The EU in the World

The EU’s Achievements in the Wider World

The EU is arguably the most significant supporter of democracy, the rule of law, justice, security sector reform, good governance, gender equality and support for vulnerable groups worldwide. Political prisoners and human rights defenders across the world have been released or their cases revised due to EU action including in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.[1]

Alongside this, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights funds vital work by civil society organisations, in oppressive countries where freedoms are restricted.[2]

The EU is the leading institutional actor in the fight against the death penalty and uses its diplomatic power to campaign for worldwide abolition.[3]

Direct action has also played a key role in a number of wider developments. For example, restrictive measures such as sanctions and arms embargoes are a cornerstone of the EU’s external action. Countries are financially and politically restrained by such actions and this can lead to significant results such as recently in Iran.[4]

The EU was a key negotiator of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate and its institutions remain a supporter of the UN’s effort to create international climate agreements, such as the recent COP21 negotiations in Paris, to limit global warming and emissions.[6]

[1] ‘The EU’s policy on Human Rights Defenders’, EU External Action Service.

[2] ‘Cooperation with Civil Society,’ EU External Action Service.

[3] ‘EU Policy on Death Penalty’, EU External Action Service.

[4] ‘Regulations based on Article 215 TFEU and Decisions adopted in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy’, European Commission Service for Foreign Policy Instruments.

[5] ‘An EU strategy on responsible sourcing of minerals from conflict zones’, EU External Action Service. 

[6] ‘The EU’s many international roles’, EU External Action Service.

International Development and Aid

The EU is the largest donor of development aid in the world.[1] The EU’s global reach is greater than that of any of the member states acting individually. By working through the EU, it gives us a real chance to tackle global development challenges.

This development aid means much more than the construction of roads and clean water, as important as they are. It provides a major boost to a country’s economy, helping to propel people into growth and out of poverty, whilst also promoting democracy, peace and good governance.

If you want to explore what the EU’s aid does then click here

Human rights are again at the core of EU action in development cooperation. The EU has enlarged from its initial focus on the African, Caribbean and Pacific to work with around 160 countries across the globe.[2] The European Union and its member states are the world’s largest donors to Palestinians and to Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), funding life-saving financial assistance.[3]

The EU has also played a key role in creating a wider global framework to work towards eradicating poverty.[4] Over the last decade, because of EU funding, around 14 million pupils could go to primary school, more than 70 million people were linked to improved drinking water, and over 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health workers, saving the lives of mothers and babies.[5].

[1] COM(2015) 578 Annual Report on the European Union’s development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2014, EU Commission, 24 November 2015.

[2] ‘Fact Sheets on the European Union: A general survey of development policy’, European Parliament, May 2016.

[3] ‘EC UNRWA Factsheet’, EU External Action Service. See also the website of the UNRWA by click here.

[4] ‘15 things you may not know about EU development cooperation in 2015’ European Year for Development 2015, January 2015.

[5] Ibid.

The European External Action Service

The EU’s reach across the world is unparalleled. 139 EU delegations work in close cooperation with diplomatic services (embassies, consulates) of the EU member states and third countries.[1]

Our membership of the EU gives us a powerful set of voices and an important support network for Scots abroad.

Scots, like many other Europeans, want to see a European Union that tackles poverty, inequality, crises and war in an effective way. Constituents write to us on a daily basis asking us to do more to help people in need whether in Scotland, Calais, Gaza, or Syria.

Unlike many EU member states, the EU is a ‘soft power’ meaning that there is no EU-wide military force. Diplomacy therefore shapes how EU foreign policy is designed and implemented across the world.

This gives the EU a unique voice on the international stage. EU action against capital punishment, international crises and humanitarian disasters is consistently voiced in the international sphere.

EU-wide foreign policy can only be conducted when there is agreement between all the member states but this means that when the EU does act, it can have a significant impact. The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, conducts the policies agreed by the member states through the European External Action Service.[3]

[1] ‘EU Delegations’, European External Action Service.

[2] ‘The European Year for Development – Citizens’ views on development, cooperation and aid,’ EU Commission, January 2015.

[3] For more information click here. 

Courtesy of the European External Action Service via Flickr