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EU jargon in English and some possible alternatives

This list is neither prescriptive nor exhaustive – it just seeks to stimulate thinking on which EU terms might constitute jargon and how they could be expressed more clearly. Many of the possible alternatives roughly mirror press usage (outside Brussels).



Jargon/technical phrase


absorption capacity

sufficient (administrative) staff and skills to spend aid (assistance; etc.)/ implement projects


joining, membership, entry

Accession/acceding are legalistic and unclear, and actually mean “to agree to the terms of a treaty/agreement”.

acquis (communautaire)


EU law or rules

ACP countries

Explain which regions these are, or add a link to: or

active labour market policies


job creation schemes/measures, measures to help the unemployed back to work

actorsOverused because of FR influence - try varying with:

stakeholders, groups, bodies, organisations, parties, participants, interests, interest groups, players, those involved, operators

adding value (to)improving, enhancing, supplementing

additionalityadditional funding rule (EU perspective)

national matching funds (national perspective)

administrative capacity

sufficient (administrative) staff and skills to … (implement projects)

agreement, convention


deal, accord, pact

agriculture (-al)Use farm / farming as much as possible.


fraud prevention

apply, implement   (laws)




approximate  (verb)broadly align
aquacultureAt the first mention, try to add an explanation, e.g. write “aquaculture (fish shellfish farming)” – or a longer one: “Aquaculture is the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants like algae”.

The term is not clear to a broad audience. It can help to use words like fish and farming, which have wider recognition, alongside aquaculture. And even if “fish farming” doesn’t accurately describe the whole sector, fish + shellfish farming account for around 75% of the sector, so this loose label may be permissible for communication purposes in some contexts.

biannual / biennial

twice a year / every two years

bi‑weekly, bi‑monthly

twice a week / twice a month

budget (allocated to etc.)  

spend or spending, "the EU subsidises/supports X to the tune of"

Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA)


"the Commission's top policy advisers"

calls for proposals

EU requests for project proposals from (researchers etc.)

EU invitation to (e.g. researchers) to propose projects for funding

candidate country

country negotiating to join the EU, prospective or aspiring or would-be members, EU contenders, possible/likely/potential future member countries

CAP / common agricultural policyEU farm policy / support / subsidies.

Even the full term "common agricultural policy" is not widely known outside stakeholder circles

capacity building

"developing the organisations and rules needed to perform X task…"

Complex concept that is not at all clear. Try to explain what this is or at least put a link to a definition - if nothing else:

case law

past legal rulings


the (general) public / individuals / people / nationals / Europeans / the man in the street / society

Overused in EN texts, inspired from citoyen, a much more common concept in FR.

Citizens' Initiative"new European petitioning system". Explain what it is, e.g. "initiative allowing the public to petition the Commission directly on specific issues".

Citizens' initiative is very non-specific - good to use the word "petition" somewhere, since this is essentially what it is.

civil society

interest groups, non‑government bodies

civil society bodies / non-state bodies or actors /non-government institutions / social organisations or groups

co-financed (by)

partly financed or funded by


consistent, coordinated


social justice / balanced (economic) development, regional cohesion

Overused in EN, from the FR usage - try to explain more what it implies.

cohesion fund(ing)

limit usage and prefer e.g.regional development funding/policy)” orregional cohesion (funding/policy)” - to express the idea of regional socio-economic disparities. This is not expressed by the word ‘cohesion’ on its own.


(body or group of) commissioners


the “committee procedure” / committees through which national authorities supervise Commission implementation of EU law, etc. / system of national experts supervising the detailed technical aspects of implementing EU law, etc.



Depending on the context, no need to confuse people with the underlying institutions/history behind the current EU – as far as the public are concerned, action by the Commission is simply action by the EU.

If it is necessary to mention the Commission, it is a good idea to make its role clear ("the EU executive, the EU's executive body", etc.).

Committee of the Regions

"the EU's platform for regional interests, the Committee of the Regions" / body representing local and regional authorities across the EU

common ( XXX policy)

EU-wide, EU

common organisation of the market / CMO

"EU support (regime or package) for farms" (for the e.g. wine market), market management regime (mechanisms, measures, scheme), commodity regime, market organisation.

