The EU Bookshop has published the 2009 update of the Fact Sheets of the European Union (although the manuscript was finished in August 2008).
The 12th edition contains 165 fact sheets (subjects) aimed at the general public. The Fact Sheets (521 pages) are available as a freely downloadable pdf document (hefty 9.22 MB) or as a print publication with an accompanying CD-ROM (price 40 €):
If I understood correctly, the printed text (pdf) is available in six languages (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish) but the CD-ROM in 21 languages.
Since the Fact Sheets originate in the European Parliament, the EP’s role is usually described in each case in addition to the general information.
The Fact Sheets are handy when you need an overview of an unfamiliar area of EU policy. This is how they are described by the publisher:
The aim of these fact sheets is to provide those new to the subject with an overview of the process of European integration and the European Parliament’s role in this development.
New fact sheets on topical issues and the developments of the last few years have recently appeared online, for example: the institutional reforms undertaken in preparation for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania; the new financial perspective; gender equality; asylum, and immigration policy; management of external borders; judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters; sports policy; the Lisbon strategy; the European neighbourhood policy (ENP); the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and central Asia.
With access to around 165 fact sheets, readers will find that this is one of the best sources of information about the Union’s institutions and policies.
The content of these fact sheets covers six main areas: how the EU works, citizens’ Europe, the internal market, common policies, economic and monetary union and the EU’s external relations.
In order to speak with one voice, the EU has developed several policies and measures that all Member States endeavour to apply. These ‘common policies’ concern the entire Union and are designed to achieve common objectives.
Economic and monetary union
Economic and monetary union (EMU) is the result of a long process aimed at harmonising the economic and monetary policies of the European Union Member States and introducing a single currency: the euro. So far, 16 Member States have adopted the euro, which is used on a daily basis by over half the EU’s population.
The EU’s external relations
The EU’s economic, commercial and financial weight makes it a leading player on the international scene. It has signed a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements with most countries and regions of the world. The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) is one of the instruments of the European Union’s external relations.
How the European Union works
The European Union (EU) has its own legislature and executive and an independent judiciary, which are supported and complemented by an additional set of institutions and bodies. The EU’s rules and decision-making procedures are laid down in the Treaties. In order to achieve its objectives, the Union has its own budget.
For EU citizens, the right to travel, live and work throughout the Union can easily be taken for granted. However, in order for them to be able to enjoy this right fully, an effective system to protect fundamental rights within the EU needs to be put in place and maintained.
The internal market
Following the dismantling of previous barriers, goods, services and capital move as freely throughout Europe as inside a Member State. The removal of obstacles and the opening up of national markets means that more companies can compete with one another.
The Fact Sheets are convenient for anyone who needs quick information, for a school or university assignment, but especially ahead of the European elections the MEP candidates and their campaign groups should have them available as reference tools for various occasions.