(9) What the EU is for?

Scotland Rejects Independence in Record-Breaking Referendum

European Union glossary updated by the Treaty of Lisbon


European Union Brief Terminology

Accession: The process of joining the European Union. After accession treaties have been negotiated, all member states must ratify them and the European Parliament must give its assent.

Acquis Communautaire: The full set of the European Union’s legislative, regulatory, judicial, and normative output.

Amsterdam Treaty: See Treaty of Amsterdam.

Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice (AFSJ): Policies relating to coordination of internal security and justice systems.

Asymmetric shocks: Affect different regions within an economy in different ways.  

Budget of the European Union: Revenue comes from own resources; two-thirds of spending is on the common agricultural and cohesion policies.

Citizenship: The Treaty on European Union created a European citizenship, alongside member states’citizenships. Citizens are entitled to rights conferred by the treaties.

Cohesion policy: The European Union’s regional development policy, implemented through structural funds accounting for one-third of European Union budget spending.

Comitology: System of committees of member states’ officials supervising the Commission’s work on behalf of the Council. Now largely replaced by implementing acts.

Commission, European Commission: The main executive body of the European Union, comprising 28 Commissioners, responsible for different policy areas. In addition to its executive functions, the Commission initiates legislation and supervises compliance. The term ‘Commission’ is often used collectively for the Commission and its staff.

Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper): See Council.

Committee of the Regions: Comprises representatives of regional and local authorities. Provides opinions on legislation and issues reports on its own initiative.

Common agricultural policy (CAP): Much reformed, it still accounts for 40 per cent of the Eu's budget spending, through its direct support of farmers and rural development.

Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): Originally the second pillar of the European Union, for intergovernmental cooperation on foreign policy. Now an integral part of the Union.

Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP): The defence and military cooperation element of CFSP.

Community: See European Community.

Constitutional Treaty: A proposed treaty revision, based on the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe, but rejected following referendums in 2005 in France and the Netherlands, despite ratification by the majority of member states. Most of its provisions were eventually incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty.

Convention on the Future of Europe: Open forum of representatives of parliaments and governments set up in 2002 after the Laeken declaration by the European Council to discuss a complete redrawing of the EU. Under its chair, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, it presented a Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe in 2003, which formed the basis of the Constitutional Treaty.

Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs (CJHA): Former third pillar of the European Union, for cooperation relating to movement of people across frontiers a undercutting standards of health and safety for combating cross-frontier crime.

Copenhagen Criteria: The benchmarks used by the EU for evaluating the suitability of states applying for membership. They cover: stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for minorities; a functioning market economy; the ability to take on the acquis and support for the various aims of the European Union.

Council, Council of Ministers: Comprises representatives of member states at ministerial level. It amends and votes on legislation, supervises execution of policies. It is supported by the Council Secretariat in Brussels, and by the Committee of Permanent Representatives and its system of committees (see Comitology). The Council, with the European Council, is the European Union’s most powerful political institution.

Court of Justice: The final judicial authority with respect to Union law. Its 28 judges, one from each member state sitting in Luxembourg, have developed extensive case law (see European legal order). The Court has ensured that the rule of law prevails in the Union.

Direct effect: See European legal order.

Directive: A Union legal act that is ‘binding, as to the result to be achieved’, but leaves to member states’ authorities ‘the choice of form and methods’.

Economic and Monetary Union (Emu): Seventeen member states participate in Emu, having satisfied the ‘convergence criteria’ of sound finance and irrevocably fixed their exchange rates with the euro, which replaced their currencies at the beginning of 2002. Monetary policy is the responsibility of the European Central Bank and the European System of Central Banks. There is a system for coordination of economic policy.

Economic and Social Committee (Ecosoc): Comprises representatives of employers, workers, and social groups. Provides opinions on Union legislation and issues reports on its own initiative.

Electoral systems: In elections to the European Parliament, proportional representation is now used in all countries, since the UK adopted it for the 1999 elections.

Enhanced cooperation: Allows those states that want to integrate more closely than others in particular fields to do so within the European Union framework.

European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom): Established in 1957 alongside the European Economic Community to promote cooperation in the field of atomic energy; undertakes research and development for civilian purposes.

European Central Bank (ECB): Responsible for monetary policy for the Eurozone. Based in Frankfurt, the ECB is run by an Executive Board. Its members and the governors of central banks in the Eurozone comprise ECB’s Governing Council. ECB and central banks together form the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), whose primary objective is to maintain price stability. None of these participants take instructions from any other body.

European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC): Launched by the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, placing coal and steel sectors of six states (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands) under a system of common governance. The European Economic Community and Euratom were based on the ECSC’s institutional structure. The treaty lapsed in 2002.

European Commission: See Commission.

European Community (EC): The central pillar of the European Union, as laid out in the Maastricht Treaty. Incorporating the European Economic Community, the European Coal and Steel Community, and Euratom, it contained federal elements of the European Union institutions and was responsible for the bulk of European Union activities. With the Lisbon Treaty, the EC is now fully integrated with the rest of the Union.