Never CMO!



As a noun or an adjective (e.g. “Community programme”), this old name for what most people now know in EN as the EU is confusing – better to use “EU” where possible.

The distinction might have been removed by the Lisbon treaty, but most people never knew what the difference was anyway.

Also possibly confusing with “community” with a small 'c', especially if not qualified by “European”.

compatible with the single market


"does not confer an unfair advantage", "does not distort competition" (preventing protectionism and stimulating economic activity)


remit, portfolio, brief, area of responsibility, jurisdiction, powers, authority.

"is an exclusive competence of” can simply be “is decided by"

Competition (DG)

EU antitrust officials, EU’s antitrust watchdog / department


competitive advantage, competitive edge, competitive position, “if EU firms are to remain competitive”

concordance (multilingual)

agreement between language versions

convergence criteria

requirements for joining (the euro), euro membership requirements

cooperation (development)

international development, development work/policy/strategy

Despite its usage among specialists, using "cooperation" without "development" is still pretty meaningless. Better to concentrate on "development" anyway, as this word still carries the core meaning.

Council (of the EU / Ministers)    

EU council, EU leaders, EU governments, EU member countries etc.

The "agriculture Council" can be rendered as e.g. "EU farm ministers meeting in Brussels", “meeting of EU farm ministers”


within the EU

decoupled (payments, i.e. farm subsidies)


(decoupled just means not dependent on production volume)

de  minimis aid

(the level of) subsidies governments can give to companies without having to get EU approval

Delegation/ Representation      

(local) EU office

EU's representative office

EU office (delegation) in X country

"Delegation" in EN implies a group of representatives sent for a strictly limited time span. "Representation" is very general/abstract.


exemption, exception, opt-out

EEA countries

Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland

Economic and Monetary Union

essentially just the euro / single currency(this implies also the management of the euro by the ECB, no need to spell this out).

EMU = "a single market with a common currency and monetary policy

EMU is highly abstract. Essence is just “ monetary union ”, i.e. single currency + common monetary policy through the ECB. What economic union there was (single market) happened before 1999 - there was no economic union in 1999, just coordination (of economic and fiscal policies).

Date of EMU launch- The 1st phase started in 1990, but this and 2nd phase were mainly preparatory. Although technically 1999 was just the 3rd (final) phase of EMU, this is the anniversary celebrated by the EU itself, so should be considered the effective start of EMU. It was the year that saw the actual introduction of the euro (as a book currency until 2002) and single monetary policy under the ECB).

electronically, by electronic means

by e-mail, online, computerised




Whether enlargement is a false friend from FR élargissement or an attempt to avoid potentially negative connotations, the more natural EN term is "expansion".

Use of "enlargement" can sometimes be organisation‑centric in its effect, i.e. readers are mainly concerned with which new countries joined and when etc. so that should be the focus, not the organisation they are joining (the EU).

Also often used as a shorthand form to refer to new member countries, when the countries themselves should be the focus, not the abstract concept of “enlargement”.

e.g. not “Audiovisual policy – enlargement” but “Audiovisual policy in future EU members”.

enter into force

become law


(small-) business owner, businessperson, business/firm/company 


countries that joined the EU in 2004


pre‑2004 EU countries or members


European jobs portal

Europe (as a shorthand for European integration etc.)

e.g. "more Europe"

say what is really meant, e.g. integration, unity, cooperation, etc

EuropeAid (cooperation office)

the EU's development aid office

European construction         

European integration, united Europe, European unity, European project, the EU

European Council    

EU summit

European Social Model

European government intervention through redistribution, high taxes and high public (social) spending / comprehensive welfare cover, etc.

ex ante         

upstream, prior, advance

excessive deficit procedure

the threat of sanctions for excessive government deficits and debt (on countries seeking to join the euro)

ex post

downstream, subsequent

exchange of experience

knowledge sharing or pooling, sharing experience

external relations


relations with partner countries

(as regards...)  external policies/actionsinternationally

fight against fraud

fraud prevention

fight against terrorism


financial perspective

“7-year EU budget”

budget cap, cap on spending

fiscal policy (sound)sound public finances
fisheriesWhere possible, try to use (also) fishing and fishing industry.

