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Jargon

A

A and B points

A and B points

When EU ministers jet off to Brussels or Luxembourg for their regular talks in the Council of Ministers, they do not discuss every issue on the agenda for their meeting. As with all top-level political negotiations, most of the groundwork for Council meetings is done by diplomats and civil servants before their bosses arrive. Non-contentious issues are then marked on the agenda for the ministerial talks as “A” points. This means ministers will not discuss them but will instead simply rubber-stamp the provisional agreements drawn up by their officials. Issues the diplomats cannot resolve are marked as “B” points and are discussed at Council meetings, where ministers may approve or reject them. Particularly tricky issues are marked as “starred B points” and ministers may take a vote on whether or not to approve them.

Accession

Accession

This is the official term used to describe the process by which a new country joins the EU. Any country wishing to become a member of the club must go through a lengthy period of negotiations and screening to see if it respects the Union's founding principles and has fully implemented all existing EU legislation. If it is successful, it will then be invited to sign an "accession treaty" which sets out the terms of its EU membership. This treaty must then be approved, or ratified, by both the applicant itself and all of the Union's existing members.

ACP countries

ACP countries

This is the shorthand term used to describe the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. These are essentially former European colonies with which the EU has retained close ties. In total, there are 79 ACP states: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Côte d’Ivoire, the Cook Islands, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tome and Principe, Senegal, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Surinam, Swaziland, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Over the past 40 years, the EU has drawn up a series of preferential trade deals with these countries giving them privileged access to the Union’s single market: the most recent is the 2000 Cotonou agreement. However, because some of the trade-related aspects of Cotonou were judged incompatible with World Trade Organisation rules, the EU started negotiations on a series of new agreements named Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in the early 2000s. The EPA agreements are a combination of EU trade and development policy aimed at supporting regional integration and the gradual inclusion of the ACP countries in the world economy. The latest EPA was agreed in 2014 between the EU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The signature process is currently ongoing.

Acquis communautaire

Acquis communautaire

France was one of the EU's founder nations and does not want anyone to forget it. Much EU jargon is based on French diplomatic phrases and this term is perhaps the daddy of them all. In fact, the acquis (pronounced a-kee) is a very easy concept to understand. It means, quite simply, every piece of EU law that has ever been passed. This includes all of the Union's founding treaties and the countless EU directives and regulations agreed since the European Community was created in 1957.

Additionality

Additionality

This is one of the key principles underpinning most EU funding for things like new roads or bridges, or schemes to help boost job creation. In practice, it means national governments or local authorities should not expect a free ride from the Union. If funding for a project is covered by the additionality rule, the EU will only provide money for the scheme if national authorities also chip in. The general rule is a 50-50 split for funding, with half of the money coming from national sources and half from Union coffers. However, for projects in some of the EU's poorest regions, the Union contribution can be as much as 85 percent.

Advocate-general

Advocate-general

These top EU legal officials are members of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which exists to sort out wrangles linked to Union law, with experts describing an advocate-general’s role as similar to that of a public prosecutor in a national legal system. They are responsible for collating evidence and representing the EU interest in cases before the ECJ. Advocates-general play a particularly important role during the final stages of an EU court case, as they have to give an official opinion on the case before the presiding judge makes a definitive ruling. As judges tend to follow these opinions, interested parties in court cases take their views very seriously indeed. There are currently eleven advocates-general: one each for France, the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland and five for the other 22 countries, appointed on a rotating basis. 

Amsterdam Treaty

Amsterdam Treaty

In June 1997, the then 15 EU leaders gathered in Amsterdam and agreed a new set of amendments to the Union's founding treaties. These amendments taken together make up the Amsterdam Treaty. It extended the number of policy areas over which the European Parliament has "co-decision" rights together with the Council of Ministers (and also simplified this legislative procedure). Amsterdam also gave the EU new powers to coordinate employment policies and extended the Union's responsibilities in the area of justice and home affairs. In addition to agreeing the new treaty, Amsterdam saw the summit debut of a newly elected Tony Blair, who took part in a photo-stunt bicycle ride alongside the city's canals with rather more relish than his more elderly (and portly) counterparts.

Antici group

Antici group

This group of officials is responsible for preparing the weekly talks between EU ambassadors, which are known in EU jargon as COREPER II meetings. (Just to confuse matters, COREPER I is used to describe meetings between the Union's deputy ambassadors.) The Antici group is made up of ambassadors' assistants, a top European Commission official, a member of the private office of the head of the Council of Ministers secretariat and a member of the Council's legal service. It is a powerful body which prepares some of the Union's most politically sensitive meetings. The group's members are also present when EU leaders gather for their regular summits. The Antici group bears the name of its founder, an Italian official.

ASEM

ASEM

This stands for Asia-Europe Meeting. ASEMs take place regularly and are used to discuss issues of common interest – essentially trade matters – to the EU and Asia. The Asian countries which take part in ASEMs are the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – along with Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Russian Federation. The first ASEM took place in 1996 which means that ASEM will celebrate its 20th anniversaryin 2016. A special summit will be held in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.

Association Agreements

Association Agreements

These are deals signed between the EU and countries which hope to join the club one day. The precise wording of such accords varies, but they always include commitments by the country concerned to bring its national legislation into line with Union law and respect fundamental EU principles such as democracy and human rights. Association Agreements are often signed with countries who have no realistic hope of joining the Union for decades, if at all.

Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS)

Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS)

In 1989 the then European Community passed a law designed to protect European television productions. Supporters of the “Television without Frontiers” directive insist that it ensures that the Union’s unique cultural identity is preserved in the face of international competition. But critics argue it is a blatantly protectionist law which discriminates against non-European programmes, notably from the US. The directive states that, where possible, EU broadcasters should reserve the majority of their transmission time for programmes made in the Union. It also requires that European television companies try to buy at least 10 percent of their content from independent programme-makers based in the EU. In addition, the legislation is designed to ensure television programmes can circulate freely within the Union’s single market. This means EU countries cannot block each other’s transmissions, except in cases where one country broadcasts material such as hard-core pornography or unlawful advertising. In 2007 “Television without Frontiers” was modernised with a new directive on “Audiovisual Media Services” (AVMS) which extends the original directive’s principles to the internet and, controversially, allows product placement in European films and certain types of TV programme throughout the EU for the first time. In 2015, the Commission announced a review of the AVMS Directive in the context of the Digital Single Market Strategy. 

B

Berlaymont

Berlaymont

This star-shaped building in the heart of Brussels European district is the headquarters of the European Commission. Commission staff moved out of the building en masse at the beginning of the 1990s following an asbestos scare and only moved back in late 2004. The refurbishment of the Berlaymont became synonymous with cost overruns and delays. It was originally due to be completed by 1998. Before it moved out, the Commission rented the Berlaymont from the Belgian government, but it later agreed to buy the building for €49.6 million €49.6 plus €503 million in renovation costs.

BEUC

BEUC

This is the European consumers’ organisation.The strange onomatopoeia of the group’s name, reminiscent of the sounds people sometimes make the morning after a night of particularly heavy alcoholic indulgence, comes from the fact that BEUC is a French acronym, which stands for Bureau européen des Unions de Consommateurs. The group does have an English name, the European Consumers’ Organisation, but no one in Brussels ever uses it. BEUC is an umbrella group which brings together national consumer organisations to lobby the EU institutions. It keeps a particular eye on the work of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection (confusingly known in Brussels as DG SANTE, another French acronym). But it also gets involved in any other policy debates which have an impact on consumers. Recent BEUC campaigns have focused on issues including food safety and affordable access to financial services.

Blocking minority

Blocking minority

See Qualified Majority Voting.

Bosman case

Bosman case

This 1995 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg had major repercussions for the world of professional football in Europe. Jean-Marc Bosman was a player for Belgian team Liège RC. When he wanted to change club, Liège demanded a €291,101 transfer fee to let him go. The ECJ ruled that this was illegal under EU rules on the free movement of workers. It said that as Bosman's contract with Liège had expired, he could play where he wanted. Critics of the Bosman ruling said it would prevent teams from developing new talent and would deprive smaller clubs of a key source of revenue. The court also ruled that European clubs could not limit the number of foreign players on their teams, another decision which has had significant consequences.

Bruges speech

Bruges speech

Ironically perhaps, one of the most infamously Eurosceptic speeches ever made by an EU leader was given at the fervently pro-European College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. In 1988, the UK’s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took to the stage in a college amphitheatre to lambast what she saw as socialist-led efforts to create a European superstate. “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at European level,” she thundered. Although the speech also contained some less Eurosceptic passages, it became a rallying cry for Eurosceptics across the Union and especially the UK.

Bureau

Bureau

The European Parliament’s Bureau oversees all administrative questions in the EU assembly. It is made up of the Parliament’s president, 14 vice-presidents and five “quaestors” – MEPs specially appointed to deal with administrative questions directly linked to elected members. The bureau is responsible for ensuring the Parliament spends its internal budget correctly. It also deals with staffing and other organisational matters.

C

Cabinet

Cabinet

In Eurospeak, this word has nothing to do with furniture. Cabinet, another French term which has found its way into everyday Brussels language, is a collective noun used to describe the private offices of Europe’s most senior politicians. All 28 European commissioners have cabinets, as does the president of the European Parliament and the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Inside the Commission, cabinet members are often temporary staff brought to Brussels by “their” commissioner for the five-year duration of his or her term of office. This can lead to friction. Many analysts argue cabinet members often put their commissioner’s short-term political needs before those of the Commission as an institution.

Cassis de Dijon

Cassis de Dijon

This French blackcurrant-based drink was at the heart of one of the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) most celebrated decisions. In 1979, Rewe-Zentral AG, one of Germany’s biggest food and drinks retailers, complained to the ECJ that the German authorities were making it difficult for the company to import and sell Cassis de Dijon. The Court ruled in the firm’s favour and declared that under European law, if a company is allowed to make a product freely available for sale in one European Union country, then it must be allowed to do so in all member states. As Cassis de Dijon was obviously already freely available in France, the Court argued that all other European citizens also had the right to buy and drink it. The ruling allowed the Community to develop the all-important principle of mutual recognition- which in turn paved the way for the launch of the single market in 1993.

Cedefop

Cedefop

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training gets its universally used acronym “Cedefop“ from its French title, Centre européen pour le développement de la formation professionnelle. It is based in Thessalonica in Greece and tries to come up with innovative ideas for encouraging vocational training in the Union. It has a network of contact points in EU countries that allow the centre to keep abreast of new developments in vocational training across the Union, as well as to feed back its own ideas to national authorities. Cedefop was founded in 1975, making it one of the EU's oldest agencies.

CEN/CENELEC

CEN/CENELEC

If you have ever cursed the fact that you still cannot travel around the EU without carrying an arsenal of electrical plug adapters with you, these are the people whose job it is to find a solution. CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) bring together the National Standardization Bodies and National Electrotechnical Committees (respectively) of 33 European countries. Through more than 2000 Technical Committees and Working Groups, CEN and CENELEC provide platforms for experts from industry and other stakeholders to work together and develop standards and specifications in relation to various kinds of products, services, processes and systems across a wide range of sectors and topics including construction, energy, the environment, healthcare, household appliances, machinery and transport.

 

Censure

Censure

One of the European Parliament's ultimate powers is the right to censure the European Commission. In effect this means that the Parliament can demand that the European Commission president and his team of politically appointed commissioners resign. To date, the Parliament has never used this right, although in 1999, the threat of a censure vote led Commission President Jacques Santer’s team to “jump before it was pushed” and resign en masse. Many critics, including a large number of members of the European Parliament, say the right of censure is too clumsy an instrument in its present form. In Brussels circles, it is often described as an institutional “atomic bomb” or the “nuclear option”. Those who want the rules to be revised say it would make more sense for the Parliament to be given the right to demand that individual commissioners resign instead of only being allowed to sack the entire college. In 2014, the far-right MEPs proposed a censure motion against Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's over his role in controversial corporate tax avoidance schemes (Luxleaks) during his time as prime minister of Luxembourg. The censure motion was rejected with 461 votes; more votes than Juncker received when he was voted in (423 votes).

CEPOL

CEPOL

Originally based in Bramshill in the UK, CEPOL is a kind of European police academy that has been running courses since 2001. Its full English name is the European Police College, but like many things in the EU, it is generally referred to by its French acronym. (CEPOL is short for Collège européen de Police). The college’s name is somewhat misleading as the institution does not train members of an EU police force. No such service exists at present as policing matters remain a national competence within the Union. The college’s key role is to provide training courses for senior police officers from all of the EU’s member states. These are designed to improve cooperation between national police forces by explaining to “students” how law and order services operate in different EU countries. The institution’s supporters hope it will help EU police forces to work together more efficiently to tackle cross-border law and order issues such as organised crime; critics say it lacks democratic control. CEPOL moved to Budapest in 2014 after the UK decided to sell the site in Bramshill where CEPOL was hosted. 

Charter of Fundamental Rights

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental rights sets out the rights of Union citizens. It covers issues such as the respect for human dignity, the right not to be discriminated against and the idea that all EU citizens are equal. It was formally approved by Union leaders at their fractious summit in Nice in December 2000, but the UK insisted it should not have legal weight. However, most countries disagreed and under the Lisbon Treaty it became legally binding on member states (though only when they are implementing EU laws). The UK, however, secured an opt-out.

CIVITAS

CIVITAS

This EU-backed scheme aims to clean up Europe’s public transport systems. CIVITAS is an acronym for CIty VITAlity Sustainability. The project encourages new, cleaner public transport systems, for example buses that run on non-fossil fuels or electric tram networks. The scheme began in 2002. Currently, the program is at its third itineration, CIVITAS PLUS II, and will run from 2012-2017 and 8 European cities are taking part. Since 2002, 69 demonstration cities have benefitted from EU funding of EUR 200 million, leveraging a total investment at EUR 370 million to facilitate the implementation of cleaner urban transport projects.

