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Economic and Monitory Union (EMU)

The Economic and Monitory Union (EMU) designates a process intended to harmonise the economic and monitory polices of the Member States of the Union, with a view to establishing a single currency, the euro. It was the subject of one of the two intergovernmental conferences held in Maastricht in 1991.

The treaty provides that EMU should be achieved in three phases:

  • first phase (1 July 1990 to 31 December 1993): free movement of capital between the Member States, closer coordination of economic policies and closer cooperation between central banks;
  • second phase (1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998): convergence of the economic and monitory policies of the Member States to ensure price stability and healthy public finances and the creation of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) and, in 1998, the European Central Bank (ECB);
  • third phase (1 January 1999 to 30 June 2002): irrevocable fixing of exchange rates and the introduction of a single currency on the foreign- exchange markets and for electronic payments, followed by the introduction of euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002.

The third phase of EMU was launched in 11 Member States, which were joined two years later by Greece. On 1 January 2002, euro notes and coins were introduced in the Member States, gradually replacing the national currencies. On 28 February 2002, the transitional phase of dual circulation of the national currencies and the euro came to an end. The euro is now the sole currency for over 300 million Europeans. The challenges to be met to ensure the long-term success of EMU are continued monetary consolidation and closer coordination of the economic policies of the Member States.

Three Member States have not adopted the single currency: Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The accession conditions accepted by the 10 Member States that joined the Union in 2004 include a commitment to adopt the euro and respect the discipline of the Economic and Monitory Union (EMU). However, these countries will not automatically join the eurozone and no timetable has been adopted. As for the current Member States, each of the newcomers will adopt the euro according to its own timetable. To join the euro, each applicant country must meet certain convergence criteria concerning in particular inflation, public deficit and legislation conforming to the European System of Central Banks.

Economic and social cohesion

At European level, the origins of the economic and social cohesion policy date from the Treaty of Rome concluded in 1957 where reference is made in the preamble to the reduction of disparities in development between the regions. During the 1970s, Community action was taken in order to coordinate and give additional financial support to national instruments. These measures later proved inadequate within a Community context where, contrary to expectations, the creation of the internal market had not eliminated differences between regions.

With the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, economic and social cohesion proper was made an objective in addition to completing the single market.

In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty finally institutionalised this policy. Economic and social cohesion expresses the solidarity between the Member States and the regions of the European Union. It fosters balanced development throughout the EU, reducing structural disparities between regions and promoting equal opportunities for all individuals. It is implemented through various financial measures, principally through the Structural Fund and the Cohesion Fund.

Apart from the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the prospect of enlargement to the Central and Eastern European countries, regional policy was one of the main issues discussed in Agenda 2000, particularly due to the financial implications. It is the Community’s second-largest budget item, with an allocation of EUR 213 billion for the period 2000-2006. Every three years, the European Commission submits a report on the progress made towards achieving economic and social cohesion and the way in which Community policies have contributed thereto. The criteria used for analysis include gross domestic product (GDP), employment and factors promoting sustainable development.

The EU’s planned enlargement involves a 13% fall in average per capita GDP and an increase in regional disparities on an unprecedented scale. Since 60% of the regions whose development is lagging behind are in the new Member States, an eastward shift of the economic and social cohesion policy was inevitable. After 2006, it will have to concentrate even more on the crucial problems of development while continuing to support regions which have not completed their real convergence process (particularly in Spain, Greece and Portugal) and in geographical areas facing specific structural problems (industrial areas undergoing restructuring, urban areas, rural areas, areas dependent on the fishing industry and areas with severe natural or demographic handicaps). Simplification of the procedures for transferring and managing the Structural Fund will be the key concept in the forthcoming reforms.

Economic policy

To guarantee regular economic growth and create jobs in the Union, the governments of the Member States must run their economies in accordance with the basic principles of sound economic management. The keys to success are close coordination of policies, peer pressure and consensus. The single currency is one element in this process.

All the Member States are part of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), whose ultimate aim is to provide the impetus for effective integration of the economies of the EU countries, facilitating growth and prosperity. This presupposes close coordination of economic policy. The Member States can achieve common objectives by opting for a combination of fiscal measures and social protection of their choice.

