Abstention, constructive (positive abstention)

As a general rule, all decisions taken with respect to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy are adopted unanimously. However, in certain cases, an EU country can choose to abstain from voting on a particular action without blocking it. This could arise, for example, where the EU proposes to condemn the actions of a non-EU country. Under Article 31 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the country that constructively abstains may qualify its abstention by making a formal declaration.

In that case, it shall not be obliged to apply this decision, but shall accept that the decision commits the EU.

Accession criteria (Copenhagen criteria)

The Treaty on European Union sets out the conditions (Article 49) and principles (Article 6(1)) to which any country wishing to become an EU member must conform. Certain criteria must be met for admission. These criteria (known as the Copenhagen criteria) were established by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and strengthened by the Madrid European Council in 1995. They are: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; a functioning market economy and the ability to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU; ability to take on the obligations of membership, including the capacity to effectively implement the rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law (the ‘acquis’), and adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. For EU accession negotiations to be launched, a country must satisfy the first criterion.

Accession negotiations

Accession negotiations with a candidate member country are only launched when EU governments, meeting in the European Council, have unanimously agreed upon accession. Negotiations take place in intergovernmental conferences between the governments of the EU countries and that of the candidate country. They help candidate countries to prepare for EU membership as well as allow the EU to prepare itself for enlargement in terms of absorption capacity. On a practical level, the body of EU legislation (the ‘acquis’) is divided into 35 chapters (by policy). The Council decides unanimously whether to open each chapter. When negotiations on all chapters are completed, the terms and conditions – including possible safeguard clauses and transitional arrangements – are incorporated in an accession treaty. This treaty needs the European Parliament’s consent and the Council’s unanimous approval. All contracting states then ratify it in line with their own constitutional rules.

Accession partnership

When a country applies to join the EU, an Accession Partnership is agreed between that country and the EU. The Accession Partnership agreement sets out the following: the areas in which the candidate country needs to make progress in the short and medium term, based on the accession criteria. These areas are identified in the Commission’s opinion on that country’s membership application; preaccession assistance which involves financial and technical help to support economic and political reforms in the candidate country, preparing them for the rights and obligations that come with EU membership. Candidate countries draw up national programmes for the adoption of the acquis (NPAAs). These lay out a timetable for putting the partnership into practice. Candidate countries also prepare action plans aimed at strengthening their administrative and judicial capacities.

Accidental pollution

Episodes are major environmental accidents due to manifold causes, which may occur in relation to any structure of the environment. A comprehensive analysis of such accidents should be based upon a classification taking into account the polluted environment, the pollutant and the causes that led to the occurrence of the incident. Under all circumstances, the consequences of such environmental accidents hold significant social, ecological and economic implications.

Accounting entry

A written record of a commercial transaction.

Accounting system

Organized set of manual and computerized accounting methods, procedures, and controls established to gather, record, classify, analyze, summarize, interpret, and present accurate and timely financial data for management decisions. Acculturation Cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture. Acquis The EU’s ‘acquis’ is the body of common rights and obligations that are binding on all EU countries, as EU Members. It is constantly evolving and comprises: the content, principles and political objectives of the Treaties; legislation adopted in application of the treaties and the case law of the   Court of Justice of the EU; declarations and resolutions adopted by the EU; measures relating to the common foreign and security policy; measures relating to justice and home affairs; international agreements concluded by the EU and those concluded by the EU countries between themselves in the field of the EU’s activities. Applicant countries are required to accept the acquis before they can join the EU. Derogations from the acquis are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited in scope. The acquis must be incorporated by applicant countries into their national legal order by the date of their accession to the EU and they are obliged to apply it from that date.


The act by which the person procures the property of a thing.



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