And where it means fishing ground, use that term. Fish stocks is clearer than "fisheries resources". And are sustainable fisheries anything other than "sustainable fishing"?

These terms are more concrete than "fisheries", which is abstract + confusing due to its double meaning (meaning both the business / industry of catching fish and a place where fish are caught)


modernising or reforming labour markets (combining flexibility for employers with security for workers), protecting people not jobs.

freedom of establishment         

"(businesses) setting up outside their home country", "freedom to operate abroad".

freedom, justice and security

"law and order"

(with link to  FJS explanation)

free movement of workers (e.g. promoting this in the EU)

abstract central economic concept – better to phrase as “helping workers find jobs throughout the EU”

GDPnational economic output


international trade, trade liberalisation, greater exposure to foreign competition, "global competition", more open economies, internationalisation of (world’s) economies, growing global economic integration

good governance

sound / honest government, integrity in government, rule of law (essentially “fighting corruption”)


management, organisation


to exempt existing practices from a new law, so the law only applies to people who start new practices of that type.

Green Paper

consultation or discussion paper or document

harmonise(d)standardise (verb)

consistent, standardised (adjective)

heads of state and government

leaders / heads of government

No need to repeat this wordy and technical distinction made in legal instruments.

higher education institution


High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy        

foreign policy chief, supremo

(press usually omits "security" element)

human capital (investment  in…)

protecting and developing workers/staff/ the workforce

(e.g. through education and training, health and safety, etc.)


computer (systems, networks, etc.), digital "technology", "hi-tech", IT, computerised, electronic.

(possibly – "information/communication systems")

These are journalistic shorthand for modern (rather than "old") technologies, which by implication are generally info and comms technologies.

ICT as an acronym doesn't have wide public recognition and its full form is a mouthful (especially where repeated often). Also, terms like information, communication and system are all very abstract - people would much more likely recognise, talk about and Google with words like computer or digital.

Compromise solution - to avoid repeated use of the full term, after the first instance just use "technology" / "technological".


research and new technology


novel, original, blue-sky

in the period 2006‑2009 

in 2006‑09

insurance (social, health, pension)

(social security) cover, provision

intercultural dialogueopenness towards / contact with other cultures

intergovernmental conference   

negotiations, talks / constitutional convention

(risk of confusion with a short, one-off conference between governments)

2007 IGC = the "formal treaty talks" or "the reform treaty talks"

internal marketprefer single market (see entry below)

IDPs (internally displaced people) 

(internal) refugees


“IT” or “information and communication technologies”.

“information society technologies” is an EU construct based on the overuse of the term “information society”.

IUU fishing

illegal fishing


(as a policy issue)

law and order

legal framework

legal basis, relevant laws



level (e.g. at EU/national etc. level)

across the EU, nationally, in every country

liable to

subject to

Lisbon strategy/agenda         

Add (or replace with) an explanatory phrase, e.g.:

EU competitiveness strategy or drive / EU strategy for (economic) growth and job creation / EU growth and jobs strategy / EU growth and job creation / drive to develop a leading-edge knowledge economy etc.

Also - risk of confusion with Lisbon Treaty.


used by multinational businesses and international organisations, this indeed means "in a particular country", but to national governments it would mean e.g. regional, and to the average person more like "round the corner".


enshrining/anchoring in law and practice, establishing across the board, in all policies

Member State

country = EU country / member country / EU member

authorities = EU or member government / national government or administration or authorities

"Member State" expresses a central perspective - to us they are members of our organisation but not to the public in each country. This is also diplomatic terminology.

members of the European Parliament



often “methods” is all that is meant

millennium development goals

UN development goals / poverty-reduction goals

missionfield visit, inspection visit, working visit, fact-finding mission, on-site inspection


(sustainable, green) transport, travel, personal mobility. E.g. "Mobility week" is an “annual sustainable travel event”

Can also mean relocation (for work), e.g. "moving around Europe" (to live, work, and study or retire).

