The competencies of the European Union

What is it the European Union does exactly? In what areas does it have the capacity to enact legislation? Two students answer these questions on their YouTube channel “Voices of Europe“. This video clearly explains the EU’s competencies by means of drawings.

First of all, it has three types of competences: exclusive competences, shared competences and supporting competences.

Exclusive competences are specific to the EU, which means that it may act on its own and that only the EU may enact legislation in these areas. However, the EU may allow the member states to collaborate on the completion of the action. Examples include the monetary policy, the common commercial policy, the Customs Union, the conservation of marine biological resources and the competition rules.

Shared competences are those areas where the member states are allowed to act as long as the EU has not exercised the competence in question. This means that, once EU legislation enters into force in an area of shared competence, the member states are no longer allowed to intervene. However, European actions do not entirely exclude member states’ actions in the sense that the EU may only impose minimum rules. Each country is then free to make them more restrictive. This is the case for environmental regulations.

Supporting competences enable the EU to support, coordinate or supplement member states’ actions. The EU may not impose the harmonisation of member states’ national laws. This applies, for instance, to the European health policy (including the European Health Insurance Card).

To exercise these competences, the EU must observe two fundamental principles: the principle of proportionality, which means that its actions may not go beyond what is necessary, and the principle of subsidiarity, which means that the EU may act only if the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States.

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