As a legal instrument, a Council or Commission Decision is fully binding on those to whom it is addressed. It must be based on a specific Treaty Article and does not require national implementing legislation. It may be addressed to a specific Member State, company or individual.
The delimitation of competences between the European Union and its Member States aims to establish a clear and precise distribution of the Union's competences, identifying what comes under Community, Member State, regional or local competence.
An accusation of democratic deficit is sometimes levelled at the EU it complex method of operating seems inaccessible to ordinary people and because members of the Commission are not directly elected, though they are appointed by the Member States and are collectively accountable to Parliament.
A derogation is a temporary waiver from a Regulation or a Directive and is normally only granted by unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers and for a limited period.
See Directorate General.
A Directive is binding as to the result to be achieved, but allows the individual Member States to choose how, often leaving a degree of latitude to accommodate national conventions. A Directive must be based on a Treaty Article, and will normally set a deadline by which the national legislatures must transpose it into national law. If a Directive is not transposed into national law within the deadline, it can confer rights on individuals and take precedence over any conflicting national law.
The term for a department in all of the EU institutions. Each is headed by a Director General.
See European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.
Economic and monetary union is the name given to the process of harmonising the economic and monetary policies of EU Member States with a view to the introduction of a single currency, the euro.
Economic and social cohesion is an expression of solidarity between the Member States and regions of the European Union. The aim is balanced development throughout the EU, reducing structural disparities between regions and promoting equal opportunities. This is achieved by means of a variety of funding schemes, principally through the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund. (See also Structural Funds)
See European Economic and Social Committee.
See European Economic Area.
The eEurope initiative was launched by EU leaders meeting in Lisbon in March 2000 and forms part of what is known as the Lisbon strategy which sets the objective for the European Union to become the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy by 2010. Its key objectives are to bring every citizen, home, school, business and administration into the digital age and online, create a digitally literate Europe, supported by an entrepreneurial culture open to information technology, and ensure that the information society is socially inclusive.
To achieve these aims, the Commission adopted the eEurope 2002 action plan in May 2000, intended to stimulate a cheaper, faster, secure Internet, promote human and financial investment and stimulate the use of the Internet. Its successor, the eEurope 2005 action plan, focuses on the deployment of broadband access at competitive prices, network security and better use of information technology by public bodies through e-government.
See European Free Trade Area.
See European Investment Bank.
The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, is a voluntary initiative designed to improve companies' environmental performance. Its aim is to recognise and reward organisations that go beyond minimum legal compliance.
See Economic and monetary union.
Enlargement refers to the expansion of the EU to take in new Member States. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are due to join the EU in May 2004. Bulgaria and Romania hope to join in 2007, while EU leaders will make a decision in December 2004 about whether to begin formal accession negotiations with Turkey. Croatia has also recently applied for EU membership.
Equal is a Community Initiative providing for the development of new practices to fight against discrimination and inequalities of every kind in access to the labour market. It is financed by the European Social Fund. (See also Community Initiatives, Structural Funds)
Aimed at the higher education sector, the Erasmus programme helps fund student and lecturer exchanges, curriculum development projects and the development of a European educational credit transfer system.
See European Research Area.
See European Regional Development Fund.
See European Economic and Social Committee.
See European security and defence policy and European spatial development policy.
See European Social Fund.
This fund finances the Common Agricultural Policy. The Guidance section finances price support measures, while the Guarantee Section grants subsidies for modernisation of farming and rural development measures. (See also Structural Funds)
The European Commission is effectively the EU's civil service. It has powers of initiative, implementation, management and control. It is the guardian of the Treaties and the embodiment of the interests of the Community. It is composed of 20 Commissioners (two each from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom and one each from all the other countries), including a President and two Vice-Presidents. It is appointed for a five-year term by the Council, subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament, to which it is answerable. The Commissioners are assisted by an administration made up of Directorates General and specialised departments.
Negotiations are taking place during the current intergovernmental conference over the future composition of the Commission. The convention responsible for drawing up a draft Treaty has suggested having a Commission made up of 15 full Commissioners and 15 Deputies who would not have voting rights, though a system where each Member State has at least one Commissioner seems more likely to be approved.
See European Union.
A European Convention on Human Rights, signed under the aegis of the Council of Europe in 1950, established an unprecedented system of international protection for human rights, offering individuals the possibility of applying to the courts for the enforcement of their rights. The Convention, which has been ratified by all EU Member States, established a number of supervisory bodies based in Strasbourg, including the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Council, often called a European Summit and not to be confused with the Council of Europe or the Council of the European Union, is the term used to describe the regular meetings of the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member States. It meets at least twice a year at the end of each Presidency, and generally also in the spring and autumn. The President of the European Commission also attends as a full member. It defines general policy guidelines and gives the European Union the impetus it needs to develop further.
The European Court of Auditors, based in Luxembourg, checks EU revenue and expenditure for legality and regularity and ensures that financial management is sound. It reports any irregularities to the European Parliament and the Council, and its audit responsibilities have been extended to Community funds managed by outside bodies and by the European Investment Bank.
See Council of Europe.
Known as ECOSOC or the ESC for short, the European Economic and Social Committee represents the interests of the various economic and social groups. It consists of 222 members falling into three categories: employers, workers and representatives of particular types of activity, such as farmers, consumer organisations and environmental groups. Members are appointed by the Council for four years. It is consulted before legislation is adopted concerning the internal market, education, consumer protection, environment, regional development and social affairs, employment policy, public health and equal opportunities.
