Just the Facts – What has the European Parliament ever done for us?

Actually, quite a lot!  Read on…

The European Parliament elections are now just two days away for us here in Ireland.  Before voting, it is important to understand just what the European Parliament does and how its work affects us here in Ireland.  Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009, the powers of the European Parliament have been strengthened and the European Parliament now co-decides, with national EU governments, in nearly all policy areas.  Here we have gathered some legislative examples which demonstrate just how much of an impact the European Parliament has on our lives.

Consumer Rights

  • In one of their most well-known measures, the European Parliament recently legislated to place price caps on mobile roaming charges covering data services, calls and texts messages.
  • New legislation has established a 14-day change of mind period for all online transactions; requires that goods are delivered within 30 days; and makes the trader responsible for damage or loss during delivery.
  • In order to fight obesity and heart problems, food labelling now indicates fat, sugar and salt quantities.
  • Internet users are now asked for authorisation for cookies.  You may have noticed this one while browsing our website!

Employment and Social Affairs

  • In 2013, the EU Parental Leave Directive, which covers carers’ leave, parental leave, maternity leave and adoptive leave, was passed into Irish law.  This increases parental leave to up to 18 weeks and sets out the conditions of leave.
  • To facilitate the recognition of diplomas for professional qualifications, a new professional card has been developed to make it easier to work abroad.  This affects about 800 regulated professions in the EU, including doctors, architects and nurses.
  • Seasonal workers from third countries will have the same rights as EU citizens in terms of minimum working age, pay, working hours, holidays, health and safety requirements, etc.
  • By the end of 2015, a new policy will be in place covering basic rights for asylum seekers in Europe, including access to services such as education and health services, and access to the job market.


  • EU citizens have access to healthcare in other Member States and will be reimbursed according to the rules of their country of origin.
  • Medical prescriptions are now more easily recognised across all EU countries.
  • Regulation of tobacco health warnings on packaging and e-cigarettes.


  • The European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee focuses on gender equality in all aspects of European society, including employment and education.
  • In keeping with the European Pact for Gender Equality 2011-2020 and the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015, the European Parliament has also committed to working jointly with other EU Institutions to put together an action plan for protecting the fundamental rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) citizens, including their rights in the areas of employment, education and health.

Agriculture and Fisheries

  • Ireland has benefited from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides subsidies to farmers and encourages more production through fair prices in Europe, since we joined the EU in 1973, with the most recent reforms including generational renewal measures, a small farmers scheme and innovation measures.
  • In order to protect the environment, there is a greater focus on farmers complying with ‘greening’ criteria.
  • Fisheries policy has been reformed to limit overfishing and ban discards of fish at sea.

Research and Innovation

  • Under the EU’s new research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, over €70 billion will be invested in EU countries between 2014 and 2020 to encourage and facilitate research and innovation.  The European Parliament helped to shape Horizon 2020 and voted it through to enable EU countries to compete on the global stage.  Ireland has already been successful under the Horizon 2020 package, with many projects being given research grants.  Ireland aims to obtain €1.25 billion under Horizon 2020 between 2014 and 2020.

The European Parliament impacts on our lives in more ways than we may think.  By debating and passing legislation, MEPs are constantly working on our behalf to make our lives easier, protect our rights and create a society which allows all EU citizens to live freely.  As we approach the elections this Friday, it is important to keep in mind the importance and power of the European Parliament as we decide who we want our future MEPs to be.  Whatever else, make sure you get out and #HaveYourSay!


This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members.  For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.


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