Chapter 8 An Overview of EU Policies


  • The EU is strongly involved in some issue areas but less or hardly involved in other areas.
  • EU policy-making focuses primarily on regulatory policies. (Re-)distributive policies are much less important than they are for member state governments.
  • The EU budget amounts to some 1% of European GDP.
  • The EU receives its revenues primarily from the member states. It does not levy own taxes, and it is prohibited from running a budget deficit.
  • Around 80% of the EU budget is spent on two policy areas: agricultural policy and regional policy.
  • Some member states are net contributors to the EU budget while other member states are net recipients. The distribution of contributions and benefits between the member states has led to recurring budgetary battles that pit net contributors against net recipients and member states with large agricultural sectors against member states with small agricultural sectors.
  • Regulatory policies in the EU can be divided into three groups: regulation aimed at market regulation, regulation aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of economic activity, and regulation not (directly) related to economic activity
  • Market integration occurs through a combination of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ integration
  • Over time, the EU has developed from an economic union to a political union
  • In a quantitative sense, Regulations form the largest part of EU regulatory output. However, in a qualitative sense, Directives are often more important because they cover broader issues.
  • The EU affects member states policies both directly, through EU legislation, and indirectly, by changing domestic opportunity structures and framing domestic beliefs and expectations.
  • The impact of the EU in the member states is always mediated by domestic political factors and processes. As a result, the EU hardly ever fully determines policies in the member states.
  • The process of European integration may have affected the scope for pursuing certain types of policy in the member states. Nevertheless, vast differences between the member states continue to exist when it comes to economic and other policies.
  • ‘Enhanced cooperation’ has been presented as a way to overcome the wide variety of interests and local circumstances in the EU. At the same time, it has been criticized for leading to a fragmented Europe of ‘first rate’ and ‘second rate’ member states.

© 2011 Herman Lelieveldt and Sebastiaan Princen  & Cambridge University Press