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  Part IV: EU horizontal policies

  1. EU regional development policy
  2. EU social progress policies
  3. EU taxation policy
  4. EU competition policy
  5. EU environmental policy

In Part IV we examine the horizontal policies of the European Union, that is to say the objectives set, the means employed and the measures taken in common by the Member States of the Union in order to support and supplement their policies in five broad areas of their economic and socio-political activities: regional development, social progress, taxation, competition and environmental protection. All these common policies were launched during the stages of the customs union and the common market and are being continuously developed in order to further the higher goals set for the stages of economic and monetary union and political integration.

The common regional policy by means of the Structural Funds aims to help the poorer regions of the European Union to face the increased trade and competition from the more developed regions imposed by the single market and the economic and monetary union. Such a union, implying abandonment of the use of exchange rate adjustment as a means of balance of the national economy, would be to the detriment of the poorer Member States without an efficient common regional policy revolving around sufficient capital transfers from the richer to the poorer regions of the EU. The common regional policy aims, therefore, at the economic and social cohesion of the Union.

The acceleration in the process of European integration since the middle of the 1980s has resulted in major progress in the common social policy, spanning fields such as vocational training, social protection and worker health and safety. This process is stepped up in the economic and monetary union, which takes out of governments' hands many economic and monetary instruments and hence their ability to tackle their social problems alone. Therefore, the Amsterdam Treaty identified the promotion of a high level of employment as a Union objective and introduced a coordinated strategy for employment.

The common taxation policy has gone beyond the EEC Treaty requirements of fiscal neutrality. The Member States succeeded in replacing their various cumulative multi-stage turnover taxes with a uniform value added tax, the structures of which have been closely harmonised. The abolition of tax frontiers, made possible by the approximation of VAT rates and excise duties, made a vital contribution to the final completion of the single market. As economic and monetary union advances, approximation is also required for company and savings taxes.

The common competition policy plays the role of economic regulator in the common market. It prevents market compartmentalisation, abolished in the single market, from being restored by means of agreements between large companies. It also prevents multinational companies from exploiting their dominant position or monopolising a market by acquisition of independent firms. As regards State interventionism, the role of the common competition policy is to confine it to aid which fits in with the common objective of adjusting the structures of the European Union's production mechanism to internal and external changes.

The common environment policy is vital for the quality of life of the citizens of the Union. In a European economy, which faces strong international competition, the challenge of policy-makers is to take measures that make it possible to painlessly achieve the objective of growth, which is compatible with the essential requirements of the environment. The EU follows, indeed, a coherent programme for sustainable growth. However, the EU cannot work alone for the protection of the environment of the globe. Using its economic power, it should lead the way to a better international coordination in this area.

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Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
Access to European Union law, economics, policies

Translated into 14 languages

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