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The private office of a European VIP, especially a Commissioner.


See Common Agricultural Policy.

Capital of the European Union

There is no capital of Europe, the nearest approximation being Brussels, which houses the Commission, the Council of Ministers and parts of the European Parliament. Three-quarters of the Commission's staff work in Brussels - a rich source of rent and restaurant trade. It has been estimated that Brussels earns around $1.5 billion a year from European officials and their multifarious visitors.

Luxembourg serves as the second city of the EU, playing host to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and the Court of Auditors. The third city is Strasbourg, principal seat of the European Parliament (and incidentally the home of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe).

Carbon tax

A proposed energy tax, favoured by the Commission as a way of boosting its revenue in the name of protecting the environment from excessive carbon dioxide emissions. The tax has not been approved by the Council. It would be anti-competitive unless introduced throughout the advanced world.

Cassis de Dijon case

The 1979 Cassis de Dijon ruling of the European Court of Justice was a landmark judgment. It established that a product (in this case, a French blackcurrant liqueur) sold lawfully in one member state may not be prohibited in another member state (in this case, Germany) except on public health grounds - the so-called 'mutual recognition' principle.

Cecchini Report

The 1988 Cecchini Report, named after the chairman of a Commission-appointed committee of experts, is chiefly famous as a cautionary tale. Basing their results on econometric models and a survey of 11,000 businessmen, the authors of the 16-volume report forecast that the single market would add around 5% to the GDP of the Community's member states, reduce prices, raise growth to 7%, create several million extra jobs and 'put Europe on an upward trajectory into the next century'. In the event, the achievement of the single market in the 1990s coincided with stagnation and a massive increase in structural unemployment - evidence, if evidence were needed, of the shallowness of economic predictions, especially by businessmen.


Under the Treaty of Rome, the European Parliament has the right to force the Commission to resign en bloc on a motion of censure carried by a two-thirds voting majority, representing an absolute majority of all MEPs. It was long assumed that the Parliament would never use this nuclear option, but in 1999, following a devastating report on nepotism, negligence and corruption within the Commission under the presidency of Jacques Santer, all the Commissioners resigned rather than face dismissal. The Parliament has no right of censure against individual Commissioners.

CERN (Centre Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire)

CERN is the French acronym for Europe's Geneva-based advanced non-military high energy physics research centre. It is financed by European governments, including certain non-EU countries, and strictly speaking is not a Community organisation. The CERN particle accelerator has produced interesting pure science results but the Centre's main practical benefits have been by-products, notably the invention of the internet.


See Common External Tariff.


See Common Fisheries Policy.


See Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Channel Islands

See Small countries.


See Preamble.

Charlemagne (742-814)

Europeans who like to trace the history of unification to the past have a number of candidates to choose from. The Romans gave Europe law, roads, the Latin language and the spreading of Christianity, and Napoleon gave it a modernised legal code, but it is the name of Charlemagne that is most frequently invoked. He conquered France, Belgium, North Italy, Saxony, Bavaria and North Spain and systematised the secular and ecclesiastical administration of his empire, which comprised a remarkably similar geographical area to that of the six original EEC members. Although his empire did not long survive his death, the imperial concept lasted for over a thousand years with the Holy Roman Empire and its successor, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, not being finally brought to a close until the First World War.

Charter of Paris

Signed in Paris in 1990, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe signalled the end of 'the era of confrontation and division in Europe' and is widely regarded as sealing the close of the Cold War. (See also OSCE.)

Chirac, Jacques (1932-)

A Gaullist who had twice served as French premier, Jacques Chirac was elected president of the republic in 1995, reluctantly inheriting the commitment to European monetary union of his Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand at a time when economic stagnation was being exacerbated by France's efforts to meet the Maastricht convergence criteria. A national election, called by Chirac in 1997 to gain endorsement for his policy of austerity, backfired when, despite his personal popularity, the Socialists won a majority in the Assembly, with Lionel Jospin replacing Chirac's Gaullist ally, Alain Juppé, as premier. Jospin's old-fashioned leftist manifesto was incompatible with Chirac's centre-right economic views, and although both co-habitants of France's highest offices now proclaimed their support for the single currency, concern arose in Germany that France would be a weak link, possibly to the extent of undermining the strength of the future euro.

Chirac's loss of political authority coincided with a deterioration in the domestic standing of Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany. There was little love lost between the two men, and for a time the hitherto solid Franco-German partnership came under strain as disagreement arose over matters ranging from foreign policy to the independence of the future European Central Bank and Italy's suitability for the single currency. By 1999, however, the euro had been launched and France was enjoying a robust economic recovery. Jospin had swung to the right, largely stealing Chirac's clothes, and his influence had grown to the point that Chirac was no longer unambiguously in charge of the agenda even for foreign policy, the traditional preserve of the president. Impetuous, charming and inconsistent, Chirac had no durable vision for the EU and seemed in danger of becoming little more than a figurehead.

Christian Democracy

The nearest approximation to a transnational centre-right political creed in post-war Europe, Christian Democracy was the political home of many of the founding fathers of the European idea, including Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Walter Hallstein and Robert Schuman. At the end of the century, however, it fell on evil days with the self-destruction of the Italian party and its most prominent figure, Giulio Andreotti, and the more surprising disgrace of the German CDU, when Helmut Kohl, its leader for 25 years, was implicated in a party slush fund scandal. (See also Religion and Political groups.)

Churchill, Winston (1874-1965)

Winston Churchill's incomparably distinguished political career ended with his retirement from the premiership in 1955, nearly ten years before his death and 17 years before the accession of the UK to the EEC. It is thus an anachronism to enlist him on either the Eurosceptic or the Europhile side; it is, however, relevant to recall that his mother was American and that he held a fervent faith in the Commonwealth and the Anglo-American alliance. Perhaps his ultimate loyalty was to the English-speaking world.

In the summer of 1940, with France near collapse, it was a typically bold gesture on Churchill's part to agree with Jean Monnet and Charles de Gaulle a proposal for a complete union between the UK and France; France fell and the idea came to nothing. For his considered thoughts on Europe after the war, the primary source is his speech made in September 1946 in Zurich, in which he called for the building of a 'kind of United States of Europe', of which the UK would be a 'friend and sponsor' - natural words in the context of the times, with much of the Continent lying in ruins. This is not very different from his earlier published observations in 1930 ('We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not comprised'); and when he said in 1948 that if Europe united was to be a living force the UK would have to play its full part as a member of the European family, the words are sufficiently vague to admit of more than one meaning.

It is easier to state that Churchill was in favour of European unity than that he would have favoured UK entry into the EEC, still less that he would have acceded to Walter Hallstein's and Jacques Delors' vision of a supranational Europe; it is barely conceivable that he would have been willing to compromise British independence or forget the UK's obligations to the Commonwealth. The fact that he was president-of-honour of the 1948 Congress of Europe owed more to his prestige, and to the content of his Zurich speech, than to any coherent pan-European strategy. Churchill alone had played a leading role in the century's two world wars, both of which had started in Europe; nobody could speak with more authority about the necessity of radical new thinking to prevent a third one.


See Commonwealth of Independent States.


It is no accident that European citizenship conjures up the image of a country called Europe. The idea first found expression in 1984 with proposals for a 'People's Europe' designed to improve the flagging popularity of the Community and strengthen the sense of European identity by creating a raft of miscellaneous citizens' rights. Many of these were enacted into Community law over the ensuing years. But it was not until the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992 that citizenship itself (at Spain's urging) was formally recognised as part of the acquis communautaire. The Treaty ordained that all nationals of member states must also be citizens of the Union. Initially, the privileges conferred by European citizenship are modest: the right to complain to the European Parliament, to vote or stand in local or European elections, to obtain diplomatic protection in countries where the citizen's member state is unrepresented and to reside anywhere in the Union (subject to not being a burden on the host country). But the Treaty envisages these rights being strengthened or expanded; thus the intent of multiplying the trappings of a single state appears evident.