The most tangible manifestation of EMU is the euro, the single European currency, use of which reduces the cost of cross-border economic activities and intensifies competition. All member countries of the EMU can adopt the euro if they fulfil a certain number of economic criteria.

The European Commission has two instruments at its disposal to monitor the economic policies of the Member States. They provide it with the information necessary to assess whether a national economic policy is in accordance with the objectives agreed at EU level or not, and to send it preventive warnings when a deficit becomes abnormally high. These instruments are:

  • major orientations of economic policies;
  • stability and convergence programmes.

The major orientations of economic policies are a "road map" intended for the Union as a whole and the Member States individually. They place the emphasis on the medium- and long-term changes deemed necessary to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU and accelerate the transition towards a knowledge-based economy.

Each year, the Member States send the Commission details on their economic policy, particularly policies intended to guarantee budgetary discipline. Countries that have adopted the euro provide this information in what are referred to as “stability programmes", while the others submit “convergence programmes".


The concept of enlargement designates the successive waves of new accessions that the European Communities have experienced since the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The six founder members (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) have been joined over the years by the following countries:

  • 1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom;
  • 1981: Greece;
  • 1986: Portugal and Spain;
  • 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden;
  • 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.

All the chapters of the accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania have been closed on the 14 December 2004. Both countries should sign their Treaty of Accession on the 15 April 2005 and become members in early 2005.

Turkey has officially been a candidate since 1999, accession negotiations are scheduled to start on the 3 October 2005.

Croatia has been a candidate since June 2004, the 17 of March 2005 has been fixed as the beginning of accession negotiations.

Employment Committee

The advisory Employment Committee was set up pursuant to Article 130 of the EC Treaty, as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam, with the purpose of coordinating action by the European Union with regard to employment and labour market policy.

The Employment Committee comprises two representatives per Member State and two representatives of the Commission, and is responsible for assisting the Council in exercising its responsibilities in this field. It monitors the employment and labour market policies implemented by the Member States, promotes their coordination and formulates opinions. It consults the social partners in carrying out its work.


The euro is the single currency of the Economic and Monetary Union, adopted by 11 Member States from 1 January 1999. The countries are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal and Spain. The name "euro"? was adopted by the European heads of state and government at the Madrid European Council in December 1995. The euro is divided into one hundred subdivisions known as “cent"?.

To adopt the euro, each applicant country must meet certain convergence criteria relating to inflation, the public deficit and legislation conforming to the European System of Central Banks.


Eurocorps is a multinational armed force at the disposal of the European Union and NATO. Eurocorps was set up by the 59th Franco-German Summit at La Rochelle in May 1992. Since then, three other states have joined: Belgium in June 1993, Spain in December 1993 and Luxembourg in May 1996. It has been operational since November 1995, and currently comprises 61,000 men. Located in Strasbourg, its headquarters employs soldiers from five Member States as well as Austria, Canada, Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Eurocorps may intervene within the framework of the WEU (Article V) or NATO (Article 5), and be mobilised for tasks to provide humanitarian aid, rescue tasks and peacemaking or peacekeeping tasks under the aegis of the United Nations or OSCE. The commitment of Eurocorps under the political control of the WEU and NATO was defined in more detail by two agreements concluded in 1993.

In Luxembourg in November 1999, the member countries of Eurocorps decided on the arrangements for converting this multinational unit into a rapid reaction force. This conversion, which was the subject of lengthy preparations, started in June 2001. The deployment of Eurocorps in Afghanistan in August 2004 marked the first commitment of this armed force outside the European continent.


The Eurojust unit, which was set up by the Tampere European Council in 1999, is responsible for coordinating the activities carried out by the Member States of the European Union in the fight against crime. Eurojust has its own legal personality, and consists of prosecutors, judges or police officers seconded by each of the Member States of the European Union.

