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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this Glossary is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Abbreviations used in the Ratification Status field of the treaty summary



"Accession" is the act whereby a state accepts to become a party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other states. It has the same legal effect as ratification. Accession usually occurs after the treaty has entered into force. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his function as depositary, has also accepted accessions to some conventions before their entry into force. The conditions under which accession may occur and the procedure involved depend on the provisions of the treaty. A treaty might provide for the accession of all other states or for a limited and defined number of states. In the absence of such a provision, accession can only occur where the negotiating states were agreed or subsequently agree on it in the case of the state in question.

[Arts. 2 (1) (b) and 15, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Acceptance or Approval

The instruments of "acceptance" or "approval" of a treaty have the same legal effect as ratification and consequently express the consent of a state to be bound by a treaty. In the practice of certain states acceptance and approval have been used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require the treaty to be ratified.

[Arts. 2 (1) (b) and 14 (2), Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) Group were formed when the first Lomé Convention was signed with the EEC in 1975. In 2014, it encompasses 79 states (48 African states, 16 Caribbean states, 15 Pacific states), which all have preferential trading relation with the EU.


Act of Formal Confirmation

"Act of formal confirmation" is used as an equivalent for the term "ratification" when an international organization expresses its consent to be bound to a treaty.

[Arts. 2 (1) (b bis) and 14, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations 1986]



"Adoption" is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established. As a general rule, the adoption of the text of a treaty takes place through the expression of the consent of the states participating in the treaty-making process. Treaties that are negotiated within an international organization will usually be adopted by a resolution of a representative organ of the organization whose membership more or less corresponds to the potential participation in the treaty in question. A treaty can also be adopted by an international conference which has specifically been convened for setting up the treaty, by a vote of two thirds of the states present and voting, unless, by the same majority, they have decided to apply a different rule.

[Art. 9, Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties 1969]



The term "agreement" can have a generic and a specific meaning. It also has acquired a special meaning in the law of regional economic integration.

(a) Agreement as a generic term: The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties employs the term "international agreement" in its broadest sense. On the one hand, it defines treaties as "international agreements" with certain characteristics. On the other hand, it employs the term "international agreements" for instruments, which do not meet its definition of "treaty". Its Art.3 refers also to "international agreements not in written form". Although such oral agreements may be rare, they can have the same binding force as treaties, depending on the intention of the parties. An example of an oral agreement might be a promise made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of one State to his counterpart of another State. The term "international agreement" in its generic sense consequently embraces the widest range of international instruments.

(b) Agreement as a particular term: "Agreements" are usually less formal and deal with a narrower range of subject-matter than "treaties". There is a general tendency to apply the term "agreement" to bilateral or restricted multilateral treaties. It is employed especially for instruments of a technical or administrative character, which are signed by the representatives of government departments, but are not subject to ratification. Typical agreements deal with matters of economic, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. Agreements also frequently deal with financial matters, such as avoidance of double taxation, investment guarantees or financial assistance. The UN and other international organizations regularly conclude agreements with the host country to an international conference or to a session of a representative organ of the Organization. Especially in international economic law, the term "agreement" is also used as a title for broad multilateral agreements (e.g. the commodity agreements). The use of the term "agreement" slowly developed in the first decades of this century. Nowadays by far the majority of international instruments are designated as agreements.

(c) Agreements in regional integration schemes: Regional integration schemes are based on general framework treaties with constitutional character. International instruments which amend this framework at a later stage (e.g. accessions, revisions) are also designated as "treaties". Instruments that are concluded within the framework of the constitutional treaty or by the organs of the regional organization are usually referred to as "agreements", in order to distinguish them from the constitutional treaty. For example, whereas the Treaty of Rome of 1957 serves as a quasi-constitution of the European Community, treaties concluded by the EC with other nations are usually designated as agreements. Also, the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) was established by the Treaty of Montevideo of 1980, but the sub regional instruments entered into under its framework are called agreements.


Agreement on Agriculture

The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) concluded in 1994 brought agricultural trade more fully under international trade rules and obligations. The Agreement provided for the conversion of non-tariff measures into ordinary customs duties, the establishment of tariff rate quotas (TRQs), reductions in export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support, while having regard to non-trade concerns.


Agreement on Textiles and Clothing – ATC

The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) is a WTO agreement, which foresees that trade in textiles and clothing will become subject to GATT rules within a ten-year period, i.e. before 1 January 2005. It replaced the Multi-Fibre Arrangement.


Agricultural products

In the WTO agriculture negotiations, the product coverage is defined in Annex 1 of the Agreement. The definition covers not only basic agricultural products such as wheat, milk and live animals, but the products derived from them such as bread, butter and meat, as well as all processed agricultural products such as chocolate and sausages. The coverage also includes wines, spirits and tobacco products, fibres such as cotton, wool and silk, and raw animal skins destined for leather production. It excludes fish and fish products, as well as forestry products.


All States formula

The “all States formula” has been used often in multilateral agreements that seek universal participation (normally relating to disarmament, human rights, penal matters and environment). It has its drawbacks as it has given rise to the question whether certain territories or entities whose status as sovereign States was unclear would be permitted to participate in an agreement under this formula.



The term "amendment" refers to the formal alteration of treaty provisions affecting all the parties to the particular agreement. Such alterations must be effected with the same formalities that attended the original formation of the treaty. Many multilateral treaties lay down specific requirements to be satisfied for amendments to be adopted. In the absence of such provisions, amendments require the consent of all the parties.

[Art.40, Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties 1969]


Animal welfare

The question of animal welfare was first addressed in an additional protocol attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997).

This "Protocol on protection and welfare of animals" lays down new rules for EU action in this area. It recognises that animals are sentient beings and obliges the European institutions to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing common policies.

European legislation in the field of animal welfare aims to save animals from any unnecessary suffering in three main areas: farming, transport and slaughter. As part of a comprehensive strategy on food safety, other EU policies (agriculture, transport, internal market and research) are also required to take account of this necessity.

In cooperation with the competent authorities of the Member States, the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out on-the-spot checks to ensure compliance with EU legislation. Its role has grown with the successive enlargements of the EU to 28 Member States.


Applicant countries

See "candidate countries"


Architecture of Europe

This refers to the various organisations, institutions, treaties and traditional relations making up the European area within which members work together on problems of shared interest.

An essential part of this architecture was established by the Treaty on European Union, which formed three pillars: the European Community (first pillar), the common foreign and security policy (second pillar) and cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs (third pillar). Matters falling within the second and third pillars are handled by the Community institutions (the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the European Parliament etc.), but intergovernmental procedures apply.

The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, abolished the former pillar structure while maintaining specific procedures for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the defence policy (CSDP).


Area of freedom, security and justice

In order to ensure genuine freedom of movement for individuals on the territory of the European Union, and more effective action against organised crime and fraud, it was decided to establish an area of freedom, security and justice.

The provisions on the area of freedom, security and justice are now to be found in Part III, Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The TFEU with Protocols 21 and 22 attached thereto fully preserves the special opt-outs for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.


Article 207

Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows the European Union to negotiate, conclude and implement trade agreements with other countries of the world. It is therefore at the foundation of the European Common Commercial Policy. In summation, it states that:

  1. The common commercial policy shall be based on uniform principles.

  2. The Commission is the negotiator, responsible for conducting trade negotiations in consultation with a special committee appointed by the Council and within the framework of such directives as the Council may issue to it.3. The Commission is the enforcer, responsible for ensuring compliance by third countries with international trade accords.

  3. The European Parliament gives its assent to international agreements that set up an institutional structure (Article 300). Though Parliament has no explicit powers regarding the conduct of trade policy, the Commission informs Parliament on a regular basis about developments in European trade policy.

  4. The Treaty of Nice has extended the coverage of the common trade policy to the fields of trade in services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property.

  5. The Council acts by a qualified majority. However the principle of "parallelism" applies, whereby the EU common trade policy is a complement to the single market and should not overstep domains where European Union Member States have agreed to pool their sovereignty. So, in case of agreements on the trade of services and the commercial aspects of intellectual property, as well as foreign direct investment, the Council shall act unanimously when such agreements include provisions for which unanimity is required for the adoption of internal rules. Also the negotiation and conclusion of agreements on the trade of education, human health, culture, transport and audio-visual services are not decided by a qualified majority vote but by unanimity under the conditions of art. 207, 4 TFEU In practical terms this means that any major trade agreement is likely to require the unanimous approval of member States.


Article 218

Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning on the European Union (TFEU) prescribes the procedure to be followed for the conclusion of international agreements between the European Union (EU) and third countries or international organizations.

The Council is the competent institution for authorising the opening of negotiations, adopting negotiation directives, authorising the signing and concluding the agreements.
It is, depending on the subject, the Commission or the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) who is submitting a proposal to the Council for the opening of negotiations. The Council nominates the EU-negotiator or the Head of the EU-negotiation team depending on the subject of the agreement.

The Council shall conclude agreements after having obtained the consent or after having consulted the European Parliament, depending on the subject of the agreement. This is not required when the agreement relates exclusively to common foreign and security policy.

Throughout the procedure, the Council acts by qualified majority. However, unanimity is required when the agreement is related to a field for which unanimity is required for the adoption of Union act as well as for association agreements and agreements referred to in Article 212 TFEU.



Asylum is a form of protection given by a State on its territory based on the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ and internationally or nationally recognised refugee rights. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in its country of citizenship and/or residence in particular for fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.



The Community's audio-visual policy must respect various - sometimes contradictory - interests and priorities, such as competition rules (especially regarding State aid), the rules on intellectual property and the principles of public service. The European audio-visual market is also facing a number of problems, including:

The EU's activity in the audio-visual field has developed in two broad directions:

Furthermore, since 1991, the Community MEDIA programme (measures to promote the development of the audio-visual industry) has been supporting the European audiovisual industry by encouraging the development and distribution of European works. It also finances schemes to improve the training of professionals in the sector.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, adopted in June 1997, added a protocol on the public broadcasting system to the EC Treaty. The role of the Member States as regards public channels is made clear: they may continue to finance public service broadcasting, as long as the broadcasting organisation fulfils a public service remit and its funding does not unfairly affect either trade or competition in the sector.


Australia Group

Australia Group is the export control regime covering dual use items of chemical and biological nature.



The term "authentication" refers to the procedure whereby the text of a treaty is established as authentic and definitive. Once a treaty has been authenticated, states cannot unilaterally change its provisions. If states which negotiated a given treaty do not agree on specific procedures for authentication, a treaty will usually be authenticated by signature, signature ad referendum or the initialling by the representatives of those states.

[Art. 10, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



Barcelona process

A regional framework established in 1995, that brings the EU with the countries to the South and East of the Mediterranean together at both political and technical level to promote their common interests. It builds on the various Mediterranean policies developed by the EU since the 1960s but marks a new departure in that, for the first time, it creates a framework for strategic relations going beyond the traditional areas of trade and assistance co-operation. It represents the wish of the EU to work together with its partners and to get away from the previous situations, where the EU made proposals and its Mediterranean partners either accepted or rejected them. This multilateral process is underpinned by a network of bilateral relations between each partner country and the EU, embodied in Association Agreements. The full potential of the Barcelona process can only be achieved within this framework of comprehensive bilateral agreements in a wider regional setting of political, economic, social and cultural co-operation.


Basel Convention – MEA (Multilateral Environmental Agreements)

A central goal of this MEA is “environmentally sound management”. The aim of this convention is to protect human health and environment by Multilateral Environmental Agreements sing hazardous waste production whenever possible.


Berne Convention

Treaty, administered by WIPO, for the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works.


Bilateral agreement

A bilateral agreement is an agreement between two states which is only legally binding for these two states with the benefits typically not shared with other (third) countries.



All the Union's revenue and expenditure is entered in the EU budget on the basis of annual forecasts. The budget is governed by several principles, including:

The Commission is responsible for submitting a preliminary draft budget to the Council, which shares budgetary authority with the European Parliament. The nature of the expenditure determines which of the two institutions has the final say, depending on whether the expenditure is compulsory (the Council decides) or not (the Parliament decides). However, quite apart from the classification of expenditure and the ensuing power-sharing, it should be remembered that, in the final analysis, it is the European Parliament that adopts or rejects the budget as a whole.

Since 1993 the budget has been the subject of an interinstitutional agreement between Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and improving the budgetary procedure. In 1998 the Commission presented a plan to renew the 1993 interinstitutional agreement and to consolidate all the joint declarations and interinstitutional agreements on the budget concluded since 1982.