The requirements for EU citizenship are left to member states. For example, British subjects with the right of abode qualify, whereas those with Dependent Territories status, with the exception of Gibraltarians, do not. Germany faces a particular dilemma. It houses some 7 million recent immigrants - many more than other European states. Yet under an Imperial Decree of 1913 the right to citizenship has been based on blood descent, which rules out children of foreigners even if born in Germany. Long blocked, from fear of encouraging an unmanageable influx of new immigrants, reform, albeit partial, was finally introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in 2000.

The City of London

The impact of EMU on the City's position as a financial centre is one of the five criteria set by the Labour government for whether the UK should adopt the euro. While the test is too subjective to be of value, it would certainly be hard to replicate the City's unique concentration of talents and activities elsewhere in the eurozone. Moreover, in the first year after the launch of the single currency, the City's share of global financial transactions rose.

Closer co-operation

Closer co-operation is a significant 'flexibility' principle introduced by the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam (technically, as Title VII of the Treaty on European Union). It provides that as a last resort a majority of member states may use the Community's institutions to develop closer links with each other in a new policy area, without involving the remaining member states. The Treaty makes it plain that this Title is not intended as a loophole for preventing the advance of the acquis communautaire, still less for reversing it. The intention rather is to allow certain countries to move ahead with integration faster than others. A good example was the introduction of the Schengen Agreement border controls by way of a protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam to which all the member states were parties except the UK and Ireland. (See also Variable geometry.)

Club Med countries

Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, so named because of their supposedly relaxed financial policies and southern temperament, in contrast to the stern discipline of the northern 'hard core'. Paradoxically, the impending introduction of EMU in 1999 saw the Club Med countries making equally determined efforts as Germany and France to prove their fiscal rectitude. In the event, Italy, Spain and Portugal were admitted as immediate entrants to the euro. Greece, too, seemed likely to be accepted within five years.

Cockfield White Paper

In the early 1980s the Common Market had substantially ground to a halt. Progress in freeing trade was blocked by indecision in the Council of Ministers, resulting in a heavy backlog of draft Directives and Regulations which seemed unlikely ever to see the light of day. At the 1985 summit meeting of heads of state, the Commission was instructed to draw up a remedial programme with a timetable. The task was entrusted to the British Commissioner for the Internal Market, Lord Cockfield, whose White Paper identified some 300 necessary measures and set the end of 1992 as the target date for completing the single market. The Cockfield proposals, drawn up in close collaboration with the Commission president Jacques Delors, were an important formative influence in the Single European Act of 1986, which proved in retrospect to have marked a decisive moment in the federalisation of Europe. Ironically (for his spell in Brussels turned him into an ardent integrationist), Cockfield had been appointed to the Commission by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the grounds that he was no more than a convinced advocate of free markets.


Joint decision by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Established by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty (and now largely replacing the weaker 'co-operation' procedure brought in by the 1986 Single European Act), co-decision was intended to increase democratic accountability in the EU's lawmaking process. The procedure essentially allows the Parliament to veto legislation on which it has not reached agreement with the Council. The mechanics are worth noting, if only because they illustrate perfectly the arcane nature of the EU's decision-making methods. In simplified form:

  • The Commission submits a proposed piece of legislation
  • Parliament, acting by absolute majority, gives its opinion to the Council
  • If Parliament does not suggest amendments, the Council decides by qualified majority voting
  • If Parliament rejects the proposal, it does not become law
  • If Parliament suggests amendments, the Council and the Commission consider these
  • If the Commission accepts the amendments, the Council may also accept them, acting by qualified majority voting
  • If the Commission rejects Parliament's amendments, the Council must act unanimously if it wishes to accept them
  • If the Council does not accept the amendments, the 'conciliation committee' (consisting of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives) is convened, with the Commission participating
  • If the conciliation committee cannot agree a text, the proposal lapses
  • If the conciliation committee agrees a text, the Council (by qualified majority) and the Parliament must both vote in favour or the proposal lapses.

Co-decision initially applied to a limited range of policies (such as the single market, education, the environment, consumer protection and health) but the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam greatly extended its scope, making it the principal form of legislative collaboration between the Council and the Parliament. It now covers most areas except EMU, which remains subject to the co-operation procedure, under which the Parliament has delaying and obstructing powers but no outright veto.


The power-sharing which arises, especially in France, when there is a leftist president and a rightist prime minister, or vice versa.


Eurospeak for the reduction of economic disparities between regions in a spirit of social solidarity.

Cohesion Fund

See Structural funds.


Established in Moscow in 1949 and dissolved in 1991, Comecon was the Soviet-dominated organisation for co-ordinating communist economic policy in Eastern Europe (and later Mongolia, Cuba and Vietnam). Co-ordination amounted in reality to abject subservience to the Soviet Union. The former Yugoslavia was never a member. Albania, which considered the USSR soft after Stalin's death, left Comecon in 1961. For 40 years a stony-faced enemy of the West, Comecon relaxed enough under Mikhail Gorbachev to permit its European members to sign bilateral trade agreements with the EC. Within 18 months, Comecon itself would be dead.


The science of committees, a necessary skill in Brussels, where the Commission's implementation of policy and law is subject to supervision by numerous committees set up, and staffed, by the member states. These committees may be purely advisory or may have some real delegated powers. The general rule is that the Commission is obliged to 'take account' of Opinions, but not to act on them unless ordered to do so by the Council. The European Parliament, resentful of its own exclusion from these secret proceedings dominated by the Commission, favours increased 'transparency' - for example, by requiring the Commission's committees to report regularly to the Parliament's committees.


See European Commission.

Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER)

See Permanent representatives.

Committee of the Regions

Established on a German-Spanish initiative (strongly backed by the Commission) under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the Brussels-based Committee of the Regions consists of 222 representatives (most of them holding regional or local elective office in their home countries) who advise on the impact of EU legislation. The Committee's remit covers five sectors - education and vocational training, culture, public health, transport systems, and economic and social cohesion - although the Treaty allows the Commission and the Council of Ministers to consult it on other issues. The Committee may also volunteer Opinions on regional matters. No EU institution is, however, obliged to follow its advice, whether solicited or unsolicited. Indeed, its real raison d'être is to undermine the nation state by encouraging direct relations between regions and Brussels. The Committee shares certain services and a reputation for imaginative expense accounts with the Economic and Social Committee. It was censured in 1997 by the Court of First Instance for nepotistic recruitment within its own 80-strong bureaucracy. (See also Regionalism.)

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The CAP is a protectionist system for supporting agriculture in the EU. Established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958, it was for many years the only significant Community policy, accounting for over two-thirds of the budget, providing vast subsidies and substantially raising the cost of food to consumers. The CAP has enriched some farmers, saved others from poverty and ensured plentiful home-grown production; but at the same time it has served as an accomplice to fraud and has disrupted international markets through import levies, subsidised exports and the creation of unwanted surpluses disposed of by intermittent bouts of dumping.

In more recent times some reforms have been progressively brought about by financial constraints and pressure from the GATT. The effect has been to reduce the cost of the CAP to about half the Community budget and to make some inroads on surplus production. But many member states have a vested interest in resisting change and the reforms have fallen far short of a genuine liberalisation of agricultural trade. With the accession or approaching accession of new countries, some, like Poland, poor and with large rural areas, others with Arctic or mountainous conditions, further modifications to the CAP are inevitable if the farm budget is not to run out of funds. As long, however, as the CAP is seen as a talisman of European integration and a battlefield of free traders against protectionists - and increasingly against environmentalists, too - it will continue to attract passionate controversy.

