Most of the time what happens inside the parliament of the European Union doesn't affect those of us in other countries, but a recent vote to standardize the 'radio equipment' laws could mean a lot for anyone worldwide who uses portable devices.
The Radio Equipment Directive establishes several new laws for portable devices, but most importantly, it states that all mobile devices must work with a standard design of charger, allowing any charger to connect to any device regardless of brand. The proposed standard charger uses the Micro USB connector already familiar to Nokia and Samsung users, while giving the big middle finger to Apple's recently introduced Lightning connector.
Most of us have been in that situation where our phone's battery was running on fumes, and you had to ask around begging for a few minutes of charge time from someone who has that same brand of device. Once the chargers are universal, everybody's charger will work with every phone, so this will become a problem of the past. A universal charger port will also make if much easier to offer public charging stations everywhere from taxis and airplanes, to waiting rooms and rental cars. The directive also points out that by not having to toss out the charger every time you get a new phone, e-waste could be reduced by an estimated 51,000 tons per year. Your old charger would still work with your new phone, so they could be sold without a charger, saving money for those of us who don't feel the need more chargers cluttering up our lives.
Apple is one company that will need to make changes when this law comes into effect, as the Lightning connector probably won't meet the new standards. They might not mean dumping the Lightning completely, as they could meet the new standard by simply adding a Micro USB charging port in addition to the Lightning port. Of course, we all know how much Apple likes to chart their own course, so I expect they won't take this without at least a bit of a fight.
The directive was passed by the EU parliament in a landslide 550 to 12 vote, and now it needs to be formally adopted by the council. Then each member state will have two years to adopt the new regulations into their own national laws. If everything goes according to plan, manufacturers will have to comply by the end of 2016.