As part of the reforms proposed by the Commission in July 1997 in "Agenda 2000", the Member States were asked to establish a multiannual financial perspective to cap annual Union expenditure.

The treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU), incorporates the financial perspective under the name of the "multiannual financial framework", which must be respected by all the institutions. It is intended to ensure that expenditure develops in an orderly fashion and within the limits of the Union's own resources.

Under the TFEU the European Parliament has influence under the budget as a whole in accordance with the procedure laid out in art. 314 TFEU.




Candidate countries (initially: Applicant Countries)

Europe's economic and political stability is a magnet for many European countries, which have the right to apply to become members of the European Union (Article 49 of the EU Treaty).

There are currently five official candidate countries:

Furthermore, Bosnia and Herzegovina was identified by the European Council as a potential candidate for EU membership on 1 June 2003 and the application was received on 15 February 2016. Kosovo, the designation being without prejudice to positions on status and in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence, is a further potential candidate. In Kosovo, the EU helps contribute to stability through the EULEX rule of law mission in Kosovo and Special representative in Kosovo.

For the record, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland have also all applied for membership of the European Union at various times. However, Norway twice rejected accession following referenda in 1972 and 1994, while the applications by Liechtenstein and Switzerland were shelved after Switzerland decided by a referendum in 1992 not to join the European Economic Area. Iceland applied for membership of the European Union on 16 July 2009 and the Council decided to open negotiations on 17 June 2010. However, in March 2015 the application was withdrawn by the government of Iceland.

For further information on the enlargement status of the Candidate countries, see 'Enlargement'.


The term "charter" is used for particularly formal and solemn instruments, such as the constituent treaty of an international organization. The term itself has an emotive content that goes back to the Magna Carta of 1215. Well-known recent examples are the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and the Charter of the Organization of American States of 1952.


Charter of Fundamental Rights

Following the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1998, the Cologne European Council (3 and 4 June 1999) decided to begin work on drafting a Charter of Fundamental Rights. The aim was that the fundamental rights applicable at Union level should be consolidated in a single document to raise awareness of them.

The EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights was solemnly proclaimed by the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000. It is based on the Community Treaties, international conventions such as the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and the 1989 European Social Charter, constitutional traditions common to the Member States and various European Parliament declarations.

The work of drawing up the draft Charter was entrusted to a special body - a Convention - made up of sixty-two members including representatives of the European institutions and the governments of the Member States. In its seven chapters divided into 54 articles, the Charter defines fundamental rights relating to dignity, liberty, equality, solidarity, citizenship and justice.

The treaty-change brought forward by the Lisbon-treaty marks an important step forward for the protection of fundamental rights in the Union. The Treaty on the European Union (more precisely its Article 6) gives the Charter of Fundamental Rights the same legal value as the Treaties and gives the Union the right to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Charter will also become more visible to all Europeans and make them better informed of their rights. While the ECHR is limited to protecting civil and political rights, the Charter goes further to cover workers' social rights, data protection, bioethics and the right to good administration.


Citizenship of the Union

Citizenship of the Union is dependent on holding the nationality of one of the Member States. In other words, anyone who is a national of a Member State is considered to be a citizen of the Union. Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Treaties.

The introduction of the notion of Union citizenship does not, of course, replace national citizenship: it is in addition to it. This gives the ordinary citizen a deeper and more tangible sense of belonging to the Union.


Civil matters

All actions and proceedings dealt with by the judiciary which fall outside the criminal law. The EU is building coordination mechanisms to facilitate the free movement of persons, with regard to both business and family activities.


Classification of expenditure

This refers to the distinction made between Union expenditure of which the underlying principle and the amount are legally determined by the treaties, secondary legislation, conventions, international treaties or private contracts ("compulsory" expenditure) and expenditure for which the budgetary authority is free to decide the amount as it sees fit ("non-compulsory" expenditure). The question of whether expenditure is to be considered compulsory or non-compulsory generates friction between the two arms of the budgetary authority - the Council and the European Parliament - as Parliament has the final say in determining the amount of expenditure only where it is non-compulsory.

The European Constitution currently being ratified provides for ending the distinction between compulsory and non-compulsory expenditure. Unifying expenditure in this way will have two effects: Parliament will be able to influence the entire budget, but it will lose the final say that enables it to impose its will on the Council regarding non-compulsory expenditure.


Combined nomenclature (CN)

A systematic list of goods descriptions based on the Harmonized System, serving for the purposes of the Common Customs Tariff, external trade statistics, and other Community policies (Art. 1 Reg. [EEC] No 2658/87, OJ 1987 No L 256, p.1)


Commercial policy measures

Non-tariff measures established in the framework of the common commercial policy, such as

- import or export surveillance or safeguard measures,

- quantitative import or export restrictions,

- import or export prohibitions (Art. 1 (7) CCIP).

Some measures apply to all goods entering or leaving the EU customs territory, others only to release for free circulation or export (Arts 509, 808 CCIP).


Committee of the Regions

Created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) is an advisory body which enables regional and local authorities to voice their views during the decision-making process of the European Union. It consists of 344 representatives of local and regional authorities appointed by the Council for five years. It is consulted by the Council, Parliament and the Commission in areas affecting local and regional interests, such as education, youth, culture, health and social and economic cohesion.

It may also issue opinions on its own initiative.

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (May 1999), the Committee has to be consulted on an even wider range of fields - the environment, the Social Fund, vocational training, cross-border cooperation and transport.

The Treaty of Nice (adopted in December 2000) did not change either the number or the distribution of seats by Member State in the CoR. With a view to enlargement, the Treaty stipulates that, in future, the number of its members may not exceed 350. As regards eligibility for membership, the Treaty provides explicitly that members must hold a regional or local authority electoral mandate or be politically accountable to an elected assembly.



Commodities” is the term used to designate primary goods or products - for example, iron ore, diamonds, wheat, copper, oil, or coffee - that are used or sold as they are found in nature.


Common agricultural policy (CAP)

The common agricultural policy is a matter reserved exclusively for the European Union. Under Article 39 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, its aims are to ensure reasonable prices for Europe's consumers and fair incomes for farmers, in particular by establishing common organisations for agricultural markets and by applying the principles of single prices, financial solidarity and EU preference.

The CAP is one of the most important Union policies (agricultural expenditure accounts for some 45% of the Community budget). Policy is decided by qualified majority vote in the Council after consultation of the European Parliament.

At the outset the CAP enabled the Community to become self-sufficient in a very short time. However, it came to be increasingly costly on account of excessively high European prices in relation to world market prices, and over-production. The 1992 reform made it possible to remedy this situation by cutting guaranteed farm prices, with compensatory premiums for inputs, and by introducing a series of "flanking measures".

The 1999 reform, based on Agenda 2000, reinforces the changes made in 1992 and puts the emphasis on food safety, environmental objectives and sustainable agriculture. Objectives falling outside the scope of market policy have been grouped together under rural development, which has become the second pillar of the CAP. This reform also endeavours to increase the competitiveness of Community agricultural products, streamline agricultural legislation and its application, strengthen the Union's position at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations and stabilise expenditure. To this end a reduction in intervention prices, off-set by an increase in aid to farmers, has been introduced.

The June 2003 reform, which represents a genuine challenge, comprises the following:

In 2004, a second series of measures was launched: reform of aid to Mediterranean products (tobacco, hops, cotton and olive oil), followed by a proposal for the reform of the common organisation on the market in sugar.


Common commercial policy

The European Union has exclusive responsibility for the common commercial policy (Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, formerly Article 133 of the EC Treaty). Under the policy a customs union has been established between the Member States of the European Union, with uniform principles governing changes in tariff rates, the conclusion of tariff and trade agreements with non-member countries, import and export policy, etc. Decisions are taken by qualified majority in the Council.

The Treaty of Amsterdam allowed the Council, acting by unanimous vote, to extend the scope of the common commercial policy to international negotiations and agreements on services and intellectual property. The Treaty of Nice allowed such agreements to be concluded by qualified majority voting. There are, however, exceptions concerning agreements in sectors for which responsibility is shared between the Member States and the European Union, which remain subject to unanimity. Such exceptions include trade in cultural and audio-visual services and trade in education services.


Common Customs Tariff

Since the completion of the internal market, goods can circulate freely between Member States. The 'Common Customs Tariff' (CCT) therefore applies to the import of goods across the external borders of the EU.

The tariff is common to all EU members, but the rates of duty differ from one kind of import to another depending on what they are and where they come from. The rates depend on the economic sensitivity of products.


Common foreign and security policy (CFSP)

The common foreign and security policy (CFSP) was established by the Maastricht-treaty and is currently governed by Chapter 2 of Title V of the Treaty on European Union (EU). It replaced European Political Cooperation (EPC) and provides for the eventual framing of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence.

The objectives of this second pillar of the Union were set out in Article 11 of the EU Treaty and were to be attained through specific legal instruments (joint action, common position) which had to be adopted unanimously in the Council. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999), the European Union also had a new instrument at its disposal - the common strategy. The Treaty of Amsterdam also provided for qualified majority voting under certain conditions and, since it was signed, the CFSP field has been developing in practice at every European Council.

The Treaty of Nice (2001) introduced the possibility, under certain conditions, of establishing closer cooperation in the CFSP field for the implementation of joint actions and common positions. This closer cooperation may not be used for matters with military or defence implications.

The Lisbon-treaty abolished the pillar structure of the European Union nevertheless, specific provisions for the CFSP were maintained in the TEU. The CFSP shall be defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded. The special instruments provided by the Maastricht- and the Amsterdam-treaty are no longer applicable. The instruments of the CFSP will be restricted to European decisions and international agreements.

The TEU provides for the creation of the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy whose role consists in conducting the CFSP. The High Representative is assisted by the European External Action Service. The TEU also provides for the transfer of the power of initiative in this area from the Commission to the Member States and the High Representative. Unanimity remains the rule but the bridging mechanism may be used to switch to qualified majority voting in certain areas mentioned in Art. 31, 2 TEU.

Enhanced cooperation may also be introduced in any area of the CFSP and no longer only for the implementation of a joint action or a common position. Unanimity will, however, always be required.


Common position

The common position in the context of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) was designed to make cooperation more systematic and improve its coordination. The Member States are required to comply with and uphold such positions which have been adopted unanimously at the Council.

For reasons of simplification, the Lisbon-treaty restricts CFSP instruments to European decisions and international agreements. Since its entry into force, common positions and their implementation are based on European decisions (non-legislative instruments) adopted by the Council of Ministers.


Common strategy

The common strategy was an instrument of the common foreign and security policy introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

Under former Article 13 of the EU Treaty, the European Council defined the principles and general guidelines for the CFSP and decided on common strategies to be implemented by the Union in fields where the Member States had important interests in common.

In concrete terms, a common strategy set out the aims and length of time covered and the means to be made available by the Union and the Member States. Common strategies were implemented by the Council, in particular by adopting joint actions and common positions. The Council could recommend common strategies to the European Council.

The Lisbon-treaty abolished common strategies.


Common transit

Customs procedure for the carriage of goods between the Community and the EFTA countries and between the EFTA countries themselves.


Common transport policy

The goal of the common transport policy is to remove obstacles at the borders between Member States so as to facilitate the free movement of persons and goods.

To that end its prime objectives are to complete the internal market for transport, ensure sustainable development, manage funding programmes and spatial planning, improve safety and develop international cooperation. It is also concerned with laying down the conditions under which non-resident carriers may operate transport services within a Member State.

Since the Amsterdam Treaty entered into force, decisions have been taken under the codecision procedure, following consultation of the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.


Community acquis (Acquis communauraire)

The Community acquis is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the Member States together within the European Union. It is constantly evolving and comprises:

The Union has committed itself to maintaining the Community acquis in its entirety and developing it further. Candidate countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the Union. Derogations from the acquis are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited in scope. To integrate into the European Union, applicant countries will have to transpose the acquis into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession.


Community and intergovernmental methods

The Community method is the expression used for the institutional operating mode set up in the former first pillar of the European Union. It proceeded from an integration logic with due respect for the subsidiarity principle, and has the following salient features:

It contrasted with the intergovernmental method of operation used in the second and third pillars, which proceeded from an intergovernmental logic of cooperation and has the following salient features:

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon-treaty, the European Community, the pillar-structure and the distinction between the community and the intergovernmental method are abolished. Nevertheless special provisions for the Common Foreign and Security Policy are maintained in the Treaty on the European Union.


