The European Union for Americans Chapter 1: What is the European Union?

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The Euro and the Single Market

The euro is the logical complement to Europe's single market, which was largely completed in 1992 following the Single European Act (1986). The SEA facilitated the adoption of a package of nearly 300 'internal market' directives set forth in a 1985 Commission White Paper and designed to achieve the "four freedoms"-freedom of movement for goods, capital, people, and services among the member countries.
For most commercial purposes, there is now one frontier instead of 15; standards and testing and certification procedures are either uniform or equivalent; and significant economies of scale are attainable in a market of over 370 million consumers. The combination of economic liberalization and monetary integration will boost the competitiveness of European companies while making it easier and cheaper for non-EU companies to do business in Europe.
Almost all of the legislation required for completing the 1992 single market has been enacted. However, due to some implementation delays in a small number of areas, the Commission launched an Action Plan to ensure that member states and private sector operators meet their obligations under EU single market rules.
The single market benefits European and foreign companies alike. Special efforts were made to ensure that the program was fully transparent and accessible to American business and the US authorities. Foreign companies, especially from the United States and Japan, positioned themselves to take advantage of the single market. They have increased their direct investment and entered into joint ventures with European partners.

The Euro Symbol

The graphic symbol for the euro looks like an E with two clearly marked, horizontal parallel lines across it. It was inspired by the Greek letter epsilon, in reference to the cradle of European civilization and to the first letter of the word "Europe". The parallel lines represent the stability of the euro.
The official abbreviation for the euro is 'EUR'. It has been registered with the International Standards Organization (ISO), and is used for all business, financial and commercial purposes.

The Euro

There will be seven euro-denominated notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro) and eight coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents and 1 and 2 euro coins ). For a relatively short period in early 2002, there will be dual circulation while the national currency notes and coins are gradually withdrawn. Actual production of euro notes and coins is already underway in the participating member states. The coins will have a common design on one side, and a national design on the other.
European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the European Central Bank (ECB)

Monetary policy in the euro-area is defined and implemented by the European System of Central Banks, which comprises the Central Banks of the euro countries, and the independent European Central Bank, which was inaugurated in Frankfurt on June 30, 1998 and became operational on January 1, 1999.

The ESCB also conducts foreign exchange operations, holds and manages the official foreign reserves of the participating member states, and promotes the smooth operation of payment systems.

The European Central Bank is headed by a President, a Vice President and four other members of an Executive Board, appointed by agreement among EU Heads of State and Government. Wim Duisenberg, a former Central Banker from the Netherlands, was appointed ECB President in May 1998 for a term of eight years. The President, together with the Executive Board, is responsible for the day-to-day running of the ECB, in accordance with the guidelines of a Governing Council. The Governing Council is made up of the ECB's Executive Board and the Governors of the National Central Banks.

EU Countries Not in Euro Zone

The currencies of the member states currently not in EMU (Denmark, Greece, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) have the opportunity to be linked to the euro under a successor to the former Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The original ERM established bilateral conversion rates between the national currencies and in relation to the European Currency Unit, the forerunner of the euro. The new ERM ensures close monetary relations between participating member states and the euro zone.
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Chapter 4: Making Decisions Together: An A-Z of EU Policies

To achieve economic integration, the founding treaties provided for common policies in trade, agriculture, competition, and transport. Over the years, as economies modernized, member states agreed to add new areas such as research and technology, energy, the environment, education and training. The EU also formulates policy on newer areas such as telecommunications and the information society, which are not covered in the treaties.


Once the keystone of European integration, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was created in 1962 to stimulate agricultural production, and to guarantee food supply and farm income in postwar Europe. The same CAP mechanisms that helped Europe to increase agricultural productivity and achieve self-sufficiency, however, led to serious overproduction and high public intervention stocks and costs in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1992, the CAP underwent major reform that severed the link between production and farm income in order to reduce agricultural surpluses and stabilize EU farm spending. Since that reform, EU farm spending has declined from over 60% of the budget in the 1980s to 45% in 1998. The 1992 reform was the basis for EU commitments in the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Uruguay Round. The EU is currently the biggest importer and the second biggest exporter of agricultural products. A new cycle of negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to get underway in 1999.
Further reform of the CAP will be necessary as the European Union prepares to enlarge so that Europe's agriculture production can continue to respect both EU budgetary ceilings and WTO obligations. Under Agenda 2000 – the European Commission's blueprint for managing internal policies after Enlargement - the CAP places more emphasis on competitiveness through lower prices, food safety, rural development, and environmental protection.

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