Glossary of European Union jargon

S

Schengen agreement A pact whose members agree to remove internal borders and allow people to travel without checks from country to country.

The agreement emerged outside the framework of the EU, and was initially signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1985.

It now covers all member states apart from Bulgaria, Ireland, Romania and the UK. Iceland and Norway signed an agreement with the EU in 1999 to involve them with the development of Schengen. Switzerland - also outside the EU - joined Schengen in December 2008.

Q&A: Schengen Agreement

Single Market The single market came into force in January 1993, establishing the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

The Treaty of Rome which established the EEC in 1957 had set its sights on creating a common market. That came into being in 1968 with the creation of a customs union.

The Single European Act, signed in 1986, finally set a deadline of 1992 for the single market to be up and running. In the end, it was launched on 1 January 1993.

The Single European Act established four freedoms:

  1. Goods. Companies can sell their products anywhere in the member states and consumers can buy where they want with no penalty.
  2. People. Citizens of the member states can live and work in any other country and their professional qualifications should be recognised.
  3. Capital. Currencies and capital can flow freely between the member states and European citizens can use financial services in any member state.
  4. Services. Professional services such as banking, insurance, architecture and advertising can be offered in any member state.

Structural funds The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund are instruments for narrowing development disparities among regions and between member states. They are used to further the goal of EU cohesion.

For the period 2007-2013, the budget allocated to regional policy amounts to around 348bn euros (£322bn), comprising 278bn euros for the Structural Funds and 70bn for the Cohesion Fund. This represents 35% of the EU budget and is the second largest budget item.

Subsidiarity It is an EU principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. Subsidiarity requires the EU to check whether action at community level will be more effective than action at national, regional or local level.

T

Treaty of Rome The 1957 Treaty of Rome - signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - established the European Economic Community.

Along with the Paris Treaty it is one of the foundation stones of the European Community.

Often referred to simply as the Treaty, it has been amended several times to take account of new member states joining the EEC.

Most recently it has been updated by the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties.

U

Ukrep The United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union. Ukrep is staffed by civil servants drawn from a wide range of British government departments, whose job is to represent the UK's interests in the EU.

Unanimity Unanimity is the form of decision-making used by the Council of Ministers on sensitive issues such as tax or social security.

Unlike the council's other decision process - qualified majority voting (QMV) - unanimity means the entire council must agree on a proposal to pass it. Any single member state can use its veto to reject a proposal.

In decisions taken in the Council by unanimity, the European Parliament has no deciding power and can only offer its opinion.

Unanimity can make negotiations very long and complex and the disagreement of one country can scupper a whole agreement. But national governments are keen to keep their right of veto on issues which are especially sensitive.

V

Veto The veto is a way of keeping national sovereignty over sensitive areas of decision-making. It can be used when ministers from national governments vote in the Council of Ministers, under the unanimity system.

Member states have steadily given up their powers of veto over time, broadening the areas subject to qualified majority voting in each successive treaty change.

In negotiations over the EU constitution in 2003/4, the UK insisted on keeping vetoes over tax, criminal justice, social security, treaty changes and EU funding.

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