The entire body of European laws is known as the acquis communautaire. This includes all the treaties, regulations and directives passed by EU institutions as well as the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Countries have to reform their legal systems to incorporate the acquis before they can join the EU.
A key position at the ECJ – there are eight advocates-general. Their job is to advise judges about the legal points at issue in a case. An advocate-general issues an Opinion before the judges give their ruling, and it is seen as an early indication of the ECJ’s thinking about a case. The judges usually, but not always, follow that Opinion.
or Treaty of Amsterdam was signed in 1997 to update and clarify the Maastricht Treaty and to start preparing the European Union for enlargement.
The European Parliament was given powers to legislate in co-decision with the Council of Ministers on a range of new issues including employment, social policy, health, transport and the environment.
In the Council of Ministers, unanimity was replaced with qualified majority voting on employment, social exclusion, customs and data protection amongst other issues.
The Amsterdam Treaty also provided for a two-speed Europe by allowing closer co-operation between countries wanting to forge ahead on certain issues.
Another important aspect of Amsterdam is the abolition of border checks by incorporation of the Schengen agreements into EU law for all member states except Britain and Ireland.
The union members also agreed to co-ordinate their approach to asylum and immigration as well as increasing co-operation on police and law enforcement.
An article in the Lisbon Treaty known as the “exit clause”, it provides members with a formal mechanism to leave the EU. A UK “leave” vote in June would most likely trigger the Article 50 procedure. It has never been used before. It says “any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.
These are comprehensive partnership agreements that the EU signs with countries that may join the EU at some future date. In most cases they include a free trade deal and signal closer political ties.
The 19 countries that use the euro (the eurozone) are completing a banking union. It is aimed at shoring up the eurozone’s foundations and restoring market confidence. The European Central Bank now has a direct role in supervising eurozone banks. The other main reforms are: a system for winding up problem banks in an orderly way and a general insurance scheme for savers.
Short for Britain and exit – used to describe the scenario if the UK votes to leave the EU. Apparently derived from “Grexit” – the popular term for a possible Greek exit from the euro.
Charter of Fundamental Rights:
A political declaration, upholding basic values such as the right to freedom of speech and thought, and equality before the law. It also recognises the right to strike and fair working conditions, and covers data protection and bioethics. The EU’s Lisbon Treaty has a reference to it, making it legally binding.
A mechanism for EU citizens to lobby the European Commission directly to legislate on a particular issue.A European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) requires the backing of at least one million citizens in at least seven EU countries. The seven-country rule also applies to the “citizens’ committee” which has to be set up in order to submit an ECI.
The means by which the European Parliament shares decision-making with the Council (the EU governments). Co-decision now applies to about 75% of EU legislation, so in most areas MEPs are on an equal footing with ministers.The Lisbon Treaty renamed it as “the ordinary legislative procedure”.
The cohesion policy is an attempt to reduce the development gap between different EU regions by redistributing funds from richer to poorer areas.About 34% of EU spending goes on cohesion. Ex-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe are the main beneficiaries.
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP):
The CAP used to be the dominant issue for the European Community and it remains at the heart of the EU’s business.CAP spending has been reduced – it now consumes about 30% of the EU budget. The CAP has been reformed – instead of the subsidies that led to butter mountains and wine lakes the EU now gives farmers direct payments, not tied to production.But the CAP is still controversial. Critics say it is wasteful and favours rich landowners and big agri-businesses.
Common Fisheries Policy (CFP):
Like the CAP, the CFP is aimed at ensuring stable food supplies and reasonable prices for the consumer. But the CFP has failed to halt overfishing that has endangered cod, tuna and some other popular species.Annual quotas set under the CFP have contributed to the problem of “discards”. That is the chronic waste when crews throw fish back into the sea to avoid exceeding their quota. Under a 2013 CFP reform, discards are being phased out and technical changes should help make fishing more sustainable.
The abbreviation for the committee of permanent representatives to the EU, which prepares the work of the ministerial Council. It is made up of the 28 ambassadors (permanent representatives) to the EU – or their deputies.
Council of Europe:
Based in Strasbourg, it is a body of 47 countries that aims to promote democracy and protect human rights. It is not an EU institution, but the 28 member states and all the candidate countries are members. It set up the European Convention on Human Rights, and cases relating to the convention are brought before the European Court of Human Rights.