Co-decision

Co-decision

Until the early 1990s, the European Parliament had very limited powers to block proposed EU laws from being adopted. The Commission did the proposing and the member states in the Council of Ministers, generally speaking, did the adopting. That changed with the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which introduced the “co-decision” legislative process. Co-decision is complex and has three main stages. The Commission proposes a new law and sends it to the Parliament and Council of Ministers to be debated. The Parliament chews it over, proposes amendments and sends them to the Council. Ministers then chew these over and agree on acommon position. If the two match, the act becomes law. If not, the proposal gets a second reading in Parliament before being bounced back to the Council for more chewing over. Most acts are adopted by this point, aided by plenty of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the two institutions. The most controversial proposals, however, often require the convening of a trialogues where representatives of the two institutions get together with the Commission and try to hammer out the remaining sticking points. The Amsterdam and Nice Treaties extended the scope of the co-decision process to most EU policy areas, with taxation, social affairs, foreign and defence policy and bits of justice and home affairs being the main exceptions. The Lisbon Treaty extended even further the scope of co-decision and renamed it to the Ordinary Legislative Procedure. See also: trialogue; Common position.

Cohesion fund

Cohesion fund

The Cohesion fund was created in 1994 to help the Union’s poorest countries to catch up economically with their wealthier partners. It is available to all member states whose Gross National Income is less than 90 percent of the EU average. The main advantage of the scheme for eligible countries is that the EU budget finances up to 85 percent of the cost of major projects needed to upgrade national transport infrastructure or improve the environment (other Union funding only covers a maximum of 50 percent of the costs of such schemes). When the scheme was first set up, four countries, Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain, were eligible for assistance. On May 1 2004 the ten new member states of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia all began to receive cohesion funding, as did Bulgaria and Romania when they joined in 2007. Ireland is no longer eligible for new funds because the success of its “Celtic Tiger” economy means it has gone from being one of the Union’s poorest states to one of its wealthiest, until the Irish property bubble burst in 2009.

College

College

This has nothing to do with education. Rather it is one of the collective names given to the 28 European commissioners who are in charge of the EU executive. Just to make things difficult, “the College” is also known as “the Commission”‚ and both terms are used interchangeably. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, the term “the Commission” is also used to describe the entire EU executive, with its thousands of officials, countless departments and numerous buildings, and not just the 28 political bigwigs who run it.

College of Europe

College of Europe

Often described as a training camp for Eurocrats, the College of Europe in Bruges teaches over 400 students a year about the joys of EU integration. Selection procedures for the college’s various postgraduate programmes are tough, ensuring that only the crème de la crème of the future EU elite are accepted. The college was set up in 1949 and is subsidised with cash from Union coffers. Since 1991 it has had a second campus in Poland at Natolin, near Warsaw. Many of the college’s students go on to great things as members of the EU establishment.

COM documents

COM documents

Any documents which European Commission officials prepare for the weekly meeting of the EU’s 28 commissioners must carry a COM number. This means that there are an awful lot of COM documents floating around in Brussels at any given time. A COM document can be as important as a proposal for a major new piece of EU legislation or as unremarkable as a minor internal report on staffing policy. COM is simply an abbreviation of the word Commission.

Comitology

Comitology

Once a new EU law has been approved, the need might arise to adopt detailed implementing measures or modify and adjust the adopted legislation. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union can confer such powers to the Commission under implementing acts or delegated acts. Implementing acts are for the adoption of uniform conditions for implementing legally binding EU acts, and delegated acts allow the Commission to amend or supplement certain non-essential elements of the legislative acts. In both cases, the procedure will involve committees composed of member state representatives and chaired by the Commission. The rules governing which committee does what are very complicated. But they are important because the committees have a key role in deciding how EU laws affecting all of us will work in practice. In Eurospeak, comitology is the word used to describe the complex process governing how the different committees work.

Committee of the Regions

Committee of the Regions

The biggest problem with the EU’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) is that it can’t do very much. Critics say it is just another expensive EU talking shop with no real teeth. And its supporters frequently find themselves stumped for a satisfactory riposte when this shortcoming is put to them. There is no getting away from the fact that the CoR’s influence on serious EU policymaking is pretty much zero. In some ways this is odd as its 344 members are all powerful local or regional politicians back in their home countries. Most of them handle multi-million-euro budgets and are tough, experienced and respected political operators. The idea of the CoR, which was set up under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, was that its members would provide a much-needed regional take on the Union’s affairs. The problem is that the CoR can only make recommendations about how EU policy should evolve, which EU governments and the European Parliament can – and usually do – quite happily ignore.

Common position

Common position

Before EU governments finally agree on a new piece of Union legislation, they usually reach a sort of pre-agreement called a common position. This can serve as a useful marker showing just how far governments have come towards agreeing the terms of a particularly complex piece of legislation. They have a certain legal weight and are published in the EU's Official Journal. EU governments must adopt a common position before the European Parliament can begin its second reading of a particular proposal.

Communitisation

Communitisation

This term was particularly popular during the negotiations which led up to the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. It was used to describe the process of allowing the European Commission and European Parliament to get involved in certain law-and-order policies which had previously been decided only by governments. The most well-known policy to be “communitised” in this way was asylum and immigration. The Lisbon Treaty did away with the pillar system but the notion of communitisation to define the 'mission creep' in EU competences persists.

Community preference

Community preference

This is an underlying principle of the European Union’s often-lambasted Common Agricultural Policy. It is a simple concept that states that agricultural goods produced within the EU should be favoured over imports wherever possible. Tariffs on imports and export refunds are the main methods used to support the system. Supporters of Community preference say it ensures that the EU has a strong agricultural sector and a large degree of self-sufficiency when it comes to food supplies. Critics say it is a protectionist measure that forces up food prices in Europe and prevents developing countries from making the most of their agricultural potential. Nowadays, many tariffs on agricultural products have been substantially lowered and the EU uses more subtle means such as protected geographical indications to favour European agricultural products.

Conference of European Churches (CEC)

Conference of European Churches (CEC)

One of the lesser-known but surprisingly influential Brussels lobby groups. The CEC represents 126 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches along with 43 associated organisations from all countries on the European continent. It was set up in 1959 and has offices in Geneva and Brussels. The group tries to ensure that Christian ideals are taken into account by EU lawmakers. They have been active for example in trying to restrict EU research on stem cells taken from human embryos. They also lobbied hard, but unsuccessfully, to ensure that the preamble of the EU's ill-fated constitution included a reference to Europe's religious heritage.

Conference of presidents

Conference of presidents

Like much of the jargon connected to the European Parliament, this term sounds far grander than it really is. The "presidents" in question are in fact the heads of the Parliament's different political groups. The "conference" they form is simply a regular meeting where they get together with the Parliament's speaker - also known as a president - to discuss the nuts and bolts of how the institution runs its business. The conference talks about how meetings should be organised, which parliamentary hearings will take place when, and all sorts of other administrative issues linked to the running of the EU assembly.

Constitution for Europe

Constitution for Europe

The treaty agreed at Nice in December 2000 was a messy compromise that left no one satisfied. Moreover, the Nice summit had plumbed new depths in the sort of acrimonious, late-night horse-trading behind closed doors that does not exactly endear EU politicians to voters. So when EU leaders met at Laeken in Brussels in 2001, they decided that a new treaty was needed and that it should be elaborated in a more open, inclusive way. For 18 months in 2002 and 2003, a “Convention on the Future of Europe” presided over by former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and comprising EU and national politicians met in Brussels, for the most part in public. The new treaty it agreed was grandiosely baptised the “Constitution for Europe”. In fact, it wasn’t much more of a constitution than any of the previous treaties. And the Convention that drafted it soon came under fire for being less open and democratic in practice than it was on paper. Still, governments approved a slightly amended version of the constitution in 2004 and it was signed in Rome’s city hall, the Campidoglio, that same year. Voters, however, turned out to be less than enthused: it was resoundingly rejected by the French and Dutch in referenda in the spring of 2005, plunging the EU into an unprecedented crisis of confidence. The Lisbon Treaty, agreed two years later, recycled most of the reforms originally set out in the Constitution for Europe.

Constructive abstention

Constructive abstention

EU governments must agree unanimously to adopt new Union laws on particularly sensitive subjects like police cooperation, the fight against terrorism or taxation. In other words, one country can veto planned legislation in these areas. But when it comes to certain aspects of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the rules are slightly different. In principle, all CFSP decisions are covered by the unanimity rule. But in certain circumstances, it is possible for a country to opt out of supporting a particular action - for example, a joint statement condemning a non-EU country - without blocking it. This process is known as constructive abstention. A country which constructively abstains from a CFSP decision is not bound by it but pledges not to take any unilateral action which might conflict with it.

Constructive ambiguity

Constructive ambiguity

If you are convinced that EU officials deliberately spend a great deal of their time talking gobbledygook, this is the phrase to pull out to prove you are right. A semi-official term in EU corridors of power, constructive ambiguity means phrasing an idea in such a vague way that no one is quite sure what is being said. It is a useful diplomatic device that allows EU decisions to be interpreted in different ways in different countries. If you have ever wondered how what was apparently the same decision taken by EU ministers in Brussels can be presented in such different and seemingly opposing ways when said ministers get home, blame constructive ambiguity. And of course, spin. While often used in the EU, constructive ambiguity is an essential tool of modern diplomacy.

COPA/COGECA

COPA/COGECA

This organisation represents European farmers and is one of the oldest and most powerful lobby groups in Brussels. It is a double-headed organisation made up of COPA, which represents farmers’ lobbies from the EU’s 28 member states, and COGECA, representing agricultural cooperatives in the same countries. COPA was created in 1958, just a year after the EU's founding Treaty of Rome was signed. COGECA was set up a year later and the two joined forces in 1962. The fact that this lobby group has been around almost as long as the Union itself shows just how important Europe’s farmers believe the EU is for their livelihoods. Even after successive reforms, the Union’s controversial Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) still accounts for almost a third of total EU spending every year. COPA/COGECA's presence in Brussels has ensured that farmers are some of Europe’s most EU-savvy citizens, at least when it comes to the complicated rules of the CAP.

Copenhagen criteria

Copenhagen criteria

These are the basic criteria which any country wanting to join the Union must respect. They were agreed at the 1993 EU summit in the Danish capital. To meet the criteria, countries must guarantee democracy and the rule of law, protect human rights and outlaw discrimination against ethnic minorities. They must also have functioning market economies and be able to cope with competitive and market pressures inside the Union's single market. Countries cannot start negotiations on EU membership until they respect the Copenhagen criteria.

COREPER

COREPER

Every EU member state has a special embassy in Brussels to represent it at the EU institutions. These embassies are known as “Permanent Representations” or Perm Reps in EU shorthand. They are generally separate from their home countries’ embassies to Belgium, which means most member states actually have two embassies in Brussels (or three for those that also have a representation to NATO). The ambassadors who head the Perm Reps are known as permanent representatives. Every week these ambassadors meet at the Council of Ministers’ headquarters to discuss important EU business. Its official name is the “Committee of Permanent Representatives”. In French it is known as the Comité des Représentants Permanents and it is the acronym of this French title that gives the group its universally accepted Brussels name of COREPER. Just to make matters more confusing, the full name of the weekly ambassadors’ meeting is COREPER II. This is because deputy permanent representatives also meet once a week and their get-togethers are known as COREPER I. COREPER II handles big political issues like foreign policy, justice and home affairs and budgetary matters. COREPER I deals with more technical issues like the single market or environmental legislation. COREPER II meetings are prepared by the Antici group; COREPER I meetings are prepared by the Mertens group.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

This phrase can regularly be heard echoing around the corridors of the European Commission’s employment and social affairs department. Supporters of CSR insist that in future, more and more companies will voluntarily try to respect the environment, treat their employees fairly and not exploit developing countries, because such moves make sound business sense. As consumers become more aware of issues like child labour and environmental damage, the argument goes, they will demand products made by socially responsible firms, even if this sometimes means paying more. The Commission is keen to tell consumers and companies about the advantages of CSR. It also wants firms to adopt the practice voluntarily. Cynics say the supporters for CSR are living in cloud-cuckoo land. They argue that no company will voluntarily increase costs, especially if its competitors are not obliged to do the same. CSR has not been the great breakthrough some of its proponents had hoped it would be, but nonetheless it found its way in European legislation on financial transparency of large multinations and the OECD remains very active on the issue.

COSAC

COSAC

This stands for the Conference of European Community Affairs Committees, a group which plays a key role in linking the EU’s 28 national parliaments to the European Parliament. COSAC has met every six months since 1989 and is made up of representatives from the EU affairs committees of national assemblies and MEPs. Many critics of the Union argue that giving national parliaments a greater say in the way the Union operates would inject a much-needed dose of democracy into European politics and most have seen COSAC as a step in the right direction. The Lisbon Treaty gave a greater role to national parliaments to scrutunize EU lawmaking. Although, it depends from parliament to parliament on how effective they are.

Cotonou agreement

Cotonou agreement

See ACP countries.

D

De-coupling

De-coupling

For several years now, the European Commission has been working to introduce “de-coupling” into the Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The idea is to break the traditional link between production and subsidies which has historically underpinned the CAP. Put simply, in the past the more a farmer produced, the more EU taxpayers paid him or her – a situation which created the Union’s infamous wine lakes and butter mountains. Successive reforms of the CAP have seen a move towards so-called “direct payment” of subsidies. This means payments to farmers are increasingly based on criteria like farm size and environmental concerns rather than production levels. Since the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy de-coupling had gradualy been implemented and, in 2013, the link between production and direct payements was only kept for particular products from vulnerable regions, e.g. certain sheep and goat meat products.

Deepening and widening

Deepening and widening

These two terms describe what are arguably the two biggest schools of thought when it comes to the great debate over how the EU should develop. Supporters of deepening argue that the Union's member states should strive constantly to strengthen the links which bind them together. They argue that this approach is supported directly by the EU's founding Treaty of Rome, which stated that member states should work towards "ever closer union". Some proponents of widening argue that the Union should develop by including more member states, but the links between them should remain looser than those called for by the deepeners. But others argue that deepening and widening can occur simultaneously. The experience of the past two decades seems to have proved them right.

Derogation

Derogation

In theory, all EU laws should be binding on all member states. But countries can sometimes negotiate to opt-out of a particular piece of legislation. When this happens, the member state concerned is granted a “derogation” from the law. These usually only last for a limited period and are designed to allow countries extra time to adapt to a particularly onerous new law. For example, in 2013 the European Commission introduced a ban on some neonicotinoid insecticides however several countries such as Finaland, Romania, Germany, Latvia and Estonia have provided derogations to their farmers to keep using neonicotinoids on certain crops. 

