Glossary Inforegio English
Economic and social cohesion:
The origins of economic and social cohesion go back to the Treaty
of Rome where a reference is made in the preamble to reducing disparities
in development between the regions. However, it was not until the
seventies that Community action was taken to coordinate the national
instruments and provide additional financial resources. Subsequently
these measures proved inadequate given the situation in the Community
where the establishment of the internal market, contrary to forecasts,
had failed to even out the differences between regions.
With the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, economic and
social cohesion proper was made an objective, as well as the single
market. In the preparation of economic and monetary union, this provided
a legal basis from 1988 onwards for Community action to become the
central pillar of a comprehensive development policy.
The Maastricht Treaty finally incorporated the policy into the Treaty
establishing the European Community (Articles 130a to 130e, now renumbered
158 to 162). It is an expression of solidarity between the Member
States and regions of the European Union. This means balanced and
sustainable development, reducing structural disparities between regions
and countries and promoting equal opportunities for all individuals.
In practical terms it is achieved by means of a variety of financing
operations, principally through the Structural Funds.
Every three years the European Commission must present a report on
progress made in achieving economic and social cohesion and on how
the various means provided for in the Treaty have contributed to it.
The future of economic and social cohesion was one of the major issues
discussed in the Commission's Agenda 2000 communication (presented
on 15 July 1997), largely because of the financial implications. It
has been the Community's second largest budget item from 1994 to 1999
(around 35% of the budget). Its importance was confirmed in the financial
With enlargement looking set to bring in countries with national incomes
well below the Community average, the Community structural policy
was reformed in 1999 in order to improve its effectiveness and its
budgetary allocation has been increased from EUR 208 billion to EUR
213 billion for 2000-2006.
Employment is one of the key concerns of the Member States, for
unemployment is running at a high level (currently around 11% in
the Union). Following on from the Commission's 1993 White Paper
on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment, the Essen European Council
(9 and 10 December 1994) identified five priority areas for action
to promote employment:
- improving employment opportunities by promoting investment in
- increasing the employment-intensiveness of growth;
- reducing non-wage labour costs;
- increasing the effectiveness of labour-market policies;
- improving help for groups which are particularly hard hit by
The Council and the Commission presented a joint report on the
action taken on these five priorities at the Dublin European Council
(13 and 14 December 1996).
Similarly the Confidence Pact for Employment presented by the Commission
President in June 1996 seeks to mobilise all the actors concerned
in a genuine strategy for employment, to make employment a matter
of common interest at European level and incorporate the fight against
unemployment in a medium and long-term vision of society.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, employment
is now enshrined as one of the European Community's objectives.
The Community has been assigned the new responsibility of working
towards a coordinated strategy for employment together with the
Member States. To this end, a new title on employment (Title VIII)
has been written into the EC Treaty, under which:
- employment to be taken into consideration in other Community
- coordination mechanisms to be established at Community level
(adoption by the Council of guidelines for employment and surveillance
of their implementation in the Member States, creation of an advisory
committee on employment);
- the possibility for the Council, acting by a qualified majority,
to adopt incentive measures, including pilot projects (in addition
to the Structural Funds).
An extraordinary summit on employment was held on 21 November 1997,
focusing on employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal
opportunities. The Member States then decided to bring forward to
1998 the application of the provisions on coordinating their employment
Enlargement was originally the term used to refer to the four successive
waves of new members joining the Community. Nine countries have
so far joined the six founder members - Belgium, France, Germany,
Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - at the following times:
- 1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom;
- 1981: Greece;
- 1986: Portugal and Spain;
- 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden.
With the growing number of applicants for membership (13, of which
12 have already opened negotiations with the European Union), the
concept of enlargement has taken on a very special significance.
There is a widespread conviction that the system established by
the Treaty of Rome cannot function effectively in a Union of 25
to 30 members.
Any attempt at enlargement within the current system could impair
the smooth operation of the institutions and the development of
Community policies. To ensure that enlargement does not hinder European
integration, any further accessions must be accompanied by reform
of the institutions and of some Union policies.
With regard to the institutional problems created by enlargement,
a Protocol on the institutions annexed to the EU Treaty by the Treaty
of Amsterdam provided that one year before the membership of the
European Union exceeded twenty, a new Intergovernmental Conference
would be convened.
