Slovakia became part of the European Union in 2004. The European Union is a unique partnership between European countries called member states. There are currently 27 of them, and they cover most of the European continent. More than 446 million people live in the EU, corresponding to about 6% of the world’s population. Citizens of EU member states are also citizens of the European Union. You can find out most of the information directly on the website of the European Union, which is available in every official language used in the EU. Our video can also help you.
Institutions of the European Union
There are 7 European institutions, 7 EU bodies and over 30 decentralised agencies located throughout the EU. Four central institutions govern the European Union. Together, these institutions set the Union’s political direction and play different roles in law-making.
It consists of 705 deputies, while every EU country is represented. It has offices in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. The citizens of the member states elect members of the European Parliament by direct election. They create political groups, not according to nationality, but based on political views.
The Parliament has three main tasks: legislative (decides with the Council of the European Union on European legislation), control (executes the democratic command of all EU institutions) and budget (approves the EU budget).
It brings together the presidents or heads of government of EU member states. The Council represents the highest level of political cooperation between EU countries. The workplace is in Brussels. The meetings of the Council are called European summits. At its meetings, the Council establishes the EU’s main priorities, decides on its overall direction, and establishes a standard foreign and security policy but does not adopt legal regulations.
Ministers from all EU countries meet in the Council. They discuss EU affairs and decide on both policies and legislation. Which ministers will meet depends on the discussed topic. If the meeting concerns, for example, air pollution, the environment ministers will meet.
The Council has offices in Brussels and Luxembourg and is one of the two decision-making bodies. Without her and ministers from all EU member states, nothing will happen in the European Union.
Interestingly, the presidency of the Council is not permanent – it rotates among the member states. Every 18 months, the three elected states form a group. Together they set long-term goals and prepare a joint program. Based on the program, each of these three countries then draws up its own more detailed six-month program and becomes the presiding country of the Council of the European Union for this period.
It represents the interests of the EU in the member states and vice versa – it means the member states at international organisations. It has offices in Brussels and Luxembourg and is represented throughout the European Union.
The European Commission is responsible for preparing and submitting proposals for new European legislation, managing the individual components of the EU and preparing the European budget. The commission consists of 27 commissioners – one from each member state. Each member is responsible for a specific area, such as energy, economy or trade.
The work of the central institutions is complemented by other institutions and bodies, which include:
During the years of operation of the EU, the countries have jointly created many legal regulations. However, disputes regarding interpreting these regulations can understandably arise in individual member states. The Court of Justice of the European Union ensures that EU legislation is interpreted and applied equally in every country. The Court of Justice is based in Luxembourg and consists of one judge for each EU country.
It is the central bank for 19 countries that have adopted the euro. Its main task is to maintain price stability in the eurozone and thereby protect the euro’s value. In addition to ensuring the eurozone’s monetary policy, the European Central Bank has the right to decide on issuing banknotes. It is based in Frankfurt.
Its task is to check whether EU funds from taxpayers are adequately collected and spent legally and economically for the intended purpose – based in Luxembourg.
On the official website of the European Union, you will find, among other things, a complete list of institutions along with detailed information and links to individual institutions.
When joining the European Union, each country voluntarily signs agreements determining the exact procedures for its existence within the EU. The treaties specify which policy areas and the extent the Union can influence.
Thanks to its unique powers, the EU can play a specific role in certain areas or go beyond what is generally allowed under the Treaties. It is about:
- coordination of economic policies and employment policies,
- definition and implementation of standard foreign and security policy,
- a “flexibility clause” that allows the EU to act outside its usual areas of responsibility under strict conditions.
In some areas, the EU can support, coordinate or supplement the activities of the member states. However, it does not have legislative authority and may not prevent member states from implementing it. The EU has supporting powers in the following areas:
- public health,
- education and vocational training, youth and sport,
- civil defence,
- administrative cooperation.
In certain areas, both Member States and the EU can adopt legislation. However, Member States can only do so if the EU has not yet proposed a legal act or decided not to do so. According to the treaties, the joint powers of the Union and the Member States are applied in the following areas:
- single market,
- employment and social affairs,
- economic, social and territorial cohesion,
- consumer protection,
- trans-European networks,
- justice and fundamental rights
- migration and home affairs;
- public health (as regards the aspects defined in Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union)
- research and space,
- development cooperation and humanitarian aid.