Council of Ministers:
Usually just called “the Council”. It represents the member states’ national governments. Government ministers from all member states meet regularly, according to policy area. The presidency of the Council rotates between each member state every six months. Together with the European Parliament, the Council has the power to make EU laws and decide the budget.
Court of Auditors:
It is the EU’s independent external auditor and financial watchdog. Based in Luxembourg, it produces regular reports on how the EU budget is spent. It is required to report fraud cases to the EU anti-fraud agency, called Olaf.
The European Central Bank based in Frankfurt is responsible for implementing European monetary policy. It works together with the national central banks of the EU states. Its goal, as defined by the Maastricht Treaty, is to maintain price stability in the eurozone. It was given sweeping new supervisory powers in the banking reform launched after the 2008 financial crisis.
The European Economic Area (EEA) provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital in the EU’s single market. All 28 members are in the EEA, as are three of the four EFTA countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The EFTA countries are not bound by EU rules for agriculture and fisheries.Switzerland is in EFTA but not in the EEA – it has bilateral accords enabling it to participate in the single market.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) is the EU’s diplomatic service. It has its own staff and offices worldwide, as well as diplomats seconded from member states. It is headed by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini from Italy.
The European Free Trade Association, which promotes free trade and economic integration between Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. EFTA was set up in 1960 as an alternative group for those countries which were not, or did not want to be, in the then European Economic Community. The UK and four other countries also used to be in EFTA, but left when they joined the EU.
Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is the official name of the monetary union that brought about the single currency, the euro.
The EU has gone through several phases of expansion since it came into being in the 1950s. The biggest was the 2004 “big bang” when 10 countries joined, eight of them ex-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe. The most recent country to join was Croatia, in 2013. Now there are 28 member states.
Launched in 2012, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is commonly known as the eurozone bailout fund.It is an intergovernmental organisation based in Luxembourg, which borrows in the financial markets, by selling bonds, and uses that cash to fund eurozone bailouts. It has a maximum lending capacity of €500bn (£387bn; $550bn). Its shareholders are the eurozone countries. It superseded the EU’s European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), set up in 2010.
The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was launched in 2005. Its purpose is to reduce industrial emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Permits for emitting CO2 are distributed under a system of national allocations. The permits are traded – so big polluters can buy extra ones from greener enterprises. The ETS is not looking very robust now however because of persistently weak carbon prices.
The single currency was launched at the beginning of 1999, when 11 EU member states decided to adopt it, abandoning their national currencies. Greece joined in 2001. The euro was launched in its cash form on 1 January, 2002. There are now 19 countries in the eurozone.
The forum where the 19 eurozone economics and finance ministers meet. Their regular meetings usually precede Ecofin meetings – that is, meetings of the 28 EU finance ministers.
European Arrest Warrant:
The EAW is a tool aimed at speeding up and simplifying extradition proceedings in the EU.An EAW is issued by a national judicial authority.The system was introduced in 2004 and has helped in bringing some terror and drugs suspects to trial, though critics say some authorities issue too many EAWs for relatively minor offences.
It is more than simply the EU’s civil service. It is the only body that can formally initiate EU legislation. It is sometimes seen as the driving force behind European integration, but is ultimately under the control of the member states. There are 28 commissioners, each in charge of a policy area, such as agriculture or transport. Commissioners are appointed by the member states – one from each – and are usually senior politicians. They have a duty to act in the general European interest. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is a powerful political figure in the EU.
also known asConvention on the Future of Europewas a body established by theEuropean Councilin December 2001 as a result of theLaeken Declaration. It was purposed to produce a draftconstitutionfor theEuropean Unionfor the Council to finalise and adopt. The Convention finished its work in July 2003 with theirDraft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.
The gathering of EU countries’ heads of state or government and their foreign ministers. Commonly known as EU summits.European Council decisions set the EU’s priorities and strategic goals.The European Council President is appointed for five years. Donald Tusk (Polish) was reelected for the second term in March 2017.
European Court of Human Rights:
Court in Strasbourg that enforces compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Not an EU institution, but its rulings are binding on EU member states and the other nations in the Council of Europe. Individuals who allege an injustice in their home state can take their case to the Strasbourg court.
European Court of Justice:
Based in Luxembourg, the ECJ rules on disputes over EU treaties and other EU legislation. Its decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states. Cases can involve aggrieved governments, EU institutions, companies or ordinary citizens.