Educational field - try "learning mobility".

A false friend - in EN, "mobility" is associated more with physical ability to move.


(“the practical way of implementing something that has been decided”)

arrangements, terms of / procedure / detailed rules / implementation, "the details of or rules for implementation”

monetary stability

“stable prices” (i.e. low inflation and reduced external currency shocks)

multilateral organisation

international organisation


Broadly means "language learning and use"

Can also be rendered by “(foreign) languages” or “multilingual communication”, foreign language use (in/by the EU), language policy (in the EU) (institutions), learning languages, language learning.

Used as shorthand for many meanings, which is confusing, as well as being an abstract "ism". Much better to spell out what we mean.

(European) Neighbourhood policy

EU support (programme) for countries around its eastern and southern borders / countries in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean

This is not the whole picture, as 3 "neighbours" border Turkey rather than the EU and are not in either of these areas - but the details can be sacrificed for clear communication.


Although not "legally accurate", this is the term UK people use - a fact recognised even by the Dutch tourist board.

Similar to “eurozone” being commonly used although technically it should have been "euro area". Best to use the terms people really use rather than the ones we think they should use.
officials (of an EU institution)"permanent staff", "staff on indefinite contracts"

"Officials" on its own is not enough to imply the indefinite nature of the contract. This is Brussels insider-speak.
OLAFEuropean fraud office

“anti-fraud” is a French construction not used in EN.

open coordination (method of) 

voluntary policy coordination by EU governments

outermost regions 

the EU's outlying territories

overseas countries and territories (OCTs)

overseas regions / overseas territories

Permanent representative

(Germany's) top EU diplomat, ambassador to the EU.

Plan D etc.

EU’s external communications plan

points of fact and law

the facts of a case and how the relevant laws apply to them

posting of workers

(work) postings to other EU countries

premium (CAP)

allowance or subsidy.

Premium is false friend from FR "prime".


"the 6-month rotating/unofficial leadership of the EU", "the rotating six‑month position giving each member country the power to advance certain issues on the EU agenda" / six‑month stint in charge of EU affairs / in charge of, at the helm, in the EU cockpit etc.

Specific national presidencies, e.g. Portuguese presidency: “the Portuguese government, currently holding the presidency of the EU


finalising specific funding allocations, allocating funding

proportionalitylimiting EU action to the minimum needed (to achieve the EU's policy goals)




law(s) or rules / points of (EU) law

public procurement

from contractors POV this is “public (or government) contracts”

pursuing non-economic activities

not in paid work

rapid alert

early warning


reflection group

high‑level working party (“reflection group”) or panel on future challenges / the future direction of

Regulation (Directive, Decision)

laws or rules

Research framework programme (e.g. 7th research framework programme / FP7

EU’s (current) research (or R&D) (funding) programme

resourcestime and money


(making and receiving) mobile calls (while) abroad




RTD is more technical economic terminology – R&D is what most non‑Brussels journalistic EN texts would refer to.

And a lot of the type of R&D concerned is largely “technological” in nature anyway.

Schengen area      

no‑border zone, border‑free area, "passport‑free travel" / "Do you need a passport?" (e.g. in menus or links)

single market

(lower caps)

Can be described simply as "the EU (economy)" (e.g. “Selling goods across the EU”), or other phrases using "economy" rather than "market":

"Europe's integrated economy", "the integrated EU economy", "integration among EU economies", ""economic integration", "a more integrated economy", “business in Europe’s increasingly integrated economy”, etc.

“Single market” is quite an abstract concept from economics, and is very overused. Should be lower case if it is used.

But at least “single market” is more common, and self-explanatory, than “internal market”. This is confusing as it implies some sort of domestic market, whereas the angle to express is that the market is not fragmented rather than within certain borders.

Also, possibly confusing with UK healthcare sector reforms (internal markets).


