The European Economy
The European Union has the largest economy in the world. It has the largest economy in the agricultural, industrial and service sectors. The EU has set an objective under the Lisbon Strategy to make the European Union "the world's most dynamic and competitive economy" by the year 2010.
The European Union has large coal, oil, and natural gas reserves. There are six oil producers in the European Union, although most oil production happens in the North Sea oilfields. The United Kingdom by far is the largest producer, however Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands all produce oil. The European Union is the 8th largest producer of oil, producing 3 244 000 (2001) barrels a day. However, it is also the world's 2nd largest consumer of oil, consuming much more than it can produce, at 14 480 000 (2001) barrels a day.
All countries in the EU have committed to the Kyoto Protocol, and the European Union is one of its biggest exponents.
The European Union is the largest exporter in the world and the second largest importer. Internal trade between the member states is aided by the removal of barriers to trade such as tarrifs and border controls. In the eurozone, trade is helped by not having any currency differences to deal with.
The European Union represents all its members at the World Trade Organisation, and acts on the behalf of member states in any disputes.
On average, the unemployment rate of the European Union is at 8.9%. In comparison to both the United States and Japan this is high. Unemployment varies by member state, the lowest rate is in Ireland with 4.3% whilst the highest is in Poland with 18.1%. The average for the 12 eurozone members is also 8.9%.
The services sector is by far the most important sector in the European Union, making up 69.4% of GDP, compared to the manufacturing industry with 28.4% of GDP and agriculture with only 2.3% of GDP.
The agricultural sector is supported by subsidies from the European Union in the form of the Common Agricultural Policy. This currently represent's 40-50% of the EU's total spending. It guarantees a minimum price for farmers in the EU. This is criticized as a form of protectionism, inhibiting trade, and damaging developing countries.
The European Union is a major tourist destination, both from outside of the Union and inside of it. Internal tourism is greatly aided by the Schengen treaty and the Euro. All citizens of the European Union are entitled to travel to any member state without the need of a visa. France is the world's number one tourist destination, by number of tourists. Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria are all also within the top 10.
Economic performance varies from state to state. The Growth and Stability Pact governs fiscal policy with the European Union. It applies to all member states, with specific rules which apply to the Eurozone members that stipulate that each state's deficit must not exceed 3% of GDP and its public debt must not exceed 60% of GDP.
All countries, except Greece, Portugal, and Spain with below average GDP per capita are those which joined the EU in May 2004 and all countries with above average GDP per capita come from the existing (pre-2004) member states.