European Environment Agency (EEA):
EU agency providing independent scientific data on the environment that feeds into EU policy. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):
EU agency advising on risks in the food chain – conducts independent scientific research, focusing on animal and plant health. Based in Parma, Italy.
The parliament is the EU’s only directly elected body. There are 751 MEPs.It holds monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg, and has a secretariat in Luxembourg, but MEPs do most of their work in Brussels.
One who admires Europe and/or supports EU membership. Often used loosely, eg for someone who likes French cuisine and Italian opera. Eurosceptics tend to use it pejoratively for their opponents.
This is the European Law Enforcement Organization. Based in The Hague, it tries to improve co-ordination between police forces across the EU against international organized crime.
The core of Euroscepticism is the belief that EU integration, the pooling of more sovereignty, threatens the nation state. Eurosceptics range from those who want far-reaching reform of the EU to those who totally reject the EU. About 25% of MEPs are in Eurosceptic parties, nearly all right-wing or far-right.
Ever closer union:
This ambition dates back to the origins of the EU in 1957. The 2009 Lisbon Treaty speaks of “creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. But in February 2016 Prime Minister David Cameron secured a UK opt-out, to take effect next time there is an EU treaty change. A treaty amendment will make clear that references to seeking ever closer union do not apply to the UK.
A system of government where several states pool sovereignty in some areas but keep their independence. There is a central government and state governments – and much variation internationally in terms of their relative powers. EU integration is often called “federalism” – suggesting that supranational institutions are gradually usurping national governments.
An intergovernmental agreement to enforce budget discipline. It was signed in 2012 by all EU states except the UK and Czech Republic. Signatories have to adopt a balanced budget law – without such a law they cannot get an ESM bailout. The agreement sets strict limits for the budget deficit and national debt.
This denotes free movement of goods, capital, services and people in the EU’s single market (see separate entry). The four have not all been developed equally – free movement of services still lags behind the others. The core principle is that national barriers, like tariffs, should no longer block free movement.
The EU agency tasked with ensuring border security. Based in Warsaw.
This stands for the General Affairs and External Relations Council – the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. They deal with important foreign policy issues and help set the agenda of European Council meetings.
A new Greek bailout deal hammered out in July 2015 staved off the very real threat of a Greek exit from the euro, a “Grexit”. Since 2010 Greece has been dependent on EU-IMF loans, and the austerity demanded by its lenders has left it in recession, with chronic unemployment. Grexit could make Greece competitive again, some argue, but others warn that it would send prices skyrocketing, deepening poverty.
This is a core principle of the EU. It means bringing national laws into line with one another, to prevent discrimination and ensure a level playing field. Mostly it takes the form of directives, which establish minimum obligations while allowing states some leeway. EU regulations – less common – are binding laws which must be uniform throughout the EU.
The High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy was introduced as part of the Amsterdam Treaty. It said the High Representative would assist the Council in foreign policy formulation and implementation, and – when requested by the Council presidency – by “conducting political dialogue with third countries”.
The Lisbon Treaty has beefed up the role, by merging it with that of the EU external affairs commissioner. The new post has the title “High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”. Federica Mogherini was designated as High Representative, with a five-year term in 2014.
An Intergovernmental Conference or IGC is a long-running conference between the governments of EU member states.
The aim of the IGC is to produce a treaty – for example the Maastricht Treaty. These are in fact not new pieces of legislation but amendments to the Treaty – the founding Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957.
This clause was added to the rules for qualified majority voting (QMV) to make it impossible for a very small number of the EU’s most populous states to prevent a decision from being adopted. The new voting system will only apply from 2014 – a result of Polish pressure.
Under the clause – amended during the Lisbon Treaty negotiations – a blocking minority must comprise at least four member states. If that does not happen, QMV will be deemed to have worked even if the population criterion is not met. Under Lisbon, a Council of Ministers decision requires a “double majority” – ie, the support of 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU’s population.
A programme of reforms aimed at making the EU economy more competitive internationally. It was agreed at the European Council in March 2000, where the EU set itself the goal of becoming by 2010 “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. Areas covered include social welfare reforms, education and IT projects. But the economic crisis derailed the plans and the EU is now working on a new strategy for the next decade.