Composition of the European Commission

From the outset the Commission was always made up of two nationals of each of the most populated Member States and one national of each of the others. However, the composition of the Commission in an enlarged Europe was a central issue in all the debates.

It was a key issue, since it involved deciding on the optimum number of Commissioners needed to guarantee the legitimacy, collective responsibility and efficiency of an institution whose purpose is to represent the general interest in complete independence. The concept of collective responsibility was crucial. Collective responsibility is specific to the Commission structure and means that positions adopted by the Commission reflect the views of the Commission as a whole, not those of individual members. With the prospect of future enlargements, it was feared that a large increase in the number of Commissioners would lead to nationalisation of their function to the detriment of collective responsibility. Conversely, should the number be limited, the fear was that some nationalities would not be represented within the Commission as such.

The European Commission is therefore currently made up of 28 Commissioners with the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, as President.

The future composition of the Commission was one of the most sensitive topics during the negotiations on the European Constitution and the Lisbon-treaty. In the end, the Lisbon-treaty, provided for the composition of the Commission to be reduced to two thirds of the number of Member States as from 2014 (Article 17(5) TEU). The Commissioners would have been chosen by a rotation system in which all Member States have equal rights. However, the European Council has decided in May 2013 to maintain the "one Commissioner per Member State" principle.

In view of its effect on the functioning of the Commission, the European Council will review its decision well in advance of the appointment of the first Commission following the date of accession of the 30th Member State or the appointment of the Commission succeeding that due to take up its duties on 1 November 2014, whichever is earlier.



In the WTO, voting consensus is achieved if no Member "present at the meeting when the decision is taken, formally objects". Each member has one vote, regardless of its economic clout and, among them, developing countries are increasingly making their presence felt. The WTO cannot therefore be hijacked by a group of countries or multinational companies.


Consolidation of legislation - formal/official

Formal or official consolidation of legislation involves adopting a new legal instrument, published in the Official Journal (L series), which incorporates and repeals the instruments being consolidated (basic instrument + amending instrument(s)) without altering their substance. It can be:


Consolidation of legislation - informal/declaratory

There is a special procedure for unofficial, purely declaratory consolidation of legislation and simplification of legal instruments. The incorporation of subsequent amendments into the body of a basic act does not entail the adoption of a new instrument. It is simply a clarification exercise conducted by the Commission. The resulting text, which has no formal legal effect, can, where appropriate, be published in the Official Journal (C Series) without citations or recitals.


Consumer protection

Consumer protection is dealt with in Article 12 and 169 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which were inserted by the Treaty of Maastricht. It is intended to promote consumers' health, safety, economic and legal interests, and their right to information.

Article 169 TFEU explicitly refers to another legal basis for the attainment of its objectives, namely to Article 114 TFEU, which requires the ordinary legislative procedure and consultation of the Economic and Social Committee for all measures involving closer alignment of Member States' legislation on completion of the single market where consumer protection is concerned.

A Member State may keep or introduce stricter consumer protection measures than those laid down by the Community, as long as they are compatible with the Treaty and the Commission is notified of them.


Contracting Party

A contracting party is a State or an Intergovernmental Organisation or other entity with treaty making capacity that has expressed its consent to be bound by a treaty whether or not the treaty has entered into force or whether or not it has entered into force for that State or Intergovernmental Organisation.



The term "convention" again can have both a generic and a specific meaning.

(a) Convention as a generic term: Art.38 (1) (a) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice refers to "international conventions, whether general or particular" as a source of law, apart from international customary rules and general principles of international law and - as a secondary source - judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists. This generic use of the term "convention" embraces all international agreements, in the same way as does the generic term "treaty". Black letter law is also regularly referred to as "conventional law", in order to distinguish it from the other sources of international law, such as customary law or the general principles of international law. The generic term "convention" thus is synonymous with the generic term "treaty".

(b) Convention as a specific term: Whereas in the last century the term "convention" was regularly employed for bilateral agreements, it now is generally used for formal multilateral treaties with a broad number of parties. Conventions are normally open for participation by the international community as a whole, or by a large number of states. Usually the instruments negotiated under the auspices of an international organization are entitled conventions (e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969). The same holds true for instruments adopted by an organ of an international organization (e.g. the 1951 ILO Convention concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, adopted by the International Labour Conference or the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the UN).



Coreper, the French acronym by which the Permanent Representatives Committee is known (Comité des représantants permanents), consists of the Member States' Ambassadors to the European Union ("Permanent Representatives") and is responsible, at a stage involving preliminary negotiations, for assisting the Council of the European Union in dealing with the items on its agenda (proposals and drafts of instruments put forward by the Commission).

It occupies a pivotal position in the EU decision-making system, in which it is at one and the same time a forum for dialogue (among the Permanent Representatives and between them and their respective national capitals) and a body which exercises political control (by laying down guidelines for, and supervising, the work of the expert groups).

The smooth running of the Council is dependent on the standard of the work done in Coreper.


COREU (CORespondance EUropéenne)

Coreu is an EU communication network between the Member States and the Commission for cooperation in the fields of foreign policy. It makes it easier for decisions to be taken swiftly in emergencies.


Correction of Errors

If, after the authentication of a text, the signatory and contracting states are agreed that it contains an error, it can be corrected by initialling the corrected treaty text, by executing or exchanging an instrument containing the correction or by executing the corrected text of the whole treaty by the same procedure as in the case of the original text. If there is a depositary, the depositary must communicate the proposed corrections to all signatory and contracting states. In the UN practice, the Secretary-General, in his function as depositary, informs all parties to a treaty of the errors and the proposal to correct it. If, on the expiry of an appropriate time-limit, no objections are raised by the signatory and contracting states, the depositary circulates a proces-verbal of rectification and causes the corrections to be effected in the authentic text(s).

[Art. 79, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Cotonou Agreement

Signed in 2000, this agreement replaced the Lomé Convention. Its main objective is to create a new framework for co-operation between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the EU. One of the major dimensions of the new agreement is trade. The new framework makes significant amendments to the existing system in order to bring it into line with WTO rules and to enable the ACP States to play a full part in international trade. The Agreement provides for the negotiation of new trading arrangements [see EPA] with a view to liberalising trade between the two parties, putting an end to the system of non-reciprocal trade preferences from which the ACP States currently benefit. Nonetheless, the current system will remain in force for a preparatory period, up to 2008 (the date envisaged for the entry into force of the new arrangements) with a transitional period of at least 12 years. The Community's policy will take account of these countries' social and economic constraints in two ways: one, through social and human development policies (fight against poverty) and, two through co-operation and enhancing the capacities of ACP States in international bodies.


Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (the "Council of Ministers" or the "Council") is the Union's main decision-making institution. It is composed of the ministers of the Member States and thus constitutes the EU institution in which the governments of the Member States are represented. The Council, together with the European Parliament, acts in a legislative and budgetary capacity. It is also the lead institution for decision-making on the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), and on the coordination of economic policies (intergovernmental approach).

The Council meets in different configurations, bringing together the Member States' ministers responsible for the areas concerned: general affairs and external relations, economic and financial affairs, employment, social policy, health and consumers, competition, etc.

The Council's headquarters are in Brussels, where it meets several times a month (in certain months, the meetings are held in Luxembourg).

Each Member State in turn presides over the Council for six months. Decisions are prepared by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper), assisted by working parties of national government officials.

In most cases, the Council, acting on a proposal from the European Commission, decides jointly with the European Parliament under the ordinary legislative procedure. Depending on the subject, the Council takes decisions by simple majority, qualified majority or unanimously. In most cases, however, it acts by a qualified majority (agriculture, single market, environment, transport, employment, health, etc.).

The Lisbon-treaty provides for new arrangements for the Council Presidency. The Presidency of the different configurations will be held, for 18 months, by a team of three Member States. Each State will hold the Presidency for a period of six months, assisted by the other two States on the basis of a common programme. In addition, the Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a new post created by the Lisbon-treaty. Lastly, the Lisbon-treaty has radically changed the qualified majority voting system in the Council.


Court of First Instance of the European Communities (CFI)

See: General Court


Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

The Court of Justice is composed of the same number of judges as there are Member States. At present it has twenty-seven judges assisted by eight advocates-general who are appointed for six years by agreement among the Member States.

It may sit in chambers, as a Grand Chamber (thirteen judges) or as a Full Court.

The CJEU has two principal functions:

The Court is assisted by General Court, which was set up in 1989.

The Treaty of Nice instigated a major reform of the Union's court system. As far as the Court of Justice is concerned, the most important points are the following:

The Lisbon-treaty introduced a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which includes the Court of Justice, the CFI (which is to be called the "General Court") and specialised courts. The Lisbon-treaty also made it easier for citizens and companies to take legal action against Union regulations even if they are not personally affected by them.



Whilst the will to conduct cultural activities at European level was apparent as early as the 1970s, it was not until 1991 that culture was officially given a place in European integration, through Article 151 of the Maastricht Treaty, which states that "The Community shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore".

To create a real European cultural area, the Union is called upon to promote cooperation between the Member States and, if necessary, to support and complement their activities in the following areas:

For ten years, the Commission supported cultural cooperation via three experimental programmes in this sector covering the performing, plastic and visual arts, heritage and books (Kaléïdoscope, Ariane and Raphaël). The European Union has also supported the Member States' initiative to designate a 'European City of Culture' each year since 1985.

In 2000, the Commission adopted the Culture 2000 framework programme, a new approach to cultural action. The aim of this programme is to create a common cultural area by promoting cultural dialogue, the creation and dissemination of culture and the mobility of artists and their works, European cultural heritage, new forms of cultural expression and the socio-economic role of culture.

Cultural cooperation in Europe is also promoted by specific activities funded by other European programmes than Culture 2000, in particular activities performed in the context of economic, research, education, training and regional development aid policies that also promote cultural cooperation. This cooperation in interpreted broadly, as most of the programmes are open to the member countries of the European Economic Area and the candidate countries, and third countries and international organisations are also involved.


Customs territory of the European Union

The customs territory of the Community comprises of

The customs territory of the Union includes the territorial waters, the inland maritime waters and the airspace of the Member States and the territory of the Principality of Monaco, except for the territorial waters, the inland maritime waters and the airspace of those territories which are not part of the customs territory of the European Union as listed above.


Customs union

The customs union is the essential element of the internal market. Its introduction was the primary objective after the signature of the Treaty of Rome and continued until 1968. The most important measures included:

Common procedures and rules were drawn up together with a Single Administrative Document (SAD) aimed at replacing the different documents previously used. With the entry into force of the single market in 1993, all routine checks at internal borders were abolished, as were customs formalities. Thus, the customs services of the Member States lost their responsibility for collecting excise duties, VAT and statistical data.

The European Union has concluded special agreements to facilitate trade, for example the agreement with the European Economic Area (EEA), and to encourage development by providing preferential access to European markets, for example the Lomé Convention, signed with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP).

Future challenges include promoting closer cooperation between the national administrations and combating fraud through the successive Customs 2002 and Customs 2007 programmes. A particular focus of Customs 2007 will be helping new Member States adapt their systems to open market conditions and implement customs controls at the new external borders of the European Union.




The term "declaration" is used for various international instruments. However, declarations are not always legally binding. The term is often deliberately chosen to indicate that the parties do not intend to create binding obligations but merely want to declare certain aspirations. An example is the 1992 Rio Declaration. Declarations can however also be treaties in the generic sense intended to be binding at international law. It is therefore necessary to establish in each individual case whether the parties intended to create binding obligations. Ascertaining the intention of the parties can often be a difficult task. Some instruments entitled "declarations" were not originally intended to have binding force, but their provisions may have reflected customary international law or may have gained binding character as customary law at a later stage. Such was the case with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Declarations that are intended to have binding effects could be classified as follows:

(a) A declaration can be a treaty in the proper sense. A significant example is the Joint Declaration between the United Kingdom and China on the Question of Hong Kong of 1984.

(b) An interpretative declaration is an instrument that is annexed to a treaty with the goal of interpreting or explaining the provisions of the latter.

(c) A declaration can also be an informal agreement with respect to a matter of minor importance.

(d) A series of unilateral declarations can constitute binding agreements. A typical example is declarations under the Optional Clause of the Statute of the International Court of Justice that create legal bonds between the declarants, although not directly addressed to each other. Another example is the unilateral Declaration on the Suez Canal and the arrangements for its operation issued by Egypt in 1957 which was considered to be an engagement of an international character.