Eurojust is competent to handle investigations and prosecutions relating to serious crime and involving at least two Member States. It must promote coordination between the competent authorities in different Member States and facilitate the implementation of international judicial mutual assistance and the execution of extradition requests. The competence of Eurojust covers a wide range of serious crimes, such as terrorism, drugs trafficking, the trade in human beings, currency counterfeiting, money laundering, computer crime, fraud and corruption, laundering the proceeds of crime and involvement with a criminal organisation.

Europe Day (9 May)

Celebrated each year in all countries of the European Union, Europe Day (9 May) is an occasion for activities and festivities that bring Europe and its citizens closer together.

The date was chosen to commemorate the declaration by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman who proposed on 9 May 1950 that those European countries which had fought in the two world wars pool the management of their coal and steel resources in an organisation open to other European countries. The proposal was made at the instigation of Jean Monnet, who was then Planning General Commissioner. Known as the "Schuman Declaration"?, the proposal is regarded as the birth certificate of the European Union.

Today, 9 May is a European symbol which, together with the single currency (euro), the flag and the anthem, gives the European Union its identity as a political entity.

European arrest warrant

The European arrest warrant is a judicial decision issued by a Member State with a view to the arrest and surrender by another Member State of a person sought for criminal prosecution or a prison sentence.

This is a tool intended to reinforce cooperation between the judicial authorities of the Member States by eliminating the use of extradition. It is based on the principle of mutual recognition of decisions relating to criminal justice.

The European arrest warrant is based on a framework decision adopted by the Council on 13 June 2002. This instrument will apply from 1 January 2004, but several states have decided to bring forward the effective date of the framework decision to 2003.

European Central Bank (ECB)

The European Central Bank (ECB) was inaugurated on 30 June 1998. Since 1 January 1999, the bank has been responsible for implementing the European monetary policy as defined by the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). In practice, the decision-making bodies of the ECB (the Governing Council and the Executive Board) run the European System of Central Banks, whose tasks are to manage the money supply, conduct foreign-exchange operations, hold and manage the official foreign-currency reserves of the Member States and ensure the smooth operation of payment systems. The ECB took over from the European Monetary Institute (EMI).

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

European Commission

The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. It is a politically independent institution which embodies and upholds the interests of the Union as a whole. Within the framework of policy guidelines established by the European Council, it prepares and implements the decisions of the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.

The Commission has powers of initiative, implementation, management and control. It is the guardian of the treaties and embodies the interests of the Community. It consists of a college of 25 independent members, or one for each Member State. Once the Union has 27 members, the Council will have to take a decision by a unanimous vote on reducing the number of members of the Commission.

The Commission is appointed for a five-year term, following the election of the European Parliament. It is politically accountable to the European Parliament which may dismiss it by voting a censure motion. The Commission attends all Parliament meetings where it has to explain and justify its actions. It also has to provide verbal or written answers to questions raised by MEPs on a regular basis.

The Commission fulfils four basic functions whereby it:

  • submits proposals to the Parliament and the Council;
  • applies European policies and the budget;
  • monitors the application of European law (a function that it shares with the European Court of Justice);
  • represents the European Union on the international stage.

The procedure for appointing the Commission is rather complex. The governments of the Member States start by agreeing on the appointment of the Commission President. Then, the future president chooses the other members of the Commission, in concert with the governments of the Member States. The newly elected European Parliament then holds hearings of all the members nominated, and reaches the decision on the college as a whole. If the Parliament expresses its confidence in the new Commission, it may officially start work from the beginning of the next month. The President decides on the distribution of portfolios within the Commission: he may also change this during the term of the Commission. The President also has the right, with the agreement of the Commission, to ask a commissioner to resign.

European Convention

At the Laeken European Council in December 2001, the heads of state and government decided to convene a convention to spend a year examining possible reforms of the working of the European Union, particularly with a view to its enlargement.

The convention, chaired by former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, was charged with making proposals on four key questions concerning the future of the Union: the distribution of powers, simplification of the treaties, the role of national parliaments and the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The convention was inaugurated on 28 February 2002 and consisted of 105 members:

  • 15 representatives of heads of state and government of the Member States (one per Member State);
  • 13 representatives of applicant countries (one per future Member State and one per applicant country: Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey);
  • 30 representatives of the national parliaments of the Member States (two per Member State);
  • 26 representatives of the national parliaments in the applicant countries (two per future Member State and per applicant country);
  • 16 representatives who are members of the European Parliament;
  • two representatives of the European Commission.

