Does politics influence our daily life?

Where the EU influences you in your everyday life

The EU brought peace to Europe. This is one of the points most often cited as an argument for the EU. Basically true too. With the war in Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990s, there were still wars in Europe after the end of the Second World War. Two of the seven successor states of Yugoslavia are now members of the EU, Croatia and Slovenia. Nevertheless, the question arises: How well can peace advertise the EU to a young generation if it has not experienced war at all?

The EU campaignWhat Europe does for me has put together over 400 entries that are supposed to show in which areas of our life European politics is involved. The topics range from protection against violence on the Internet to regulations on which ingredients can be contained in cocoa powder.

We have collected a few examples of where the EU influences our everyday lives - and where it could but does not.


  • An expensive cell phone bill after the vacation? Thanks to the EU roaming regulation, that is unlikely. Since June 2017, making calls, sending messages or surfing the Internet in other EU countries has cost just as much as at home. In addition, upper limits for telephone costs have recently come into force. 19 cents per minute for a call from Germany to other EU countries and a maximum of six cents for an SMS.
  • Do you still remember Axel Voss? Exactly, the face of the EU copyright reform with the controversial Articles 11 and 13. The EU Parliament passed them completely at the end of March. Article 13 could lead to platforms such as YouTube using upload filters in the future. By licensing works before they are uploaded, copyrights are to be better protected. Critics see freedom of expression at risk. Many young people were disappointed by the result of the EU Parliament's vote. Conservatives currently have a majority there.
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Eat Drink

  • Products that we buy in the supermarket have to say what's inside. This is regulated by the rather bulky sounding EU labeling directive. The EU also regulates the minimum font size: 1.2 millimeters so that the producers don't shy away from it and simply print the list of ingredients very small.
  • Images of corroded lungs and grieving relatives on cigarette packs? Yes, the EU has decided that too.
  • Over two billion people worldwide have no permanent access to clean drinking water. We do. The EU is committed to ensuring that we can simply turn the tap on and drink water from the tap without hesitation anywhere in the Union. There is also a cumbersome word for this: the drinking water directive.
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Fundamental rights

  • Is there an equal opportunity officer at your university or at your work? The EU Equal Opportunities Directive is likely to play a role in this.
  • EU law breaks national law. For example, also in this case on marriage for everyone: The Romanian Adrian Coman and his American husband Claibourn Robert Hamilton sued the European Court of Justice (ECJ) because the Romanian authorities denied Hamilton a right of residence in Romania. The ECJ ruled: This is discrimination and violates the right to freedom of movement - the spouses of Union citizens are also entitled to this. Whether there is marriage for everyone in the respective EU member state or not is irrelevant.
  • The inviolability of human dignity, freedom of assembly, religion and expression, the right to asylum and non-discrimination, gender equality, the integration of people with disabilities - all of this is formulated in the European Charter for Human Rights. If these rights are violated, we have the opportunity to defend ourselves against them at the European Court of Human Rights.

to travel

  • If you are a Union citizen, you usually do not need to show an identity card or passport within the Schengen area. A great privilege. In 19 out of 28 EU countries you don't even have to exchange money.
  • If you fall ill or have an accident, you have the same entitlement to treatment in another EU country with the European health insurance card as in your home country.
  • What if the trip breaks because trains or planes are delayed or canceled? The EU has created binding compensation for this. These also apply if the provider with whom you booked a trip goes bankrupt.
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Environment & climate

There is hardly any other topic that makes so much sense to work together across national borders as in environmental and climate protection. After all, unclean air or too much carbon dioxide do not stop at national borders. The EU is also one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters in the world - and therefore has a responsibility.

  • In order for us to be able to breathe air that is low in pollutants, a few things still have to change: 18 member states have high nitrogen dioxide emissions despite EU requirements, and 15 must further reduce their particulate matter levels. The EU has even sued Germany and five other member states before the ECJ because of the persistently high air pollution by pollutants.
  • To reduce pollution, environmental zones have been introduced in several German cities, for example. If you want to drive there, you need a green sticker. Also an EU idea.
  • Thanks to the EU, plastic plates, straws and other single-use plastic products will gradually disappear from the market from 2021. By 2025, plastic bottles must consist of at least 25 percent recycled material. In addition, manufacturers should be obliged to contribute to the costs of cleaning campaigns on beaches. Because: If nothing changes, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, according to the EU Commission.

Study & work

  • A year abroad before graduation, doing a European voluntary service or one or two Erasmus semesters in Poland, Spain or Lithuania: the EU offers a whole range of programs with which young people can gain experience in other EU countries. The EU also guarantees that certificates and qualifications will be recognized back in your home country. This is intended to strengthen one of the cornerstones of the EU: freedom of movement, i.e. the opportunity to move freely as a Union citizen and to live and work in every country in the EU.
  • In contrast, the EU has so far had little influence on social policy, for example in terms of provisions on working conditions and workers' rights. The member states are primarily responsible for this.
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Where there are still borders in Europe today

But a little peace?

If you open your Facebook account and read about another boat overturning in the Mediterranean, when people drowned in the process, when there is talk of torture camps in Libya, then that's the EU too.

Because the EU supports the so-called Libyan coast guard. It prevents legal entry into Europe. And even after years, the member states fail to agree on a fair distribution of refugees.

Instead, right-wing anti-Europeans are on the rise. The upcoming European Parliament is expected to be occupied by up to a quarter of politicians from the right of the conservative European People's Party (EPP). With that in mind, the image of the EU as a peace project is perhaps not that outdated after all, at least it is not a given. nm

Half a billion people will vote for the European Parliament at the end of May. But what does Europe mean for young people, what do the parties want - and how does the EU work? You can find out that and more on our European elections topic page.