Definitive Signature

When the treaty is not subject to ratification, acceptance or approval, "definitive signature" establishes the consent of the state to be bound by the treaty. Most bilateral treaties dealing with more routine and less politicized matters are brought into force by definitive signature, without recourse to the procedure of ratification.

[Art. 12, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Delimitation of competences

The delimitation of competences between the European Union and its Member States is one of the main points for consideration identified by the Declaration on the Future of the Union annexed to the Treaty of Nice and by the Laeken Declaration. The aim is to establish a clear and precise distribution of the Union's competences, respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality whilst meeting, as far as possible, the expectations of European citizens. The system for monitoring compliance with this delimitation must also be stepped up. The aim is to better identify what comes under Community, regional or even local competence.

One of the main innovations in the Lisbon-treaty is that it clarifies the delimitation of powers between the Union and the Member States. The Lisbon-treaty also establishes a classification of Union powers in three categories - exclusive powers, shared powers, and supporting, coordinating or complementary powers.



After a treaty has been concluded, the written instruments, which provide formal evidence of consent to be bound, and also reservations and declarations, are placed in the custody of a depositary. Unless the treaty provides otherwise, the deposit of the instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession establishes the consent of a state to be bound by the treaty. For treaties with a small number of parties, the depositary will usually be the government of the state on whose territory the treaty was signed. Sometimes various states are chosen as depositaries. Multilateral treaties usually designate an international organization or the Secretary-General of the United Nations as depositaries. The depositary must accept all notifications and documents related to the treaty, examine whether all formal requirements are met, deposit them, register the treaty and notify all relevant acts to the parties concerned.

[Arts. 16, 76 and 77, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Development aid

The beginnings of the European Union's development policy coincided with the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and the Member States' overseas countries and territories were its first beneficiaries. However, it is only since the entry into force of the Treaty on European Union that this policy has enjoyed a specific legal basis (Articles 208 to 211 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (former Art. 177 to 181 of the EC Treaty)). With the successive enlargements of the Union, cooperation has gradually extended to other countries, such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) which have a particularly close and long-standing relationship with certain Member States. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in June 2000, has strengthened this partnership, which is to a large extent based on the various Lomé Conventions, the first of which was signed in 1975.

In addition to these initial agreements, other countries also benefit from the EU's development policy, such as the countries of Latin America and Asia.

The main objective of the European Union's development policy is to eradicate poverty. This policy is implemented not only through bilateral and regional agreements but also through specific programmes in certain sectors such as health, particularly with a view to combating communicable diseases, and education. The development policy also entails cooperation with international institutions and the participation of the Community and Member States in initiatives implemented at global level such as the Initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries.

Today, the Union is the main partner of developing countries. The European Union and its Member States together provide 55% of international development assistance.




The European Development Fund is the main instrument for European Union aid for development cooperation in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT). The EDF is governed by its own Financial Regulation and is managed outside the General Budget. The EDF is funded from direct contributions from Member States. The rates of contributions differ from those of the General Budget and are agreed in negotiations.




The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an international organisation promoting free trade and economic integration. The Association maintains the management of (1) the EFTA free trade area, (2) the EFTA participation in the European Economic Area (EEA) and (3) EFTA's network of free trade agreements. Its four members are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.



The Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement is a net of individual agreements between the EU and each of the Mediterranean Partners in relation to the Barcelona Declaration. They outline the strategic areas of co-operation with regard to association policies and determine priorities for the implementation of activities, which are instrumental for the achievement of the goals of the Barcelona Declaration.



The aim of European Union energy policy is to guarantee secure, low-cost energy supplies which pose no risk to the health of citizens and the environment.

At the outset, the Treaties establishing the European Communities made no provision for a Community energy policy.

The beginning of the process of constructing Europe saw the establishment of institutional frameworks for coal and atomic energy:

A specific legal basis for a European Union energy policy only exists since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Article 4(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) mentions energy as a shared competence between the Union and the Member States and Title XXI of the TFEU is dealing with this policy domain.

In the present energy situation, the European Union has to face up to many challenges: development of renewable energy sources, opening up of the gas and electricity markets, reduction of the European Union's energy dependency and nuclear safety and security guarantees.

Confronted with these new energy challenges, the European Union has taken measures aimed in particular at guaranteeing security of supply in the face of its dependency on imports of oil from politically unstable regions, redefining priorities in relation to nuclear energy taking account in particular of the risks of accidents and disposal of waste, as well as promoting sustainable development.

With the new intelligent energy for Europe action programme (2003-2006), the Commission is therefore proposing to step up European support for the promotion of renewable energies (ALTENER) and energy efficiency (SAVE), while redirecting international action towards these two priorities (COOPENER).



Enlargement refers to the process of accession to the European Union (EU). The original Europe of Six (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) has expanded in the following order into a Europe of 28:

Enlargement policy is based on a strict but fair conditionality, with each country treated on its own merits. The accession process is focusing on addressing the "fundamental first" including the rule of law, economic governance, democratic institutions, fundamental rights and good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation.

For the current five candidate countries, the following can be said about their enlargement.


Entry into Force

Typically, the provisions of the treaty determine the date on which the treaty enters into force. Where the treaty does not specify a date, there is a presumption that the treaty is intended to come into force as soon as all the negotiating states have consented to be bound by the treaty. Bilateral treaties may provide for their entry into force on a particular date, upon the day of their last signature, upon exchange of the instruments of ratification or upon the exchange of notifications. In cases where multilateral treaties are involved, it is common to provide for a fixed number of states to express their consent for entry into force. Some treaties provide for additional conditions to be satisfied, e.g., by specifying that a certain category of states must be among the consenters. The treaty may also provide for an additional time period to elapse after the required numbers of countries have expressed their consent or the conditions have been satisfied. A treaty enters into force for those states which gave the required consent. A treaty may also provide that, upon certain conditions having been met, it shall come into force provisionally.

[Art. 24, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



The aim of the European Union's 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 191 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)).

Policy formulation is subject to different decision-making procedures depending on the area concerned. So to attain the objectives listed, the Council:

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 internal market.

The provisions allowing a Member State to apply stricter rules than the harmonised rules have been made easier. These stricter rules must be compatible with the Treaty and must be communicated to the Commission.

Environmental policy is based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.



Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are trade and development agreements negotiated between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific regions engaged in a regional economic integration process.

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions are aimed at promoting trade between the two groupings – and through trade development, sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

The EPAs set out to help ACP countries integrate into the world economy and share in the opportunities offered by globalisation.

For well over 30 years, exports from the ACP countries were given generous access to the European market.

Yet preferential access failed to boost local economies and stimulate growth in ACP countries. And the proportion of EU imports from ACP countries dropped from 7% to 3% of EU imports.


EU competences (EU powers)

EU competences are those which are conferred on the European Union in specific areas by the Member States. The European Union is thus able to act only within the framework of the Treaties.

There are three types of competence, which depend on the mode of attribution:

One of the main innovations in the Lisbon-treaty is that it clarifies the powers of the Union. It clearly specifies the areas in which the Member States have transferred their powers of action to the Union.

It also establishes a classification of Union competences in the following categories:


European law

Strictly speaking, European law consists of the founding Treaties (primary legislation) and the provisions of instruments enacted by the EU institutions by virtue of them (secondary legislation - regulations, directives, etc.). In a broader sense, European law encompasses all the rules of the EU legal order, including general principles of law, the case law of the Court of Justice, law flowing from the EU's external relations and supplementary law contained in conventions and similar agreements concluded between the Member States to give effect to Treaty provisions.

All these rules of law form part of what is known as the Community acquis.


EU transit

Customs procedure that allows goods to be moved from one point in the EU to another.



Eurocorps was set up at the 59th Franco-German summit, which took place in La Rochelle on 21 and 22 May 1992. Three other countries have since joined it: Belgium on 25 June 1993, Spain on 10 December 1993 and Luxembourg on 7 May 1996. It comprises 50 000 men and has been operational since 30 November 1995, following the Pegasus-95 exercise.

Eurocorps forms part of the Forces Answerable to Western European Union (FAWEU). It can operate as such within the WEU (Article V) or NATO (Article 5) and can be mobilised for humanitarian missions, missions to evacuate Member State nationals and peace-restoring or peace-keeping operations, under the aegis of the United Nations or the OSCE. The commitment of Eurocorps under the political control of the WEU was the subject of an agreement signed on 24 September 1993 and commitment under NATO authority was codified by the agreement of 21 January 1993.

Since June 2001, Eurocorps has been a rapid reaction force which is at the disposal of the EU and NATO.



Eurojust is a high level team of senior lawyers, magistrates, prosecutors, judges and other legal experts seconded from every EU country, based in Brussels. It is able to give immediate legal advice and assistance in cross-border cases to the investigators, prosecutors and judges in different EU Member States. It advises judges and prosecutors where to look for information that they need from another EU country and on how to proceed in a cross-border cases. It handles letters rogatory, which ask for information or enquiries to be carried out by the authorities in another country, and sends them to the right authorities for action. It also helps and cooperates with OLAF, the EUs Anti-Fraud Office, in cases affecting the EUs financial interests. Eurojust may recommend to national authorities to take certain steps and also to initiate investigations. However, Eurojust has no authority to launch or carry out investigations itself.


Europe agreement

A Europe agreement is a specific type of association agreement concluded between the European Union and certain Central and Eastern European states (Article 217 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). Its aim is to prepare the associated state for accession to the European Union, and it is based on respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the market economy. Some of these States have since become members of the EU. To date, Europe agreements are in force with five countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. . Turkey has concluded association agreements with the EU covering the same areas as the agreements with the Central and Eastern European countries (except political dialogue), and its aim is to establish a customs union.

A Europe agreement is concluded for an indefinite period and includes a number of features:

In terms of institutional arrangements, the general management of a Europe agreement is the responsibility of an association Council, made up of representatives of the Council and the Commission on the one hand and representatives of the associated state's government on the other. An association committee, made up of members of the association Council, follows up the work and prepares the discussions of the association Council. Finally, a parliamentary association committee, made up of members of the European Parliament and of the national parliament of the associated state, may make recommendations to the association Council.

Since the accession of the "new" Member States, the Europe and association agreements with those countries are no longer in force. They were replaced by accession treaties. Only the agreements with countries that have not yet joined the EU (i.e. Turkey) are still in force.


European Central Bank (ECB)

The European Central Bank was inaugurated on 30 June 1998. On 1 January 1999 it took over responsibility for implementing European monetary policy as defined by the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). As to the practicalities, the ECB's decision-making bodies (the Governing Council and the Executive Board) run the European System of Central Banks, whose tasks are to manage the volume of money in circulation, conduct foreign-exchange operations, hold and manage the Member States' official foreign-exchange reserves, and promote the smooth operation of payment systems. The ECB took over from the European Monetary Institute (EMI).

The Treaty of Nice, adopted in December 2000, did not change the composition of the ECB Governing Council (comprising the members of the Executive Board and the governors of the national central banks) but allows for changes to the rules on decision-making (decisions are generally adopted by simple majority of the members, each having one vote). Any such change requires a unanimous European Council decision that must be ratified by the Member States.

The Treaty of Lisbon has changed the status of the ECB. The ECB has become an Institution of the European Union (see Article 13 TEU).


European Commission

The European Commission is a politically independent collegial institution which embodies and defends the general interests of the European Union. Its virtually exclusive right of initiative in the field of legislation makes it the driving force of European integration. It prepares and then implements the legislative instruments adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in connection with Community policies.

The Commission also has powers of implementation, management and control. It is responsible for planning and implementing common policies, executing the budget and managing Community programmes. As "guardian of the Treaties", it also ensures that European law is applied.

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.

Since its inception the Commission has always been made up of two nationals from each of the Member States with larger populations and one national from each of the others. However, the Treaty of Nice limited the number of Members of the Commission to one per Member State. The Lisbon-treaty, provides for a Commission in which only two thirds of the Member States would be represented after 2019. The Members will then be selected in accordance with a rotation system based on the principle of equality.


European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The European Convention on Human Rights, signed in Rome under the aegis of the Council of Europe on 4 November 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 the Member States of the Union, established a number of supervisory bodies based in Strasbourg. These were:

The growing number of cases made it necessary to reform the supervisory arrangements established by the Convention. The supervisory bodies were thus replaced on 1 November 1998 by a single European Court of Human Rights. The simplified structure shortened the length of procedures and enhanced the judicial character of the system.