The establishment of this convention was an innovation in that previous intergovernmental conferences had never been preceded by a debate open to all interested parties. Beyond the members of the convention, the organisations representing civil society regularly had the possibility of making their contributions towards the debate through an interactive forum, the Forum on the future of the Union.

The timetable of the convention’s work was divided into three phases: a listening phase, an analysis phase and a drafting phase. At the end of the drafting phase, the European Convention drew up a first draft Constitution which was submitted to the heads of state and government at the Thessalonika European Council on 20 June 2003.

After 16 months, the convention completed its work on 10 July 2003, holding a ceremony at which all the members of the Convention put their signature on the text they had drafted. This draft served as a base document for the intergovernmental conference, which had to decide the final version of the future Constitution of the enlarged Union.

The final text of the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which was largely inspired by the draft produced by the European Convention, was adopted at the European Council of 17 and 18 June 2004, and signed in Rome on 29 October 2004.

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The European Convention on Human Rights, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 under the aegis of the Council of Europe, founded the original system for international protection of human rights by offering individuals the benefits of judicial review of the respect of their rights. The convention, which has been ratified by all the Member States of the Union, established the various monitoring bodies located in Strasbourg:

  • a Commission charged with a preliminary examination of the petitions submitted by a Member State or possibly an individual;
  • a European Court of Human Rights, which has cases referred to it by the Commission or by a Member State following a report by the Commission (in the event of a judicial settlement);
  • a Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which acts as the “guardian" of the ECHR, and which has cases referred to it if they are not referred to the court, to obtain a political settlement to the dispute.

The growing number of cases to be dealt with required a reform of the control mechanism established by the convention (addition to Protocol No. 11). Therefore, these bodies were replaced on 1 November 1998 by a single European Court of Human Rights. The simplification of the structures enabled the duration of the procedures to be reduced and the judicial character of the system to be strengthened.

The idea of the European Union signing up to the ECHR has often been raised, but in an opinion of 28 March 1996, the Court of Justice of the European Communities specified that the Community could not sign up to the convention because the treaty establishing the European Community did not provide for any competence to lay down rules or enter into international agreements relating to human rights. Therefore, signing up to the convention remains subject to an amendment of the treaty.

However, the current situation did not prevent the Treaty of Amsterdam from emphasising respect for the fundamental rights guaranteed by the ECHR, while formalising the case law of the Court of Justice on the issue. With regard to relations between the two courts, the practice developed by the Court of Justice of incorporating the principles of the convention into the law of the Union has enabled the coherence of their work and their independence to be maintained.

The draft Constitution provides that the European Union should have a single legal personality, which would enable it to sign up to the ECHR. On the other hand, the Charter of Fundamental Rights forms an integral part of the treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

European Council

The European Council consists of the heads of state and government of the Member States of the European Union and the President of the European Commission, assisted by their foreign ministers and a European commissioner. The real centre of political decision-making, its objective is to give the necessary impetus for developing the European Union and determine general policy directions.

The European Council is chaired by the head of state and government whose country holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the current six-month period. It meets twice per year in Brussels, in June and December, at the end of each six-monthly Presidency. It has also become usual practice to hold a European Council in the middle of a Presidency.

The draft treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe provides for the following changes whereby the:

  • European Council becomes an EU institution in its own right, with the formal right to adopt decisions and vote;
  • new EU minister for foreign affairs will replace the foreign ministers of each Member State within the European Council;
  • six-monthly Presidency will be replaced by a President elected by the European Council by a qualified majority for two-and-a-half years, renewable once;
  • President of the European Council runs and chairs the work of the Council. He represents the EU abroad on issues relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy without prejudice to the attributions of the EU Foreign Minister. He cannot hold national office;
  • European Council meets every three months at the invitation of its President, who can also convene an extraordinary meeting if the need arises.

