Annex 1: Glossary |
Please note that there is a fuller guide to European
Union institutions and legislation on the European Scrutiny Committee's
The acquis is the body of common rights and
obligations which bind all the Member States together within the
European Union. It comprises: the content, principles and political
objectives of the Treaties; the legislation adopted in application
of the treaties and the case law of the Court of Justice; the
declarations and resolutions adopted by the Union; measures relating
to the common foreign and security policy; measures relating to
justice and home affairs; and international agreements concluded
by the EU.
Applicant countries have to accept the acquis
before they can join the EU. Derogations from the acquis
are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited
in scope. To integrate into the European Union, applicant countries
have to transpose the acquis into their national legislation
and implement it from the moment of their accession.
Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon,
the codecision procedure became the ordinary legislative procedure
of the EU (Article 294 TFEU). This procedure gives the European
Parliament the power to adopt instruments jointly with the Council
of the European Union. It becomes co-legislator, on an equal footing
with the Council, except in the cases provided for in the Treaties
where the procedures regarding consultation and approval apply,
known as the special legislative procedure. The ordinary legislative
procedure entails qualified majority voting in the Council. The
procedure comprises one, two or three readings, between the Council
and the European Parliament (for further details please see paragraph
Common Foreign and Security Policy
Under the Lisbon Treaty the CFSP now forms part of
the larger framework of the EU's external action. The Lisbon Treaty
reiterates the principles which govern the definition of this
policy. It tasks the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and
Security Policy with the mission to implement the strategies and
decisions taken by the European Council and the Council in matters
related to the CFSP. In carrying out her mandate, the High Representative
is supported by the European External Action Service and the Political
and Security Committee (PSC).
Common Security and Defence Policy
The European Union's European security and defence
policy aims to allow the EU to develop its civilian and military
capacities for crisis management and conflict prevention at international
The Maastricht Treaty (1992) was the first to include
provisions on the EU's responsibilities in terms of security and
the possibility of a future common defence policy. With the entry
into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999), new tasks were included
in the Treaty on European Union (Title V), such as crisis management
missions and peace-keeping missions. The Political and Security
Committee, the EU Military Committee and EU Military Staff were
established as the permanent political and military structures
responsible for an autonomous, operational EU defence policy.
In December 1999, the Helsinki European Council established the
"global objective", in other words that the Union must
be able to deploy up to 60,000 persons within 60 days and for
at least one year.
The Treaty of Lisbon reiterates that the Common Security
and Defence Policy is an integral part of the Common Foreign and
Security Policy. The ESDP becomes the "Common Security and
Defence Policy" (CSDP) and could lead to a common defence
if the European Council acting unanimously so decides (Article
42 TEU). Decisions relating to the CSDP are adopted unanimously
by the Council.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign
Affairs and Security Policy is responsible for implementing the
CSDP and for coordinating the civilian and military aspects of
the "Petersberg" tasks (Article 43 TEU). Member States
may be involved in carrying out these missions under the framework
of permanent structured cooperation.
The Treaty of Lisbon also provides a "common
defence clause", which obliges Member States to assist a
Member State which is the victim of armed aggression on its territory
(Article 42(7) TEU).
The Treaty of Lisbon also institutionalises the European
Defence Agency created in July 2004 through a Council joint action.
This Agency is responsible for: improving the defence capacities
of the Union particularly in the field of crisis management; strengthening
the Union's industrial and technological armament capacities;
and promoting European cooperation in armament matters.
The Permanent Representatives Committee or Coreper
(Article 240 TFEU) is responsible for preparing the work of the
Council of the European Union. It consists of representatives
from Member States with the rank of ambassadors to the European
Union and is chaired by the Member State which holds the Council
Presidency. (For further details see paragraphs 79-82.)
Council of the EU
The Council of the European Union ("Council
of Ministers" or "Council") is the EU's main decision-making
body for Member States. Its meetings are attended by Member State
ministers, and it is thus the institution which represents the
Member States. The Council's headquarters are in Brussels, but
some of its meetings are held in Luxembourg. Sessions of the Council
are convened by the Presidency, which sets the agenda.
The Council meets in different configurations (ten
in all), bringing together the competent Member State ministers:
General Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Economic and Financial Affairs;
Justice and Internal Affairs; Employment, Social Policy, Health
and Consumer Affairs; Competitiveness; Transport, Telecommunications
and Energy; Agriculture and Fisheries; Environment; Education,
Youth and Culture. The "General Affairs" Council is
responsible for coordinating the work of the different Council
formations, with the Commission's assistance.
Decisions are prepared by Coreper, assisted by working
groups of national government officials.
The Council, together with the European Parliament,
acts in a legislative and budgetary capacity. It is also the lead
institution for decision-making on CFSP, and on the coordination
of economic policies (intergovernmental approach).