The idea of the European Union (EU) acceding to the ECHR has often been raised. However, in an opinion given on 28 March 1996, the Court of Justice of the European Union stated that the European Communities could not accede to the Convention because the EC Treaty did not provide any powers to lay down rules or to conclude international agreements on human rights.

The Treaty of Amsterdam nevertheless calls for respect for the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Convention, while formalising the judgments of the Court of Justice on the matter. As regards relations between the two Courts, the practice developed by the Court of Justice of incorporating the principles of the Convention into Union law has made it possible to maintain their independence and coherence in their work.

The Lisbon-treaty, nevertheless provides for the European Union to have legal personality and enables the EU explicitly to accede to the ECHR. It also provides the Charter of Fundamental Rights with the same legal value as the Treaties.


European Council

The European Council is the term used to describe the regular meetings of the Heads of State or Government of the European Union Member States. Its purpose is to provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and to define its general political guidelines. It does not issue legislation.

It was set up by the communiqué issued at the close of the December 1974 Paris Summit and first met in 1975. Before that time, from 1961 to 1974, the practice had been to hold European summit conferences. Its existence was given legal recognition by the Single European Act (1986), while official status was conferred on it by the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht, 1992).

It meets at least twice a year and the President of the European Commission attends as a full member. It is chaired by the Member State holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union in a predetermined order.

The Lisbon-treaty provides for the European Council to gain full status as a European institution. It also provides for changes to the presidency system by establishing the function of President of the European Council, elected for a term of two and a half years.


European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

The European Economic and Social Committee were set up, as an advisory body, by the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community in 1957 to represent the interests of the various economic and social groups. It consists of 317 members falling into three categories: employers, workers and representatives of particular types of activity (such as farmers, craftsmen, small businesses and industry, the professions, consumer representatives, scientists and teachers, cooperatives, families, environmental movements). Members are appointed by unanimous Council decision for four years and this term may be renewed.

The EESC is consulted before a great many instruments concerning the internal market, education, consumer protection, environment, regional development and social affairs are adopted. It may also issue opinions on its own initiative. Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam (May 1999), the EESC has to be consulted on an even wider range of issues (the new employment policy, the new social affairs legislation, public health and equal opportunities) and it may also be consulted by the European Parliament.

The Treaty of Nice, which entered into force on 2003, did not change the number and distribution by Member State of seats on the Committee. However, eligibility for membership was clarified: the EESC is to consist of "representatives of the various economic and social components of organised civil society".

The Lisbon-treaty envisages increasing the term of EESC members from four to five years.


European Economic Area Agreement

Between the Community, and three Member States of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA)(not Switzerland) entered into force on 1 January 2004 aiming to allow the three EFTA countries - Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - to participate in the Internal Market, while not assuming the full responsibilities of EU membership. The Agreement contains provisions to allow cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the EEA-EFTA States in a range of EU activities: research and technological development, information services, the environment, education, social policy, consumer protection, small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism, the audio-visual sector and civil protection. Where the EEA-EFTA States are admitted to participate in these programmes, they contribute to the budgets of the programmes in question and participate in the committees that manage them, but with no right to vote. The EEA-EFTA states also make a financial contribution to the EU budget towards the reduction of economic and social disparities.


European Economic Community

The European Economic Community (EEC) was established in 1958 by treaty between Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Germany, known, informally as the common market. The EEC was the most significant of the three treaty organisations that were consolidated in 1967 to form the European Community (EC is known since the ratification of the Maastricht treaty in 1993 as the European Union).

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon-treaty, the European Union has replaced and succeeds the European Community.


European External Action Service (EEAS)

The Lisbon Treaty (2009) led to major developments in the area of external action, with the creation of the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the establishment of the EU's diplomatic arm, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The High Representative is assisted by the European External Action Service. The staff of the EEAS is coming from three different sources: the European Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council and the Diplomatic Services of EU Member States.

The High Representative exercises the combined functions previously held by the six-monthly rotating Presidency, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations.

The EEAS assists the High Representative in all his/her tasks ensuring the consistency and coordination of the Union's external action as well as by preparing policy proposals and implementing them after their approval by the Council.

It also assists the President of the European Council and the President as well as the Members of the Commission in their respective functions in the area of external relations and ensures close cooperation with the Member States. The network of EU delegations around the world is part of the EEAS structure.


European Investment Bank (EIB)

Set up by the Treaty of Rome, the European Investment Bank is the European Union's financial institution. Its task is to contribute to economic, social and territorial cohesion through the balanced development of the EU territory.

The EIB's shareholders are the 28 Member States of the European Union. The bank is supervised by the Board of Governors, which comprises the twenty-five Finance Ministers. It has legal personality and is financially independent. It provides long-term financing for practical projects, the economic, technical, environmental and financial viability of which is guaranteed. It grants loans essentially from resources borrowed on capital markets, to which is added shareholders' equity. Between 1994 and 1999 the transport, telecommunications, energy, water, education and training sectors were the main beneficiaries.

In March 2000 the Lisbon European Council called for a strengthening of support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EIB Group, which comprises the EIB and the European Investment Fund (EIF), was thus created with a view to boosting European economic competitiveness. Through the Innovation 2000 initiative, it fosters entrepreneurship, innovation and the optimal utilisation of human resources by granting SMEs medium-term loans and bank guarantees, and by financing venture capital activities.

Outside the European Union the EIB supports the pre-accession strategies of the candidate countries and of the Western Balkans. It also manages the financial dimension of the agreements concluded under European development aid and cooperation policies. In this connection, it is active in the Mediterranean countries and in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.


European Judicial Network in criminal matters (EJN)

The purpose of the European Judicial Network (EJN) in criminal matters is to facilitate mutual judicial assistance in the fight against transnational crime. It originates in a Joint Action adopted by the Council on 29 June 1998.

The judicial network is made up of contact points designed to enable local judicial authorities and judicial authorities in the other Member States to establish direct contacts between themselves. These contact points also provide the legal or practical information necessary to help the authorities concerned to prepare an effective request for judicial cooperation.

There is also a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters, established by Council Decision of 28 May 2001 and based on the network in criminal matters.


European Parliament

The European Parliament is the assembly of the representatives of the more than 500 million Union citizens. Since 1979 they have been elected by direct universal suffrage distributed between Member States by reference to their population.

The European Parliament's main functions are as follows:

The Treaty of Amsterdam boosted Parliament's powers by considerably extending the co decision procedure. The Treaty of Nice, which entered into force in 2003, also enhanced Parliament's role as co-legislator by extending the co decision procedure and granted Parliament a right to bring actions before the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

The Lisbon-treaty provides for stronger powers for Parliament as co-legislator. The new ordinary legislative procedures has a more extended application area than the former co-decision procedure and Parliament is to be given equal decision-making powers in budgetary matters with the Council. From 2009, the number of Members of the European Parliament may not exceed 751.


European security and defence identity

The idea of developing a European defence identity has been prompted by two considerations:

Against this background, the NATO Council held in Brussels in January 1994 recognised the importance of defining a specifically European identity in relation to security and defence. The first steps towards this were taken at the NATO Council held in Berlin on 3 June 1996 with the development of the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF), to which the ministers of the Alliance subscribed at the January 1994 summit as a means of using NATO's military capacity in operations led by the Western European Union (WEU) under its political control and strategic management.

Since then, the European Union has set up its own permanent political and military structures for the political control and strategic management of crises. In December 2002, within the framework of the permanent arrangements for EU-NATO cooperation and consultation known as "Berlin Plus", the Union and NATO signed a strategic partnership agreement on crisis management. Through this agreement, the Union will have access with immediate effect to NATO's logistical and planning resources, including information.


European Union (EU)

The 1957 Treaty of Rome, which laid the foundations for the European Community (EC), was a milestone in the process of Western European integration. It looked forward to creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, and set out the basis for a common market and an economic and monetary union. The implementation of a common trade policy was historically at the heart of the original plan that led to the founding of the European Union. In 1992, building on the success of the EC, European leaders signed the Treaty of Maastricht, which established the EU.


Europol (European Police Office)

Europol is referred to in Article 29 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, as a means of providing citizens with a high level of safety within an area of freedom, security and justice.

The idea of a European Police Office was first raised at the Luxembourg European Council (June 1991). The plan then was to set up a new body which would provide a structure for developing police cooperation between Member States in preventing and combating serious forms of international organised crime. Provision for the Office was made in the Treaty of Maastricht, and it began its activities in January 1994 as the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU). This initially confined its efforts to the fight against drugs, but its terms of reference were gradually extended to other serious crimes.

The Convention establishing Europol was signed in July 1995 and entered into force on 1 October 1998, but only became fully operational on 1 July 1999. Europol took over the activities of the EDU, for example in the areas of drug trafficking, clandestine immigration networks, trafficking in stolen vehicles, trafficking in human beings (including child pornography), counterfeiting currency and falsification of other means of payment, trafficking in radioactive and nuclear substances, terrorism and money-laundering.

The Treaty of Amsterdam conferred a number of different tasks on Europol: coordinating and implementing specific investigations conducted by the Member States' authorities, developing specialised expertise in order to help Member States in their investigations into organised crime, and establishing contacts with prosecutors and investigators who specialise in the fight against organised crime.

Europol's role was enhanced in December 2001 when its remit was extended to all forms of international crime as defined in the annex to the Europol Convention. Two more fundamental suggestions were also made, concerning the possibility of giving Europol genuine powers of investigation and ways of exercising democratic control over the Office.


Exchange of Letters/Notes

States may express their consent to be bound by an "exchange of letters/notes". The basic characteristic of this procedure is that the signatures do appear not on one letter or note but on two separate letters or notes. The agreement therefore lies in the exchange of either letters or notes, each of the parties having in their possession one letter or note signed by the representative of the other party. In practice, the second letter or note, usually the letter or note in response will typically reproduce the text of the first. In a bilateral treaty, letters or notes may also be exchanged to indicate that all necessary domestic procedures have been completed.

[Art. 13, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


External responsibilities of the European Union (EU)

The European Union's external responsibilities are defined in accordance with whether they are conferred on the EU or on the Member States. They are described as "exclusive" where they are exercised entirely by the EU (e.g. the common agricultural policy) and "mixed" where they are shared with the Member States (e.g. the transport policy).

The distinction has been defined in Court of Justice case law and is based on the principle of implicit responsibility, whereby external responsibility derives from the existence of internal responsibility. It should be pointed out that the common foreign and security policy comes under the heading of the EU's external relations, for which specific procedures apply. The growth in the EU's activities (e.g. the completion of the single market), developments in world trade and the less clear-cut case law have made the exercise of external powers more problematic, while at the same time entailing a far-reaching duty to cooperate and coordinate in the name of a united front in international representation.

To enable the EU to adapt to the radical changes in the structures of the world economy and reflect the wide responsibilities given to the World Trade Organisation, the Treaty of Amsterdam has amended Article 133 of the EC Treaty (current Art. 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) to allow the Council, acting unanimously, to broaden the scope of the common commercial policy to cover international negotiations and agreements on services and intellectual property.



Fight against international organised crime

The European Union has attached priority to the fight against organised crime. A plan of action approved by the Council in April 1997 sets out a series of measures to combat the phenomenon.

The Amsterdam Treaty includes organised crime among the priority criminal phenomena to be combated by the EU.

Following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Council in March 2000 adopted "The prevention and control of organised crime: a European Union strategy for the beginning of the new millennium", following up the action plan of April 1997.

The European Union also adopted a joint action (21 December 1998) which defines organised crime in the following terms: "a criminal organisation shall mean a structured association, established over a period of time, of more than two persons, acting in concert with a view to committing offences which are punishable by deprivation of liberty or a detention order of a maximum of at least four years or a more serious penalty, whether such offences are an end in themselves or a means of obtaining material benefits and, where appropriate, of improperly influencing the operation of public authorities".

Art. 67 of the Treaty on the Functioning f the European Union states that the Union shall constitute an area of freedom, security and ustice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States.


Fight against terrorism

Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the European Council, at an extraordinary meeting on 21 September 2001, adopted an action plan designed to step up police and judicial cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Decisive progress was made with the adoption of the Framework Decision of 13 June 2002, which defines terrorist offences as intentional acts such as kidnapping or hostage taking, release of dangerous substances, or causing fires, floods or explosions the effect of which is to endanger human life. Also included in this definition are acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation, were committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, or unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political structures of a country or an international organisation.