European Court of Auditors

The European Court of Auditors, whose seat is in Luxembourg, verifies the legality and regularity of the income and expenditure of the European Union, and its sound financial management. The audits may be carried out at the offices of the Community institutions or bodies, or in the Member States.

The Court of Auditors does not have powers of sanction, but it draws up a report each year to the Community institutions, which is published in the Official Journal of the European Communities. It also provides the European Parliament and Council of the European Union with a statement of assurance concerning the reliability of the accounts. Finally, it has consultative powers, which enable it to issue opinions and make observations via special reports.

The Court of Auditors consists of a national of each Member State, i.e. 25 members since the last enlargement. Its members are appointed by the Council of the European Union, after consultation with the European Parliament, for a renewable six-year term. They designate a President of the Court from among their ranks, for a renewable three-year mandate. Members of the Court of Auditors must carry out their tasks in complete independence and cannot have any other professional occupation.

European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) was set up by the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community in 1957, in order to involve the various economic and social interest groups in the creation of the Common Market and to give them an institutional instrument to convey their views to the Commission and the Council. The Nice Treaty specifies that "the Committee shall consist of representatives of the various economic and social components of organised civil society"? (Article 257 of the EC Treaty).

The EESC has 317 members, each with the title of councillor, divided into three groups of employers, workers and representatives of specific activities (farmers, craftsmen, SMEs and industries, the professions, consumer representatives, the scientific and teaching community, the social economy, families, and environmental movements). Members are proposed by national governments and appointed in a personal capacity by the Council of the European Union for a renewable four-year period.

The current breakdown per Member State is as follows: France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom: 24; Poland and Spain: 21; Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden: 12; Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia: 9; Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia: 7; Cyprus and Luxembourg: 6; Malta: 5.

The EESC is consulted before the adoption of a large number of legislative texts relating to the internal market, education, consumer protection, the environment, regional development and the social field. It can also issue opinions on its own initiative. Since the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force in May 1999, it is mandatory to consult the EESC on a wide range of issues, including the new employment policy, new provisions on social legislation, public health and equal opportunities, and it may be consulted by the European Parliament.

The Nice Treaty, adopted in December 2000, has not modified the number and distribution per Member State of seats on the Committee. However, the qualifications of its members were stipulated in more detail: the EESC consists of "representatives of various economic and social components of organised civil society"? (Article 257 of the EC Treaty).

European Employment Strategy (EES)

The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the concept of a European strategy for employment, which continues in the same vein as the integrated employment strategy initiated at the Essen European Council in December 1994.

In Essen, the European Council asked the Member States to establish multiannual programmes for employment (MAPs) and to provide the Commission with reports on their implementation. These reports outline the main measures taken by the governments to apply their multiannual programmes over the previous 12 months, evaluating in certain cases the impact of the measures on employment and announcing the major changes or new initiatives in this area.

The European Employment Strategy is based on priority themes listed under the four pillars of employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. These main headings have to be reflected each year in National Action Plans on Employment (NAPs) by the Member States. NAPs are analysed by the Commission and the Council and the results presented in a joint employment report which serves as the basis for reprioritising and making recommendations to Member States on their employment policies.

Five years after its launch, the European Strategy has entered into a review phase. In January 2003, the Commission adopted a new approach to the European Employment Strategy in a bid to respond more effectively to the needs of an ageing population, to the integration of women in the labour market, to the enlargement and to the increasing pace of economic change. The new strategy is aimed at achieving full employment and improving working conditions.

European flag

The European Union flag depicts a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. The circle of 12 stars symbolises the solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe. The number of stars is not related to the number of Member States. There are 12 because this figure traditionally corresponds to the symbol of perfection, completeness and unity.

European Investment Bank (EIB)

Established by the Treaty of Rome, the European Investment Bank is the Community’s financial institution. Its task is to contribute to the balanced development of the Community by way of economic integration and social cohesion.

The EIB’s shareholders are the Member States of the European Union. The bank is administered by the Board of Governors comprising the 25 finance ministers. It has legal personality, is financially independent and provides long-term finance for specific projects whose economic, technical, environmental and financial viability is guaranteed. The EIB grants loans essentially from funds borrowed on capital markets, to which shareholders’ equity is added. Between 1994 and 1999, the transport, telecommunications, energy, water, education and training sectors were the main beneficiaries.

