P1050851There’s a lot to love about Europe. Not just the food, the history, the culture, the architecture, the countrysides, the windows (with a few favorites chosen today to accompany the text). A big part of what makes life here so good is thanks to the European Union. Photos of pretty windows aside, this isn’t the usual light fare yet everything is relevant to most people’s lives–like protecting you against bank fees and phone companies. What’s not to like?IMG_5618A favorite pastime seems to be making fun of silly legislation passed by the European Parliament. But that is often unfair, and sometimes the supposed laws aren’t even for real (get your news from mainstream media!). Take, for example, the Great Olive Oil Affair. The EU wanted to make olive oil labels easier to read and to ban restaurants from serving olive oil in refillable containers … because restaurants were refilling with lower-quality oil. In fact, the olive-oil producing countries were in favor of the ban, yet it was cited as a reason to vote for Brexit, because the Leavers wanted the right to be cheated by restaurants. P1050993In fact, everybody but Emmanuel Macron loves to bash the EU. It reminds me of the Monty Python skit about  “what have the Romans ever done for us.”

Lest anybody think otherwise, I wrote most of this ages ago, and it’s absolutely not intended to troll the U.K. for Brexit. While we all whine about how things need to be better (and lord help us if we get self-satisfied and give up on improving!), we don’t appreciate enough how far we’ve come. Think of this as a pre-Thanksgiving post.P1060197Aside from the big things, like peace, and the ability to travel and trade easily, here are a few ways the EU has improved life:

—Probably the biggest thing has been the reduction of poverty and modernization of southern Europe. Spain, for example, wisely used its generous handouts from the EU to build top-notch infrastructure like high-speed trains. My taxes make Spain better? YES!!!IMG_5219—Since 2006, the EU has banned the use of antibiotics in animal feed to fatten livestock. More than a decade later, the U.S. banned certain antibiotics for fattening livestock. While it isn’t 100% proven, some scientists theorize that the obesity epidemic is linked at least to some extent to people consuming so much meat that contains antibiotics. However, the bigger threat is from antibiotic resistance.P1050167—The EU eliminated mobile phone roaming fees within the EU with a “roam like at home” rule. So I can use my basic (yet with unlimited calls) plan of €2 a month even when I’m in another EU country and not get hit with surcharges.

–The “Universal Service Directive” (those EU bureaucrats kill it with sexy names for their laws, don’t you think?) lets you change mobile phone companies but keep your number–and they have one day to switch you over. It encourages competition by making it very easy to switch operators.

—It required the same bank fees for payments, transfers and ATMs within the EU as domestically. No surcharges if you use your bank card at a shop or ATM while traveling.IMG_5129The euro reined in prices. Inflation in France was 24% between 2001 and 2011, compared with 68% between 1981 and 1991. Regarding the years chosen: in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty laid the foundations for the euro. That led to 199, when a single currency in fact, but not name or physical currency, began, because the exchange rates among the first euro members were locked in. The actual euro coins and notes appeared Jan. 1, 2002. (If you click on the link, the headline reads: L’euro fait flamber les prix depuis dix ans? Que nenni! Which means: The euro made prices skyrocket over the past 10 years? Not at all!) And let’s not forget how nice it is to travel around Europe without changing money–that also saved money because each time people or businesses exchanged currencies, they paid a commission.IMG_2694—In particular, prices fell for electronics and home appliances, largely because of cheap imports. And those were possible in part because the EU set standards for member countries (except the U.K. and Ireland), which previously had slightly different plugs, the better to protect domestic producers. IMG_5078All in all, life in the EU is good. Life expectancy has soared to 81 years today from 69 in 1960. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen from a high of 10 metric tons per capita to 6.7. Those regulations have improved air and water quality, and thus life in general. IMG_4593Things aren’t perfect here, and there are plenty of ways the system could get better. But overall, the EU is a great example of how the government is indeed the solution, not the problem.IMG_3499

23 thoughts on “Window on Europe

  1. Thank you so much for this! As an EU citizen and an EU fan I was delighted to read this. So many people bash the EU and sprout all sorts of lies and misunderstandings about it. I have homes in two EU countries and feel so happy and privileged in that. The EU isn’t perfect but it definitely has acheived some great things and is a force for good.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As far as Brexit is concerned, my feeling is it’s more productive to address concerns and change things from within instead of walking away, and the Brits made a catastrophic mistake in putting the whole thing to a referendum without thinking things through, and partly because of bombastic politicians who don’t give a damn about the consequences of their actions.

    A chalkboard sign here at the time outside a pub had a comment I agreed with- why would you put up a referendum on your nation’s future to be voted on by people who voted for a ship to be called Boaty McBoatface.

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  3. I’m a Brit but see myself as a European. I voted to stay in the EU and so did my sons. I dispair over Brexit and the lies that were sold to the British people. I worry about the future for young people. I believe we are stronger together. Some people were surprised that we still bought our home in France with Brexit on the horizon but why wouldn’t we? There is total political chaos in the UK at the moment. There is no doubt that the UK economy will suffer. I could rant on and on, as I am so depressed about Brexit, but I’ll enjoy looking at your photos and look forward to my return to France next week, instead!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. As an Californian permanent resident of France, I must say I love the EU! Agree with all you said, and glad you chose to say it. Europe is not only healthier, but safer, as a unified political entity. I feel very sad for the UK, and especially those who voted to stay, almost half of the voters. I know people who didn’t vote because they thought it would never pass, but would have voted to remain. A loss for Europe and the UK.
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Word of wisdom… of course things are far from perfect … as they are made by humans.
    But I’d rather live now and here in the EU than in the USA or in Russia for example.
    Always together as been better than alone, although, of course, it is far from being easy.
    Still difficult to find a balance and a modus vivendi, especially with so many different cultures.
    But together, with so many strengths, differences and brains, we should be able to discuss and begin to find solution. I’ve always lived with the EU (CEE before) and would not think one moment to live in a France on its own: what a regression that would be!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Like you, I am a big fan of the European Union as I do believe we are stronger together. Not to ignore all of the blind spots in the bureaucracy that need work but on the whole, we have everything to gain. And we are just back from the Portuguese island of Madeira, where examples abound of how EU funding has made all the difference to this wonderful land — from tunnels and bridges to well-maintained historic sites.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Nice informative post. I lived in Germany prior to the EU – exchange rates always boggled my mind – not the math – but the difference. Of course I understood the economics behind all of it. Then of course the need to exchange currency. Travel is seemless now – big plus. The fact that the previously poorer countries have been able to grow their economies and infrastructure is bar far one of the best benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. For sure – it makes a spontaneous get away much easier. When we lived in Germany in the 80’s and 90’s you had to plan much more. Especially if you just decided on a whim to take a quick trip across the border. Although there were places at the border that exchanged money – it wasn’t as convenient and I dont remember if they were open 24/7. I still have tons of old Germany Mark coins and French Franc coins – for nostalgia.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh yes!!! Good ole phone booths. A few years ago in France my daughter stopped at one and I said what are you doing – she said – I’ve never seen one of these in real life. It was a random yellow booth in the middle of no where.

            Liked by 1 person

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