the Member States, places the European Union in the vanguard of social progress in the world.
Citizens are aware that the multinational integration process provides a guarantee of peace and prosperity in Western Europe and therefore support the idea of European Union in principle. But this Union is perceived as something distant, formless, cumbersome and incomprehensible. Citizens are largely unaware of the extent to which they are surrounded by the workings of the Union in their daily and professional lives. They hardly understand the rights that emanate from the citizenship of the Union and they ignore the rights that derive from European legislation.
Ignorance brings indifference and indifference is more dangerous for the European construction than the so-called democratic deficit, which is shrinking while indifference is expanding. The citizens need to know the rights that they are entitled to from European integration and to understand that they are respected by the Member States. Otherwise, the citizenship of the Union and the Union itself seem vague concepts, generating doubts, confusion or even rejection of the EU. The European institutions and the Member States should, therefore, permanently strive to ensure an easy access of the citizens to simple and factual information about their rights and generally about the common policies that establish those rights. As we will see in the next chapter, citizens' information is deficient or even non existent in many Member States, including those where it is needed most.