Origins (1958-73)

The five aims of the CAP as set out in the Treaty of Rome in 1957 were couched in elevated terms: increased productivity, a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, stabilised markets, regular supplies of food and reasonable prices for consumers. The underlying political reality was that France wanted to guarantee high prices to farmers in return for enlarging the markets in industrial goods for German manufacturers. Fear of social instability and vivid memories of food shortages increased the determination of the member states to create a prosperous farming community and to make Europe self-sufficient in staple items.

The CAP was to be based on three principles:

  • A single market in farm products, with common prices and free movement within the Community
  • Community preference, that is, a tariff system of import levies and export refunds on trade with non-members
  • Shared responsibility for costs.

The system was introduced progressively from 1962 to 1967 with a series of artificial 'price regimes' for different products, to be paid for by consumers. Imports would be penalised by duties, exports would be subsidised by refunds, known as 'restitutions'.

In the context of these policies, the UK's application to join the Common Market was both a threat and an opportunity. The opportunity lay in the fact that the UK was one of the world's largest food importers; if it could be persuaded to switch suppliers, the EC would gain an additional paymaster and a new market. The threat lay in the UK's predilection for free trade and cheap Commonwealth food. Charles de Gaulle's vetoes of British entry in the 1960s had much to do with the UK's initial unwillingness to abandon its Commonwealth trade links by agreeing to Community preference. The withdrawal of de Gaulle from the political scene and the concession by Prime Minister Edward Heath of most of the UK's negotiating points (with the exception of some special arrangements for New Zealand and the Caribbean) brought this phase to a close, clearing the way for British entry, at a cost to the domestic consumer estimated over the years at around $1,500 per year per family of four.

Mounting problems (early 1970s-late 1980s)

The need to restructure inefficient Continental agriculture had led to the 1968 Mansholt Plan, featuring import protection and compensation for job losses. A watered-down version of this plan was adopted by the EC in 1972 and funded by the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (known by its more pronounceable French initials, FEOGA). The resultant combination of improved productivity and generous guaranteed prices proved little short of disastrous to everyone except farmers left on the land. Agricultural incomes were sustained not by direct subsidies to struggling farmers but by unlimited intervention buying of any produce which could not be sold at a higher price on the open market. As a result, market discipline was virtually non-existent. By the early 1980s 'wine lakes', 'butter mountains' and large surpluses of dairy produce, cereals and sugar were accumulating.

To the cost of overpriced food was now added the cost to taxpayers of storing or disposing of unwanted stockpiles. The easy answer was dumping, through export refunds, gifts in aid or cut-price deals. Such action caused extensive international ill-will, as competing exporters were undercut and low-cost agricultural economies were hit by a flood of produce at prices which even they could not match.

The scale and complexity of FEOGA's operations gave rise to growing scope for exploitation and fraud, which an expanding bureaucracy was unable to control and which there was little incentive for offending countries to expose. Public bewilderment was compounded by an artificial system of 'green currencies' and 'monetary compensation amounts', designed to make up for currency fluctuations and create the illusion that farmers were operating in a single European currency zone.

The accession to the EC of Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986; the impending round of GATT negotiations, at which trade agreements appeared sure to be conditional on some degree of agricultural liberalisation; and the spectre of the Community budget being stretched to breaking point - together these factors demanded reform. From 1983 onwards the Commission and the member states wrestled with proposals to tackle over-production and limit subsidies, hampered for a while by the weakness of the dollar, which increased the gap between world prices and European prices. In 1988 a package of measures was agreed by the Council of Ministers, of which the principal elements were that the overall growth of CAP expenditure would be not more than 74% of the growth of the budget; that farmers would be paid not to farm (the notorious 'set-aside'); that output quotas and levies on excess production would be extended (leading to an unseemly rush to swell the volumes on which the ceilings would be based); and that the Community's structural funds would be retargeted to include among their objectives the easing of agricultural reform and aid to rural areas.

Recent developments

The 1988 measures failed to address the radical changes which the British wished to see and which the USA and the Cairns Group of efficient agricultural countries, led by Argentina, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, considered essential to a healthy international market. The biggest stumbling blocks to progress were the antipathy of the French and German governments to any action which might jeopardise countryside prosperity and their fear of adding to unemployment, anxieties which were exacerbated by the disproportionate power of farm lobbies and rural voters in France and Bavaria. Moreover, the complexity of the CAP had given it a bureaucratic life of its own. It was the centrepiece of the EC. It favoured Denmark, Ireland and The Netherlands, among others, and it had provided such scope for abuse that negotiations over reform were invariably painful and protracted.

Nevertheless, some change continued to be eked out in response to budgetary pressures and the worldwide trend towards freer markets. In the early 1990s Commissioner MacSharry's labyrinthine proposals to cut prices and surpluses by moving away from price guarantees towards direct income support narrowly averted the failure of the GATT Uruguay Round. In theory, the MacSharry proposals should in the long run reduce the cost of the CAP. But no provision has been made for the approaching accession of poor countries with large rural areas, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia - perhaps to be followed by others. These former communist states will, like East Germany, pose additional budget strains, which as the CAP is presently structured will cumulatively exceed the EU's financing capacity.

At the turn of the century, the EU continued to shirk fundamental reform. Some modest cuts in intervention prices were agreed in 1999. The Commission's Agenda 2000 paper remained on the table, with suggestions for integrating agricultural policy into a broader rural strategy. Environmental and health issues loomed larger, highlighted by genetically modified food and the 'mad cow disease' crisis over British beef. Many resented the fact that the CAP's main beneficiaries tended to be not subsistence farmers but prosperous 'barley barons'. Some called for a repatriation of agricultural policy, to enable individual countries to set their own priorities - a move that would strike at the heart of the Commission's doctrine of centralisation. Cutting across these multifarious questions, the WTO was certain to make liberalisation of farm produce a central feature of the next global trade negotiating round.

Amid this catalogue of difficulties and shortcomings, it is fair to say that some of the original Treaty objectives have been achieved. Productivity has increased, with agricultural employment falling since 1958 from 20% of total Community-wide employment to an estimated 5%. Farmers' incomes have risen and Europe is self-sufficient in temperate foodstuffs. It is the cost that has been inordinate, not only to taxpayers, consumers and the developing countries, but also to the moral standing of an EU which ought to be more sceptical of bureaucratic interference and less tolerant of corruption and waste.

Common commercial policy

A term used to denote the Community's trade policy, which under the 1957 Treaty of Rome is required to be uniform for all the member states. The defining characteristic is the customs union, under which from 1958 onwards internal tariffs were progressively eliminated and external barriers harmonised. The customs union was completed in 1968, increasing internal trade, albeit to some extent at the expense of external trade (a phenomenon known as 'trade diversion'). Many non-tariff barriers to internal trade remained, and indeed still do remain, despite the Single European Act of 1986 and the 'completion' of the single market in 1992.

As an intrinsic part of the common commercial policy, the member states have ceded to the EC their right to negotiate on external trade. This the Commission, under guidelines from the Council, negotiates on their behalf with the WTO. The Commission also negotiates special trading arrangements such as the Lomé Convention, which ensures equal treatment for 71 former dependent territories of EU countries; various Association Agreements have a similar standardising effect on trade relations with other states. There remain, however, certain non-tariff barriers which are not uniformly applied, including French and Italian 'voluntary' quotas for Japanese car imports, which have been approved by the competition commissioner as a transitional measure. Although not quite liberal enough for dedicated free traders, the Community has certainly played a significant part in the global reduction in trade barriers since World War II. (See also World Trade Organisation.)