General usage - small(er) businesses/firms

Specifying also medium firms -– small/medium businesses or small and medium companies or small and mid-size(d) firms.

Certainly nothing withenterprises.

As an acronym in EN, SME is not nearly as common as its FR equivalent PME.

The full phrase "small and medium-sized enterprise" is specialist economic terminology – journalistic texts outside Brussels would refer instead to “small businesses” or “small firms”, which also implies “medium sized”, i.e. anything not big (less than 250 employees according to the official EU definition (Annex - Article 2)pdf.

Since "SMEs" account for 99% of all firms, it may in some contexts even be worth dropping the reference to size altogether (just refer to businesses, firms, companies, etc.).

social(social) welfare, social security (as adjectives)

Not used as much on its own as in other languages - often needs other words to qualify it

social dialogue

labour relations, "industrial relations" or "bilateral consultations", employee consultation, (staff-management negotiations / relations), consultation between management and labour, employers and unions, "a constructive relationship (or dialogue) between employers and workers"

A literal borrowing from FR again. This is not a concept widely used in non-specialist English.

social inclusion

reduce social exclusion / overcome the exclusion from society, or marginalisation (spell out, otherwise is abstract)

social partners

employers and (trade) unions, employers and workers, employers' and workers' groups]

[see "social dialogue"]


social justice, fairness / support / cooperation

Solidarity has a narrower usage in EN than FR.


"red‑tape‑busting service" / "problem-solving service for/helping people move around the continent to live, work and study" / " helping people with problems living, working and studying in other EU countries "

Stabilisation and association agreement

pre-membership talks or stage

state aid(s)

another FR-inspired term (aide d’état).

"(unfair) government support / state support / support from public authorities / public assistance to companies / government-backed programmes".

Sometimes needs more explanation, to make it clearer why the Commission monitors this, e.g. "as part of its competition policy" or "to enforce fair competition" etc.

Due to its high profile, “state aid” has crept into native-speaker usage among specialists, e.g. business journalists, but this doesn’t make it understandable to the man in the street.

In EN “aid” is usually associated with development or disaster relief. Where financial help is meant (usually but not always the case with state aid), more appropriate terms include subsidy, funding, grant, assistance and even cash.

But because government support can also include non-financial help such as protective legislation, the neutral “support” is better.




decentralisation (principle), prioritising action by national governments, local policymaking, deciding whether action is needed at local, national or EU level

sunset clause

clause put into agreements etc. to ensure they don’t run past a certain date


eco-friendly, green


complementary, mutual, in association with / pooling resources / more cost-effective / benefits, reap the dividends from / ability to work effectively in collaboration with / to coordinate with / economies of scale

Dictionary definition: "increased effectiveness, achievement, etc., produced as a result of combined action or co-operation".

Avoid if possible as "synergy" is not clear and completely overused.

tertiary education

higher education

third country

non-EU country, other country, partner country, trading partner (if in trade context), “from outside the EU”

Third country is legally-inspired and not clear.

trade commissioner / representative/minister etc.


trade envoy, trade chief, supremo




incorporate (write / convert / translate / transform) into national law

Treaty of Rome

Avoid if possible as a shorthand for “the founding of the communities”, unless specific reference is needed - most people are not at all familiar with this treaty and what it signifies. Better to refer indirectly to e.g. “the founding of the EU”, or, if referring specifically to the instrument itself, “the EU’s founding treaty”.

In references to the 50th anniversary,  e.g. “the EU’s 50th birthday”, “50 years of the EU” etc. are better.

TV without frontiers

EU broadcasting rules, rules on audiovisual content



To us it’s clear which Union we’re talking about, but the world is full of different types of union.

vade mecumhandbook, manual, (operating) instructions

EN doesn't use this Latin form nearly as much as FR.


confirm (e.g. an entry in a computer system)

vice-president of the Commission in charge of

commissioner for … (with so many VPs, why distinguish?)

White Paper/ Communication

a paper, set of (policy) proposals, proposal paper, plans, blueprint