Direct effect

Direct effect

This piece of complex-sounding legalese is actually relatively easy to understand. In order for EU laws to mean anything, they must have some real clout in the Union's member states. This is where the idea of direct effect comes in. The term simply means that EU legislation must be respected in all the Union's member countries. The precise nature of the effect a law has depends on the type of legislation in question. There are quite a few different sorts of EU law, but the most common are regulations, which must be respected to the letter; directives, which can be slightly adapted to fit different legal customs in different member states; and recommendations, which are basically suggestions that governments have to listen to but do not have to do anything about.

Direct elections

Direct elections

Since 1979, European citizens have been able to vote for Members of the European Parliament directly in regular EU-wide elections. Before that, MEPs were appointed by national administrations and sent off to negotiate on our collective behalves at the Parliament’s two seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. Direct elections were supposed to herald a new era of democratic accountability in Europe and make the European Parliament the Union’s most truly representative institution. Unfortunately for the Parliament’s supporters, what they have proved above all is that the average European in the street is steadily losing interest in the assembly. Turnout for European elections was 63 percent in 1979 and has fallen at every poll since. In 2014, in the run-up of the European elections and the vote on a new President of the European Commission, the main political groups of the European Parliament put forward their candidates for the position. This process, which is not formalised in the treaties, has been coined the Spitzenkandidaten system and Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg won the elections (221 of 751 seats) with his group of the European People’s Party. Jean-Claude Juncker became the first "elected" president of the European Commission, however the turnout of the elections fell further from 42.97 in 2009 to 42.61 percent. 

Direct payments

Direct payments

See De-coupling.

Directorate-General (DG)

Directorate-General (DG)

This somewhat militaristic-sounding term in fact means, quite simply, “European Commission department”. The institution has 23 directorates-general or DGs and a further 13 “services” which deal with all aspects of EU policy and handle the day-to-day running of the institution. Before 1999, DGs were referred to by a number written in Roman numerals (DGXIII, for example, dealt with telecoms issues and DGXI handled environmental questions). But when Romano Prodi began his stint as Commission president, he ordered that all DGs should henceforth be referred to by their names. However, this seemingly sensible initiative has only been a partial success. EU civil servants’ mania for French-derived acronyms means that many DGs remain named after head scratching acronyms such as the Health and Consumer Protection DG is known by the name of SANCO.

Discharge

Discharge

In EU circles, this rather unpleasant-sounding term has no medical connotations. Instead it describes the process of signing off the Union's annual accounts. The right to grant discharge rests with the European Parliament and many regard it as the assembly's most important power. If the Parliament does not approve the previous year's budget, it can spark a serious political crisis. In 1998, for example, it was the Parliament's refusal to sign off the budget which set in motion the chain of events that led to the resignation of the entire European Commission. Of all the EU institutions, the Commission has the most to worry about when it comes to discharge time every year. This is because, as the EU's executive, it is responsible for managing and spending the vast bulk of the Union's multi-billion-euro budget.

Dominant position

Dominant position

In Eurospeak, this has nothing to do with sado-masochism. It is a phrase used by competition lawyers to describe a company which dominates a particular marketplace. If the firm in question uses its status to discriminate unfairly against competitors, it risks being punished by the European Commission for "abuse of dominant position". Such abuses could involve unfair price cutting to force competitors out of a market or preventing customers from looking elsewhere for the goods or services which the company provides. The Commission has the right to impose huge fines on firms it believes are abusing dominant positions.

Double majority

Double majority

See Qualified Majority Voting; Blocking minority.

Double-hatting

Double-hatting

This is a relatively new piece of Eurospeak used to describe a person or institution which performs two roles. The EU’s recently created army units will, for example, serve both NATO and the Union under a double command structure. The term has also been applied to the future EU high representative for foreign policy, who has official roles in both the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.

Dual mandate

Dual mandate

This term is used to describe the still-common practice of EU politicians having two, or sometimes more, jobs. The most common example of a dual mandate is the MEP who also holds a separate political office in his or her home country. Various French and Italian members, for example, have simultaneously held important national posts. Dual mandates with the legislature of a member state were banned at the European Parliament after 2009, however the cumulation of 'smaller' mandates are still allowed. For example, being active in the counsel of a community.

Dumping

Dumping

In Eurospeak, this has nothing to do with throwing the rubbish out, or even less savoury activities. The term is used to describe the practice of selling goods below cost price to undercut a particular market. Dumping can happen if, for example, a government subsidises a particular industry in some way. Nowadays, most cases of alleged dumping involve companies from non-EU countries trying to sell their products within the Union. If the European Commission finds that a non-EU firm is dumping goods on the Union's market, it can introduce temporary "anti-dumping" measures, which usually involve slapping import tariffs on the goods in question. EU governments can then decide to keep the measures in place for five years and renew them after that if necessary.

E

ECHO

ECHO

The European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) is the European Commission’s disaster relief department. It was set up in 1992 to help coordinate EU efforts to deal with natural and man-made catastrophes around the world. The Union is the world’s biggest aid donor and ECHO helps channel hundreds of millions of euros to disaster-struck areas every year. But it does not send large numbers of EU aid workers to countries needing humanitarian assistance. Instead, it channels the money through approved non-governmental aid organisations which have plenty of experience in disaster relief. The decentralised way in which ECHO operates, and the fact that it often has to send funds very quickly to developing countries with poor infrastructure and badly functioning administrations, has prompted accusations that it does not keep proper tabs on the EU money it spends.

ECOFIN

ECOFIN

This is a complicated-sounding term for a very simple concept. ECOFIN is simply the shorthand name given to meetings of the EU's economics and finance ministers in Brussels or Luxembourg.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)

See ACP countries

EFSA

EFSA

Negotiations over where to house the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) nearly caused a mini EU crisis when the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rubbished Finland's bid to host the institution in typically forthright style. "Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is. I cannot accept this" ,he told his EU colleagues. But despite his outburst, Italy's best-known multi-millionaire in 2003 got his way. The agency is now located in the small city that gave the world both Parma ham and Parmesan cheese. The decision to set up the agency was taken in the wake of the 1996 "mad cow disease"crisis, the worst food scare the Union has ever known. EFSA is tasked with providing impartial risk assessments of any foods that experts believe could have a negative effect on public health. It is staffed by food-safety experts from across the Union.

Elysée Treaty

Elysée Treaty

This was the 1963 deal which saw the creation of the so-called Franco-German motor, the partnership which Paris and Berlin insist has been the driving force behind European integration for more than 40 years. Named after the French president's official residence, where it was signed by Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the treaty sets out areas where France and Germany have pledged to coordinate their policies. The 40th anniversary of the treaty's signature was celebrated with much pomp in France in 2003. However, many EU analysts have argued that the Franco-German motor, though still important, can never be the driving force behind European integration it was before successive enlargements diluted the two countries' influence within the Union.

Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)

Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)

This is the nerve centre of the EU’s civil protection mechanism, which aims to coordinate Europe’s disaster relief strategies. Based in Brussels, the MIC is housed in a small, nondescript room in the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection directorate-general, of which it is a part. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and helps coordinate EU relief efforts following disasters anywhere in the world. Within Europe it has helped put together teams of experts to deal with forest fires and floods; further afield it played a key role in organising the EU’s response to the 2004 east Asian tsunami and helped coordinate refugee relief efforts following Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) replaces and upgrades the previous Monitoring and Information Centre.

Enlargement

Enlargement

This is usually what happens to the waist lines of journalists, diplomats and civil servants posted to Brussels. But it is also the term used to describe the process of allowing new countries to join the EU. The Union has already enlarged on several occasions. In 1973, Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined the six founder members. Greece signed up 1981, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Finland, Sweden and Austria in 1995. The EU’s biggest enlargement took place on May 1, 2004, when Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta joined. At the beginning of 2007 they were joined by Bulgaria and Romania, and in 2013 Croatia, bringing the total to the current 28. To be allowed into the EU, a country must fulfil the Copenhagen criteria and adopt the full body of EU law, the acquis communautaire.

Erasmus

Erasmus

This Union-sponsored educational exchange programme has enabled over a million university students to carry out part of their studies in a member state other than their own. The Erasmus programme was set up in 1987 and is named after a 15th-century Dutch theologian and humanist who worked in several parts of Europe during his life. As well as organising student exchanges, the Erasmus programme also allows university teachers to work in other European countries. Universities in all EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can take part.

EU agencies

EU agencies

Most EU agencies fall into the category of Union agencies, bodies set up to carry specific technical, scientific or management tasks on behalf of the Union as a whole. There are currently 21 of these: the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA); the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO); the European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR); the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA); the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX); the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop); the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA); the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA); the European Environment Agency (EEA); the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND); the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA); the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA); the European Medicines Agency (EMEA); the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA); the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA); the European Railway Agency (ERA); the European Training Foundation (ETF); the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trademarks and Designs) (OHIM); and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT). In addition, three agencies operate within the framework of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy: the European Defence Agency (EDA); the European Union Institute for Security Studies (ISS); and the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC). And as if that were not enough, a further three agencies have been set up to support the EU's efforts to fight terrorism and organised crime: the European Judicial Cooperation Unit (EUROJUST); the European Police College (CEPOL); and the European Police Office (EUROPOL). Most EU agencies have their offices outside Belgium.

EU citizenship

EU citizenship

All citizens of the EU’s member states are also citizens of the Union as a whole. They were given these rights by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. However, being an EU citizen does not give you as many rights as you have in your home country. For example, EU citizens are not allowed to vote in national parliamentary or presidential elections in any Union country other than their own, although they can vote in regional elections or elections to the European Parliament in whichever EU country they are resident. All EU citizens also have the right to seek help and protection from any of the Union’s consulates or embassies if they get into difficulties when travelling outside the EU.

EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (EU INTCEN)

EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (EU INTCEN)

The EU’s Brussels-based EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (EU INTCEN) forms part of the Union’s response to the perceived threat of terrorist attacks thrown up in particular by the September 11 2001 attacks in the USA and subsequent bombings in Madrid and London. EU INTCEN draws on information supplied by EU member states’ security and intelligence services. Its role is to monitor potential crisis regions, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to advise the Council of Ministers on counter-terrorism matters. Since January 2011, the EU INTCEN is part of the European External Action Service

Euratom Treaty

Euratom Treaty

This is one of the EU's lesser-known founding treaties. It entered into force in 1958 and was designed both to help promote the creation of a European atomic energy industry and prevent countries from developing secretive nuclear programmes which could be used for military ends. But the nuclear industry in the EU still developed on an essentially national basis and the treaty itself did not contain any provisions on basic issues like nuclear safety.

EURES

EURES

This is an EU-funded online database designed to help people find jobs in EU countries other than their own. EURES contains job offers from all of the EU’s member countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. In July 2015, a total of 1,726,113 vacancies were listed – proof, say EURES’ supporters, that the service works. Critics say that in a European Union of over 490 million people the number of jobs posted on EURES is tiny. They add that there are still serious bureaucratic barriers facing people who want to go to live and work in another EU country.

Eurobarometer

Eurobarometer

Again, confusingly, this has nothing to do with the weather. It is the name given to a series of regular opinion polls which the Commission has carried out since 1973. Eurobarometers are supposed to gauge Europeans’ opinions on a huge range of issues from their sense of economic wellbeing to their views on the environment and their opinions on international affairs. “Standard” Eurobarometers are published twice a year and are based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of citizens in every one of the EU's member states. They are supposed to give an idea of how “European” we all feel. The Commission also publishes a number of other polls every year. One recent Eurobarometer survey on data protection showed that more than eight out of ten respondents feel that they do not have complete control over their personal data.

Eurodac

Eurodac

This is an EU-wide fingerprint database. All refugees seeking political asylum in an EU country must provide fingerprints for the system. It also contains fingerprint information taken from illegal immigrants caught on Union territory or at the bloc's external borders. Eurodac came online in 2003 and its supporters say it is a vital part of efforts to create a harmonised EU immigration policy. Critics say it represents a fundamental attack on basic civil rights. They are particularly angry that asylum seekers as young as 14 must provide fingerprints for the system.

Eurojust

Eurojust

This is a network of national prosecutors, magistrates and/or police officers from the EU member states. It was set up in 2002 under the Nice Treaty as part of a wide-ranging bid to improve the way the EU deals with international crime and criminal networks. Its headquarters are in The Hague. Eurojust’s supporters say it has helped to speed up criminal investigations involving more than one EU country.

Europe by Satellite

Europe by Satellite

If you like nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a cup of cocoa and tuning in to a fascinating European Parliament debate on energy policy or a European Commission briefing on vertical restraints, then Europe by Satellite (EbS) is the TV station for you. EbS was set up in 1995 and is freely available to anyone with a satellite dish, provided they live in Europe, North Africa or the Middle East. EU anoraks further afield can watch the service on the internet. EbS's main clients are in fact television stations who regularly use the TV service's extensive coverage to supplement their own EU affairs programmes. Aside from debates and press conferences, EbS also broadcasts short information films covering all aspects of EU policy.

European Arrest Warrant (EAW)

European Arrest Warrant (EAW)

This was introduced at the beginning of 2004 and is designed to speed up extradition procedures in criminal cases involving more than one EU member state. If, for example, a judge in the UK wants to question a suspect in Spain, he or she should apply to his or her Spanish counterpart for an EAW. Before the EAW was created, extradition procedures between EU member states were slow and generally had to be carried out via negotiations which could involve several different government ministries. With compulsory border checks abolished between most member states, this meant that suspects had often left the country concerned by the time an extradition deal had been struck. Critics say EAWs are a dangerous threat to civil liberties as people can be sent for questioning in a foreign country far too quickly. The European Commission says it now takes an average of 43 days for an extradition to go through, compared with nine months under the old system. The average is even lower to 16 days if the accused agrees with the extradition.

European Council

European Council

See Presidency conclusions.