In March 2000, the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council called for support given to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be increased. The "EIB Group"?, consisting of the EIB and the European Investment Fund (EIF), was thus created with a view to boosting European competitiveness. Via the Innovation 2000 initiative, it fosters entrepreneurship, innovation and optimum use of human resources by granting medium-term loans and bank guarantees and financing venture capital activities.

Outside the Union, the EIB supports the pre-accession strategies of the Central and Eastern European countries and manages the financial aspect of the agreements concluded within the context of European development aid and cooperation policies.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

The aim of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is to give fresh impetus to cooperation with European Union neighbours following the enlargement to 25. ENP involves existing neighbours and those who came together after the enlargement process on 1 May 2004:

  • in Europe, this involves Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia;
  • in the Mediterranean region, ENP applies to non-EU participants in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine Authority, Syria and Tunisia), except Turkey, with whom EU relations are maintained within the pre-accession framework.

The European Commission recommends including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in ENP.

ENP is aimed at sharing with neighbouring states the benefits of EU enlargement in 2004, thereby improving stability, security and the well-being of all the populations concerned. To avoid creating fresh divisions between the enlarged EU and its new neighbours, ENP is working towards offering these neighbouring states the option to participate in various EU activities within the framework of closer political, security-linked, economic and cultural cooperation.

ENP differs from EU enlargement policy. The concept of the European neighbourhood policy is that of a circle of countries around the EU which share the fundamental EU values and objectives, and to which the European Union offers a privileged partnership based on increasingly closer relations, reaching beyond cooperation. It does not encompass those states which benefit from ‘candidate’ status regarding EU membership, which forms part of the enlargement policy.

Common values relate to the legal state, good governance, respect for human rights, particularly rights of minorities and promoting good neighbourly relations as well as the principles of the market economy and sustainable development.

The priorities of ENP cover a number of key areas, including political dialogue and reform, business and measures aimed at preparing partners for progressive participation in the internal market, justice and home affairs, energy, transport, the information society, the environment, research and innovation, social policy and contacts between communities.

European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman is appointed by the European Parliament after each election and for the legislative term. He is empowered to receive complaints from citizens of the Union or natural or legal persons residing in the Member State concerning instances of maladministration in the activities of the Community institutions or bodies (except the Court of Justice or the Court of First Instance).

If he should conclude that there has been maladministration, he informs the administration concerned, investigates and seeks a solution to eliminate the problem and, if appropriate, submits draft recommendations to which the institution is bound to respond with a reasoned opinion within three months.

He submits a report at the end of each annual session of the European Parliament.

European Parliament

The European Parliament represents the 453 million people of the Member States of the European Union. It is the only institution of the Union that is directly elected by citizens, and plays an increasingly political role within the European Union. Its role has been strengthened gradually with the election of its members by direct universal suffrage from 1979 onwards and by the various treaties.

The tasks of the European Parliament, which were originally mainly consultative, now cover three areas:

  • Legislative powers

The Parliament participates in the adoption of Community legislative documents alongside the Council of Ministers. While the power of initiative concerning proposals for Community legislation is reserved for the Commission, the Parliament may request it to submit draft texts which it deems necessary;

  • Budgetary powers

The draft budget of the Union is subject to a vote by the Parliament, based on a proposal of the Commission and its elaboration by the Council of Ministers. The Parliament has the final say for non-obligatory expenditure;

  • Political supervision powers

The Parliament exercises democratic control over all Community activities. On a daily basis, it examines the votes on a large number of European issues. The choice of the President and members of the Commission are subject to approval by the Parliament. It has the power to dismiss the Commission through a censure motion. It can also ask written or oral questions to the Council and the Commission, receive petitions and set up temporary commissions of enquiry. It has a right of appeal to the Court of Justice.

