Why are not all countries democratic?

The European Union

The European Union (EU) is a construction that is unique in the world: It is an association of democratic European states that have set themselves the maintenance of peace and the pursuit of prosperity as their primary goal.

It is not a state that replaces existing states. But it is also more than other international organizations. The Union is a flexible entity, its history is marked by processes of deepening and expansion. Since the foundation of the first European community in 1951, structures, tasks and the number of members have changed continuously.

Common organs, common rights

The member states of the EU have created joint organs and institutions. They have transferred parts of their national sovereignty to these bodies so that democratic decisions can be made at European level on certain matters of common interest. The central basis of the relationship between the citizens of the Union and its organs are fundamental and civil rights. Union citizenship has existed since 1993, which complements the citizenship of the member states and guarantees a number of cross-border rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of 2000 sets out the fundamental rights of all people in the Union.

Who does what? The basic principle of subsidiarity

The European Union is based on the principle of subsidiarity: Subsidiarity is a political and social principle, according to which tasks and decisions are to be shifted to the lowest possible administrative and political level. In the EU, the principle of subsidiarity is of crucial importance in order to determine the distribution of tasks between the member states and the Union and to ensure that policy-making is as close as possible to the citizen. Laws and rules may only be enacted at European level if the associated goals cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states alone and joint action demonstrably promises better results.

Distribution of tasks and customized cooperation

In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the distribution of responsibility and thus the forms of cooperation between the member states and the EU differ depending on the policy area. In addition, how far the states are willing to share their national sovereignty rights also plays a role in the distribution of tasks. All tasks and procedures of the EU are laid down in contracts that have been voluntarily and democratically agreed by the member states. From the treaties it can be deduced in which policy fields the organs of the community can act alone, in which the community and the governments of the member states are jointly responsible and in which the states continue to do their own politics or only work together at government level:

  • In some areas (such as agricultural policy, foreign trade, customs policy) the EU organs are wholly or largely solely responsible. They pass laws that apply in all member states. The member states can no longer act alone.
  • In other policy areas (such as the environment, consumer protection, development policy), responsibility lies partly with the Union and partly with the member states. The EU institutions only take decisions insofar as the principle of subsidiarity allows it. The member states can still adopt many laws independently of the Union and shape their own policies.
  • In some policy areas (such as economic policy and employment policy) the member states usually act on their own, but coordinate their policies with one another. In some of these areas, the EU can issue binding guidelines or adopt additional measures.
  • In foreign policy, in which the EU states do not want to share their sovereign rights, the governments of the member states primarily work together. The Community institutions Parliament and the Commission have less influence here. This cooperation between governments is also called intergovernmental cooperation.

The European Union is based on the rule of law. The action of the Union is derived from treaties that are negotiated and passed by all member states. The further development of the European Union was accompanied by the continuous adaptation of the contracts and the addition of new contracts.
The last change to the basic treaties took place with the Treaty of Lisbon, which reformed the previous treaty structure of the European Union. Previously, the EU was based on various treaties, the nature of which was illustrated with the so-called "column construction".

Abolition of the column construction of the European Union

On December 13, 2007, the Lisbon Treaty was signed by the heads of state and government of the member states, subsequently ratified by the then 27 EU member states and entered into force on December 1, 2009. The reform treaty revised the existing EU treaties, namely the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (EGV). The partially reformed TEU now lists the basic provisions of the EU. The previous EGV was renamed the "Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union" (TFEU). The EUAV now regulates the functioning of the Union and defines the areas, the delimitation and the details of the exercise of its responsibilities.

The new treaty removes the area of ​​police and judicial cooperation (PJZS) - the previous "third pillar", which was based on intergovernmental agreements - from the TEU and integrates it into the TFEU. The Charter of Fundamental Rights continues to exist as an independent set of rules, but with the Treaty of Lisbon it becomes a binding part of EU primary law.

In addition, the Treaty on the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) was reformed.

The aim of this restructuring was to simplify the integration system and to make the European Union more efficient, more democratic and more transparent.

The EUROPA website provides comprehensive information on all the policies and institutions of the European Union.