European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

European Free Trade Association (EFTA)

At one time, this organisation looked set to pose a real challenge to the European Union or European Economic Community (EEC) as it was back then. When it was set up by Britain in 1959, EFTA had six member countries, the others being Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Finland, Iceland and Liechtenstein joined later. At the outset, EFTA tried to present itself as a purely economic alternative to the EEC's political aspirations. Over time, though, most of the EFTA members, including the UK, were wooed into the EEC/EU fold. Today, the group is made up of just Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

European Investment Bank (EIB)

European Investment Bank (EIB)

Most of the really serious money the EU makes available does not come in the form of grants from the Union budget, but as loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB is based in Luxembourg and its board of governors are the finance ministers of the EU’s member states. Because the bank is underwritten by governments, it has an excellent credit rating and is able to raise funds on the international money markets on very favourable terms. This money is then made available to finance all sorts of projects in the EU’s member states. For example, the Channel Tunnel was built with help from EIB loans, as were countless other major transport infrastructure projects such as motorways, railways and bridges. EIB loans tend to be awarded on very favourable terms and usually have to be paid off over several decades. At the Lisbon summit in 2000, the EIB was also given the go-ahead to set up the European Investment Fund (EIF), a pot of cash designed to make more venture capital available for the EU’s small businesses.

European Judicial Network (EJN)

European Judicial Network (EJN)

As the EU does not have a single criminal law system, pursuing villains across its internal borders can still be very difficult. The EJN tries to get round this problem by linking up judicial authorities such as the courts and public prosecutors in member states. It was set up in 1998 and there are now EJN contact points in all 28 Union countries. They handle requests from colleagues for information during cross-border investigations and court cases. The network has helped cut down on problems linked to practical issues such as translating documents into different EU languages and a lack of understanding of different national rules. But it is far from perfect and problems are likely to remain so long as each EU country thinks its legal system is the best in Europe.

European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)

European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)

Set up in 1993, the EMCDDA is an EU agency based in Lisbon. Its main role is to gather information and compile statistics on the use of illegal drugs in Europe. The centre was created because governments agreed that in an EU where people can travel freely between one member country and another, it was important to be able to monitor trends in drug use. The EMCDDA does not however propose methods for tackling drug use and drug addiction. This is because attitudes to the use of illegal drugs vary widely between EU member states. While some countries consider drug addiction to be essentially a health problem that should be treated with therapy and medical care, others view drug users as criminals who should be punished, often with tough jail sentences.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

The EU has a huge influence on the countries queuing up to join the club. The carrot of membership gives Brussels a big stick with which to beat candidates into adopting, well, pretty much anything Brussels says they should adopt, from laws to strengthen democracy and human rights to the mountains of technical legislation that form the bedrock of the single market. The ENP is an attempt by the EU to have a similar sway over countries that have little chance of ever becoming full members. It was launched in 2004 and applies to both the EU's southern and eastern neighbours: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. According to the Commission, the ENP is supposed to go "beyond existing relationships to offer a deeper political relationship and economic integration". But critics say the policy has failed to deliver anything concrete and that the EU has yet to prove that it has anything substantial to offer those countries it does not wish to let past the bouncers at its door.

European Ombudsman

European Ombudsman

Anyone unhappy with their interaction with the EU administration has the right to complain to the Ombudsman. The office was created by the 1993 Treaty of Maastricht and was first held by former Finnish Justice Minister Jacob Söderman. The current Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly was elected by the European Parliament in 2013. Her remit extends to the administration of all EU institutions, bodies and agencies. She has the power to inspect all EU documents and to call EU officials to testify.
 

 

Anyone unhappy with the way the EU institutions are doing their respective jobs has the right to complain to the EU Ombudsman. The post was created by the 1993 Treaty of Maastricht and was first held by former Finnish Justice Minister Jacob Söderman. The current ombudsman is Emily O'reilly. Because the Ombudsman’s remit is very limited, he often has to turn away complaints from citizens because he does not have the competence to deal with them. It is actually quite rare for normal people to have direct dealings with the EU institutions. This is because most of the Union’s “on-the-ground” work is decentralised and carried out either by local or national government departments in the EU’s member states or by private firms which have won EU contracts.

European public sphere

European public sphere

For its critics, this term sums up all that is wrong with the efforts by the EU institutions to explain what they do. Coined by the European Commission's directorate-general for communication, it refers to the idea that the EU needs a forum where ordinary people ( or citizens, as they are invariably referred to in EU jargon)  can meet, either physically or virtually. If ever an example of the endemic problem of "Brussels talking to Brussels" were needed, say the critics, this is it. The Commission insists that Europeans are desperate to see the creation of the EPS (as it will no doubt soon be referred to at swanky EU-funded conferences) so they can finally begin that discussion about the revised EU widget directive (third reading) they've all been itching to begin. Critics say the EU officials who dreamt up this meaningless concept really should get out more.

European Research Area (ERA)

European Research Area (ERA)

The ERA was the brainchild of former Belgian European Commissioner Philippe Busquin. The idea of the ERA is to close the "research gap" between the Union and its international competitors (notably Japan and the US), which spend far more on innovative research than the EU does. The ERA links up research institutes, universities and industry in the EU's member states so that they can work together to develop innovative new technologies. So far the programme, officially launched in 2000, has had limited success, with researchers still proving reluctant to share as much information as they could.

European schools

European schools

These are a network of multinational, multilingual schools which teach an overtly "European" curriculum. The schools are essentially reserved for the children of EU officials, and their supporters say they provide a unique and innovative form of education which encourages closer ties between the people of Europe. But critics say European schools are exclusive, elitist and just another illustration of the fact that Eurocrats don't live in the same world as the rest of us.

European Semester

European Semester

After the 2008 global financial crisis hit, the European Commission decided that the EU's existing rules for keeping national budgets in line were woefully inadequate and set about drafting a set of tough new ones. Among these was the 'European Semester' - a six month period that runs from January to June. Over this time the Commission and EU governments are supposed to work together to ensure national budgets respect EU economic and budgetary rules. The Commission kicks off the process in January by issuing an 'Annual Growth Survey' suggesting how governments should bring their budget deficits and national debts into line. At their regular March summit meeting EU leaders are expected to endorse the Commission's suggestions. In April each country must present a 'national reform programme' explaining how it plans to put all of this into practice. In June, the Commission gives its verdict on the programmes and has the right to send governments back to the drawing board if it feels the plans are not up to scratch. (In practice, governments get a heads-up about the acceptability of their plans ahead of the April deadline). EU leaders are then expected to approve the plans at their June summit meeting and make sure their governments draw up next year's national budgets accordingly. The system's defenders say it ensures economic coordination and stability across the EU. Detractors say it's an attack on the fundamental democratic right of electors in individual EU countries to decide how their economies should be run.

European Social Fund (ESF)

European Social Fund (ESF)

The ESF is as old as the European Union itself. It was created by the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the modern-day Union’s founding text. It is one of the EU’s four “structural funds”, designed to even out economic differences between the Union’s richest and poorest countries. The fund is used to finance job-creation initiatives across the EU and it concentrates particularly on projects that provide skills training. Between 2014 and 2020 the EU will spent €86 billion on ESF projects. ESF money is generally used in addition to national funding for job creation initiatives.

European social model

European social model

Depending on who you talk to, the European social model is either one of the EU's proudest achievements or a crippling ball and chain shackling economic growth. The term describes the comparatively generous working conditions many European employees enjoy, combined with the formalised system of dialogue between governments, employers and trade unions which exists in most EU countries. Trade unions and other defenders of employees' rights say the European social model represents a civilised, enlightened alternative to the inhuman, law-of-the-jungle capitalism of the US. The European business community generally argues exactly the opposite. It says generous labour laws on issues like pay, hiring and firing and working time raise costs and make it hard for European companies to compete in global markets.

Europol

Europol

One of the most popular misconceptions about Europol is that it is a sort of European equivalent to the FBI in the United States. It isn’t. Europol is a police agency based in The Hague in the Netherlands and has around 900 staff, of which 105 are “Europol liaison officers” representing national police, gendarmerie, customs and immigration services. Europol’s basic role is to coordinate operations between the EU’s 28 national police forces. The main tool it uses to do this is a huge database called The Europol Computer System (TECS), which contains information on people suspected of being involved in criminal activity. The agency has the right to coordinate operations in a wide range of areas including terrorism, illegal immigration, people trafficking, forgery and smuggling radioactive material. But civil liberties campaigners claim that the agency lacks proper democratic control.

Eurostat

Eurostat

This is the EU’s statistical office. It is based in Luxembourg and produces thousands of statistics every year on all aspects of life in the EU. Alongside regular economic indicators, such as levels of GDP or purchasing power, it also periodically compiles statistics on the state of the environment, public health and many other issues. Eurostat works with the national statistical offices in the Union’s 28 member states, which feed in the raw data the office uses to draw up its own publications. Most of the basic information Eurostat produces is free, but researchers often have to pay to access more detailed data. Critics say this runs counter to efforts to make the EU’s working methods more transparent. They argue that easy access to reliable statistics is vital for anyone who wants to learn about what goes on in the Union.

Eurozone

Eurozone

This is a short-hand term mainly used by EU officials and the business world to describe the Union countries which have adopted the euro as their currency. At present, Euroland is made up of 19 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Eurozone is sometimes also referred to as the euroland or eurogroup, but neither term has any official status. However, in the context of the ongoing eurocrisis, the importance of the group has grown as the members adopted stringent fiscal and economic measures to coordinate their economic policies. The finance ministers of the eurozone group meet regulary as the Eurogroup in Brussels under presidency of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch minister of Finance.

Everything But Arms (EBA)

Everything But Arms (EBA)

This EU trade strategy was approved in 2001 and was designed to help some of the world’s poorest countries develop their economies. Under the scheme, the Union agreed to grant duty-free and quota-free access to the EU’s internal market to all products from the world’s 48 least developed countries.The only exception to this rule was the arms trade, hence the initiative’s name. Supporters of the scheme say that it shows the Union is leading the way in efforts to create a fairer global trading system. Critics argue that the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which floods world markets with cheap, subsidised EU farm produce, cancels out many of the positive effects of EBA.

Ex-ante and Ex-post

Ex-ante and Ex-post

These twin terms are often used in conjunction with another favoured morsel of Eurojargon:  subsidiarity, which means that EU legislation should only be adopted if the same ends cannot be achieved as effectively through measures taken at national level. To ensure that the EU's lawmaking bodies - the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament - do not start discussing planned EU laws that fail the subsidiarity test, officials are supposed to carry out what is known as ex-ante political monitoring. In plain language this means they need to check if a European law is really needed before all of the political wrangling kicks off in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is also sometimes possible to ask the Court of Justice to check if an EU law passes the subsidiarity test after it has been adopted. This process is known as an ex-post judicial review.

Excessive deficit procedure

Excessive deficit procedure

This describes the slap on the wrists which countries in the eurozone are supposed to receive if their budget deficits get too high. Under the terms of the “Stability and Growth Pact” agreed in 1997 in the run-up to the launch of the single currency, eurozone countries are not supposed to have a budget deficit of more than 3 percent of Gross National Product (GNP). If they break this rule, they receive a formal warning from the Commission, and if the problem persists, this can – in theory – be followed up by a hefty fine. The problem with the excessive deficit rule is that numerous EU countries have broken it, often for several consecutive years, and have not faced a fine. In November 2003, when finance ministers refused to fine France and Germany in spite of their having been in clear breach of the 3 percent limit, many argued that the pact had been shown to be toothless and in 2005 it was agreed that its rules should be interpreted more flexibly. However, during the eurocrisis in 2011, the EU member states (with the exception of the UK) chose to strengthen the procedure with the six-pack reform by adopting an automatic procedure for imposing penalties.

Exit clause

Exit clause

Until the Lisbon Treaty, it was not legally possible for an EU member state to leave the Union. All the EU’s treaties have been signed “in perpetuity”. In other words, once you are in, you are in for good. This changed with the Lisbon Treaty. It contains a so-called “exit clause” which sets out very clearly what a country wishing to quit the EU club needs to do. The state concerned must formally notify all its Union partners of its decision and should then try to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal in the most civilised way possible. If, however, the country cannot negotiate its exit gracefully, it will be considered to have left the EU two years after it first notifies its Union partners of its decision to leave the club.

Export restitution

Export restitution

This is the amount of money paid to farmers and other agricultural exporters to cover the difference between subsidised EU prices for agricultural products and prices on world markets. Export restitution is a key element of the Union's oft-criticised Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Supporters say the CAP ensures the EU remains largely self sufficient in quality food and that its farmers can earn a decent living. Critics say that export restitution means the EU can dump food surpluses on world markets, undermining farmers in poor, developing countries. They also say that differences in the amount of export restitution money paid for products of variable quality have regularly been fraudulently exploited.

F

Financial perspective

Financial perspective

This is the EU’s long-term spending plan. It is set periodically by EU governments and covers the Union’s total spending for seven years; the current financial perspective covers the period 2014-2020. Tensions always rise when a new spending period approaches, as the financial perspective determines to a large extent how much money can be spent on different Union policies in the medium term. 

Flexicurity

Flexicurity

Born in Denmark in the early 1990s, flexicurity is a labour market model that, as its name suggests, includes elements of flexibility and security. It seeks to combine the dynamism of the "Anglo-Saxon" economies with the levels of social protection associated with the likes of France and Germany, while avoiding the harshness of the former and the high unemployment prevalent in the latter. Basically, under flexicurity, it is workers rather than their jobs that are protected. Companies can fire employees when necessary to adapt to economic conditions, but people made redundant then have the right to high levels of state-funded benefits and retraining, which in turn are tied to an obligation to actively seek out another job. The success of flexicurity in cutting unemployment and social exclusion in Denmark has led to it being held up as a model for other EU countries to emulate. However, this has proved easier said than done.

Fortress Europe

Fortress Europe

This is a derogatory term used by critics of the EU's immigration and trade policies. As far as immigration is concerned, critics say the Union has become a fortress which is unwilling to welcome people from other countries seeking political asylum or simply looking for a better life. They point to the increasingly tough immigration and border-control rules in EU countries as evidence of this. The metaphor is used in a similar way when applied to trade issues. Critics say the Union protects its internal market by erecting unfair trade barriers to goods and services from non-EU countries.