Since 20 July 2004, there are 732 members of the European Parliament. The number of MEPs representing each Member State varies depending on the population of the country. The seats are shared out as follows: Germany – 99; France, Italy and the United Kingdom – 78; Poland and Spain – 54; Netherlands – 27; Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece and Hungary – 24; Sweden – 19; Austria – 18; Denmark, Finland and Slovakia – 14; Ireland and Lithuania – 13; Latvia – 9; Cyprus, Luxembourg and Slovenia – 6; Malta - 5.

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)

Established at the Cologne European Council in 1999, the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) aims to enable the Union to develop its civilian and military capacities for crisis management and prevent conflicts at international level, thus contributing to peacekeeping and international security, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. As an integral part of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the ESDP does not involve the creation of a European army and is developing in a way which is compatible and coordinated with NATO.

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, new tasks have been included in the Treaty on European Union (Title V). This important innovation concerns humanitarian and rescue operations, peacekeeping operations and the deployment of combat forces for crisis management, including peacekeeping operations (known as “Petersberg tasks"?). In addition to these civilian and military crisis management operations, the ESDP includes a conflict prevention component.

The Political and Security Committee (PSC), the EU Military Committee (EUMC) and EU Military Staff (EUMS) constitute the standing political and military structures of an autonomous and operation defence policy of the Union. Furthermore, the Helsinki European Council established the “global objective"?, i.e. the Union’s power to deploy up to 60,000 men within a period of 60 days and for at least one year.

The ESDP’s first policing operation began in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 1 January 2003, when the European Union took over from the United Nations. On 31 March 2003, the ESDP deployed its first military force, EUROFOR, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

European Union (EU)

Founded on 1 January 1993 by application of the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union (EU) takes up the baton in European construction from the European Economic Community (EEC).

The EU has enabled the Member States to go beyond economic free trade (elimination of customs barriers) to achieve real European integration, particularly by means of a single currency and the establishment of European citizenship.

At present, the European Union has 25 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Europol (European Police Office)

Europol is an intergovernmental police office, which facilitates the exchange of information between national police forces with regard to drugs, terrorism, international crime and paedophilia. The Member States of the European Union set up Europol to heighten security within the European area. It deals with areas where security is most threatened, including the trafficking of drugs and radioactive materials, illegal immigration networks, trade in human beings, vehicle trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and international organised crime (Mafia) as well as paedophilia.

Europol is accountable to the Council of Ministers of the Member States responsible for Justice and Home Affairs. The council is responsible for the overall control and the policy guidelines of Europol. It is the council’s duty to appoint the director and deputy directors and to adopt the budget.

External responsibilities of the European Community

The external responsibilities of the European Community are aimed at the possibility of speaking with one voice and acting jointly outside the Union. They are referred to as “exclusive"? where they are exercised entirely by the Community (e.g. the Common Agricultural Policy) and "mixed"? where they are shared with the Member States (e.g. transport policy).

It should be pointed out that the Common Foreign and Security Policy comes under the heading of the EU’s external relations, which are governed by intergovernmental procedures (second pillar), and not under the external responsibilities of the European Community.

However, to enable the Community to adapt to the radical changes in structures to the world economy and reflect the broad responsibilities given to the World Trade Organisation, the Treaty of Amsterdam enabled the Council, acting unanimously, to extend the scope of the Common Trade Policy to cover international negotiations and agreements on services and intellectual property rights.

Extremely remote regions

The term “extremely remote" or “outermost" refers to seven regions: Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique and Réunion (the four French overseas départements which are also designated in Article 299, paragraph 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Community) as well as the Azores, the Canaries and Madeira. They are all the subject of a declaration annexed to the treaty.

This declaration recognises the structural backwardness of these regions and allows specific measures to be adopted in favour of these regions by emphasising that the provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community and secondary legislation apply as of right, while there is an objective need to take such measures with a view to ensuring their economic and social development.

The second paragraph of Article 299 was amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam to enable the Council to vote by a qualified majority to adopt specific measures aimed at laying down the conditions under which the treaties apply to extremely remote regions, including the common policies. Against this background, the Council must ensure that it does not harm the integrity and consistency of the Community legal order.

This page was last modified on : 25-05-2005

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