Common currency

A common currency differs from a single currency by operating alongside national currencies, not in substitution for them. In 1990 British prime minister John Major proposed abandoning EMU in favour of the creation of a strong European common currency, the 'hard écu'. If enough people used it, the plan was that it might come to replace domestic currencies by a process of natural evolution, much as the dollar has replaced various local currencies throughout the world. The hard écu was rejected by the other EU member states as insufficiently integrationist. Ironically, the euro will have considerable opportunity to compete with the pound as long as the UK stays outside EMU. It will thus be not unlike a common currency within the UK, although it will serve as a single currency elsewhere in Europe.

Common External Tariff (CET)

As a customs union, the Community has no internal tariffs but a uniform external tariff, which is one of the sources of revenue for its budget. Following the 1994 Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, the weighted average Community external tariff has fallen to some 3% and is expected to decline further with the continuing liberalisation of world trade.

Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The saga of the CFP is an unhappy episode in the EU's history, and particularly in its relations with the UK. In the late 1960s Britain, Norway, Ireland and Denmark were negotiating entry into the Common Market. The four countries were rich in fish, which the existing members of the Community ('the Six') coveted. Having no legal justification for their ambitions the Six hastily created the CFP, under which all member states would have equal access to Community fishing grounds, which would become a 'common resource'. Anxious to secure the prize of membership of the Community, the British prime minister, Edward Heath, gave way. Despite assuring the public that the CFP was unacceptable, the government contented itself with a ten-year 'derogation', an interim arrangement which temporarily protected coastal fishing. The UK signed its Treaty of Accession in 1972. The same year, Norway voted against joining the Community, partly because of its rejection of the CFP.

The UK's derogation, which was also accorded to the other applicant countries, allowed an exclusion zone of six (in some places twelve) miles. In 1976 the British government passed an Act of Parliament raising its limits to 200 miles. The Act accorded with international law and practice, but when tested in the courts it proved subordinate to Community law, which gave the EC itself the right to a 200-mile limit (a right which it exercised in 1977) but did not recognise exclusivity as between individual member state fleets outside the coastal zone. Meanwhile, Canada, Iceland and Norway had also extended their limits to 200 miles, barring Community vessels from many of their habitual fishing grounds and driving them into other waters.

At the end of 1982 the derogations expired. Revised arrangements were proposed for a further 20-year period, granting the UK access to just over one-third of the Community's fish, compared with its contribution of some two-thirds of the Community's total resources. In January 1983 a Danish skipper was fined for operating inside the UK's 12-mile limit. The European Court overruled his conviction on the grounds that at the time no derogation had been in force and he had therefore been entitled to equal access. This judgment exposed the weakness of the UK's negotiating position: the alternative to losing half of its natural fishing rights was to lose them all. For Ireland, too, the message was clear.

In 1986 Spain and Portugal joined the EC, bringing with them limited fish resources but adding two-thirds to the Community's combined fleets. To reduce disruption and over-fishing, the EC entered into fishing agreements with some 30 maritime countries and put in place interim arrangements for national quotas and fleet reduction; meanwhile, the new member states' full integration into the CFP would be delayed for 16 years. Spanish owners responded by flying under the British flag, or 'quota-hopping', a practice banned by a 1988 Act of Parliament but reinstated when the European Court again overruled the English courts.

In 1994 Spain and Portugal gained accelerated integration into the CFP by threatening otherwise to veto the enlargement of the EU by the accession of four additional member states (ironically, a referendum in Norway, one of the successful applicants, rejected membership for the second time, after a campaign which again featured the need to protect the Norwegian fishing industry). There followed a bitter dispute and an uneasy compromise over Spain's access to Irish and British waters in the Irish Sea. As surplus capacity was forcibly scrapped and their coastal village communities declined, British fishermen were so dismayed that they even failed to take advantage of the modest EU funds available for decommissioning and modernisation. Their worst suspicions seemed to them confirmed by Canadian allegations of illegal Spanish fishing in the North Atlantic.

The new CFP regime introduced in 1983 was built on the concept of balanced conservation and exploitation through 'Total Allowable Catches' (TACs) - supposedly scientifically designed quotas on a species-by-species basis. These TACs are then divided between member states in acrimonious annual bargaining rounds and are enforced by national supervision and by specified mesh sizes to allow young fish to escape. Amid a welter of mutual accusations it was hard to establish the truth, but Spanish compliance was said to have been lax, resulting in indiscriminate fishing and heavy dumping of unwanted by-catches. The resultant grave environmental damage and depletion of stocks undermined the EU's argument that 'European-level action' would inevitably be more effective than national controls. Nor could it be said that the CFP had done anything to ease the divisiveness of rivalries between fleets. If anything, the reverse was the case.

When the current CFP derogations expire in 2002, the Mediterranean states command enough votes to block any renegotiation which goes against their interests. Moreover, the next stage of the CFP, embodied in the 1995 Accession Treaties of Austria, Finland and Sweden, already envisages the Commission controlling all aspects of Community fishing via permits. A campaign to withdraw from the CFP has attracted considerable popular sympathy in the UK but would put at risk British membership of the EU, since it would mean reneging on fundamental Treaty obligations - a step that no British government would contemplate.

The verdict on the CFP, therefore, is that it has evolved into a complex and incoherent system which deters Norway and Iceland from joining the EU, has failed to achieve conservation and is particularly disadvantageous to the UK. Nevertheless, the problems are real. Fish are too mobile to be easily classified as a national resource; and consumer demand has begun consistently to outstrip supply. Controls at sea are notoriously difficult to police. Add to these problems the bureaucratic centralist ambitions of the Commission and a multitude of conflicting national interests, and it is clear that in the medium term no equitable solution is likely to be found. (See also Factortame.)

Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

One of the two intergovernmental pillars of the EU created by the Maastricht Treaty, the Common Foreign and Security Policy is the successor to the previous system known as 'European Political Co-operation'.

For 25 years before Maastricht, Community circles had discussed the idea of co-ordinating foreign policy, a subject not mentioned in the Treaty of Rome. Following two reports in the early 1970s by a Belgian diplomat, Etienne Davignon (later a prominent commissioner), regular meetings and exchanges of information were set up, but nothing of enduring value resulted. The obstacles were forbidding. Not all the member states were signatories to NATO, whereas other European countries were in NATO but not in the Community. There were historical differences in national interests and geopolitical orientation. The neutrality of several countries was a problem, as was West Germany's Ostpolitik in the 1970s and 1980s. Among European countries only France and the UK possessed the nuclear deterrent and an independent seat on the UN Security Council. Denmark refused to recognise the Community's competence in matters such as defence, which lay outside the scope of the Treaty of Rome. Greece had its own agenda. In reality, therefore, Declarations and expressions of the Community's determination to 'assert itself on the international stage' amounted over the years to little but words, the only common actions being the occasional joint imposition of economic sanctions against errant third countries. Authentic strategic defence was left to the Atlantic Alliance.

The collapse of communism in East Europe, by removing the most serious immediate military threat, gave Europeanists the excuse to adopt a more chauvinistic foreign policy stance and to downgrade their reliance on NATO. It was safer now to sketch out an independent 'European Security and Defence Identity'. These aspirations were crystallised in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which stated that the CFSP covers 'all questions related to the security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence'. The Treaty went on to identify the WEU as the EU's future defence arm, a hitherto ineffective body that was soon to acquire a bewildering variety of classes of member - five EU states (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Sweden) would be 'observers'; three countries that are members of NATO but not of the EU (Iceland, Norway and Turkey) would be 'associates'; and a number of East European states would be 'associate partners'.