Four freedoms

Four freedoms

These are four of the EU’s fundamental founding principles. Under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, goods, services, capital and people are supposed to be able to move freely across the Union’s internal borders. But ask anyone who has faced unnecessary bureaucratic hassle when trying to settle in another EU member state or attempted to do business in one country while based in another and it soon becomes apparent that the freedoms still do not always exist in practice. The last big push to make them a reality came in 1987, with the signature of the Single European Act, which was supposed to see the Union’s internal market completed by 1993. Over fifteen years on, it is still not fully operational.

FRONTEX

FRONTEX

The snappily named European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the European Union, which just to make matters even more confusing is universally known by its French acronym FRONTEX (from frontières extérieures), opened for business in June 2005. Based in Warsaw, the agency coordinates national policies to protect the EU's long external border. The agency acts as an information exchange centre for national border control authorities. It liaises regularly with other EU law and order agencies such as the EU police office, EUROPOL, and draws on the various Schengen-databases that contain information about millions of people who have crossed the Union's external frontiers. It also trains pools of border control experts from EU member states that can be deployed urgently, known as Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs).

G

Galileo

Galileo

Supporters of this multi-million-euro satellite service hope it will help establish Europe as a world leader in the field of hi-tech navigation. Critics are worried that it could turn into another Eurotunnel-style financial black hole. Galileo is a network of satellites currently being put in place around the Earth. When it is fully operational – in principle in 2020 – its designers hope that it will provide an alternative to America’s GPS satellite navigation service, which is already up and running. GPS was created by the US military and now provides information for a huge number of navigation aids, including systems fitted in ships, aircraft and even private cars. Galileo aims to do the same. But in 2007 it became clear that public funds would need to be almost doubled to €5 billion from the €2.4 billion originally estimated. The project is being driven forward by France and Germany, with the UK rather more sceptical as to whether Galileo’s benefits will outweigh its costs.

General report

General report

Once a year, in February, the European Commission publishes a hefty volume outlining all the key activities the EU has carried out. Imaginatively titled the "General Report on the Activities of the European Union", it includes detailed information about things such as new EU directives which have been proposed, or how trade discussions between the Union and its partners are progressing. The Commission also publishes a shorter, monthly bulletin on the EU's activities.

Generalised System of Preferences

Generalised System of Preferences

In general, goods imported into EU countries from elsewhere in the world are subject to customs duties. However, certain quantities of certain products from certain poor countries are either exempted from tariffs or pay a reduced rate. This approach is known as the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). It is supposed to help poor nations develop economically by giving them preferential access to the rich EU market. Critics of the GSP say it does not always work as intended. To prevent the EU market being flooded with cheap imports, GSP products are limited by a quota system. But these quotas themselves have a market value and can sometimes end up selling for more than the cost of the products they cover. In other words, it could cost more to buy the right to sell a pair of trousers in the EU than the trousers cost themselves.

Green and White Papers

Green and White Papers

Contrary to popular belief, the European Commission does try to sound out public opinion before proposing new EU laws. This is where Green Papers come in. These are discussion documents which the institution produces in an effort to stimulate debate on areas it believes merit the attention of the Union's lawmakers. After the Commission publishes a Green Paper, it asks all interested parties to comment on the document by a given deadline. Once all the answers are in, the Commission decides whether or not it believes a new policy is needed. If it does, it publishes a White Paper, explaining what it thinks this policy should be. If the lawmakers agree that new rules are needed, the Commission then moves on to step three, which is to draw up detailed proposals for legislation based on the White Paper.

H

Hard core

Hard core

In Eurospeak, this term has nothing to do with builders or X-rated movies. It is used to describe a model for reforming and developing the Union which would allow a small group of very pro-European countries (“the hard core“) to push ahead with certain key policy issues without being forced to wait for more Eurosceptic partners to join them. Supporters of this approach argue that the hard-core countries would form a sort of trailblazing EU avant-garde, which other countries could follow at a later date. But critics say it could lead to a two-speed Union and undermine European unity. In any case, it is far from clear which countries would form a hard core or in which policy areas they would press on with further integration.

Harmonisation

Harmonisation

This concept is at the heart of the European Commission's efforts to create a level legal playing field inside the Union. The harmonisation of legislation is supposed to prevent national authorities in one member state discriminating against people or companies from other EU countries. There are many ways of harmonising legislation across the Union. The most common method is to draw up directives. These EU-wide laws set out the broad guidelines for dealing with a particular topic, for example air quality or workers' rights. But they also give governments a certain amount of leeway when it comes to transforming these guidelines into national legislation. More rarely, governments pass what are known as EU regulations. These are binding laws which must appear on national statute books with exactly the same wording as was agreed by the EU institutions.

I

Implementing powers

Implementing powers

These are the quite considerable powers that the Commission has been given to ensure certain EU laws are respected. They are controversial as some critics argue that they sometimes amount to the Commission being allowed to make laws in the Union, which it has no mandate to do, as EU laws can only be passed by its two legislative insitutions, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The Commission often relies on advice from committees of national government experts when deciding how to use its implementing powers – more evidence, say the critics, that the Union is governed by a band of faceless bureaucrats. See: Comitology

Infringement

Infringement

When the European Commission sues an EU government for breaking Union law, it begins what are known as infringement proceedings. These proceedings always have three distinct steps. First, the Commission sends a 'letter of formal notice" to the government in question, asking the administration to explain its actions. If the Commission is not satisfied with the reply, it moves on to step two, "reasoned opinion", which warns that legal action is imminent. If the wayward government still does not fall into line, the procedure moves on to stage three: a full-blown case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg. Infringement proceedings can be cumbersome and take several years if the Commission and the government concerned cannot settle their differences without going to court. On average, cases at the ECJ take around three years to resolve.

Instruments of ratification

Instruments of ratification

Another grand-sounding name for a fairly simple concept. Every time a new EU treaty is drawn up, it has to be ratified (“or approved“) by every single Union country or it cannot enter into force. Ratification is usually either carried out by national parliaments or through referenda. The Lisbon Treaty must, for example, be ratified by all 27 member states before it can apply. Once a country has ratified a new EU treaty, it has to send a formal letter to the Brussels secretariat of the EU Council. This letter is known in EU jargon as an instrument of ratification.

Intergroups

Intergroups

Most of the European Parliament’s day-to-day business is taken up with the traditional cut-and-thrust of debate between the institution’s political groups. But there are some areas where MEPs from across the political spectrum have quite a lot in common. This is where intergroups come in. These informal cross-party groupings of MEPs address a whole range of issues from sport to disabled people’s rights. Although they have no formal status, intergroups can be very influential and many produce highly detailed and often very useful reports. There are currently around 30 intergroups operating in the Parliament.

Inter-institutional agreement

Inter-institutional agreement

From time to time, the EU's three main law-making institutions (the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Ministers) need to re-assess the way they work together. Sometimes major changes in their working relationship are needed and in these cases, the EU's founding treaties need to be updated - a lengthy and complex process involving meetings of Union leaders, votes in national parliaments and sometimes even referenda in the EU's member states. But at other times, these changes in working methods are relatively minor and uncontroversial, with all sides agreeing on their usefulness. In these cases, they can draw up "inter-institutional agreements" which modify the way they work without requiring a treaty re-write.

Interreg

Interreg

This is a part of the EU’s multi-billion-euro regional-aid budget. Interreg is specifically designed to stimulate cooperation between regions. Its funds can be made available for joint development projects between regions inside a particular EU country, but they are most often used for “cross-border” projects between regions on either side of a national frontier. Interreg funds are also available for projects which increase cooperation between existing EU countries and those applying to join the Union. In 2004, for example, the Commission approved a €35 million Interreg cooperation scheme between Greece and Turkey. To benefit from Interreg, national authorities must also agree to fund part of the cost of a project. The budget for Interreg between 2014 and 2020 is around €10.1 billion.

Ioannina compromise

Ioannina compromise

This is the name given to a deal struck in 1994 on the Greek island of Ioannina, which paved the way for Sweden, Finland and Austria to join the EU a year later. Under the terms of the deal, the minimum number of votes needed to block a decision being taken by EU governments in the Council of Ministers under Qualified Majority Voting was raised from 23 to 26. In order to make this change acceptable to Spain, a further clause was inserted into the agreement. This stated that any group of countries that could have come together to prevent a decision being taken before the "blocking minority" was raised could ask that no vote be taken on the issue in question. The compromise has never been used. The question of voting rights in the Council came to the fore again in the negotiations over the new reform treaty, as Poland threatened to derail negotiations by insisting the formula thrashed out at Ioannina be reviewed.

J

Joint employment report

Joint employment report

In November 1997, EU leaders met in Luxembourg and pledged to tackle what was arguably the Union's single biggest social problem: unemployment. One of the things they promised to do was to draw up annual "employment reports" that would set out measures they had taken to tackle joblessness over the previous 12 months and explain what they planned to do about the problem over the coming year. The European Commission was tasked with reading these documents and drawing up an annual assessment of EU efforts to beat unemployment. This synthesis would be known as the joint employment report and the Commission has faithfully drawn one up every year since. Sadly, what they show above all is that many EU governments remain unwilling to introduce the often unpopular measures most experts say are needed to tackle unemployment. Still, no surprise there. As Luxembourg's then Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said in 2005 in relation to tricky economic reforms, "We all know what to do, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we've done it".

Joint position

Joint position

This was created as part of the EU’s complicated rules on what Eurocrats call justice and home affairs, a policy area which covers sensitive issues such as cooperation between national police forces and criminal courts. Joint positions are broad-brush statements of intent which set out how all EU governments will join forces to tackle a given question, for example fighting organised crime or terrorism. In order to carry any legal weight, Union governments must approve joint positions unanimously. Their supporters insist that joint positions do not represent an attempt to create a single European criminal justice system or police force. Rather they are designed to encourage all the different legal systems in the EU to work together more effectively.

Justice, Freedom and Security

Justice, Freedom and Security

This EU policy area, covering matters like cooperation in civil and criminal law, immigration, terrorism and data protection, wins the prize for having had the most names and acronyms in the shortest period of time. The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty called for the creation of a European area of freedom, security and justice. However, the Commission directorate-general (DG) and the formation set up in the Council of Ministers in the late 1990s to implement this decided to call themselves, respectively, DG Justice and Home Affairs and the Justice and Home Affairs Council. The acronym they both adopted, however “JAI“ was derived from the French version justice et affaires intérieures, though some also refer to the English-derived JHA. When José Manuel Barroso became Commission president in 2004, he decided to rename the Commission department DG Justice, Freedom and Security - a jumbled version of the original treaty wording. Inevitably, the renamed directorate-general was given a new acronym, DG JLS, derived from the French justice, liberté et sécurité. The Council formation still goes by the name of JAI. All clear? Splendid.

Justus Lipsius

Justus Lipsius

This is the name given to the Council of Ministers' imposing pink-marble-clad headquarters in Brussels. Sometimes referred to as the "Juicy Lips" by less reverential members of the EU crowd, the building was named after a sixteenth-century Flemish scholar who wrote many erudite and impenetrable papers on issues including ways in which ancient Stoicism could be made compatible with Christianity. The building was completed in the mid-1990s and was purpose-built to house meetings of EU ministers. Its complicated internal layout was partly designed to foil, for example, potential terrorist attackers. But since the EU took on 12 new members in 2004-2007, some EU insiders have started to complain that the building is getting rather cramped. The Justus Lipsius is also now the permanent venue for the quarterly summits of Union heads of government.

L

Le greffe

Le greffe

This key European Commission department is almost always referred to by its French name in Brussels. Le greffe is part of the Commission's secretariat-general, which coordinates all of the EU executive's internal business and relations with other EU institutions. Le greffe's main job is to prepare the weekly meetings of the 27 European commissioners. It also draws up the official minutes after each Commission meeting. In addition, le greffe is responsible for classifying the hundreds of official documents circulating around the Commission at any given time. So whatever is going on inside the EU executive, the staff of le greffe will know about it. As is the case in any large bureaucracy, its ability to control what the political decision-makers will or will not discuss makes its members a very powerful group of civil servants. Le greffe does have an English name “the registry“ but it is rarely used.

LIFE

LIFE

The LIFE programme was set up in 1992 and is one of the EU’s main strategies for backing environmental innovation across the Union. The scheme has three main elements. LIFE Nature is used to finance projects designed to protect and enhance the Union’s natural resources. LIFE Environment backs schemes that improve the quality of the environment we live in, for example by reducing pollution or cutting the amount of waste we all produce. LIFE Third Countries funds environmental projects in countries outside the European Union. Since 1992 LIFE has supported 3954 different projects to the tune of €3.1 billion.

Lisbon strategy

Lisbon strategy

At their “dotcom summit” in Lisbon in March 2000, EU leaders set themselves the ambitious goal of making the Union the world’s most “competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy” by 2010. Efforts to meet this goal were christened the “Lisbon strategy”. Targets were set, such as ensuring research spending hit 3 percent of GDP and employment 70 percent of the labour force by 2010. However, it soon became clear that few countries would hit these targets and that there was very little the EU could do about it. That is because the Lisbon strategy relies on something called the “Open Method of Coordination” – basically, peer pressure and benchmarking of countries’ performance against each other. None of which is legally binding. In other words, the Lisbon strategy has no teeth and very few concrete results were achieved. 

Lisbon Treaty

Lisbon Treaty

After French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed Constitution for Europe in referenda in 2005, the EU entered into a “period of reflection” to try to work out what to do next. It was clear that the grandiose-sounding constitution was not likely to win approval from voters any time soon. On the other hand, many EU governments insisted that an enlarged EU still needed the changes that the constitution would have brought about, especially to its decision-making processes. So the idea emerged of a “reform treaty” that would drop words like flag, anthem and well, constitution, but would still enable the EU to reform its creaking institutions. The treaty was signed in Lisbon in December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009. Amongst other things, the treaty extended Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of Ministers, allowed in principle for a reduction in the number of commissioners (but with a get-out clause), gave the EU legal personality, beefed up the position of the EU high representative for foreign policy and scrapped the rotating presidency of the European Council in favour of a system whereby one senior political figure chairs all summit meetings for two-and-a-half years.