Set up in 1994, the European Economic Area allows its three members, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, to take part in the single market, but without taking on the responsibilities of EU membership of the EU. They have the right to be consulted by the Commission during the formulation of EU legislation but no right to a say in the decision making.
The European Employment Strategy is built around four priorities: employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. Each year, the Member States draw up National Action Plans (NAPs) on employment implementing these broad policy guidelines. The NAPs are analysed by the Commission and the Council, and the results, presented in a Joint Employment Report, serve as a basis for reprioritising and making recommendations to Member States in respect of their employment policies.
Set up in 1960 as an alternative to the then European Economic Community, the European Free Trade Area allows its members to enjoy free trade. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are members of EFTA, as are the EU Member States, however membership does not impose all of the obligations or benefits of being in the EU on the four non-EU members.
The European Investment Bank is the Community's financial institution, providing long term financing for economically, technically, environmentally and financially viable projects.
Since 1979 the European Parliament has been elected by direct universal suffrage. The distribution of its 626 seats among the Member States is roughly according to their population size. It considers the Commission's proposals, in conjunction with the Council. It also has power over the EU's activities through its confirmation of the appointment of the Commission (and the right to censure it) and through the written and oral questions it can put to the Commission and the Council. It shares budgetary powers with the Council in voting on the annual budget and overseeing its implementation.
The Nice Treaty limits the future number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to a maximum of 732, with effect from the June 2004 elections.
The largest of the Structural Funds, the European Regional Development Fund grants financial assistance for development projects with the overall aim of reducing imbalances between the regions of Europe and thereby promoting economic and social cohesion. (See also Structural Funds.)
The European Research Area brings together all of the Community's resources to better coordinate research and innovation activities at the level of both the Member States and the European Union, so avoiding previous shortcomings, such as fragmentation of activities, isolation of national research systems, disparity of regulatory and administrative frameworks, and low levels of investment in knowledge. It makes it possible to share data, compare results, carry out multi-disciplinary studies, transfer and protect new scientific knowledge and gain access to centres of excellence and state of the art equipment.
The European security and defence policy includes the eventual framing of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence. Established in 1999, the ESDP aims to allow the EU to develop its civilian and military capacities for crisis management and conflict prevention at international level, thus helping to maintain peace and international security, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Its tasks relate to humanitarian and rescue operations, peacekeeping operations and the use of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking operations. In addition to these civilian and military crisis management operations, the ESDP includes a conflict prevention component. The ESDP does not involve the creation of a European army.
This fund is the main financial instrument of Community social policy, providing assistance for vocational training, retraining and job creation schemes. Three quarters of it goes towards combating youth unemployment. (See also Structural Funds.)
The aim of the European Spatial Development Policy is to improve coordination of national policies in this field, based on three key principles:
A term often used interchangeably with European Community. The EU came about in 1993 with ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, otherwise known as the Treaty on European Union. The Treaty states that the EU is made up of the European Communities plus intergovernmental agreement on justice and home affairs and a common foreign and security policy. The latter are therefore in addition to the European Communities and, strictly speaking, use of the term EU should be applied to these 'new' areas only.
These are public authorities set up under European law to carry out a specific technical, scientific or administrative task. The first agencies were set up in the 1970s but most of them started work in 1994 or 1995. The most recent agencies are the European Food Safety Authority (January 2002), the European Maritime Safety Agency (August 2002) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (September 2002).
Europol provides a structure for developing police cooperation between Member States in preventing and combating serious forms of international organised crime. It initially confined its efforts to the fight against drugs, but its terms of reference were gradually extended to other serious crimes, such as clandestine immigration networks, trafficking in stolen vehicles, human trafficking, child pornography, counterfeiting currency and falsification of other means of payment, trafficking in radioactive and nuclear substances, terrorism and money laundering.
See Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance.
As one of the Structural Funds, the FIFG aims to increase the competitiveness of structures and businesses in the fishing industry. (See also Structural Funds.)
The financial perspective forms the framework for Community expenditure over a period of several years. It is the product of an interinstitutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission and indicates the maximum volume and the composition of the foreseeable Community expenditure. It is adjusted annually by the Commission to take account of prices and the development of Community Gross National Product. The financial perspective is not a multiannual budget, since the annual budgetary procedure remains essential to determine the actual amount of expenditure and the breakdown between the different budget headings.
The current financial perspective establishes the reference framework for a period of seven years (2000-06).
This is generally a statement of aims and principles within a specified policy area. They rarely have binding legislative force in themselves, instead they set policy parameters to be followed up by more specific legislation, possibly several acts on detailed aspects of the general policy area covered by the framework act.
A framework programme sets out the broad aims to be achieved, allowing individual calls to apply for funding to set out more clearly how these aims can be achieved.
The World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services. Governments are currently in negotiations aimed at further liberalising the services market globally.
A term coined by the Commission when it launched a debate in July 2001 on how the EU is run. Its aim is to adopt new governmental systems to bring the EU closer to ordinary people, make it more effective, reinforce democracy in Europe and consolidate the legitimacy of the institutions.
Commission Green Papers are documents intended to stimulate debate and launch a process of consultation at European level on a particular topic. These consultations may then lead to the publication of a White Paper, translating the conclusions of the debate into practical proposals for Community action.
4 April 2013