We do not interfere in American affairs. We hope they will have enough respect not to interfere in ours. Commission President Jacques Delors at the outset of the Balkans crisis

The Amsterdam Treaty built on the Maastricht proposals. It gave the Commission a greater say in policy formation. It raised the prospect of integrating the WEU into the EU. It cut down the role of the nation states. Under a new doctrine of 'constructive abstention' by dissenters, 'joint action' in the CFSP domain would no longer require unanimity among the member states ('implementation' of agreed policies was already in the Community fold, being subject to qualified majority voting). In 1999, the EU's complex committee arrangements were to make decision-making very difficult during the Kosovo crisis. In a proper military emergency they would certainly come unglued: but that was not the point - their true purpose was to advance the federal agenda.

How much substance has been given to the CFSP by the two Treaties is debatable. Europe is as reliant as ever on NATO for intelligence, logistics and the projection of power at long range, despite the formation of the 60,000-strong Eurocorps in the mid-1990s. A proposal that European forces assigned to the WEU should also be assignable to NATO ('double-hatting') was a grudging recognition of military realities. The critical issue, however, was whether the WEU was ultimately intended to be a burden-sharing arrangement inside the NATO framework, as Washington wanted, or a rival Community organisation, as Paris seemed to suggest. The risk of expensive confusion and duplication of effort was self-evident. As long as the UK was unequivocally committed to the Atlantic Alliance there was little cause for concern. Late in 1999, however, Prime Minister Tony Blair (perhaps to compensate for not having adopted the euro) agreed to contribute some British facilities to the Eurocorps and made a joint declaration with France referring to 'autonomous' European forces. Clarificatory statements were rushed out, but the seeds of doubt had been sown.

US alarm about the new ambiguity of its European relationships reflected its suspicion that EU member states wanted the benefit of NATO fire power without having either to accept American military or diplomatic leadership or to pay the cost of developing a comparable capacity for themselves (European defence budgets were being regularly cut). This would be a recipe for American disenchantment, perhaps even isolationism. As a compromise the concept had recently been put forward of Combined Joint Task Forces, whereby the USA would put its NATO material and logistics at the disposal of the WEU, if an operation was mounted in which the Alliance as a whole was not engaged. This plan, however, was fraught with weaknesses. Historically the USA had shared intelligence only with the UK. It was questionable, too, how Washington would react if the Europeans pursued a policy with which it actively disagreed. Nor, of course, would these moves in themselves contribute anything towards unity of purpose. Deep internal divisions among the EU member states had surfaced during the 1991 Gulf War and repeatedly throughout the 1990s in the successive Yugoslav crises. Indeed, it often seemed that the sole distinguishing characteristic of a 'European' foreign policy was the desire of certain Francophone and Latin élites to distance themselves from Washington.

Europe can only speak with one voice when it has nothing to say. Jean-Pierre Chevènement, French interior minister

In the last analysis, the logical conclusion of the CFSP would be that both France's and the UK's nuclear deterrent would be placed in the hands of the WEU and that their permanent seats on the Security Council would be merged into a single seat for a united Europe. This, however, would require a communautaire spirit beyond that which either country has shown. Despite withdrawing from the integrated military command of NATO in 1966, in protest against American domination, and despite its advocacy of a Europe-centred defence strategy, France appears determined to maintain an independent nuclear capability. As for the UK, for all the gesture politics of a Labour government anxious to prove its European credentials, it remained the case that in every real crisis - whether over Iraqi or Serb or Libyan aggression - British forces have stood shoulder to shoulder with those of the USA in NATO solidarity.

In the EU's Treaties, the CFSP is still a matter for individual governments. But the encroachment of the Community is plain to see. The appointment of a 'High Representative' for foreign affairs (the former Secretary-General of NATO, Javier Solana), the growing involvement of the Commission and the frequent use of the language of statehood signify a challenge to national sovereignties. It is of the nature of foreign and security policy that for most of the time it appears to the electorate unimportant compared with domestic issues; but on the rare occasions when it matters to ordinary citizens it engenders powerful emotions, the more so when lives are put at risk. The European Parliament is not capable of serving as a safety valve for feelings of the sort occasioned by war or by a threat to the vital interests of a nation. Thus the absence of either a credible communal democracy or shared historical memories poses a fundamental question mark over the rationale of a collective defence policy in the complex world which faces the next generation. (See also European Security and Defence Identity, NATO and WEU.)

The Common Market

For many years the generally used term for the European Economic Community, later re-named the European Community. The term originally denoted the customs union envisaged in the 1957 Treaty of Rome. It is sometimes still used loosely (especially by those who close their eyes to the reality of political integration) to refer to the single market, now that the wider political, social and economic set of policies and institutions has become known as the European Union.

Common position (1)

The provisional position agreed by the Council of Ministers after the first reading stage of legislation, that is, after taking account of any amendments proposed or opinions offered by the European Parliament.

Common position (2)

An agreed common stance of member states in foreign affairs or security policy. Once such a position is reached, generally by unanimity, any resultant action may be governed by qualified majority voting.

Common transport policy

The Treaty of Rome envisages a common transport policy, but not in language specific enough to presuppose any particular course of action. In 1982 the European Parliament brought proceedings against the Council of Ministers for failure to carry out its Treaty obligations in the transport area. The Court of Justice delivered a split ruling: it supported the Parliament in limited respects, based on general principles, but it held that the common transport policy itself was too vague to be relied on in a court of law.

There followed a variety of Commission initiatives - on road safety, on frontier documents, on commercial lorries, on rail links, on infrastructure (trans-European networks), on safety at sea, on liberalisation of air fares, on state airline monopolies, and so forth. Each of these, however, could be dealt with as single market legislation or under EU competition policy, and although many aspects of transport are well suited to supranational governance (air traffic control in Europe, for example, is notoriously chaotic), it remains the case that a comprehensive common transport policy is unlikely to take shape unless the EU becomes a fully federal entity.

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Formed by Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia in 1991, the CIS is a group of 12 sovereign states that were formerly republics of the USSR. The highest of its co-ordinating bodies is the Council of Heads of State, followed by the Council of Heads of Government. The charter of the CIS obliges members to respect existing borders, reject the use of force for the settlement of disputes, fulfil the former USSR's treaty obligations and accept unified control of nuclear weapons. There are also arrangements for economic co-operation. These were seriously damaged with the collapse of the rouble zone in 1993 and the introduction of national currencies, followed by various failed attempts at creating a common market. At present Belarus, Tajikistan and Russia are in a new rouble zone, while Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Russia have signed a common market treaty.

The eleven smaller states are even more poverty-stricken than Russia. Many have been edging back towards closer integration with Russia, some to protect themselves against local Islamic militance, some out of disenchantment with the consequences of independence: a common motive is the need to secure access to Russian oil and gas. The exception is Georgia, which has opposed Russia's war with its neighbour Chechnya and is forging links with Turkey.


In the spirit of the Community, that is, integrationist. In the corridors of Brussels, communautaire denotes the ultimate in politically desirable attitudes.


The act of transferring a policy area from the control of the member states to that of the Community's institutions. There is no word for a transfer of powers in the opposite direction, an eventuality prohibited by the doctrine of the acquis communautaire.

The Community

See European Community.

Community law

The starting point for Community law was the 1951 Treaty of Paris, which established the European Coal and Steel Community. The 1957 Treaty of Rome extended its scope and in the Van Gend en Loos case in 1963 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled '... the Community constitutes a new legal order ... for the benefit of which the States have limited their sovereign rights ...' Unlike international law, Community law goes beyond agreement between states and has a direct impact on citizens and businesses throughout the EU. Where it conflicts with national laws it claims superiority, based on the Treaties of Accession, in which each signatory state acknowledges the subordination of its own law.

