The European Union

European union flagThe European Union is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries. In 1957, the signature of the Treaties of Rome marked the will of the six founding countries to create a common economic space. Since then, first the Community and then the European Union has continued to enlarge and welcome new countries as members. The Union has developed into a huge single market with the euro as its common currency.

What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organisation spanning all areas, from development aid to environmental policy. Thanks to the abolition of border controls between EU countries, it is now possible for people to travel freely within most of the EU. It has also become much easier to live and work in another EU country. The five main institutions of the European Union are the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors.

The European Union is a major player in international cooperation and development aid. It is also the world’s largest humanitarian aid donor. The primary aim of the EU’s own development policy, agreed in November 2000, is the eradication of poverty.

The European Commission

The European Commission is the European Community’s executive body. Led by 27 Commissioners, the European Commission initiates proposals of legislation and acts as guardian of the Treaties. The Commission is also a manager and executor of common policies and of international trade relationships. It is responsible for the management of European Union external assistance.

Specifically, the HITT programme is funded through the ‘Investing in People’ programme of the European Commission. This programme places emphasis on education, health, gender equality, social cohesion, employment, childhood and youth, as well as culture. The role of the programme is not simply in the provision of funds, but also of monitoring progress and endorsing major decisions taken by the HITT programme during its three year period of activity.