Court of Justice of the EU
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU),
created in 1952 by the Treaty establishing the European Coal and
Steel Community, comprises the Court of Justice, the General Court
and specialised courts. It ensures compliance with EU law in the
interpretation and application of the Treaties. The Court of Justice
comprises one judge per Member State and eight Advocates-General.
The number of Advocates-General may be increased by the Council
at the request of the CJEU.
The two main functions of the CJEU are to:
- check whether acts of the European
institutions and of governments are compatible with the Treaties
(infringement proceedings, proceedings for failure to act, actions
- give preliminary rulings, at the request of a
national court, on the interpretation of EU law.
The Court may sit in chambers, in a Grand Chamber
or as a full Court. The Advocates-General assist the Court of
Justice. Their duty is to present with complete impartiality and
independence a legal opinion on cases referred to them. The Registrar
is the Secretary-General of the institution and manages the services
of that institution under the authority of the President of the
Delegating and Implementing Acts
Before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty,
the Commission's implementation of EU legislation was overseen
by committees of Member State experts through the so-called "comitology"
system. This system has now been abolished (although it
will continue to apply to unamended acts adopted before the Lisbon
Treaty), and the Treaty instead distinguishes between delegated
acts and implementing acts (Articles 290 and 291 TFEU). A delegated
act is defined as a general measure to supplement or amend non-essential
elements of legislation, whereas an implementing act is characterised
by its essential nature: the need for uniform conditions for implementation.
There is no formal role for Member State expert committees for
the delegated acts procedure, although the Commission continues
to consult these on an informal basis. For implementing acts,
the system is similar to the old comitology procedure, with formal
committees of national experts.
The European Parliament and the Council have the
power to veto or revoke proposed delegated acts (the Council acting
on the basis of qualified majority voting under Article 290(2)
TFEU). Agreement between the Parliament and the Council in this
regard is not required; an objection from either would prevent
the adoption of the delegated act. Under implementing acts, the
Member States can block a proposal through the Appeal Committee
comprising deputy Permanent Representatives (convened if agreement
cannot be reached among the committee of national experts), but
only if a qualified majority is opposed. If there is no qualified
majority, the Commission decides unilaterally whether to adopt
the implementing act.
Established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European
Commission proposes policies to be adopted by the Council and
the European Parliament, and monitors implementation. It possesses
the exclusive right of initiative in almost all areas of EU policy.
The Commission is appointed for a five-year term
by the Council acting by qualified majority in agreement with
the Member States. It is subject to a vote of appointment by the
European Parliament, to which it is answerable. The Commissioners
are assisted by an administration made up of Directorates-General
and specialised departments whose staff are divided mainly between
Brussels and Luxembourg.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon,
the European Council became one of the European Union institutions.
Comprising the Heads of State or Government of the Member States,
it meets at least four times a year and includes the President
of the European Commission as a full member (but not a voting
member). It elects its President for a period of two and a half
The role of the European Council is to provide the
European Union "with the necessary impetus for its development"
and to define its general political direction (Article 15 TEU).
It does not exercise any legislative function. However, the Treaty
of Lisbon provides the option for the European Council to be consulted
on criminal matters (Articles 82 and 83 TFEU) or on social security
matters (Article 48 TFEU) in cases where a State opposes a legislative
proposal in these areas.
European External Action Service
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign
Affairs and Security Policy is assisted by a European External
Action Service tasked with the coordination of the Union's external
actions, preparing action proposals or positions and implementing
them after Council approval. They also provide support to the
President of the European Council, the President of the Council
and to the members of the Commission on all areas of external
The European External Action Service comprises officials
from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council,
the European Commission and diplomatic services of the Member
Existing EU delegations and crisis management structures
within the General Secretariat of the Council, such as the Crisis
Management and Planning Directorate, the Civilian Planning and
Conduct Capability and the European Union Military Staff, also
form part of the European External Action Service.
The European Parliament's main functions are as follows:
- legislative power: in most
cases Parliament shares legislative power with the Council through
the ordinary legislative procedure;
- budgetary power: Parliament
shares budgetary powers with the Council in voting on the annual
budget, rendering it enforceable through the President of the
Parliament's signature, and overseeing its implementation; and
- power of control over the EU's institutions,
in particular the Commission. Parliament can give or withhold
approval for the designation of Commissioners and has the power
to dismiss the Commission as a body by passing a motion of censure.
It also exercises a power of control over the EU's activities
through the written and oral questions it can put to the Commission
and the Council. It can also set up temporary committees and committees
of inquiry whose remit is not necessarily confined to the activities
of European institutions but can extend to action taken by the
Member States in implementing European policies.