A fresh impetus was given to the fight against terrorism following the train bombings in Madrid on 11 March 2004. On 25 March 2004 the European Council adopted a declaration calling for a solidarity clause whereby all Member States are required to mobilise all their resources, including military resources, in the event of a terrorist attack against one of them. There is such a solidarity clause in the European Constitution currently being ratified.

In the fight against terrorism, the European Union has a number of specific tools:


Food safety

The European Union has made food safety one of the main priorities of its policy agenda. It is a horizontal objective to be taken into account in several areas of EU competence: the CAP and its rural development pillar, the environment, public health, consumer protection and the internal market.

In response to the food scares of the 1990s (BSE, foot-and-mouth disease), in January 2000 the European Commission published a White Paper on food safety, which marks an important step in the recasting of European legislation in this area. It heralds the development of a legal framework covering the entire food chain - "from farm to fork" - using a global, integrated approach. This approach sees food safety as covering animal feed and animal health, animal protection and welfare, veterinary checks, animal health measures, plant health checks, and the preparation and hygiene of foodstuffs. The White Paper also stresses the need to launch an ongoing dialogue with consumers in order to inform and educate them.

Adopted in February 2002, the Regulation forming the basis of the new food safety legislation defines six fundamental general principles:

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been set up. Its main tasks are to provide independent scientific opinions on food safety issues, to collect and analyse data on any potential or emerging risks and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the public. In particular, it issues scientific opinions on certain foodstuffs or ingredients (additives, GMOs). The Brussels European Council held in December 2003 established the EFSA's headquarters in Parma, Italy.


Free movement of persons

The freedom of movement and residence for persons in the EU, which underpins the right of every national of a Member State to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, was first established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. The Lisbon Treaty later confirmed this right and it was included in the general provisions on the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

The legal basis for the freedom of movement is to be found in Article 3(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

EU-citizens have certain rights respectively obligations depending on the duration of their stay in another EU-country. For stays under three months the only requirement is that they possess a valid identity document or passport. For stays over three months, the right of residence is subject to certain conditions e.g. that they must have sufficient resources and sickness insurance and the EU-country they are residing in may require them to register with the authorities. Family members of Union citizens who are not nationals of a Member State must apply for a residence permit. After a five-year period of interrupted legal residence, provided that an expulsion decision has not been enforced against them, EU-citizens get the right of permanent residence in the host Member state. Union citizens or members of their family may be expelled from the host Member State on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.


Free Movement of Workers and the Principle of Equal Treatment

Every citizen of the EU has the right to work and live in another Member State without being discriminated against on grounds of nationality. It is perhaps the most important right under EU law for individuals, and an essential element of European citizenship.

The legal basis for this right is found in Article 3(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and article 45 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It entails the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.

The free movement of workers has existed since the foundation of the European Community in 1957. The concept and implications of this freedom have further been interpreted and developed by the case-law of the European Court of Justice, including the concept of 'worker' itself.

Community rules on free movement of workers also apply to Member States of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

The right to free movement of workers is complemented by a system for the co-ordination of social security schemes and by a system to ensure the mutual recognition of diplomas.


Full Powers

"Full powers" means a document emanating from the competent authority of a state designating a person or persons to represent the state for negotiating, adopting, authenticating the text of a treaty, expressing the consent of a state to be bound by a treaty, or for accomplishing any other act with respect to that treaty. Heads of State, Heads of Government and Ministers for Foreign Affairs are considered as representing their state for the purpose of all acts relating to the conclusion of a treaty and do not need to present full powers. Heads of diplomatic missions do not need to present full powers for the purpose of adopting the text of a treaty between the accrediting state and the state to which they are accredited. Likewise, representatives accredited by states to an international conference or to an international organization or one of its organs do not need to present full powers for the purpose of adopting the text of a treaty in that conference, organization or organ.

[Art. 2 (1) (c) and Art.7 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



Genetically modified organisms (GMO)

GMOs are organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been altered not by reproduction and/or natural recombination but by the introduction of a modified gene or a gene from another variety or species.

The European Union has established a legal framework to ensure that the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, takes place in safe conditions. The legal framework aims to protect human health, animal health and also the environment by introducing a safety assessment of the highest possible standards at EU level before any GMO is placed on the market. It further aims to put in place harmonised procedures for risk assessment and authorisation of GMOs that are efficient, time-limited and transparent and to ensure clear labelling of GMOs placed on the market in order to enable consumers as well as professionals (e.g. farmers, and food feed chain operators) to make an informed choice. Lastly, the legal frame work aims to ensure the traceability of GMOs placed on the market.

In order to be placed on the market, GMOs must first undergo a very strict assessment process. They must then be clearly labelled in line with the latest labelling requirements which include product traceability. In September 2004, the Commission authorised the marketing and growing of GMO seeds for the first time by registering 17 other varieties of maize in the Common EU Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species.

The reference laboratory for GMO assessment is the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). The new Member States have national monitoring laboratories belonging to the European network of reference laboratories for GMOs. This network assists the JRC in detecting, identifying and quantifying the presence of GMOs in foodstuffs.


General Court (initially: Court of First Instance of the European Communities)

The General Court was set up in 1989 as the Court of First Instance of the European Communities to strengthen the protection of individuals' interests by introducing a second tier of judicial authority, allowing the Court of Justice of the European Communities to concentrate on its basic task of ensuring the uniform interpretation and application of Community law.

The General Court is currently made up of twenty-seven judges appointed by common accord of the Governments of the Member States to hold office for a renewable term of six years. A President is elected from among the judges. The Treaty of Nice introduced greater flexibility for adapting the CFI's statute, which can henceforth be amended by the Council acting unanimously at the request of the Court or of the Commission.

To ease the workload of the Court of Justice, the Treaty of Nice also aimed to improve the distribution of responsibilities between the Court and the CFI, making the CFI the ordinary court for all direct actions (appeals against a decision, failure to act, damages, etc.), with the exception of those assigned to a judicial panel and those reserved for the Court of Justice. The Treaty also provided for the creation, based on a right of initiative shared between the Court of Justice and the Commission, of judicial panels to examine at first instance certain types of actions in specific matters to relieve the burden on the CFI. Finally, the Nice Treaty provided for the possibility of conferring on the Court of First Instance the right to deliver preliminary rulings in certain specific areas.

The Lisbon-treaty changed the official name of the Court of First Instance to the "General Court". The term "Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)" officially designates the two levels of jurisdiction taken together: the supreme body, the "Court of Justice" and the "General Court". The Constitution also provides that specialised courts may be attached to the General Court, which have at least one judge per Member State.

Green Paper

Commission Green Papers are documents intended to stimulate debate and launch a process of consultation at European level on a particular topic (such as social policy, the single currency, telecommunications). These consultations may then lead to the publication of a White Paper, translating the conclusions of the debate into practical proposals for Community action.



High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The Treaty of Lisbon creates the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, whose role is to conduct the foreign policy of the European Union (EU).

The responsibilities of the High Representative were previously held by three separate posts within the EU:

The Treaty of Lisbon therefore puts all of the powers related to common foreign and security policy into the hands of one person. The aim is to improve the consistency, effectiveness and visibility of the EU’s external action.

However, the High Representative of the Union does not have the monopoly on the EU’s external representation. The Treaty of Lisbon also gives the President of the European Council responsibility for the external representation of the EU, at a separate level, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative. However, the text does not specify how the work is to be divided between the two, allowing practical experience to determine their respective roles.

The High Representative is appointed by the European Council acting by a qualified majority with the agreement of the President of the Commission. The European Council may also end the High Representative’s mandate in accordance with the same procedure.

By virtue of his position, the High Representative is one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. In this capacity, he is subject, together with the President and the other members of the Commission, to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The Treaty on European Union provides that, in the event of a censure motion passed by the Parliament against the Commission, the High Representative must resign from his functions within the Commission. A contrario, he retains the responsibilities which he holds within the Council until the new Commission is formed.


Humanitarian aid

The European Union as a whole (the Commission and the Member States) is currently one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid in the world.

The humanitarian aid dimension of the European Union's external action has become very important in recent years owing to the increase in the number of crises throughout the world and the Union's willingness to take on a leading role in international humanitarian efforts.

Therefore, in 1992, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) was established. ECHO's mandate is to provide emergency assistance and relief (in the form of goods and services) to victims of natural or man-made disasters or conflicts outside the Union. This aid is based on the principles of non-discrimination, impartiality and humanity. It is distributed by ECHO's partners, namely non-governmental organisations, humanitarian agencies of the United Nations and other international organisations.

The Lisbon-treaty includes a section on humanitarian aid in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Art. 214), which thereby acquires a specific legal basis. The issue's importance is further underlined by the planned creation of a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps, which is aimed at providing a framework for joint contributions by young Europeans in this area.



Incorporation of the Community acquis

The Essen European Council (December 1994) called on the Commission to present a White Paper on the preparation of the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe for integration into the Union's internal market. The White Paper, which was presented at the Cannes European Council in June 1995, contained an indicative programme for the alignment of the Central and Eastern European countries' legislation with that of the internal market. It provided that these countries would establish priorities in order to incorporate the Community rules and that they would be helped in this work by a technical assistance office (TAIEX), particularly in order to obtain information on Community legislation.

The incorporation and implementation of all EU legislation are the main challenges which the applicant countries face. They require the administrations and the legal systems to be strengthened, and the infrastructure of the applicant countries to be drastically adapted to conform to EU standards, particularly on environmental questions, transport, energy and telecommunications. To facilitate these considerable adjustments, pre-accession aid is provided to the applicant countries.

The accession negotiations for the applicant countries began in March 1998. The first step was to evaluate each applicant country's legislation for compatibility with the EU rules (screening process). This evaluation then constituted the basis for the second stage, bilateral negotiations between the Union and each applicant.

In some areas, the applicant countries have been granted transition periods between their accession and the time when they are capable of fully implementing the Community acquis. However, any such transition periods are limited in their scope and duration and subject to very strict conditions.


Information Society

The information society is synonymous with what is meant by "new information and communication technologies" (ICT). Since the beginning of the 90s, the new ICT have been booming. The universal use of electronic exchanges of information, convergence towards digital technologies, the exponential growth of the Internet and the opening up of telecommunications markets are all signs of this change.

The information society is revolutionising many areas of everyday life, particularly access to training and knowledge (distance learning, e-learning related services), work organisation and mobilisation of skills (teleworking, virtual companies), practical life (e-health services) and leisure. It is also providing new opportunities in terms of participation of citizens by making it easier to express opinions and points of view. However, these positive advances go hand-in-hand with new concerns: mass use of the Internet means that steps have to be taken against new criminal behaviour, pirating, and questions of protection of personal data and intellectual property. Moreover, the information society may contribute to the marginalisation of certain sections of society by emphasising social inequalities.

In the light of these potential benefits and threats, the European Union has placed the information society at the heart of its strategy for the 21st century. Among other things it has launched a series of support and promotion actions (eEurope action plan) and adopted measures aimed at controlling and limiting the risks associated with the development of the information society such as an action plan aimed at promoting safe use of the Internet and combating unlawful and harmful messages.


Intellectual property

Like tangible goods, intellectual creations can constitute property which is designated "intellectual property". Intellectual property traditionally covers two areas:

This field covers cultural, social and technological issues of great importance which have to be taken into account when drawing up a coherent policy in this area. Thus, on the question of industrial property, Community regulations have endeavoured to harmonise the conditions for the registration of trademarks and extend to holders the protection conferred by a single set of rules. A Regulation introducing a Community design was also adopted in December 2001. In order to encourage innovation, the Union is also working on the creation of a Community patent.

On the question of copyright and related rights, harmonised Community legislation was drawn up in areas where legal uncertainty was likely to dissuade holders from exploiting rights in certain territories (computer programmes and databases, satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission, rental right and lending right and certain related rights). European legislation was then adapted to take account of the new challenges posed by technological progress and the information society. Measures aimed at combating counterfeiting and piracy has moreover been taken at European level.



Joint action (CFSP)

Joint action, which was a legal instrument under Title V of the Treaty on European Union (common foreign and security policy, CFSP), means coordinated action by the Member States whereby all kinds of resources (human resources, know-how, financing, equipment, etc.) were mobilised in order to attain specific objectives set by the Council, on the basis of general guidelines from the European Council.