Community law advances in three ways: by new Treaties, which add to or amend the Treaty of Rome, notably the 1986 Single European Act, the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam; by the issuance of Regulations, Decisions and Directives, at the instigation of the Commission or the Council of Ministers; and by case law created by the ECJ, building on the Preambles or principles enunciated in Treaties or at summit meetings. As Community law expands, its clashes with national law grow more frequent; and since the ECJ is Treaty-bound to support an integrated Europe, the Court's decisions generally go against individual countries.

No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses. Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls, 1991

A Regulation counts as domestic law without need for further action, being, in the words of the Treaty of Rome, 'binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States'. In theory based on specific Treaty Articles but in practice often reliant on general principles, Regulations are the main instruments of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies. Decisions are similar but more narrowly focused, being binding only on 'those to whom they are addressed'. Directives are binding in terms of the result, leaving the form to the individual country. Normally, national legislation has to be passed for a Directive to become effective, but in the Francovich v. Italy case the ECJ gave a citizen the right to damages where a member state had failed to transpose a Directive into domestic law.

In addition to these formal instruments, there is a grey area of Opinions, Resolutions and Declarations, which, like the Treaty Preambles, are often mistakenly dismissed as mere rhetoric. Although not enforceable, these create a framework, paving the way for future legislation and guiding the courts on the underlying purpose of Community law. As such, they are a reminder of the difference between English law, which is based on the literal meaning of the text, and Community law, which serves a grand design.

The secrecy of the European law-making process is protected in several ways. The ECJ does not publish dissenting judgments. The Council of Ministers meets privately, rarely issuing minutes of its deliberations. The Commission's unaccountability, to be expected in a bureaucracy, sits less happily with that body's executive and legislative powers (including the unique right of initiative to propose new legislation). Lacking the checks and balances of the US constitution, the Commission and the ECJ in tandem draft, interpret and enforce the law with a remarkable lack of transparency considering the democratic nature of the EU's membership.

The Treaties obtain their legal effect through enabling legislation; for example, in the UK's case, the European Communities Act of 1972 enacted British accession to the EEC and validated the operation of Community law in the UK. The 1972 Act was obliquely worded with regard to the treatment of conflicts. It was clear that Community law would be superior to pre-existing English law and to subordinate regulations, such as Orders in Council. It was less clear whether a subsequent Act of Parliament would be overridden by the 1972 Act, since it is a fundamental constitutional doctrine that no Parliament can bind its successors. This doctrine would be in jeopardy if Parliament was to be bound permanently by the 1972 Act, unable either to revoke it or to enact any law which conflicted with it.

The best view is that Parliament does still retain its ultimate supremacy, in that it could repeal or supersede the 1972 Act if it did so with that intent; but in the absence of an express provision, Community law will continue to prevail over any Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, given the UK's unwritten constitution and the traditional reliance of its courts on precedent, the anxiety has been expressed that, if ECJ rulings continue to expand unchallenged, the doctrine might gain ground with the passage of time that the sovereign power of Parliament had been surrendered.

In countries with written constitutions the original draftsmen rarely envisaged a progressive ceding of sovereignty. Thus the situation of Continental countries is little clearer than that of the UK. Each country has its own way of resolving conflicts between Community law and the national constitution. In France, for example, there is a constitutional committee, while Germany has a constitutional court. Scandinavian countries more often resort to referendums. The Treaty of Amsterdam marked the first specific assertion of the supremacy of Community law over the constitutions of member states, but the effectiveness of this assertion, which has received little attention, remains to be tested.

'Community method'

The principle that the EU should formulate guidelines, 'be associated' or instigate common action in areas where the initiative was formerly reserved to the member states, such as foreign and security policy and judicial co-operation. The 'Community method' is often regarded as a first step towards full 'communitisation'.

Community preference

Community preference denotes the CAP regime of import tariffs and export refunds designed to advantage Community agricultural produce as compared with produce from elsewhere. The system is a negation of the principles of trade liberalisation (including those of the Treaty of Rome) and is a cause of dismay in Eastern Europe and in other impoverished countries which rely on farming but are faced with import levies on their trade with the EU. For the UK, the switch from Commonwealth preference to Community preference on joining the Common Market was a painful and costly experience.

Community trade marks

Since 1994 trade marks throughout the European Economic Area can be protected by registration with the Office for Harmonisation in Alicante, Spain.


The right to decide or legislate in a given field of activity. A competence is described as either exclusive or shared, depending on whether the Community has the sole authority to act or whether member states also have some jurisdiction. Under the Treaty of Rome, the European Court of Justice ultimately determines where a competence lies; the Court is entitled to rule in its own favour when the supremacy of Community law over national law is in dispute. External negotiations fall within the competence of the Community, rather than that of individual member states, if the Court decides that the issue in question would have been a matter for the Community had it been internal to the EU. This is called the doctrine of 'implied competence'.

Competition and merger policy

Any anti-trust policy has inherent contradictions, and that of the EU is no exception. The 1957 Treaty of Rome, which is the foundation stone for EU competition policy, prohibits price-fixing, market-sharing, discriminatory agreements and abuse of dominant position, with the aim of promoting free trade; but it is a sufficient defence to prove public benefit. Thus state aid, theoretically forbidden as a distortion of markets, is often justified by elastic interpretation of clauses in the Treaty permitting aid for restructuring, regional problems and development. The clearest example of systematic anti-competitive activities is the Common Agricultural Policy, which is exempted by the Treaty from the general ban on restrictive practices, on the grounds that it aims to ensure rural prosperity and stability of food supply.

The Commission, subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of the Court of Justice, is responsible for the execution of competition policy. It has draconian powers, deriving from a Regulation of the Council of Ministers, which supersedes national law. It can enter premises without warning, seize documents, terminate agreements and fine an offender up to 10% of its annual turnover. In practice, many cases of suspected restraint of trade are settled by negotiation under threat of sanction; others are pre-cleared or exempted.

The progressive integration of the EU, allied to the advent of the single market and the determination of recent commissioners, particularly Leon Brittan and Karel Van Miert, has led to an increasingly activist prosecution of competition policy. Since 1990 the Commission has also had specific authority to block or approve substantial mergers, provided that at least 6250 million of the turnover of the companies concerned is generated in more than one member state. The assumption of this power was a sensitive matter, although some companies have found that the Commission's remit - to judge amalgamations on competition grounds - has provided at least as much predictability as the politicised decisions often made by national monopoly-policing authorities.

The Commission growingly asserts extra-territorial jurisdiction. Restrictive practices within the EU on the part of subsidiaries of non-EU companies fall incontestably within the Commission's ambit, but alliances between European companies and, for example, US companies (such as between British Airways and American Airlines) would once have been considered the province of the relevant national regulators. A particularly controversial Commission action was its ruling in 1997 that the amalgamation of two US companies, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, could not go through unless they rescinded 20-year exclusive supply contracts with three US airlines to which Airbus had ambitions to sell aircraft. Doubtless an element in the Commission's decision to intervene was resentment at the extra-territorial activity of US regulators. The Commission's policy adds complexity to the regulatory hurdles which any sizeable merger now faces.

The Commission's attempts to curb state aid have often been frustrated by chauvinism, notably its failure in 1998 to block France's massive cash injection into Air France. Nevertheless, it has had its share of successes, backed by the Court of Justice. Among its best-known cases have been those of Renault and Crédit Lyonnais; and it has also taken on German state aid to Volkswagen and the Bremer Vulkan shipyards, an attempted Belgian government bail-out of a steelworks and British restructuring subsidies to Rover's Longbridge car plant. In 1997 the Commission embarked on a campaign to dismantle European telephone monopolies. These activities have incurred the displeasure of governments, which take an elevated view of their own motivation and are sensitive to any move which might affect employment. On the other hand, the Commission is criticised by liberal economists for allowing too many subsidies, nor has it yet made significant inroads into opening financial services to free competition.