An Explanatory Memorandum (EM) is the Government's
written evidence to Parliament which summarises the content of
a proposal for EU legislation or other important EU document.
It contains information about the aims of the proposal and the
Government's attitude towards it.
Green Papers are documents published by the European
Commission to stimulate discussion on given topics at European
level. They invite the relevant parties (bodies or individuals)
to participate in a consultation process and debate on the basis
of the proposals they put forward. Green Papers may give rise
to legislative developments that are then outlined in White Papers.
High Representative of the Union
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The Amsterdam Treaty created the post of the High
Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the
first holder of which was Javier Solana, Secretary General of
the Council. The Lisbon Treaty maintains the function of the High
Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, but extends
his/her responsibilities by incorporating the functions of Council
Presidency in matters of foreign affairs, and of the Commissioner
responsible for External Relations. The current postholder is
The High Representative is one of the eight Vice-Presidents
of the European Commission and presides over the Foreign Affairs
Council. They participate in the development of the Common Foreign
and Security Policy and implement it as mandated by the Council.
They are responsible for external relations and the coordination
of other aspects of the Union's external action. They are also
responsible for the Common Security and Defence Policy.
The High Representative is appointed by the European
Council by a qualified majority, with the approval of the President
of the Commission, for a mandate of five years. The European Council
may end this mandate following the same procedure. The High Representative
must tender his/her resignation if the President of the European
Commission requests it.
In carrying out their missions, the High Representative
is supported by the European External Action Service.
Presidency of the Council of
The Presidency of the Council of the EU is responsible
for the functioning of the Council, including chairing Council
meetings, determining the agenda of meetings and representing
the Council at meetings with other EU institutions.
The Lisbon Treaty provides that the Presidency of
the Council in its different forms be carried out by groups of
three Member States. The composition of these groups is determined
by equal rotation of the Member States. Each member of the group
holds the Presidency for a period of six months.
The Presidency of the Council of Foreign Affairs
is held by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs
and Security Policy who also represents the Union in issues relating
to the CFSP.
A qualified majority is the number of votes required
in the Council for a decision to be adopted when issues are being
debated on the basis of Article 16 TEU and Article 238 of the
TFEU. Under the ordinary legislative procedure, the Council acts
by qualified majority, in codecision with the European Parliament.
The Treaty of Nice introduced a qualified majority
system based on a new weighting of votes and a "demographic
verification" clause. The number of votes allocated to each
Member State was re-weighted, in particular for those States with
larger populations. After 1 January 2007 and following enlargement
of the EU, the qualified majority increased to 255 votes out of
a total of 345, representing a majority of the Member States.
Moreover, a Member State may request verification that the qualified
majority represents at least 62% of the total population of the
EU. If this is not the case, the decision is not adopted.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon
a new system known as "double majority" was introduced.
It will enter into force on 1 November 2014. The Nice system shall
remain applicable during the transition period up to 31 October
2014. In accordance with the Treaty, the new qualified majority
corresponds to at least 55% of the members of the Council, comprising
at least 15 of them and representing at least 65% of the European
population. A blocking minority may be formed comprising at least
four members of the Council.
As the various institutional reforms have taken effect,
qualified majority voting has largely replaced unanimous voting.
The Treaty of Lisbon extended the qualified majority to issues
which were previously governed by unanimity, such as external
border control, asylum, and the negotiation of international agreements
on trade matters.
The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article
5 of the Treaty on European Union. It provides that decisions
should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. Specifically,
it is the principle whereby the EU does not take action (except
in the areas that fall within its exclusive competence), unless
it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or
The Edinburgh European Council of December 1992 issued
a declaration on the principle of subsidiarity that laid down
the rules for its application. The Treaty of Amsterdam took up
the approach that followed from this declaration in a Protocol
on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December
2009, a new Protocol requires the principle of subsidiarity to
be respected in all draft legislative acts and allows national
parliaments to object to a proposal on the grounds that it breaches
the principle. If a sufficient number of Member States object
(either a quarter or a third) the proposal may be maintained,
amended or withdrawn by the Commission, or blocked by the European
Parliament or the Council. In the case of a breach of the principle
of subsidiarity, the Committee of the Regions may also refer the
legislative act directly to the Court of Justice of the European
Union (if it was consulted on it during the legislative process),
and national parliaments can refer the legislative act to the
Court of Justice acting through their Member States.
Commission White Papers are documents containing
proposals for Union action in a specific area. In some cases they
follow a Green Paper published to launch a consultation process
at European level. When a White Paper is favourably received by
the Council, it can lead to an action programme for the Union
in the area concerned.
Glossary adapted from the www.europa.eu website.
288 A "solidarity clause" (Article 222 TFEU)
allows all civilian and military means to be mobilised to assist
a Member State which has been the victim of a terrorist attack
or a natural or man-made disaster. Back