However, it was decided to launch a new Intergovernmental Conference
on 15 February 2000, to make the changes to the Treaties needed
to ensure that enlargement does not weaken the European Union.
Regarding the adjustment of European policies to suit a Europe with
almost double the current number of Member States, the 1997 Agenda
2000 document and the resulting 1999 legislative package have reshaped
the agricultural and structural polices, pre-accession aid and the
Union's financial perspective to accommodate the challenges of enlargement.
The aim of Community environment policy is to preserve, protect
and improve the quality of the environment and to protect people's
health. It also sets great store by the prudent and rational use
of natural resources. Lastly, it seeks to promote measures at international
level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems
(Article 174, formerly Article 130r).
Policy formulation is subject to different decision-making procedures
depending on the area concerned. So to attain the objectives listed
in Article 174, the Council:
- acts under the cooperation procedure, after consulting the Economic
and Social Committee, for decisions on the measures to be taken
and on the implementation of programmes;
- acts unanimously, after consulting the European Parliament and
the Economic and Social Committee, where fiscal provisions and
provisions relating to town and country planning or land use (with
the exception of waste management and general measures) are involved
or where a Member State's choice in the matter of energy is significantly
affected (Article 175(2), formerly Article 130s(2)) (under this
procedure the Council may also define matters referred to in Article
175(2), on which decisions are taken by a qualified majority);
- acts under the codecision procedure, after consulting the Economic
and Social Committee, for the adoption of general action programmes
setting out the priority objectives to be attained.
The Treaty of Amsterdam has enshrined the concept of "sustainable
development" as one of the European Union's objectives, while
environmental protection requirements have been given greater weight
in other Community policies, especially in the context of the single
The provisions allowing a Member State to apply stricter rules than
the harmonised rules have been clarified and doing so has been made
easier. Under certain narrowly defined conditions, a Member State
may now adopt new measures in response to a specific environmental
The Commission monitors these stricter measures to ensure that they
do not constitute an obstacle to the functioning of the single market.
The Commission itself has undertaken to prepare environmental impact
assessments when making proposals that may have significant environmental
Lastly, decision-making has been simplified, with the codecision
procedure replacing the cooperation procedure that was previously
required in certain cases.
Two key elements of the general principle of equal opportunities
are the ban on discrimination on grounds of nationality (Article
12 of the EC Treaty, formerly Article 6) and equal pay for men and
women (Article 141 of the EC Treaty, formerly Article 119). It is
intended to apply to all fields, particularly economic, social,
cultural and family life.
The Treaty of Amsterdam added a new Article 13 to the Treaty, reinforcing
the principle of non-discrimination, which is closely linked to
equal opportunities. Under this new Article, the Council has the
power to take appropriate action to combat discrimination based
on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability,
age or sexual orientation.
The aim of the European Spatial Development Perspective, adopted
in May 1999 by the Ministers of the 15 Member States responsible
for regional planning is to improve the coordination of national
policies in this field. It is based on three key principles: the
development of a balanced and polycentric urban system and a fresh
relationship between cities and the countryside; the assurance of
equal access to knowledge infrastructures; and the sustainable development,
intelligent management and conservation of nature and cultural assets.
Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF):
The EAGGF finances the EU's common agricultural policy. Its purpose
is to provide market support and promote structural adjustments
in agriculture. The EAGGF is divided into two sections: the Guarantee
Section finances price support measures and export refunds to guarantee
farmers stable prices, while the Guidance Section grants subsidies
for rationalization schemes, modernization and structural improvements
in farming .
Development Fund (ERDF):
The ERDF is intended to help reduce imbalances between regions of
the Community. The Fund was set up in 1975 and grants financial
assistance for development projects in the poorer regions. In terms
of financial resources, the ERDF is by far the largest of the EU's
Established in 1960, the ESF is the main instrument of Community
social policy. It provides financial assistance for vocational training,
retraining and job-creation schemes. Around 75% of the funding approved
goes towards combating youth unemployment. With the increase in
budget resources under the Delors II package, changes were made
in the Social Fund and the focus moved to the new goals of improving
the functioning of the labour markets and helping to reintegrate
unemployed people into working life. Further action will tackle
equal opportunities, helping workers adapt to industrial change
and changes in production systems.