A new avenue for intervention currently proposed by the Commission concerns fairness of treatment of shareholders in takeover bids. Avowedly basing itself on the successful London Takeover Code, the Commission would like to introduce a Directive to enforce similar provisions by law. This proposal would offer the shareholder less protection than is afforded by the Code; but by substituting the law for the voluntary nature of the UK system, it would stifle flexibility and open the way to delaying tactics, thereby helping to entrench management and frustrate bids. The outcome of the proposal, which is being opposed by the UK, remains uncertain.


As a result of the European Parliament's requests, the Commission publishes an annual statistical table of individual states' application of EU Directives. In its 1997 report the Commission noted that it was increasingly difficult to monitor compliance and commended the value of individual citizens' 'vigilance' in reporting cases of failure to implement Community legislation. Non-compliance in fact comes in three forms - refusal to enact; refusal to comply; and refusal to enforce. On most counts France was reckoned to be the EU's least obedient country at the end of the 20th century, followed by Italy and Germany. (See also Directive.)

Compulsory expenditure

Compulsory expenditure is the term for that part of the EU budget (mainly CAP expenditure) which arises directly from the fulfilment of Community obligations. The European Parliament has little say in this category of spending, which is decided by the Council of Ministers. The Parliament can, however, amend the non-compulsory section of the budget within strict financial limits, subject, in case of disagreement, to conciliation with the Council. From time to time Parliament and the Council argue over the classification of items, which is not clearly defined.

Concentric circles

The metaphor of concentric circles is designed both to explain and to persuade. The idea is of a galaxy. The central core consists of model EU states, surrounded by less communautaire members such as the UK and Denmark; Norway and Switzerland are more distant planets in a third circle; and aspiring candidates with Association Agreements are in a still more remote fourth circle. In the farthest outer ring are temporarily rejected applicants such as Turkey and Bulgaria, while the fringes of space are occupied by countries in the Russian orbit, which have European connections but no prospect of membership of the Union. The implied message is of an irresistible centripetal pull towards the core.

There is considerable disagreement about whether it is proper for the EU's institutions to be fully involved in activities undertaken by the inner core alone, or whether the Community's machinery should be reserved for policies common to the entire membership of the Union. This seemingly arcane debate has much importance for the future of the EU. (See also Variable geometry.)

Conciliation procedure

Since 1975 budget disagreements between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have been resolved (in cases where the Council cannot decide unilaterally) in a 'conciliation committee' consisting of an equal number of representatives of each body. As the powers of the Parliament have grown, the scope of this procedure has expanded to embrace the resolution also of legislative disputes. (For a fuller description of the process, see Co-decision.)

Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE)


Congress of Europe

Modelled on the 1815 Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic wars, the Congress of Europe was held in The Hague in May 1948 and attended by 800 eminent political, professional and academic figures under the presidency of Winston Churchill (it was, however, boycotted by the then Labour government of the UK). The Congress led to the foundation of the European Movement and the Council of Europe and indirectly to the European Convention on Human Rights. But despite its 'Message to Europeans', calling for a united Europe with its own Assembly, Court of Justice and freedom of movement, ideas and goods, the Congress did not develop concrete ideas for reconstruction or integration and is remembered as a romantic event rather than as the foundation of the EU.

Constituent assembly

The European Parliament has often seen itself (most notably in the heyday of Altiero Spinelli) as a 'constituent assembly', that is, an elected body tasked with designing a constitution for Europe. This has not found favour with national governments.

Constitution of the European Union

The EU is not a legal entity and has no formal constitution, but as it has come increasingly to resemble a federal state, its Treaties, which perform a comparable function, have grown in size and complexity. Its structure revolves essentially round two texts:

The Treaty of Rome, now styled the Treaty establishing the European Community, governs inter alia the single market, the CAP, EMU, social policy and the supranational institutions of the Community. The intergovernmental Titles of the Maastricht Treaty cover the Common Foreign and Security Policy, some aspects of Justice and Home Affairs and the flexibility ('closer co-operation') provisions which permit some limited exceptions to the principle that all member states must be equally bound by the Treaties. The whole (including the 1951 Treaty of Paris constituting the ECSC and the 1957 Euratom Treaty - both now of historical interest only) is consolidated into the Treaty on European Union, which, confusingly, is also the formal name of the Maastricht Treaty.

The member states accept the acquis communautaire and the supremacy of Community law through their individual Treaties of Accession. There are, however, proposals to replace this entire treaty-based system by a new European constitution. Doubtless such a change would give rise to bitter controversy.


The process of formalising the EU's relationship with national governments by means of a constitution. The main elements in the new structure would be some version of the following: the conversion of the Commission into a government answerable to the European Parliament ('parliamentarisation'); the creation of Europe-wide political parties; the universal application of qualified majority voting in the Council, which would become a senate representing nations or districts; the abolition of national rights to appoint commissioners; the harmonisation of laws and judicial systems (including the establishment of Europol as a 'European FBI'); and the subordination of existing sovereign powers to a new EU Charter, under the aegis of the Court of Justice. In 2000 these ideas, many of which had been canvassed in Europe since the time of Altiero Spinelli, were current in the Parliament, the EU's traditional ideological front-runner, as well as in Germany. The pretext for advancing them more actively was the fear of a loosening of the EU's institutional structure as a result of the Community's Eastward enlargement. (See also Subsidiarity and 'Treaty of Nice'.)

'Constructive abstention'

A procedure whereby individual member states (for example, neutrals) may indicate dissent from an EU foreign policy or security initiative without vetoing it. This mechanism was introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam: previously unanimity had been required. The intent was to ease the insertion of the EU into the field of defence and foreign affairs, which hitherto had been the sole prerogative of the member states. The shortcomings of the device (and of other forms of committee and coalition decision-making) in a live crisis are too obvious to need stating. (See Common Foreign and Security Policy.)

Constructive ambiguity

Deliberately equivocal language used to paper over differences or, more commonly, to obscure integrationist intentions.


By far the biggest contributor to the EU budget is Germany, a feature long seen as a just reflection of that country's wealth and its wartime debt to society. The second largest net contributor has generally been the UK, although from the start of its membership it was by no means the second richest state. This led to Margaret Thatcher's notorious five-year confrontation with the Community, culminating in 1984 with the British rebate.

The Commission, which alone is in full possession of all the detailed figures, is reticent about member countries' receipts and contributions, arguing that the figures are unrepresentative and that the unquantifiable economic benefits of membership of the EU are so great that it is unhealthy to focus on actual numbers. In its defence, the Commission makes some valid points. Such estimates as are available take no account of multiplier effects, are far from homogeneous (for example, outright subsidies are not comparable with loans) and are flawed by unallocated expenditure, agricultural price fluctuations and other distortions (thus levies or rebates on imports or exports at Rotterdam are treated as if they formed part of the Dutch balance). It is, nevertheless, clear that over the years the main beneficiaries have been Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Portugal and Spain, with France paying less than its prosperity would suggest and Austria, The Netherlands and Sweden joining Germany and the UK as the main paymasters.

The impending enlargement of the EU, with the accession of impoverished countries from the former Soviet bloc, will add to the demands on the budget. Germany already makes vast internal transfers to the eastern Länder it acquired on reunification, and in 1997 it signalled for the first time that it considered it was paying too much to Brussels. This move, which caused consternation among its partners, was promptly echoed by The Netherlands and presages battles ahead. (See also Agenda 2000.)