European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A framework for the protection of human rights across Europe, adopted in 1950 by the Council of Europe. European Union states are all signatories and it is a basis for the respect of human rights in the European Union. The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is based in large part on the Convention.

European Council: Comprises the President of the European Council, Heads of State and Government of the member states, and President of the Commission. Takes decisions that require resolution or impetus at that level and defines political guidelines for the European Union.

European Court of Justice (ECJ): See Court of Justice.

European Defence Community (EDC): A bold attempt in the early 1950s to integrate the armed forces of the European Coal and Steel Community states, shelved by the French National Assembly.

European Economic Community (EEC): Established in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome, its competences included the creation of a common market among the six member states and wide-ranging economic policy cooperation. Its main institutions were the Commission, Council, European Parliament, Court of Justice. It is the basis for today’s European Union.

European legal order: The Court of Justice has established key principles of Community law. One is ‘direct effect’, enabling individuals to secure their rights under Community law in the same way as member states’ laws. Another is ‘primacy’ of Community law, ensuring it is evenly applied throughout the Community.

European Monetary System (EMS): A precursor of Economic and Monetary Union, its key element was the Exchange Rate Mechanism, limiting exchange rate fluctuations.

European Parliament (EP): The directly elected body of the European Union, its Members (MEPs) has substantial powers over legislation, and the Commission.

European Political Cooperation (EPC): Intergovernmental foreign policy cooperation introduced in 1970 and replaced in 1993 by the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

European Stability Mechanism (ESM): The permanent body set up in 2012 to provide emergency financial support to Eurozone member states in economic difficulty.

European System of Central Banks (ESCB): See European Central Bank.

European Union (EU): Created by the Treaty on European Union, with two new pillars alongside the central Community pillar, for cooperation in foreign and security policy and in ‘justice and home affairs’. While the three pillars shared common institutions, the two new ones were predominantly intergovernmental. Since the Lisbon Treaty, the pillars are collapsed into one, with some residual differences in procedures between policy areas.

Eurozone: The area covered by the euro, the Union’s single currency.

Federation: A federal polity is one in which the functions of government are divided between democratic institutions at two or more levels. The powers are usually divided according to the principle of subsidiarity, the member states or constituent parts having those powers that they can manage effectively.

Fiscal Compact: The 2012 treaty signed outside the Union’s legal order between most member states to enshrine balanced national budgets, with oversight by the Commission. Formally called the Treaty on Stability, Coordination, and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG).

Free movement: The treaties provide for free movement within the European Union of people, goods, capital, and services, known as ‘the four freedoms’.

General Court: Judges Cases brought by individuals, as well as those relating to competition policy, trademark law, and state aids.

Implementing Acts: The system for oversight of implementation of Union legislation by member states, as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.

Intergovernmental Conference (IGC): The main way in which the European Union’s treaties are revised. Member states’ representatives in the IGC draft an amending treaty, which must be ratified by each state before it enters into force.

Legislative procedures: Most European Union laws are enacted under the Ordinary Legislative Procedure, giving both European Parliament and Council powers to accept, amend, or reject legislation. The cooperation procedure, which gave the EP less power, is no longer important; but the consultation procedure, where EP is merely informed of Council’s intentions, is still quite widely applicable. The consent (formerly assent) procedure gives EP powers over accession treaties, association agreements, and some legislative matters.

Lisbon Treaty: See Treaty of Lisbon.

Maastricht Treaty: See Treaty on European Union.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Currently 751 MEPs are elected to the European Parliament from across the member states. MEPs represent their constituents; scrutinize legislation in committees; vote on laws and the budget; supervise the Commission; debate the range of European Union affairs.

Nice Treaty: See Treaty of Nice.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato): Founded in 1949 as the security umbrella for Western Europe, tying in the US to the European security system.

Open method of coordination: An increasingly common means of getting member states to share information and best practices without the use of legislation.

Own resources: The tax revenue for the budget of the European Union. The main sources are percentages of member states’ GNPs and of the base for value-added tax; smaller amounts come from external tariffs and agricultural import levies.

Permanent representations: Each member state has a permanent representation in Brussels, which is a centre for its interaction with the European Union. The head of the representation is the state’s representative in Coreper (see Council).

Petersberg tasks: The military and security priorities for the EU’s foreign policy. They include humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping; and crisis management.

Pillars: The Maastricht Treaty set up the European Union using a pillar system. The central pillar was the European Community and the other two were for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (originally known as Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs). The Lisbon Treaty collapsed all three pillars into the Union.

Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters: See Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs.

Presidency: The Council is chaired by representatives of one of the member states, on a six-month rotating basis.

Primacy: See European legal order.

Qualified majority voting (QMV): See voting.

Regulation: A European Community legal act that is ‘binding in its entirety and directly applicable’ in all member states.

Schengen Agreements: Originating in 1985 outside the European Union, the Schengen Agreements now cover all member states save Ireland, the UK, and to some extent Denmark. The Agreements have been incorporated in the European Union.

Secondary legislation: Laws enacted by the institutions within the Single European Act (SEA): Signed in 1986, the first major reform of the Rome Treaty. It provided for the 1992 programme to complete the single market; added some new competences; extended the use of 23 July 2009.






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