Lobbyists

Lobbyists

In Eurospeak a lobbyist is defined as anyone who tries to influence the Union’s lawmakers, and Brussels is crawling with them – estimates range from 25,000 to 30,000. Some lobbyists work for large multinational companies eager to minimise EU red tape; others work for non-governmental groups, many of them keen to see introduced precisely the kind of restraints on industry that the big-business lobbyists want to avoid. In 1996 the European Parliament, stung by repeated criticisms that its members were particularly susceptible to pressure from lobbyists, adopted a code of conduct and made access to its buildings conditional on their signing up to it. In 2007, the EU’s Administration, Audit and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas launched his “European Transparency Initiative” proposing a register of lobbyists’ interests, including limited financial disclosure. This was implemented in 2008 on a voluntary basis, and mandatory in 2014. The Parliament and the Commission consistently listen which lobbyists have input into discussions on its reports.

Luxembourg compromise

Luxembourg compromise

This was a deal struck between the six members of what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) to end a seven-month crisis in 1966 sparked by France's refusal to turn up to any official meetings. French President Charles de Gaulle ordered the "empty chair" policy amid fears that plans for more qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers could see Paris being outvoted on certain key issues. Under the deal, EEC governments agreed that member states could veto planned legislation if they believed their core national interest was at stake, even if it was in a policy area which should usually be decided by a qualified majority vote. This was seen as a major setback for European integration and sparked the resignation of the then Commission President Walter Hallstein, although it has rarely been invoked since.

M

Maastricht Treaty

Maastricht Treaty

In many ways, this was the mother of all EU treaties. Before the Maastricht summit in December 1991, the EC was basically a club of countries which had established a single market and agreed to cooperate in some other areas, like transport, the environment and regional development. Maastricht gave that club a big push along the road to becoming a more political union, with a single currency and a say in justice and home affairs, foreign policy and defence. It also boosted the powers of the European Parliament and named the bloc the European Union for the first time. The treaty entered into force in November 1993, but only just. Its passage through the UK parliament was by no means easy and it did a lot to tear apart John Major's Conservative government. Danish voters approved the tome after being asked to vote on it a second time, having said "no" once and been persuaded to change their minds only when the country obtained a series of special opt-outs. And the French backed it only by the narrowest of margins in their own referendum in September 1992.

Maghreb/Mashreq

Maghreb/Mashreq

Originally French names for two major regions of the Arab world, these terms are now widely used by all EU foreign affairs experts. With tension in the Middle East currently running very high, both terms can be heard regularly in the corridors of power in Brussels. The Maghreb is made up of three North African countries: Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The Mashreq comprises four eastern Mediterranean states: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

MEPs' statute

MEPs' statute

Strange as it may seem, members of the European Parliament do not at present all earn the same salaries. MEPs are paid by their national administrations, which means some parliamentary pay packets are considerably heavier than others. Italian members are the Parliament’s top earners with a monthly salary of €9,975 while, at the other end of the scale, their counterparts from some of the new member states have to get by on barely a tenth of that. Many relatively low-paid MEPs try to top up their pay packets by making what has charitably been described as very imaginative use of the Parliament’s extremely generous system of travel and work expenses, a situation which has done much to fuel the assembly’s “gravy train” image. Ever since the first direct elections to the Parliament back in 1979, efforts have been made to correct this situation by coming up with a single MEPs’ “statute” which would establish a common pay and benefits regime for all members. But the task has not been easy. In 2005, the Parliament and EU governments finally voted for a statute which most MEPs should be happy with. From the 2009 elections, their monthly salaries will be set at €8,020 a month.

Mertens group

Mertens group

The Mertens group helps plan the activities of the weekly meetings of the EU member states’ deputy permanent representatives to the European Union, known as COREPER I. The Mertens group was formed in 1993 and is made up of the deputy permanent representatives’ assistants, a senior member of the Council of Ministers’ secretariat and a member of the Council’s legal service.

Milk quota

Milk quota

Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), EU governments decided how much milk farmers in each EU member state can produce. This figure was known as the milk quota. Milk quotas were tradable, so farmers inside EU countries could buy and sell from and to each other the right to produce milk. The system did not work very well, however, and the Commission regularly chastises EU governments for exceeding their milk quotas. Critics of the CAP cite the over-production of milk, which has in the past led to the creation of ‘butter mountains’, as an example of the failings of the Union’s farm policy. The milk quotas were abolished in 2015, because the the economic development of Asia created a gigantic new export market for the milk.

Modulation

Modulation

Contrary to popular belief, the EU does not throw money at its farmers like it is going out of fashion. There are, in fact, strict rules that govern the way Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds are doled out. One of these rules is based on the principle of modulation. This means that the amount of money a farmer receives from EU coffers can vary. If, for example, a farmer does not respect certain environmental rules, he or she will have their EU handouts reduced or “modulated”. The same goes for farmers who do not employ a sufficient number of workers on their farms.

Mutual recognition

Mutual recognition

Mutual recognition is one of the basic principles underpinning the EU's internal market. The system allows EU governments to recognise each other's standards on issues like product safety without the need to agree EU-wide rules on the subject. In a nutshell the principle states that if a product is cleared for sale in one EU member country, it should be available to consumers in all states. Supporters of mutual recognition say the system has allowed the EU to avoid the internal market becoming entangled in a great deal of unnecessary red tape. However, the system is not always used and sometimes EU-wide internal market rules are needed. Mutual recognition is also a guiding principle in civil and criminal justice matters.

N

Natura 2000

Natura 2000

This is the name given to a list of agreed protected natural sites and bird and animal species in the EU. Despite its name, the origins of Natura 2000 can actually be traced back to 1979, when the so-called “birds directive” set out a list of protected bird species in the then European Community. This was followed up in 1992 with the “habitats directive”, which listed protected natural sites. Today, the Natura 2000 network is made up of “special protection areas” for the conservation of over 180 bird species and sub-species and “special areas of conservation” for over 200 types of habitat, 200 animal species and over 700 plant species. Natura 2000 currently accounts for over 20 percent of the EU’s land area.

Nice Treaty

Nice Treaty

The Nice Treaty was agreed at what was arguably one of the grumpiest meetings of EU leaders ever. The 2000 Nice summit dragged on for a record five days in the southern French seaside resort. The talks were supposed to thrash out just how the European Union's institutions would function after ten new countries joined the club in 2004. In fact they highlighted huge differences between the Union's big and small countries over how power should be shared in the EU of the future. A series of ugly rows broke out over the number of votes each EU state should have in the Council of Ministers, the Union's most powerful decision-making body. A messy compromise was eventually agreed, allowing the signing of the Nice Treaty. But almost everyone agreed the deal was horrendously complicated and would have to be renegotiated as soon as possible. The result was the ill-fated Constitution for Europe.

Non-discrimination principle

Non-discrimination principle

Discrimination on the grounds of nationality has been illegal under EU law since the Union’s founding treaty was signed in Rome in 1957. However, this rule was considerably beefed up by the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. Since Amsterdam entered into force, it has also been illegal to discriminate against people living in the Union because of their sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Non-paper

Non-paper

These surreal-sounding documents crop up quite often in Brussels. Non-papers are discussion documents drawn up either by one of the EU's institutions or by a Union government. They are designed to stimulate discussion on a particular issue and do not represent the official position of the institution or country which drafted them. Non-papers have no official status, but can be very useful in starting debates on particularly sensitive issues, allowing EU decision-makers to talk about issues they would find it politically difficult to take a firm line on. They can also be used to test the water on subjects without obliging countries to take a stand, thus avoiding potential diplomatic rows.

Nordic model

Nordic model

See Scandinavian model.

Northern dimension

Northern dimension

The importance of the EU's relations with Russia has increased considerably over the past decade or so. When Nordic neighbours Sweden and Finland joined the Union in 1995, the EU and Russia for the first time shared a land border. In recognition of this, EU governments in 1997 officially agreed that a so-called "Northern Dimension" was needed in the Union's foreign policy. The arrival of Poland and the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as EU members in 2004 increased the importance of the Northern Dimension even further. The European Commission says the aim of the Northern Dimension is to address specific environmental and social problems that affect EU citizens living in the northern EU. For example, the initiative places particular emphasis on the problem of nuclear waste from Russian submarine bases. It also aims to promote security and stability in the region by working to keep the Union on the best terms possible with its huge and sometimes unpredictable neighbour.

Novel food

Novel food

In EU jargon, novel foods are any foodstuffs which introduce new products into the European diet. In recent years, the most high-profile novel foods have been products containing genetically modified (GM) organisms. Under EU rules passed in 1997, any novel foods intended for sale in the Union must be approved by a panel of top health and safety experts. They must also be clearly labelled to show, for example, whether they contain GM ingredients. The problem comes when a product contains very small traces of GM ingredients, as there is a limit below which labels do not have to mention GM content. The processed-food industry says the lower limit is more than adequate to ensure consumers are informed. Environmental campaigners argue it should be lower.

O

Official languages

Official languages

The EU currently has 24 official languages. Whenever an official EU document is published, be it a European Commission report or a new piece of legislation, it must appear simultaneously in all these languages. The logic behind this requirement is obvious, but it can cause some major organisational headaches for the EU’s institutions and is one of the main reasons why the Union is a veritable paper mill, producing thousands upon thousands of documents every year. Currently, the 24 official languages are: Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. For day-to-day business in Brussels however, things are somewhat simpler, as most of the EU’s nuts-and-bolts meetings are carried out in English, French and German.

OLAF

OLAF

It may sound like the name of some ancient Viking raider, but OLAF is actually a French acronym which stands for Office européen de Lutte Anti-Fraude, the EU’s anti-fraud office. OLAF was set up in 1998 to investigate all allegations of fraud linked to the way the EU institutions operate and the way its annual €145 billion budget is spent. The anti-fraud office has been criticised because it is part of the European Commission and not a fully independent body. But its director and supervisory board insist they are free to carry out their investigations unhindered by their superiors in the institution.

Open Method of Coordination (OMC)

Open Method of Coordination (OMC)

As is so often the case in EU affairs, the more important a term sounds, the less important it actually is. The OMC is a case in point. It is a noble sounding ideal which all EU governments have signed up to and which obliges them to do absolutely nothing. The OMC is a voluntary agreement between EU governments and the Union's institutions to try to work together in certain areas without being shackled by annoying things like binding laws. It first came to prominence at the Lisbon summit in 2000 when the EU was setting its economic reform agenda. Stripped down, the OMC approach goes something like this. We all agree something should be done and we all agree that we will try to work together to do something when we can. But we won't agree to pass any laws that would oblige us to do anything if for any reason we do not want to. The OMC is usually backed up by an EU"action plan", another sure-fire sign that it has as many teeth as a two-week-old baby.

Opting out

Opting out

This phrase first came to the fore in the early 1990s during the Maastricht Treaty negotiations. As the name suggests, it describes the process of allowing EU governments to opt out of Union initiatives they do not agree with. The UK was granted two opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty: it was not obliged to sign up to the EU’s single currency even if it qualified for membership and it was exempted from the “social chapter”, which set out new rules for drafting EU-wide labour laws. London has since signed up to the social chapter. Denmark was also granted a number of opt-outs from Maastricht: on the single currency, defence and European citizenship. More recently, the UK and Ireland have obtained opt-outs from some of the justice and home affairs provisions of the new reform treaty (or more precisely, opt-ins, since they can choose to opt in if they wish). The UK has also obtained an opt-out from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Outermost regions

Outermost regions

The EU's borders stretch further than many people realise. In the west they include parts of South America and the Caribbean, and in the east the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. This is because the Union has inherited a number of overseas territories belonging to France, Spain and Portugal, which together are referred to as the "outermost regions". There are a total of seven such regions. The French territories included in the list are the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, French Guyana in neighbouring South America and Réunion. The Spanish-controlled Canary Islands are also outermost regions, as are the Azores and Madeira, which are administered by Portugal. All of the outermost regions receive significant aid from the Union's structural funds.

Own income/Own resources

Own income/Own resources

The EU budget is financed by money known as the Union’s “own resources”. These funds come from member states and are made up of revenues from customs duties, agricultural levies and one percent of VAT resources in each country. Own resources are also topped up with a GNP-related contribution from each country. At present the ceiling amount for this contribution is 1.24 percent of the GNP of the enlarged EU. At the start of the Union, the EU received most of its budget from the duties imposed on products accessing the internal market, therefore some experts have called for a specific EU tax to be levied in member states to help pay for the Union’s activities. But many member states oppose this idea. And as any decisions on tax policy must be agreed unanimously, the EU tax is unlikely to be introduced any day soon.

P

Party groups

Party groups

Less fun than it sounds, this has nothing to do with gangs of Eurocrats meeting up for a night on the town in Brussels. It is a term used to describe the way political parties are organised inside the European Parliament. Because the assembly is supposed to be a truly European body, its benches are not divided up along national lines. Instead, it is made up of groups of MEPs belonging to the same broad political family. The two biggest party groups are the centre-right European Peoples' Party and the centre-left Party of European Socialists.

Permanent representations

Permanent representations

See COREPER.

Petersberg tasks

Petersberg tasks

The June 1992 "Petersberg declaration" was a key development in EU efforts to create its own defence capability. It was designed to avoid any confusion between the defence roles of individual EU countries, NATO and the Union acting as a bloc. The Petersberg declaration set out three roles or "tasks" which European defence forces could undertake without treading on national or NATO toes, or which would complement actions carried out by these groups. These are humanitarian and rescue operations, peacekeeping operations and peacekeeping roles in crisis management. The remit of the Union's fledgling rapid reaction force is based on the Petersberg tasks.

Petition

Petition

This refers to the right every EU citizen has to complain to, or petition, the European Parliament. If you believe your rights are being abused, feel you are being discriminated against or have any other grievance linked to the way the Union operates, you can contact the European Parliament's petitions committee. It is legally obliged to examine any complaints from citizens which relate to the way the EU works. If it upholds a complaint, it should do all it can to ensure the problem is resolved as quickly as possible. People with specific complaints about the conduct of the Union's institutions can also contact the EU Ombudsman, who is appointed by the Parliament to deal specifically with these kinds of problems. Both the petitions committee and the Ombudsman can be easily contacted via the internet.