In other areas, only the European Union can adopt legislation. The role of Member States is limited to applying EU law, except when the EU entrusts them to adopt specific legislation themselves. According to the treaties, the EU has exclusive powers in the following areas:
- customs union,
- determining competition rules for the single market,
- monetary policy for eurozone countries,
- trade and international agreements (in certain circumstances),
- marine plants and animals covered by the Common Fisheries Policy.
The European Union helps its member states, including Slovakia, on several levels – whether it concerns the economy, defence or international diplomacy. On a daily level, you can follow the contribution of the European Union through projects supported by European funds. These projects range from highways to schools and school supplies to medical devices.
If you want to look at the exact numbers and compare how Slovakia fared before and after joining the European Union, click on the article Benefits of EU membership in numbers.
A particular chapter on the benefits of our membership in the EU is various benefits for young people. Let’s see how you can use them too! In the European Union, there are several programs and organisations whose subject of interest is working with young people.
Erasmus+ is a program of the European Union. It helps to fulfil the objectives set by the EU in the field of education, vocational training, youth and sport. The area of education provides opportunities for high school and college students and educators. It includes study abroad, stays, courses, and cooperation between schools. In addition, it also focuses on adult education.
Vocational training is intended for students of vocational schools, employees, organisations and businesses. These are mainly internships or exchanges of examples of good practice. In sports, the program helps to create partnerships and cooperation between sports clubs and supports the organisation of sports events.
Perhaps the program offers the most in the field of youth – it involves training courses, youth exchanges, seminars, volunteering and many more. You can learn more about individual terms in our dictionary. We – EduEra – are also active in the field of youth. On our page with current offers, in addition to the various projects you can apply for, you will also find articles by participants we have already sent to similar youth exchanges or training courses. Let them inspire you!
One of the Erasmus+ program’s goals is to develop a sense of belonging to the European Union, based on the new initiative DiscoverEU, which will allow you to discover the diversity of Europe through its cultural heritage.
Are you wondering how you can get involved in these activities? Search for organisations working with the Erasmus+ program in your country, go to the Salto-Youth, find a Eurodesk information point or download the Erasmus+ app. You will have an overview of the latest activities.
European Solidarity Corps
The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) gives young people between the ages of 18 and 35 the opportunity to volunteer or work in their own country or abroad on projects that benefit communities and people across Europe. This is an excellent opportunity for people who want to help, learn and develop. Within ESC, you can volunteer individually or in a group and participate in an internship or work. In addition, ESC gives you financial support! In addition, it provides financing for creating its own projects (solidarity projects).
To better understand what ESC is, you can read the article How to get to the ESC project? on our blog, in which volunteer Natália describes her stay in Italy. If you are interested in getting involved, also study the information directly on the website of the European Solidarity Corps. In addition, organisations such as EduEra, which provide offers for similar projects, are worth following.
Other opportunities for young people
The European Youth Portal is a website that will help you navigate the many opportunities the EU offers in various areas (volunteer activities, work, education, culture, creativity and more).
Every two years, the European Commission, together with the Parliament, organises the European Youth Week to offer young people events and activities in all countries involved in the Erasmus+ program and present them with various opportunities they can take advantage of in the EU.
The European Youth Capital is an initiative of the European Youth Forum. Every year, a European city chosen as the European Youth Capital gets the opportunity to highlight innovative initiatives created by young people and for young people.
The European Youth Parliament (EYP) is one of the best platforms for young Europeans interested in engaging in political debate, learning about new cultures and exchanging ideas with other young people from all over Europe. EYP organises international, regional and national sessions lasting from 2 hours to 10 days! More than 30,000 young people participate in these activities every year. Become one of them!
Youth4Regions is a competition for young journalists interested in the European Union’s regional policy. The competition winners will receive the opportunity to learn about European issues, mentorship from experienced journalists and participate in press trips organised by the Commission in the Member States.
Did we miss something important? At the bottom of the page, you will find a form in which you can let us know what you are missing from this list of opportunities and what other information about any topics we should add to our site.