For reasons of simplification, the Lisbon-treaty restricts CFSP instruments to European decisions and international agreements. Since the Lisbon-treaty entered into force, joint action and the implementation of such action is therefore based on European decisions (non-legislative instruments) adopted by the Council of Ministers.





Legal personality of the Union

The question of the Union's legal status has arisen primarily in connection with its capacity to conclude treaties or accede to agreements or conventions since the Union, which comprises three separate Communities, each with legal personality (European Community, ECSC and Euratom), and two areas of intergovernmental cooperation, does not have what is known in international law as "treaty-making powers", that is, the international right to conclude agreements with third countries.

However, some observers argue that this is a non-existent problem because it does not prevent the Union from concluding agreements and asserting its position on the international stage.

The legal basis is today found in Article 47 of the TEU where it is stated that the Union shall have legal personality.


Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

A memorandum of understanding is typically an international instrument of a less formal character (non-binding instrument). Typically two sides of an MoU enter into such instrument if they do not want to or simply cannot enter into an international agreement that is binding under international law. An MoU often sets out operational arrangements or further details the implementation of an international agreement. It is typically in the form of a single instrument and does not require ratification. They are entered into either by States or International Organizations or, sometimes, entities not disposing treaty-making powers under international law (i.e. governments).

Although their name may suggest otherwise, MoUs might well have binding effects under international law in some cases. The United Nations usually concludes memoranda of understanding with Member States in order to organize its peacekeeping operations or to arrange UN Conferences. The United Nations also concludes memoranda of understanding on cooperation with other international organizations.



The term "modification" refers to the variation of certain treaty provisions only as between particular parties of a treaty, while in their relation to the other parties the original treaty provisions remain applicable. If the treaty is silent on modifications, they are allowed only if the modifications do not affect the rights or obligations of the other parties to the treaty and do not contravene the object and the purpose of the treaty.

[Art. 41, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Modus Vivendi

A modus vivendi is an instrument recording an international agreement of temporary or provisional nature intended to be replaced by an arrangement of a more permanent and detailed character. It is usually made in an informal way, and never requires ratification.


Mutual assistance

A principle of international law implying that two or more States agree to cooperate in a certain area. The assistance specified is often written into a treaty.


Mutual recognition

A principle of international law whereby States party to an agreement decide that they will recognise and uphold legal decisions taken by competent authorities in another Member State.



NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO, or the Atlantic Alliance) was founded in 1949 and has its headquarters in Brussels. It currently has 28 members, following successive enlargements:

The EU's policy respects the NATO obligations of the Member States concerned and is compatible with the common security and defence policy agreed in NATO. The Declaration on Western European Union annexed to the EU Treaty clarifies future relations between NATO and the WEU, which serves as the defence arm of the Union and as a means of strengthening the European pillar of the Atlantic Alliance.



The key principle of international refugee law, which requires that no State shall return a refugee in any manner to a country where his or her life or freedom may be endangered. The principle also encompasses non-rejection at the frontier. Its provision is contained in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and constitutes the legal basis for States’ obligation to provide international protection to those in need of it. Article 33(1) reads as follows: ‘No Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. This principle was endorsed at the Tampere European Council in October 1999 in paragraph 13 of the conclusions. Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in the light of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are also considered as bases for ‘non-refoulement’ obligations.



The term "notification" refers to a formality through which a state or an international organization communicates certain facts or events of legal importance. Notification is increasingly resorted to as a means of expressing final consent. Instead of opting for the exchange of documents or deposit, states may be content to notify their consent to the other party or to the depositary. However, all other acts and instruments relating to the life of a treaty may also call for notifications.

[Arts. 16 (c), 78 etc., Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]




Any signatory or contracting state has the option of objecting to a reservation, inter alia, if, in its opinion, the reservation is incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty. The objecting state may further declare that its objection has the effect of precluding the entry into force of the treaty as between objecting and reserving states.

[Art. 20-23, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



Party (to an international treaty)

A party to a treaty is a State, International Organisation or other entity with treaty making capacity that has expressed its consent to be bound by that treaty where that treaty has entered into force for that particular State or International Organisation [or other entity with treaty making capacity]. Agreements generally specify in their final clauses the categories of States, organisations or other entities that may become a party thereto. If multilateral agreements seek universal participation, they normallt use either the "all States formula" or the "Vienna formula".


Pillars of the European Union

In Community parlance people often refer to the three pillars of the EU Treaty. These three pillars, which formed the basic structure of the European Union, were:

The Treaty of Amsterdam has transferred some of the fields formerly covered by the third pillar to the first pillar (free movement of persons).

The Lisbon-treaty provided for a complete recasting of this system. The three former pillars merged, albeit with the preservation of specific procedures in the area of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), including defence policy.


Political and Security Committee (PSC)

Replacing the Political Committee, the Political and Security Committee (PSC) follows international developments in the field of common foreign and security policy (CFSP), helps to define policies and monitors their implementation. Under the authority of the Council, it is responsible for the political control and strategic guidance of crisis management operations. Composed mainly of national representatives, the PSC is at the heart of crisis management activities. To ensure its smooth running, it is assisted by a Politico-Military Group, a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management, and the Military Committee (MC) and Military Staff (MS)


Pre-accession strategy

On the basis of the Europe Agreements (association agreements with Central and Eastern European countries), in 1993 the Commission proposed that there be a 'structured dialogue' between the associated countries and the institutions of the Union in the form of meetings at which the different partners could consult each other. In December 1994 the Essen European Council adopted a pre-accession strategy based on:

At the December 1997 Luxembourg European Council a reinforced pre-accession strategy was launched for the ten Central and Eastern European applicant countries. It was based on:

For Cyprus, a special pre-accession strategy was put in place the same year. In 1998 a strategy was adopted for Malta. Since 1999 Turkey has also enjoyed the benefit of a pre-accession strategy like the other candidate countries. Pre-accession strategies for Cyprus and Malta were based on:

The accession of ten new Member States on 1 May 2004 effectively ended their pre-accessions strategy. But they still enjoy the benefit of the pre-accession financial instruments for projects presented before 2005. And they are now eligible for the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund.

In October 2004 the Commission adopted a pre-accession strategy for Croatia, where negotiations are due to commence in 2005. Croatia will be eligible for the three pre-accession financial instruments (Phare, ISPA and SAPARD), but the Commission retains the right to suspend them immediately in the event of a serious and persistent violation of political criteria.



The term "protocol" is used for agreements less formal than those entitled "treaty" or "convention". The term could be used to cover the following kinds of instruments:

(a) A Protocol of Signature is an instrument subsidiary to a treaty, and drawn up by the same parties. Such a Protocol deals with ancillary matters such as the interpretation of particular clauses of the treaty, those formal clauses not inserted in the treaty, or the regulation of technical matters. Ratification of the treaty will normally ipso facto involve ratification of such a Protocol.

(b) An Optional Protocol to a Treaty is an instrument that establishes additional rights and obligations to a treaty. It is usually adopted on the same day, but is of independent character and subject to independent ratification. Such protocols enable certain parties of the treaty to establish among themselves a framework of obligations which reach further than the general treaty and to which not all parties of the general treaty consent, creating a "two-tier system". The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 is a well-known example.

(c) A Protocol based on a Framework Treaty is an instrument with specific substantive obligations that implements the general objectives of a previous framework or umbrella convention. Such protocols ensure a more simplified and accelerated treaty-making process and have been used particularly in the field of international environmental law. An example is the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer adopted on the basis of Arts.2 and 8 of the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

(d) A Protocol to amend is an instrument that contains provisions that amend one or various former treaties, such as the Protocol of 1946 amending the Agreements, Conventions and Protocols on Narcotic Drugs.

(e) A Protocol as a supplementary treaty is an instrument which contains supplementary provisions to a previous treaty, e.g. the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

(f) A Proces-Verbal is an instrument that contains a record of certain understandings arrived at by the contracting parties.


Provisional Application

The growing use of provisional application clauses in treaties is a consequence of the need felt to give effect to treaty obligations prior to a state’s formal ratification of/accession to a treaty. The obligations relating to provisional application are undertaken by a conscious voluntary act of the state consistent with its domestic legal framework.

Provisional application of a treaty that has entered into force:

The provisional application of a treaty that has entered into force may occur when a state undertakes to give effect to the treaty obligations provisionally although its domestic procedures for ratification/accession have not yet been completed. The intention of the state would be to ratify/accede to the treaty once its domestic legal requirements have been met. Provisional application may be terminated at any time. In contrast, a state which has consented to be bound by a treaty through ratification/accession or definitive signature, is governed by the rules on withdrawal specified in the treaty concerned (Arts. 54, 56, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969).

[Art. 25, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]

Provisional application of a treaty that has not entered into force:

Provisional application of a treaty that has not entered into force may occur when a state notifies that it would give effect to the legal obligations specified in that treaty provisionally. These legal obligations are undertaken by a conscious voluntary act of the state consistent with its domestic legal framework. Provisional application may be terminated at any time. In contrast, a state which has consented to be bound by a treaty through ratification/ accession or definitive signature, is governed by the rules on withdrawal specified in the treaty concerned (Arts. 54, 56, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969).

Provisional application may continue even after the entry into force of the treaty in relation to a state applying the treaty provisionally until that state has ratified it. Provisional application terminates if a state notifies the other states among which the treaty is being applied provisionally of its intention of not becoming a party to the treaty.

[Art. 25 (2), Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Public health

Public health is covered by Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This article states that European Union action is to focus on the prevention of illnesses, including drug addiction, by promoting research into their causes and their transmission, as well as health information and education.

Under Article 168 TFEU action towards these ends may involve EU measures, complementing action by the Member States. But the main approach should be to encourage cooperation between the Member States, in line with the subsidiarity principle.

The institutional arrangements are that the Council and the European Parliament adopt measures under the scope of Art. 168, 4 and 5 on the basis of the ordinary legislative procedure, while the Council may also adopt recommendations on a Commission proposal.



Qualified Majority voting

A qualified majority (QM) 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 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 238 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. 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, so that the legitimacy of the Council's decisions can be safeguarded in terms of their demographic representativeness. After 1 January 2007 and following enlargement of the Union, 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 QM represents at least 62% of the total population of the Union. 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 replaced unanimous voting. The Treaty of Lisbon continues in the same vein by extending the qualified majority to issues which were up until now governed by unanimity, such as external border control, asylum, and the negotiation of international agreements on trade matters.




Ratification defines the international act whereby a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty if the parties intended to show their consent by such an act. In the case of bilateral treaties, ratification is usually accomplished by exchanging the requisite instruments, while in the case of multilateral treaties the usual procedure is for the depositary to collect the ratifications of all states, keeping all parties informed of the situation. The institution of ratification grants states the necessary time-frame to seek the required approval for the treaty on the domestic level and to enact the necessary legislation to give domestic effect to that treaty.

[Arts. 2 (1) (b), 14 (1) and 16, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



The process in which a third-country national is reintegrated into his or her country of origin.


Registration and Publication

Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations provides that "every treaty and every international agreement entered into by any Member of the United Nations after the present Charter comes into force shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it". Treaties or agreements that are not registered cannot be invoked before any organ of the United Nations. Registration promotes transparency and the availability of texts of treaties to the public. Article 102 of the Charter and its predecessor, Article 18 of the Pact of the League of Nations, have their origin in one of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points in which he outlined his idea of the League of Nations: "Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always openly and in the public view".

[Art. 80, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]



A reservation is a declaration made by a state by which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that state. A reservation enables a state to accept a multilateral treaty as a whole by giving it the possibility not to apply certain provisions with which it does not want to comply. Reservations can be made when the treaty is signed, ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to. Reservations must not be incompatible with the object and the purpose of the treaty. Furthermore, a treaty might prohibit reservations or only allow for certain reservations to be made.

[Arts. 2 (1) (d) and 19-23, Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties 1969]



Revision has basically the same meaning as amendment. However, some treaties provide for a revision additional to an amendment (i.e., Article 109 of the Charter of the United Nations). In that case, the term "revision" refers to an overriding adoption of the treaty to changed circumstances, whereas the term "amendment" refers only to a change of singular provisions.



Schengen (Agreement and Convention)

By the Agreement signed at Schengen on 14 June 1985, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands agreed that they would gradually remove their common border controls and introduce freedom of movement for all nationals of the signatory Member States, other Member States or third countries.

The Schengen Convention was signed by the same five States on 19 June 1990 but did not enter into force until 1995. It lays down the arrangements and guarantees for implementing freedom of movement.

The Agreement and the Convention, the rules adopted on that basis and the related agreements together form the "Schengen acquis".

A protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam governs the incorporation of the Schengen acquis into the Treaties. In order to provide a legal basis, incorporation entailed dividing the Schengen acquis under the first pillar (Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons) or the third pillar (Provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters). The legal incorporation of Schengen into the Union was accompanied by integration of the institutions. The Council took over the Schengen Executive Committee and the Council's General Secretariat took over the Schengen Secretariat.

The protocol annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam states that the Schengen acquis and the rules adopted by the institutions on the basis of that acquis must be adopted in their entirety by all applicant countries.

The Schengen area has gradually expanded: Italy signed up in 1990, Spain and Portugal in 1991, Greece in 1992, Austria in 1995 and Denmark, Finland and Sweden in 1996. Icelandand Norway are also parties to the Convention. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia joined on 21 December 2007 and the associated country Switzerland on 12 December 2008. Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are not yet fully-fledged members of the Schengen area; border controls between them and the Schengen area are maintained until the EU Council decides that the conditions for abolishing internal border controls have been met.

Ireland and the United Kingdom are not parties to the agreements, but, under the protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam, they may take part in some or all of the provisions of this acquis.

Moreover, although already a signatory to the Schengen Convention, Denmark may choose in the context of the European Union whether to apply any new decision taken on the basis of the Schengen acquis.

In the Lisbon-treaty, the provisions relating to the area of freedom, security and justice are amplified by a series of protocols, relating in particular to the Schengen acquis and the special positions of certain Member States (United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark).

Among other innovations:




Signature ad referendum

A representative may sign a treaty "ad referendum", i.e., under the condition that the signature is confirmed by his state. In this case, the signature becomes definitive once it is confirmed by the responsible organ.

[Art. 12 (2) (b), Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Signature Subject to Ratification, Acceptance of Approval

Where the signature is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval, the signature does not establish the consent to be bound. However, it is a means of authentication and expresses the willingness of the signatory state to continue the treaty-making process. The signature qualifies the signatory state to proceed to ratification, acceptance or approval. It also creates an obligation to refrain, in good faith, from acts that would defeat the object and the purpose of the treaty.

[Arts. 10 and 18, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]


Stabilisation and association agreement

A bilateral agreement, which establishes a single basis for assisting a country. Each EU candidate country has such an agreement with the EU.



A treaty summary contains:


Sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development refers to a form of economic growth which satisfies society's needs in terms of well-being in the short, medium and - above all - long term. It is founded on the assumption that development must meet today's needs without jeopardising the prospects for growth of future generations.

The principle of integrating environmental concerns into the formulation and implementation of other policies, which is essential if we are to achieve sustainable development, was confirmed in the Maastricht Treaty.

In 1998 the Cardiff Summit laid the foundations for coordinated action on the Community plan to integrate these environmental concerns. Accordingly, the Commission presented a series of communications on the integration of the environment into, inter alia, the energy, transport, agriculture, internal market, development, industry, fisheries and economic policies. Some Council configurations also presented strategies for integrating the environment into their policies.

A European Union strategy for sustainable development was adopted in May 2001, and was given an external dimension by the global partnership for sustainable development which the Commission adopted in 2002.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in August-September 2002, new objectives, work programmes and timetables were approved in the areas of water, fisheries resources, oceans, chemicals, biodiversity, energy, sustainable production and consumption, and sustainable development strategies. The European Union committed itself to achieve objectives which go even further than those set in Johannesburg by the other participants.

When the new European Commission took up its duties in November 2004, the European Union decided to review its sustainable development strategy in light of the numerous changes that had taken place since it was adopted in 2001.



Third country

Any country that is not a Member State of the EU.


Title IV EC treaty - Title VI EU treaty (Current Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU))

The legal bases for EU legislation on justice and home affairs. Title IV of the European Community Treaty covered free circulation of persons, asylum, immigration and judicial cooperation in civil matters. The European Community institutions were fully involved in the decision-making process. Title VI of the European Union Treaty covered police and customs cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The decision-making process is of the ‘intergovernmental’ type.

After the entry into force of the Lisbon-Treaty, the provisions of both titles were replaced and supplemented by the provisions of Title V TFEU (Area of Freedom, Security and Justice). Most of the areas under this title are handled in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.


Treaties (Founding Treaties)

The establishment of the first "Community", the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was the starting point for over fifty years of European treaty-making. From 1951 (ECSC Treaty) to 2001(Treaty of Nice), no fewer than sixteen treaties were signed. This series of treaties did far more than simply amend the original text: new treaties were born and gradually extended the family.

Here is the list of the principal treaties:

All these treaties have been amended on a number of occasions, in particular at the time of accession of new Member States in 1973 (Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom), in 1981 (Greece), in 1986 (Spain and Portugal), in 1995 (Austria, Finland and Sweden), in 2004 (Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) in 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania) in 2013 (Croatia).


Treaties Office

The Treaties Office of the European External Action Service (EEAS), has two main roles: to advice on practice and procedural matters relating to the different stages of negotiation of treaties to which the European Union (EU) is a party and to provide information on those treaties. These Treaties, with a very few exceptions, have been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ). Both, bilateral agreements entered by the EU with individual Third countries and multilateral agreements to which the EU is a party, are covered by this Database. "Treaty" should not be confused with the founding treaties of the European Community and/or the European Union. 

Unlike the Treaty Section or Division of Member States or other international organisations, the EEAS Treaties Office is not responsible for the preparation of treaty texts, or for Instruments of Ratification and Full Powers. The Treaties Office does not act as depositary of the treaties concluded by the European Community.

The Treaties Office is responsible for developing and maintaining an electronic database and information system to facilitate access to treaty information: the Treaties Office Database. This database is regularly updated.



The term "treaty" can be used as a common generic term or as a particular term which indicates an instrument with certain characteristics.

(a) Treaty as a generic term: The term "treaty" has regularly been used as a generic term embracing all instruments binding at international law concluded between international entities, regardless of their formal designation. Both the 1969 Vienna Convention and the 1986 Vienna Convention confirm this generic use of the term "treaty". The 1969 Vienna Convention defines a treaty as "an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation". The 1986 Vienna Convention extends the definition of treaties to include international agreements involving international organizations as parties. In order to speak of a "treaty" in the generic sense, an instrument has to meet various criteria. First of all, it has to be a binding instrument, which means that the contracting parties intended to create legal rights and duties. Secondly, the instrument must be concluded by states or international organizations with treaty-making power. Thirdly, it has to be governed by international law. Finally the engagement has to be in writing. Even before the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the word "treaty" in its generic sense had been generally reserved for engagements concluded in written form.

(b) Treaty as a specific term: There are no consistent rules when state practice employs the terms "treaty" as a title for an international instrument. Usually the term "treaty" is reserved for matters of some gravity that require more solemn agreements. Their signatures are usually sealed and they normally require ratification. Typical examples of international instruments designated as "treaties" are Peace Treaties, Border Treaties, Delimitation Treaties, Extradition Treaties and Treaties of Friendship, Commerce and Cooperation. The use of the term "treaty" for international instruments has considerably declined in the last decades in favour of other terms.

In the context of the Treaties Office application, the term "treaty" covers both bilateral agreements entered by the European Union (EU) with individual Third countries and multilateral agreements to which the EU is a party. "Treaty" should not be confused with the founding treaties of the EU.


Treaty of Rome

On 25th March 1957, two treaties were signed in Rome that gave birth to the European Economic Community (EEC) and to European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom): the Treaties of Rome. The Treaties were ratified by National Parliaments over the following months and came into force on 1st January 1958.

The Treaty establishing the EEC affirmed in its preamble that signatory States were "determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". In this way, the Member States specifically affirmed the political objective of a progressive political integration.

The founding States (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, West-Germany) agreed to dismantle all tariff barriers over a 12-year transitional period. The transitory term was shortened and in July 1968 all tariffs among the EEC States were abrogated. At the same time, a common tariff was established for all products coming from third countries.

As a matter of fact, the common market meant exclusively free circulation of goods. Free movement of persons, capitals and services continued to be subject to numerous limitations. It was necessary to wait until the Single European Act, in 1987, when a definitive boost was given to establish a genuine unified market. This brought about the European Union Treaty in 1992.

The EEC was provided with a series of institutions: the European Commission, the European Assembly, later known as European Parliament, the Court of Justice and the Economic and Social Committee, whose competences were enlarged and modified in the diverse agreements and treaties that succeeded the Treaty of Rome.


Treaty of Maastricht

The Treaty of the European Union (TEU), also known as Treaty of Maastricht for having been signed in that Dutch town, constitutes a turning point in the European integration process. By modifying the previous treaties -Paris, Rome and Single European Act-, the initial economic objective of the Community, building a common market, was outstripped and, for the first time, a distinctive vocation of political union was claimed.

The Treaty of Maastricht changed the official denomination of the EEC. Henceforth, it will be known as European Union.

The Treaty will have a structure based on three pillars, according to the artificial parlance created by those who devised and edited it. The metaphor used refers to a TEU made up as a Greek temple sustained by three pillars:


Treaty of Amsterdam

The Treaty of Amsterdam is the result of the Intergovernmental Conference launched at the Turin European Council on 29 March 1996. It was adopted at the Amsterdam European Council on 16 and 17 June 1997 and signed on 2 October 1997 by the Foreign Ministers of the fifteen Member States. It entered into force on 1 May 1999 (the first day of the second month following ratification by the last Member State) after ratification by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

From the legal point of view, the Treaty amends certain provisions of the EU Treaty, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts, creating a Community employment policy, transferring to the Communities some of the areas in the field of justice and home affairs (JHA), reforming the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), extending qualified-majority voting and enabling closer cooperation between Member States. It does not replace the other Treaties; rather, it stands alongside them.


Treaty of Nice

Adopted at the Nice European Council in December 2000, and signed on 26 February 2001, the Treaty of Nice entered into force on 1 February 2003.

It is the result of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) that began in February 2000, the objective of which was to gear the working of the European institutions before the arrival of new Member States.

The Treaty of Nice opened the way to the institutional reform needed for the EU enlargement with the accession of countries from eastern and southern Europe. Some of the provisions it contains were adapted by the Accession Treaty, which was signed in Athens in April 2003 and entered into force on the day of enlargement, 1 May 2004.

The main changes made by the Treaty of Nice relate to limiting the size and composition of the Commission, extending qualified majority voting, a new weighting of votes within the Council and making the strengthened cooperation arrangements more flexible.

The Declaration on the Future of the Union, annexed to the Treaty, sets out the next steps to be taken to deepen the institutional reforms and to make sure that the Treaty of Nice is just one stage in this process.


Treaty of Lisbon

The Lisbon Treaty was signed by the heads of state and government of the 27 EU Member States on 13 December 2007. It is intended to reform the functioning of the European Union following the two waves of enlargement which have taken place since 2004 and which have increased the number of EU Member States from 15 to 27.

The Lisbon Treaty was drafted as a replacement for the Constitutional Treaty which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

The Lisbon Treaty includes key changes aimed at increasing the consistency and coherence of the EU's external actions. It provides for a so-called "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" who will be responsible in the Council for the EU's common foreign and defence policies. The High Representative will chair the EU's External Relations Council and (s)he will also be a vice-president of the European Commission. The High Representative will be responsible for coordinating the Commission's external actions in order to ensure consistency and coherence between all of EU external actions, whether they under the competence of the Council or the Commission.

In addition to the abovementioned institutional changes, the Lisbon Treaty also provides for a number of changes to the EU's external policies. It both strengthens and clarifies the EU's development cooperation policy and, for the first time, sets out humanitarian assistance as a specific Commission competence.

Other significant changes set out in the Lisbon Treaty include:

The Lisbon Treaty has entered into force on 1 December 2009.





Vienna formula

This formula was developed to overcome the uncertainties of the "all States formula". The Vienna formula attempts to identify in detail the entities eligible to participate in an agreement. It permits participation in an agreement by Member States of the United Nations, Parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and States Members of specialized agencies or, in certain cases, by any other State invited by the General Assembly to become a party.



White Paper

Commission White Papers are documents containing proposals for Community action in a specific area. In some cases they follow a Green Paper published to launch a consultation process at European level. Examples include the White Papers on the completion of the internal market, on growth, competitiveness and employment and the approximation of the laws of the associated states of Central and Eastern Europe in areas of relevance to the internal market. When a White Paper has been favourably received by the Council, it can become the action programme for the Union in the area concerned.