Pioneer groups

Pioneer groups

The idea that as the EU gets bigger, some countries may want to push ahead with certain policy initiatives more quickly than others has been around for some time. The Nice Treaty included a mechanism for this sort of “enhanced cooperation”, but it is complex and has never been used. The reform treaty, which has been agreed but not yet ratified by all EU countries, simplifies this process somewhat. In fact, there are already de facto pioneer groups in the EU – only 19 of 28 EU countries currently use the euro, for example.

Plenary session

Plenary session

These regular meetings of the full European Parliament are where new EU laws and other political issues are debated and voted on. Full plenary sessions officially last from Monday to Thursday, although the number of vacant seats in the debating chamber tends to increase noticeably from Wednesday evening onwards. The meetings take place once a month in the French city of Strasbourg, more than 400 kilometres away from Brussels, where the Parliament carries out the vast bulk of the rest of its work. Critics say this system is ridiculous and should have been abolished years ago. But France has always threatened to bring EU business grinding to a halt if the set-up is ever changed - and this can only be done by unanimous agreement between the EU's member states, giving Paris a veto. To assuage its critics, in the late-1990s, France stumped up for a spanking new multi-million-euro Strasbourg headquarters for the Parliament so that MEPs could be comfortable during the one short week a month they are in town. Shorter two-day plenary sessions are also held at the Parliament's Brussels headquarters.

Political and Security Committee (PSC)

Political and Security Committee (PSC)

This influential behind-the-scenes group plays a key role in shaping the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The PSC is made up of experts in geopolitics from the EU’s 28 national foreign ministries. It continually monitors international developments and suggests ways in which the Union as a whole can react to events. Its defenders say the committee’s main role is to provide elected politicians with as much information as possible to enable them to make informed foreign policy decisions. Its critics say it has too much influence and often ends up dictating policy to ministers.

Posted workers

Posted workers

This has nothing to do with companies stuffing their staff into envelopes in a bid to save on travel costs. In EU circles, it is used to describe employees normally based in one Union country who are sent to work in another. On the face of it, this should be straightforward inside the EU’s single market. In reality, it is anything but. More often than not, employment law is a national affair in the Union and rules on basic issues such as pay, conditions and social security vary widely from one country to another. Before the EU adopted legislation, this led to situations where posted workers were worse off than colleagues in the country they had been sent to work in. To tackle such anomalies, EU governments in 1996 agreed the “posted workers directive”. This law states that on many key employment issues, posted workers will always benefit from the labour laws of the state they are sent to work in, even if the host country has more generous labour rules than the worker’s home state. The posted workers directive does not apply to all aspects of a worker's employment conditions, however. The issue of severance pay is not included, for example.

Precautionary principle

Precautionary principle

Depending on who you talk to, this is either an eminently sensible EU law-making concept or a ridiculous brake on Europe’s industrial development. The idea behind the precautionary principle is simple. If not enough is known about the possible effects of a particular substance, then it is better to err on the side of caution and opt for too much consumer protection rather than not enough. Industry regularly complains that the Commission often pushes the principle too far and proposes laws which are unnecessarily restrictive on business. But environmental groups say the Commission should apply it even more strictly.

Presidency conclusions

Presidency conclusions

Every three months or so, EU leaders gather in Brussels for summit meetings known as “European Councils”. These meetings are supposed to set the overall political direction the EU will take over the coming months and settle the most contentious issues which could not be agreed by more junior ministerial Councils. At the end of each European Council, EU leaders agree a document which sets out everything they have discussed and agreed on during their talks. These texts are known as the presidency conclusions. While they have no legal weight, they are nevertheless important documents as they set the Union’s broad-brush political goals. They are also regularly referred to during detailed negotiations in the EU’s three main law-making institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. With the crisis of the Eurozone, the EU leaders have met more often and the importance of the conculsions have grown.

Primacy

Primacy

This term is often used by specialists in Union law. It means, quite simply, that EU legislation takes precedence over national law in the Union's individual member states. In other words, in areas where the EU has the right to pass binding legislation, any laws it does adopt will override existing national legislation. Primacy is one of the principal bugbears of Eurosceptics, who say it clearly shows that the Union is gradually stripping away its member states' sovereignty. The pro-EU lobby argues that the bloc could not function properly if its laws did not override national legislation because without the primacy rule, individual governments could pass legislation which contradicted the laws they had signed up to in Brussels. This would have hugely damaging consequences in areas such as the single market, which relies on all member states playing by the same rules.

Privileged partnership

Privileged partnership

This phrase has been used by the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to describe the relationship they believe the EU should have with Turkey. It is one that falls short of full membership, which Sarkozy says should never be offered to Turkey because it is not a European country. For now though, the French president has not gone so far as to veto Turkey’s accession talks, which were launched in 2005 and are proceeding at a snail’s pace.

Q

Qualified Majority Voting (QMV)

Qualified Majority Voting (QMV)

This relates to the way EU governments take most of their decisions in the Council of Ministers. Successive treaties since the mid-1980s have greatly extended the number of policies in which decisions are taken by QMV. Today, only the most sensitive issues such as taxation, social security, foreign policy and defence still require unanimity. Under the Lisbon Treaty, a simple system of “double majority” is introduced. The support of 55 percent of member states (at least 15 out of 28) representing at least 65 percent of the EU’s population will then be needed to pass laws. The blocking minority will have to include at least four states. However, a member state an request that the old voting system is used in which case each country has a certain number of votes depending on its size. Germany, France, Italy and the UK have 29 votes each and Malta, the Union’s smallest state, has 3. Added together, the total number of votes is currently 345; to adopt a proposal, 255 votes are required. A “blocking minority” is the number of votes needed to block a proposal: it requires either 91 votes or the backing of 14 member states, irrespective of their size. 

Quota hopping

Quota hopping

This practice is used by some EU fishing companies to get round the Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which seeks to limit the number of fish landed every year. Under the CFP, a yearly fishing quota is given to every EU country with a significant fishing fleet. Quota hopping occurs when a fishing firm based in one EU state tries to set up operations in another so that it can increase the overall number of fish it can land. Under EU rules, firms have the right to set up wherever they want in the Union so, on the face of it, quota hopping is perfectly legal. However, the European Court of Justice has ruled that when it comes to the fishing industry, single-market rules can be curtailed in order to prevent quota hopping and protect rapidly dwindling fish stocks. So firms must now prove there is a credible link between the fishermen they employ, the boats those men work on and the flag of the country under which they sail.

R

Rapid reaction force

Rapid reaction force

In 2000, EU defence ministers agreed to create a 60,000-strong "Rapid reaction force" (RRF) which could be sent to hot-spots around the world to either try to prevent conflicts breaking out or to help restore peace and stability after a war. Unlike forces under the command of the NATO military alliance, the Rapid reaction force does not have a mandate to take part in fighting. The force is not an EU army, although some Eurosceptics say it represents the first step along the road to the creation of one. The force has not yet reached its full contingent of 60,000, but it became operational in 2003 and has already carried out missions in the Balkans and Africa.

Rapporteur

Rapporteur

This describes the MEP chosen to investigate and then report on a particular issue on behalf of his and her colleagues. Rapporteurs are generally members of parliamentary committees and they will report on issues which their committee covers. So a rapporteur for the environment committee could, for example, be asked to draw up a report on air pollution or water quality, while a rapporteur for the social affairs committee might look at job-creation measures or women's rights. The rapporteur's work is important, as it is the starting point for a full parliamentary debate and vote on a given issue.

REACH

REACH

Depending on who you talk to, REACH is either one of the most innovative and far-reaching EU laws to have been passed in decades or a woefully unambitious missed opportunity. REACH is an acronym for the EU regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It sets out a new principle for approving the sale of thousands of chemicals and chemical products in the EU. Firms must prove that the products they sell can be handled safely. Prior to REACH it was up to the national authorities to prove a given substance was dangerous. In other words, it has switched the burden of proof to the chemical industry for proving its products are safe (the "precautionary principle"). REACH's backers say the EU now has the world's toughest chemical safety legislation. Its critics say the law was seriously watered down under a sustained lobbying attack from the chemical industry and is far weaker than it could be: for example, it only applies to companies that make or import over a tonne of a particular chemical product per year.

Reasoned opinion

Reasoned opinion

See Infringement.

Refoulement

Refoulement

This is an elegant sounding term for a decidedly inelegant practice. Refoulement is another French word which has entered into everyday Eurospeak. It is used to describe the practice of rounding up illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers and sending them back to the country from where they entered the Union. The EU is not supposed to send people back to countries where they could face persecution or worse, but civil rights groups complain that governments cannot control how someone is treated once they have left Union territory. The debate over how refoulement should be carried out has become increasingly heated following the surge in support for far-right anti-immigration parties across the EU.

Rural development

Rural development

This principle is at the heart of the European Commission's ongoing efforts to reform the Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Rural development policy has two basic aims, which are closely linked. Firstly, it is supposed to encourage farmers to adopt more environmentally friendly methods. The idea here is to channel more EU farm aid away from support for intensive farming techniques and towards eco-friendly agriculture. Secondly, rural development tries to help countryside communities create economies which don't rely entirely on farming. This can be done by, for example, encouraging industries such as tourism. The Commission's supporters say the new emphasis on rural development marks a sea change in the way the CAP works and will eventually silence criticisms that EU farming policy favours quantity over quality. But critics say all the talk about rural development is just a fig leaf to cover up the fact that, at heart, the CAP is still just as "productivist" as it ever was.

S

Scandinavian model

Scandinavian model

In Eurospeak this has nothing to do with long-legged Swedish lovelies shimmying down the catwalks. The Scandinavian or Nordic model is a system of social welfare used in the Nordic countries that offers certain state benefits to citizens regardless of their job status. It is often compared to the so-called Anglo-American social model, which places more emphasis on free-market economics and encourages people to seek employment rather than live on welfare. Supporters of the Scandinavian model say it is more human than its Anglo-American equivalent. Critics say it is simply too expensive to retain in a European Union with a steadily ageing population.

Schengen

Schengen

The Schengen agreement started life in 1985 as a non-EU deal between France, Germany and the Benelux countries to phase out routine border checks between their respective countries. It was signed in the Luxembourg village of Schengen, hence the name. The idea behind the agreement was to make it easier for goods and people to move around inside the “Schengen area”. In 1999 the Amsterdam Treaty formally incorporated it into EU law. The most obvious way Schengen has affected the Union has been the removal of systematic frontier and passport controls between Schengen countries. The border-free space takes in all EU countries except the UK and Ireland (who have opted out), Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania (which hope to join in 2016). The Schengen area also includes non-EU states Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Schuman plan

Schuman plan

For Europhiles, this plan put forward by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950 marks the true beginning of the modern-day EU. In a now legendary speech (at least among "true believers" in Brussels), Schuman called on Germany and France to pool their coal and steel production, a move which would prevent them ever going to war with each other again. This led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which in turn paved the way for the creation of the European Communities with the signature of the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

Scoreboards

Scoreboards

Drawing up scoreboards to see how member states compare with each other when it comes to respecting Union rules is now a favourite European Commission pastime. The practice first came to prominence at the special 1999 summit on law and order issues in Tampere, Finland, where Union leaders pledged to draw up new EU-wide rules on sensitive issues like asylum and immigration. Afterwards, then Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antònio Vitorino said he would publish an annual scoreboard to show whether the governments were following up their fine words with concrete action. Since 1999, such scoreboards have been introduced for many other EU policy areas including the internal market, environmental protection and competition.

Screening

Screening

Before a country can join the EU, the Commission must assess whether it is capable of respecting the acquis communautaire, the entire body of EU law. This process, known as screening, is laborious, partly because of the complexity of Union law and partly because of the sheer volume of legislation would-be new member states must comply with. It took three to four years to assess whether even the most advanced of the last batch of applicant states were ready to join the Union.

Services of general interest/universal service

Services of general interest/universal service

Under EU law, companies which sell utilities such as water, electricity or telephony are required to provide basic versions of their products to all citizens at affordable prices. This is because the Union considers that everyone has a right to receive such "services of general interest", even if they are poor or live on the top of a mountain at the end of a five-kilometre goat track. The idea of universal service builds on the general interest principle. The European Commission aims to ensure that citizens in all EU member states are guaranteed the same minimum level of service from key general-interest companies.

Seveso directives

Seveso directives

The EU’s so-called Seveso directives set out the strict safety rules which all the Union’s potentially dangerous factories and chemical plants must respect. They take their name from the terrible disaster which hit the area around Seveso in Italy in 1976 when a catastrophic breakdown at a chemical plant released a huge cloud of toxic dioxin-laden gas into the atmosphere. The Seveso directives set out the regular safety checks which all potentially dangerous sites must carry out. They also oblige all such installations to draw up and regularly practise detailed disaster response plans. The first Seveso directive was agreed in 1982. In 1999, governments replaced this with the more stringent Seveso II directive and in 2012 Seveso III was adopted. The Seveso III Directive came into force on 1 June 2015.

Single European Act (SEA)

Single European Act (SEA)

This 1986 agreement between the governments of what was then the European Community was designed to speed up completion of the bloc's single market. The SEA, which amended the EC treaty, stated that all single market legislation could be agreed by qualified majority vote. This was important as it prevented single countries from vetoing planned new rules in this area. The SEA played a significant role in opening up Europe's markets, but it was not a total success. Under the terms of the act, which entered into force in 1987, the single market should have been fully functional by the beginning of 1993. But even today, obstacles to fully free trade remain in many areas of the EU economy.

Single European sky

Single European sky

The EU’s skies are home to some of the most congested air traffic routes in the world and with the explosion in air travel in recent years, the situation is getting worse. Overcrowded skies mean delays for air travellers and also pose serious safety concerns for air traffic controllers. Air safety has traditionally been in the hands of national agencies in the Union’s member states and coordination between these bodies has not always been as good as it might be. In 2004 the EU agreed on a package of measures to create a “Single European sky” and is working together with Eurocontrol, the Brussels-based air traffic control organisation, to implement these. As often the case with European programs, the initiatives gets reviewed and updated. Currently, the European Commission is launching Single European Sky 2+ that addresses some of the shortcomings detected with the original Single European Sky package.

