Civitas
+44 (0)20 7799 6677

Glossary

The EU and the debate around it uses a lot of unfamiliar language and many acronyms. This page helps to explain such terms.

  • Amendment: an alteration to the text of a proposed law.
  • Asylum seekers: people who migrate to another country looking to be protected from war or persecution.
  • Bond: loan typically given to banks by investors over a fixed term, in return for a fixed rate of interest upon repayment.
  • Cartel: a group of producers who enter into an agreement to limit production in order to raise prices.
  • Codecision: a structure that means that EU decisions must be taken jointly by the Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
  • Constructive abstention: a rule allowing the European Council to agree to a foreign affairs or security decision even if one country decides to abstain.
  • Convention: an international agreement that, when ratified, imposes international law on any acceding country
  • Customs Union: a group of economies with no internal barriers to trade and a common external tariff.
  • Decisions and judgments (from the Court of Justice): A decision only concerns the admissibility of a case and is usually given by a single judge. A judgment, in contrast, is delivered after examination of the case and is usually given by more than one judge.
  • Deeper integration: the processes whereby member states develop co-operation on more areas of policy.
  • Democratic Deficit: the idea that the EU is deficient in democracy and lacks democratic principles such as representation and accountability.
  • Directives: Laws designed to achieve a particular result. Although these laws are binding on member states, they may be incorporated into national legislation by whatever method the member state wishes.
  • Domestic remedies: A principle of international law stating that protection of human rights should be carried out by national governments.
  • Economy of Scale: the increase in profit made by a business when it can produce and sell more without increasing costs
  • Emissions Trading System: caps emissions of CO2 by allowing firms that exceed their emissions limits to buy extra allowance from firms whose emissions are under target levels.
  • Enhanced co-operation: a mechanism through which a core of countries could co-operate more closely in more areas of policy without obliging other members to either veto these policies or adopt them.
  • Europe 2020 strategy: underpins all EU policy regarding the Single Market. It particularly aims to create jobs and an inclusive society.
  • Extradition: the return of an alleged offender to a state where the offence was committed.
  • Food mountains: a metaphor for the warehouses where piles of surplus agricultural products are stored.
  • Free Trade: international trade when there is no restriction on the import or export of goods.
  • Frontex: EU agency created to coordinate cooperation between Member States in the field of border security.
  • Grand Chamber: A panel of 17 judges at the ECHR that hears cases once a request for referral has been accepted
  • Harmonisation: applying a single set of product rules and standards to a project across the EU, rather than each country recognising each others’ standards.
  • Illegal immigration: when people come to another country without the correct visas or permits. They may be seeking asylum, but they may just be coming to find work or stay with family members.
  • Import Tariffs: a form of tax on goods imported into a country.
  • Inflation: upward movement in the average level of prices.
  • Intergovernmental: a form of international organisation where governments work together to achieve shared goals.
  • Majority voting: Legislation can be passed where a specified proportion of delegates consent.
  • Monetary Policy: the policies employed by Governments or Central Banks to control money supply and interest rates in order to achieve economic goals.
  • Mutual Recognition: the principle that goods sold in one part of the single market cannot be excluded from another.
  • Non-Tariff Barriers: barriers to trade other than an import tax (tariff). These include quotas and regulations that discriminate against foreign goods or make compliance very costly.
  • Ordinary legislative procedure: A structure that means that EU legislative decisions must be taken jointly by the Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
  • Political asylum: protection offered by a country for an individual endangered for political reasons in another.
  • Proportional representation: an electoral system whereby the number of votes a party receives is directly proportional to the number of seats they are given in the parliament.
  • Protectionism: restriction of free trade in an attempt to protect domestic producers and markets.
  • Protocol: additions to a previous treaty which are not binding for all signatories.
  • Qualified Majority Voting (QMV): procedure used in the Council of the EU for many decisions, requiring more than a ‘simple majority’ of 51%: currently to pass a measure needs 55% of member states vote in favour (16 out of 28), and support representing at least 65% of the total EU population.
  • Quota-hopping: the practice of buying fishing quota permits abroad to avoid EU restrictions.
  • Regulations: Rules applying to all EU members. They are immediately enforceable and override any national laws on the same subject. Often set standard procedure for industry to follow.
  • Single market: trading area governed by the same basic rules, enabling the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers. The EU calls its single market the internal market
  • Sovereignty: having the ultimate power to make decisions about your country.
  • Species quota: a limit on the number of any particular species of fish that can be caught in the common fisheries policy.
  • State aid: when a government gives money or tax relief to a company or industry to keep it going when it is uncompetitive or in crisis.
  • Subsidiarity: the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest level and as close to the citizens as possible.
  • Subsidies: a sum of money paid to producers by a government in order to help them compete.
  • Supranationalism: a form of organisation through which decisions are made by international institutions, not by individual states.
  • Supremacy: the principle that EU law is superior to national laws when the European Court of Justice has jurisdiction.
  • Surplus: having an excess, more than is needed. In economies, this means a country is selling more exports than it is importing; in budgets, it means a government is taking more in tax than it spends; in agriculture, it means more food is being produced than can be sold for consumption.  
  • Sustainable development: development that meets the needs of the present population without compromising future generations.
  • Tariffs:  a tax on imported or exported goods.
  • Total Allowable Catches (TACs): maximum quantity of fish that can be caught. Negotiations take place every December. TACs are shared among states according to national quotas.
  • Trafficking: the illegal movement of people or goods such as drugs across national borders (see also, people smuggling).
  • Unanimous voting: Legislation can only be passed where all delegates consent, meaning that each nation state retains the ability to veto.
  • Veto: The right of one country to block a decision.
  • Visa: an endorsement, often a stamp, in your passport allowing you to enter or leave a particular country.

 

This page was last updated on: 24.02.2016