Like the European constitution which it replaced, the Lisbon Treaty is often described as an attempt to streamline EU institutions to make the enlarged bloc of 27 states function better. But opponents see it as part of a federalist agenda that threatens national sovereignty.
The constitution was thrown out by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The Lisbon Treaty, too, was rejected by Irish voters in 2008. However, the Republic of Ireland backed the treaty in a new referendum in October 2009. The Czech Republic was the last EU member state to ratify Lisbon, and the treaty took effect on 1 December 2009.
Also known as the Treaty on European Union is the treaty that is responsible for the creation of the European Union, signed in Maastricht, a city in the Netherlands.
The Maastricht Treaty was signed on February 7, 1992, by the leaders of 12 member nations, and it reflected the serious intentions of all countries to create a common economic and monetary union.
The 1991 Maastricht Treaty – officially known as the Treaty of the European Union – established five criteria that determine whether an EU country is ready to adopt the euro. They are:
- Price stability. The inflation rate should be no more than 1.5 percentage points above the rate for the three EU countries with the lowest inflation over the previous year.
- Budget deficit. This must generally be below 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).
- The national debt should not exceed 60% of GDP, but a country with a higher level of debt can still adopt the euro provided its debt level is falling steadily.
- Interest rates. The long-term rate should be no more than two percentage points above the rate in the three EU countries with the lowest inflation over the previous year.
- Exchange rate stability. The national currency’s exchange rate should have stayed within certain pre-set margins of fluctuation for two years.
This was developed in the context of the EU’s 2004 enlargement. It seeks to promote shared values with the EU’s neighbours, many of them in the former Soviet Union, such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, good governance and a market economy.
Signed in 2001, the Nice Treaty changed voting weights and procedures to take account of the anticipated enlargement of the EU. National governments lost their veto in a number of areas which were brought under qualified majority voting (QMV). The treaty also boosted the number of Euro MPs.
The treaty was widely regarded as a temporary fix. Further debate led to the EU constitution and the Lisbon Treaty.
It is the job of the independent ombudsman (currently Emily O’Reilly (Irish)) to act as a watchdog for EU institutions, to ensure that they are transparent and accountable. The ombudsman investigates complaints from EU citizens, firms or organisations and makes recommendations to EU institutions. She cannot impose a solution but can raise the issue with MEPs, so that they act on it.
The Petersberg tasks defined by the Western European Union (WEU) at the Hotel Petersberg in Germany in 1992, are tasks now included in the remit of the European security and defence policy (ESDP). They encompass humanitarian and rescue tasks; peacekeeping; and tasks of combat forces in crisis management.
The EU took over the role of the WEU after the Cologne European Council in 1999.
Any EU citizen with a grievance against an EU institution can complain to, or petition, the European Parliament. The parliament’s committee on petitions considers whether the complaint is admissible and what course of action to take. It can refer the matter to the ombudsman.
Pillars of the EU:
The Maastricht Treaty set up the EU’s structure – an interconnecting pillar system.
The first pillar is the “Community domain”, covering most of the common policies, where decisions involve the Commission, Parliament and the Council.
The second pillar is the common foreign and security policy, where decisions are taken by the Council alone and have to be unanimous.
The third pillar is “police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters”, where again it is the Council that decides.
The Lisbon Treaty has changed the pillar system, by creating the new post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and giving the European Parliament a say in the area of justice and home affairs.
are ideas expressing the attitude of social groups as a whole, toward the needs of other social groups and of the whole of that society,ideas that have a significance for political subjects.Political values are commonly characterized by a strong community sense and group solidarity and the importance of personal connections and consensus building.
Political value system:
is the value system of a particular class, race, social group.
The EU has a number of presidents. There are presidents of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. The president of the Commission is nominated by the European Council, voting by qualified majority, and approved or rejected by the European Parliament.
The Council presidency is held by a country for six months at a time, by rotation. But in future, under the Lisbon Treaty, EU summits will be chaired by European Council president – Herman Donald Tusk (Polish).
An electoral system that allocates seats according to the number of votes each party received. If a party gained 40% of the total votes, a perfectly proportional system would give them 40% of the seats. It is the system in European Parliament elections, including in the UK. But in UK general elections the system is first-past-the-post (FPTP), which means the winner in an electoral district is simply the one who gets more votes than his/her rivals. The winner can get well below 50%. The number of seats won under FPTP does not necessarily reflect the number of votes cast.
Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) is a system of weighted votes – the usual way that decisions are made in the Council of Ministers. The votes are weighted according to a country’s size and population. There is a “double majority” rule for votes on Commission proposals: a measure is approved if 55% of EU countries vote for it (ie 16 out of 28) and they represent at least 65% of the total EU population.
The European Parliament’s lead negotiator on a particular issue, in the co-decision process with the Council. “Rapporteur” means the one who drafts the report, ie a legislative report which states the MEPs’ position on a new draft law.
A direct vote by the electorate on a single political issue, often one of major national significance, eg the UK’s upcoming referendum on EU membership. New EU treaties have been put to referendums in some countries. In 2005 the EU constitution was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in referendums, burying the constitution project. But much of it was later woven into the Lisbon Treaty. Switzerland, outside the EU, holds frequent referendums – more than its neighbours.
An EU legislative act that is immediately enforceable as law in all member states simultaneously. In contrast, EU directives allow flexibility for national legislators.
A pact whose members agree to remove internal borders and allow people to travel without checks from country to country.
The agreement emerged outside the framework of the EU, and was initially signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1985.
It now covers all member states apart from Ireland and the UK. Iceland and Norway signed an agreement with the EU in 1999 to involve them with the development of Schengen. Switzerland – also outside the EU – joined Schengen in December 2008.
The single market came into force in January 1993, establishing the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.
The Treaty of Rome which established the EEC in 1957 had set its sights on creating a common market. That came into being in 1968 with the creation of a customs union.
The Single European Act, signed in 1986, finally set a deadline of 1992 for the single market to be up and running. In the end, it was launched on 1 January 1993.
The Single European Act established four freedoms:
- Companies can sell their products anywhere in the member states and consumers can buy where they want with no penalty.
- Citizens of the member states can live and work in any other country and their professional qualifications should be recognised.
- Currencies and capital can flow freely between the member states and European citizens can use financial services in any member state.
- Professional services such as banking, insurance, architecture and advertising can be offered in any member state.
The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund are instruments for narrowing development disparities among regions and between member states. They are used to further the goal of EU cohesion.
For the period 2007-2013, the budget allocated to regional policy amounts to around 348bn euros, comprising 278bn euros for the Structural Funds and 70bn for the Cohesion Fund. This represents 35% of the EU budget and is the second largest budget item.
It is an EU principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. Subsidiarity requires the EU to check whether action at community level will be more effective than action at national, regional or local level.
A protocol attached to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty giving the EU more influence over social policy. It enhances the role of employers and workers’ representatives in shaping EU directives. The protocol’s scope includes industrial relations, equal opportunities, health and safety, education and training.
It is an EU principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen.Subsidiarity requires the EU to check whether action at EU level will be more effective than action at national, regional or local level.
Treaty of Rome
The 1957 Treaty of Rome – signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg – established the European Economic Community.
Along with the Paris Treaty it is one of the foundation stones of the European Community.
Often referred to simply as the Treaty, it has been amended several times to take account of new member states joining the EEC.
Most recently it has been updated by the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties.
The name for the international lenders who organised and monitored the eurozone bailouts: the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), being negotiated between the EU and US. It could create the world’s biggest free trade zone, and both sides hope to complete the deal this year. Supporters say TTIP will create many new business opportunities and jobs; opponents warn it could undermine workers’ rights and European social welfare.
The Lisbon Treaty extended QMV to more policy areas, reducing the veto powers of member states. QMV speeds up EU decision-making, as there is less scope for vetos.Unanimity is still required in areas deemed especially sensitive, including taxation, social security and defence policy.
the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard.
A coherent set of values adopted and/or evolved by a person, organization or society as a standard to guide its behavior in preferences in all situations.
The veto is a way of keeping national sovereignty over sensitive areas of decision-making. It can be used when ministers from national governments vote in the Council of Ministers, under the unanimity system.
Member states have steadily given up their powers of veto over time, broadening the areas subject to qualified majority voting in each successive treaty change.
In negotiations over the EU constitution in 2003/4, the UK insisted on keeping vetoes over tax, criminal justice, social security, treaty changes and EU funding.
Working Time Directive:
It sets limits for working hours in the EU, including: at least four weeks’ paid annual leave guaranteed; a minimum period of 11 hours’ rest every 24 hours, and one day a week; a right to work no more than 48 hours per week.