Office for International Relations

Picture (Licence/photographer/designer): Fachbereich Marketing + Kommunikation / Roland Gorecki

About the EU

European politics and legislation increasingly affect local affairs. Around 70 percent of the legal framework which cities work with every day originate from the European institutions.

Dealing with European politics and understanding international decision-making processes has therefore become more and more important.

The EU in brief

The EU is a unique economic and political union between European countries. It is not a state or a confederation of states, however its member states have set up the European institutions to which they have delegated some of their national responsibilities. In this way, challenges that do not know national borders like climate change can be commonly addressed on the European level.

The European Union was created in the aftermath of the Second World War and served primarily to ensure peace and prosperity. The initial idea was to concentrate on trade and economy, linking the countries together and thus avoiding conflict.

Over the past decades, the EU has gradually expanded both by receiving more competences from its member states and the admission of new member states.

EU institutions

The official website of the European Union offers a comprehensive overview of the EU institutions.

In addition, the institutions provide more detailed information on their work.

Have your say - citizen participation in the European Union

Although many perceive the European Union as far away, all European citizens have the right to democratic participation in European decision-making processes. The European elections which take place every five years are only one way to do so.

More possibilities include:

Contact your MEP

19 politicians from North Rhine-Westphalia are currently represented in the European Parliament. Dietmar Köster (SPD) is the person to contact if you are from the cities of Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Hamm, Herne and Münster or the districts of Borken, Coesfeld, Ennepe-Ruhr, Steinfurt, Unna and Warendorf.

Dennis Radtke (CDU), Terry Reintke (The Greens) as well as Guido Reil (AfD) also represent the Ruhr region.


The European Union regularly conducts public consultations through which European citizens can express their views on European policies.


Every European citizen has the right to submit a petition to the European Parliament. For instance the European Parliament can be asked to comment on specific issues that fall under the EU’s competences.

European citizens’ initiative

With the European citizens’ initiative EU citizens are able to call on the European Commission to propose new legislation. In order for the EU to deal with a specific subject 1 million signatures from citizens living in at least a quarter of all EU member states must be collected.

Contact the European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly is the person to contact if you want to make a complaint against a European institution. EU citizens as well as companies and organisations based in the EU can file a complaint with the European Ombudsman online or via post.