Six Pack

Six Pack

Despite the fact that all of the key EU institutions are based in beer-loving Belgium, this has nothing to do with the delights of fine ale. The six pack is a package of six EU laws adopted in 2011 to increase economic coordination between eurozone governments and stop them running up excessive debts. The most important arm in the six pack's arsenal is the power of the European Commission to fine governments who refuse to reduce excessive debts or deficits. States falling foul of this rule can be ordered to put a sum of money equal to 0.2% of their GDP (potentially billions of euros) into a blocked account. If the government still fails to correct its budget problems, this money can then be confiscated as a fine. Defenders of the six pack have described it as “powerful and resistant armour,” against future economic crises. Detractors have slammed it as an, “austerity pact.”

Societas Europaea (SE)

Societas Europaea (SE)

This is the impressive-sounding title which firms wishing to set up as Europe-wide companies have been able to give themselves since October 2004. For example, if fictional British firm “Widgets R Us PLC” wanted to become a European company, it could change its name to “Widgets R Us SE”. EU governments managed to agree on the rules for creating SEs in 2001 after decades of wrangling. However, the advantages of setting up as a European firm are, at present, limited. While the SE route reduces red tape for firms which want to create subsidiaries in different Union countries, it does nothing to tackle issues like company taxation. SEs still have to pay national taxes at differing national rates for each EU country they operate in. Small business organisations also complain that the system only really works for large firms. In 2015, the holding company of Airbus announced that it would seek the legal status of Societas Europaea (SE).

Soft law

Soft law

Soft laws are not laws at all in the commonly accepted sense, as they do not oblige anyone to do anything. They can, however, be useful in setting the tone or direction of EU policy. Examples of soft laws include the conclusions of EU summit meetings. These documents have no direct legal clout, but nevertheless give a clear sign of just where the Union is heading at a given time. Political declarations by EU leaders also come under the soft-law heading. Soft laws can also have an indirect effect on “hard” EU legislation. This is because the European Court of Justice, which is tasked with interpreting Union rules whenever there is a dispute, can take soft-law declarations into account when making its rulings.

SOLVIT

SOLVIT

Launched in 2002, SOLVIT is one of the EU’s little-known success stories. The SOLVIT service helps ordinary people deal with practical problems linked to the EU’s single market. And as any EU citizen who has tried to live or work in a Union country other than their own knows, these can be legion. For example, the service helped a Bulgarian doctor who risked missing a job opportunity in Belgium because the relevant national authorities could not get the cross-border paperwork in order. SOLVIT helped by ensuring the national bureaucrats sped up the job application. In another case a Czech firm faced problems selling washbasins in Slovakia. SOLVIT intervened to convince Slovakia to accept the Czech conformity certificate and the products were released for sale within two weeks. SOLVIT has national contact points in all EU countries that people can get in touch with if they have these kinds of problems. The experts at these contact points are linked up with counterparts in other EU member states as well as with officials at the European Commission.

Stabilisation and Association Process

Stabilisation and Association Process

This is the name for the EU’s long-term strategy to help end the ethnic and social tensions that have caused so much suffering in the former Yugoslavia and neighbouring states in recent years. The idea of the policy is, as it suggests, to stabilise the political process in these countries. One way of doing this is by holding out the “carrot” of possible EU membership to states in the region. The process also backs a number of practical schemes designed to support democracy and the rule of law. Countries currently covered by the process are Croatia (now a member of the EU), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (candidate for membership), plus Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia (considered as potential candidates).

Stability and Growth Pact

Stability and Growth Pact

See Excessive deficit procedure.

Stakeholder

Stakeholder

Despite the name, this word has absolutely nothing to do with people who kill vampires for a living. Basically, stakeholders are any people or groups who could be affected by a particular policy decision. This includes not only politicians and civil servants but also, crucially, companies, non-governmental groups and ordinary people. If, for example, the EU decided to help finance the construction of a new factory, stakeholders affected would be local firms, residents, environmental groups etc. The need for “extensive stakeholder consultations” before pushing ahead with planned policy initiatives has become an oft-repeated mantra for the Commission.

Subsidiarity

Subsidiarity

Since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, subsidiarity has been a guiding EU principle. It was introduced to try to dispel the image of Union officials as meddling bureaucrats hell-bent on interfering in all aspects of people's lives. Basically it means decisions should be taken at EU level only if the same result cannot be achieved as effectively through national measures. If, for example, a local council comes up with an effective way of reducing traffic congestion, Brussels should, in principle, not get involved.

Suspension clause

Suspension clause

This clause in the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty makes it possible to punish an EU member state which seriously and persistently violates the Union's founding principles of liberty, democracy and respecting human rights. To date, it has never been used. But if the clause were activated, the country targeted could have its EU voting rights suspended. Using the suspension clause would almost certainly trigger a major political crisis in the Union.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development

This is another popular term in Brussels. Sustainable development describes an ideal for economic development which would allow us all to become ever more prosperous and protect the environment at the same time. Traditional economic theories tend to regard these goals as mutually exclusive. Put crudely, if you build a factory, you usually spoil a pretty landscape somewhere. But the European Commission argues this need not be the case and says governments should always take account of sustainability when drawing up strategies for economic growth. The EU treaties now contain a commitment by governments to support sustainable development whenever possible.

T

Television without Frontiers

Television without Frontiers

See Audiovisual Media Services.

Toilettage

Toilettage

In Eurospeak, this has nothing to with grooming. Or with plumbers, Polish or otherwise. Once a new EU law or treaty has been agreed by member states and the European Parliament, an army of lawyers and translators sift through the text with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors. The translators must check that the legislation means the same thing in all of the Union's official languages and that nothing has been lost in translation. The lawyers make sure that these often incredibly dense legal documents comply with the huge body of existing EU law and that no drafting errors have slipped into the text during negotiations. This meticulous process of cleaning up new laws before they are published (or, in the case of new EU treaties, signed) is known as toilettage.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

TACs are a central plank of the EU's much-maligned Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). They refer to the total amount of a particular species the Union's fishermen can land every year. Overall TACs are agreed annually by EU ministers and then divided up between the Union's fishing states. But the system is widely considered to have been a failure. Every year, the EU's big fishing countries - notably France and Spain - demand increases in the TAC levels proposed by the European Commission. This means the EU’s fish stocks are running dangerously low and, in the case of certain species, could soon dry up completely. It was this problem that prompted the Commission to propose a radical overhaul of the CFP.

Trans European Networks (TENs)

Trans European Networks (TENs)

These grandiose cross-European transport projects were dreamt up during the closing years of Frenchman Jacques Delors’ reign as European Commission president. They were intended as a means of funding the construction of some of the major infrastructure projects needed to ensure a continent-wide single market could work. There are three types of TEN – in transport, energy and telecommunications. Examples of projects of that have received TEN funding include the Øresund bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö and the high-speed rail link under construction between Turin and Lyon.

Transition periods

Transition periods

In principle, all pieces of EU legislation should be respected by all member states from the day they enter into force unless otherwise specified. As is the case with much of the Union's business, however, the reality is often more complicated. On many occasions, EU governments will ask for transition periods or “extra time” before having to implement fully a particular law. Transition periods have been granted on all sorts of legislation ranging from issues such as environmental protection to workers' rights. Perhaps the most controversial transition periods agreed in recent years have applied to the free movement of workers from the new member states (the 8 post-communist countries that joined in 2004, plus the 2007 intake comprising Bulgaria and Romania). Old members were granted the right to restrict access to their labour markets for citizens of these countries for periods of up to seven years.

Transparency

Transparency

This has been a major EU buzzword for more than a decade. It describes the efforts being made by the politicians and officials to explain what they get up to at all those interminable meetings in Brussels. If something is transparent, you can see through it and, in the case of the Union, see how it works - that is the theory, anyway. The quest for greater transparency is a never-ending battle which takes many forms. It includes pledges to make more EU documents available to the public, promises to write Union legislation in a more straightforward style, and efforts to involve ordinary citizens in the work of the EU institutions through seminars, workshops, internet "chats" and a whole range of other interactive activities. But the jury is still out on whether the campaign for more transparency is actually working. Many critics say most people are still very much in the dark about how the Union operates.

Trialogue

Trialogue

An increasing amount of EU legislation has to be approved under the ordinary legislative procedure, which gives Union governments and the European Parliament an equal say in the final shape of EU laws and allows either of them to kill proposed legislation if they cannot reach agreement on its precise terms. In a bid to prevent this from happening too often, the ordinary legislative procedure allows for the two sides to meet in “trialogue” or "three-way talks" where they try to iron out their differences in cases where conflicts arise. These meetings are made up of one representative from each EU government and an equal number of MEPs. Representatives of the European Commission also attend. Trialogues have a fairly good track record in settling disputes and the number of pieces of legislation which have failed even after trialogues is very low.

Two Pack

Two Pack

Nothing to do with the seminal US gangsta rapper murdered in 1996, the EU's two pack further strengthens the European Commission's control over national budgets. The twin laws that make up the two pack came into force in 2013 and reinforce 2011's 'six pack'. The two pack obliges EU governments to publish their draft budgets for the following year by 15 October. By 30 November, the Commission checks each budget and says whether or not it is acceptable. Governments must then adopt their definitive budgets by 31 December at the latest. Defenders of the two pack say it protects budgetary and economic stability across the EU. Critics say it is an unacceptable attack on national democracy.

U

UK budget abatement

UK budget abatement

This is the famous money which former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted back. In 1984, at a fractious summit meeting at Fontainebleau outside Paris, Thatcher wore down her fellow EU leaders with relentless demands for a special refund from the then European Community budget. Her basic complaint was that the UK poured vast sums into Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and received precious little in return. Thatcher’s nagging paid off and the summit agreed that, in future, the UK would receive a yearly rebate on the money it pays into Union coffers. The British rebate, known in EU jargon as an “abatement”, still exists (in fact some other countries, notably Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden have their own, smaller rebates).

Ultra-liberalism

Ultra-liberalism

This is a term generally used by French-speaking opponents of the kind of untrammelled free trade championed by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The term is nearly always employed in a negative way, so if a French person describes you as an ultra-liberal, they are not paying you a compliment. For critics, liberals or ultra-liberals support unrestricted free trade, exploitation of the world’s poor, sweatshop economies and the erosion of workers’ rights, and are generally perceived as nasty exploitative capitalists. Since the financial crisis of 2007-08 it has become a more mainstream.

V

Variable geometry

Variable geometry

This is another concept used to suggest a possible model for reforming and modernising the EU. It is also sometimes described as the "à la carte" approach to European integration. Supporters of variable geometry argue that as the Union gets bigger, it will become impossible for all governments to agree on everything all of the time. They say "variable geometry" would allow "pioneer groups" of member states to sign up to initiatives they support while allowing others to hold back. Critics of this multi-speed approach to European integration insist it would undermine the EU's core aim of "ever closer union" and create a fragmented and disunited Europe.

Vertical restraints

Vertical restraints

This faintly sado-masochistic sounding term is used to describe a key aspect of EU competition policy. Vertical restraints are rules designed to control exclusive deals between suppliers of goods and retailers which could prevent fair competition in the Union. Suppliers should not normally put pressure on retailers to stock only certain products, but some high-profile industries have been granted certain exemptions from vertical restraints rules. Oil companies operating in the EU are allowed to run their own exclusive chains of service stations, for example, and breweries in many member states often have their own networks of pubs and bars. The vertical restraint rules are periodically reviewed by the Commission.

Veto

Veto

The veto is the right that a single EU country has to torpedo planned Union initiatives. Generally, governments can only veto policy initiatives or other proposals which must be agreed unanimously under EU law. Areas where a single country can veto proposed EU initiatives include taxation, social security and foreign policy. But to make things more complicated, under the terms of the "Luxembourg compromise" (a deal struck in 1965 to prevent France from bringing EU business grinding to a halt) a country can veto any proposal if it feels its vital national interests are under threat.

Visegrad group

Visegrad group

This is a group of four countries that joined the EU in 2004 – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It was created in the Hungarian town of Visegrad in February 1991 when the Czech Republic and Slovakia were still Czechoslovakia and the then three countries were just beginning to think about joining both the EU and NATO. Since then, the Visegrad countries have worked together and supported each other in their bids for membership of the two blocs, with success in both cases. Since the four Visegrad states joined the EU in May 2004, they have continued to work together and have tried to speak with a single voice in many internal EU negotiations. The Visegrad countries also hold regular meetings, including an annual summit that brings together their four prime ministers. Like the EU, Visegrad has a rotating presidency, with each country coordinating its business for a year.

W

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive

The unfortunately named WEEE directive has nothing to do with sitting cross-legged while waiting to visit the smallest room. In fact, confusingly, it is not even a single law. The EU actually has two directives on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Both are designed to ensure we do not drown in a sea of electronic scrap as we are forced to buy new computers, mobile phones, Blackberries and other assorted electrical gadgets at an ever-increasing rate. The first, known simply as the WEEE directive, is designed to encourage us all to reuse and recycle our electronic gadgets and gizmos as often as possible. This, it is hoped, will cut down on the amount of electronic scrap being thrown into landfills or incinerated. It requires that electronic waste be separately collected and recycled. The second directive, known as RoHS (Restriction on the use of certain hazardous substances in WEEE) bans the use of certain toxic chemicals, such as heavy metals in electronic gadgets.

Working groups

Working groups

These are where most of the nitty-gritty work is done in the Council of Ministers. Without them, EU business would quickly grind to a halt. They are made up of policy experts from EU member states and meet regularly at the Council's Brussels headquarters. Often their members are based in their home countries and fly into Brussels especially for meetings. Council working groups discuss all areas of EU policy, which means there are a lot of them. There are groups which look at trade questions, social affairs, environmental concerns and a myriad of other questions. The groups report to member states' permanent representatives, who in turn prepare the regular meetings of government ministers which take place at the Council.

Working time

Working time

Under the terms of the EU's 1993 "working time" directive, no one in the Union should work more than an average of 48 hours a week. For many EU countries, this obligation has no real effect as they actually have legal working weeks that are shorter than that. France has a 35-hour statutory working week, for example, and Belgian workers cannot legally work more than 39 hours. The UK, on the other hand, has always opposed the idea of a statutory working week and, in 1993, obtained an opt-out from the rules which allows British workers to put in more than 48 hours a week if they wish. The Commission has proposed ending the UK's opt-out but London has fought a protracted (and at the time of writing, successful) battle to retain it.