A convention is an international treaty, often covering a quasi-ethical area such as environmental protection, asylum, human rights and so forth. To be valid in international law a convention has to be ratified by the signatory countries: to be enforceable it has to be enacted into domestic or Community law. The EU likes to be a party to international conventions, so as to extend its area of 'competence' and bolster its pretensions to statehood and legal personality. The EU also promotes European conventions for implementation within the Community. Typically, these enter into force for the signatories if adopted by at least half the member states.

Convergence criteria (1)

Before joining the single currency, member states, according to the Maastricht Treaty, were supposed to achieve a 'high degree of sustainable economic convergence'. This entailed meeting four tests - the so-called 'convergence criteria':

  • Average inflation within 1.5% of that of the three best performing member states
  • Elimination of excessive public sector debt, that is,
    • budget deficit should be under 3% of GDP
    • government debt should be under 60% of GDP
  • Low exchange-rate variability (and no devaluation) against the other currencies in the Exchange Rate Mechanism
  • Long-term interest rates within 2 percentage points of the average for the three best performing member states.

The criteria were criticised for omitting real economy yardsticks such as employment, productivity trends and unfunded pension liabilities. Some of the tests were also open to interpretation. Throughout 1997 the debate swung back and forth as different countries altered their budget forecasts, struggling to qualify. Germany initially took the position that the criteria (especially the 3% deficit ceiling) should be construed strictly and made permanent. Some, however, notably Italy and Belgium, could not come near to meeting the test relating to the amount of government debt, and relied on a clause permitting 'progress' towards an acceptable level to be treated as equivalent to compliance. In 1998, after a year's hard lobbying, both countries were admitted, the final decision being taken by heads of government under qualified majority voting.

In evaluating the suitability of the applicants, the European Council relied on data supplied by Eurostat and on evidence from numerous sources, including Ecofin, the Commission and central banks. The non-political witnesses for the most part expressed a jaundiced view of the measures taken by governments to manipulate budgets. Italy was alleged to have fallen short in several respects, chiefly by deferring liabilities and taking credit for a one-off tax. Belgium was accused of shuffling assets on and off balance sheet over the year-end, and France of assuming France Telecom's pension liabilities in return for an immediate cash payment. Even Germany had massaged its figures, having attempted in 1997 to accrue a special dividend from a revaluation of gold reserves, before the Bundesbank's frown induced a hasty retreat. The exposure of these exercises in creative accounting, however, weighed little against political considerations, and once the Commission had accepted nearly all the applicant states' numbers at face value it became clear that the only country that would be rejected was Greece. Denmark, Sweden and the UK would certainly have been welcomed had they chosen to apply.

To ensure sustained fiscal discipline after the launch of the euro, the Maastricht Treaty tests for excessive deficit and excessive debt were incorporated into a formal 'Stability and Growth Pact', backed by sanctions for non-compliant eurozone countries (but not for countries with opt-outs). (See also EMU and Stability and Growth Pact.)

Convergence criteria (2)

The British government has set out its own five convergence tests to be met before the UK enters EMU:

  • Compatibility of business cycles and economic structures
  • Sufficient flexibility to meet any problems
  • Better conditions for capital investment in the UK
  • Positive impact on the City
  • Promotion of growth, stability and jobs.

A sixth test is political: that the electorate should have approved abolishing the pound in a referendum.

A Treasury assessment in 1997 concluded that without sustainable convergence with Continental economies EMU (even if otherwise successful) would do the UK more harm than good, but that EMU has the potential to enhance growth and employment. In the Treasury's view, convergence did not at present exist. A curious omission both in the criteria and in the Treasury paper was that no mention was made of the risk of exchanging the pound for the euro at an uncompetitive rate - a flaw that had helped to undermine the UK's brief participation in the ERM in 1992. Discerning commentators have also noted that of the five criteria few are capable of objective measurement.

Co-operation Agreement

An aid-and-trade agreement between the EU and a less developed country, often nowadays containing human rights conditions, to the irritation of the recipient government.

Co-operation procedure

Introduced by the 1986 Single European Act, the co-operation procedure allows the European Parliament to be consulted twice before legislation is enacted - first at the draft stage, and second after the Council has considered the Parliament's Opinion and produced a 'common position'. If the Parliament rejects the revised proposal, the Council needs to be unanimous to proceed. If the Parliament adopts an amendment, the Commission becomes involved again and the need for unanimity in the Council lapses if (but only if) it accepts the resultant new Commission draft. The co-operation procedure has now been almost entirely replaced by the co-decision procedure, which differs chiefly in cutting down the role of the Commission and allowing Parliament the ultimate weapon of veto. (See also Co-decision.)


See Permanent representatives.

Corpus Juris

Consciously echoing the great sixth century compilation of Roman law under the Emperor Justinian, Corpus Juris is a project to create an éspace judiciaire européen, or 'European legal area', in the field of criminal justice. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty designated certain judicial fields as 'matters of common interest', requiring co-operation between member states. In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam escalated 'common interest' to 'common action' which would necessitate some 'approximation of rules'. The same year, a closed conference, sponsored by the Commission and attended by the president of the European Parliament, received a text drafted by EU legal experts, Corpus Juris, in which these aspirations were put into the form of concrete proposals. The experts' paper envisaged a Brussels-based public prosecutor, or 'investigating judge', with EU-wide powers of arrest, deportation, detention (without a hearing) for up to nine months and finally committal to trial. The protection for the accused would be a 'judge of freedoms', who would be obliged to check that the arrest warrant was 'lawful', but not to examine whether there was prima facie evidence of guilt. National authorities would be subordinate to the public prosecutor and would be under a duty to assist him.

These proposals largely reflected current practices under the Continental justice system, but their impact in the UK would be disturbing. Trial by jury (established by Magna Carta in 1215) would be replaced by trial before judges: habeas corpus (a safeguard enacted in 1679) would effectively be abolished. Corpus Juris has not been formally put to the Council of Ministers, and is portrayed in the first instance as a means to combat EU cross-border fraud. But the Treaty of Amsterdam paves the way to broader applications by invoking the prevention of crime ('organised or otherwise') as a reason for strengthening Europol, the embryonic European FBI. Although doubtless unlikely to survive as originally drafted, Corpus Juris is widely regarded in Brussels as the prototype of a future European criminal code.


See Council of Ministers.

Council of Europe

Despite its name and its seat (like the European Parliament) in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe has no connection with the EU. It should not be confused with the European Council (the summit meetings of the member states of the EU) or the Council of Ministers (the EU's regular ministerial-level decision-making body).

Its membership comprises not only the 15 EU countries but also the EFTA states, various European islands and mini-states, including Malta and Cyprus, and the majority of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe - in all, 41 countries. Apart from Turkey, every member is European (albeit many are Slavonic); indeed, it is Turkey's membership that qualifies it to apply to join the EU.

Founded four years after the end of World War II, the Council of Europe stands for the consensual approach to policy that the Continental powers have rejected. It recommends, rather than ordains. When it reaches agreement, it issues conventions or charters rather than laws or directives - it is up to member governments whether to convert these into legislation. Its lack of a supranational dimension has, however, deprived it of the ability to get things done, and in 1951, only two years after its formation, France, Germany and others began to go their separate federalist way with the Treaty of Paris.

Having long since lost the authority that once made it the natural forum for the expression of Winston Churchill's vision of the future of Europe, the Council now concentrates on such areas as culture, the environment, ethics and law, its best known products being the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the Convention on Data Protection. Its Court of Human Rights, although lacking powers of enforcement, has played a leading role in an area substantially neglected by the EU until the Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam.

Since the end of the Cold War the Council has staged a comeback, serving as a constitutional adviser to emerging democracies and a seal of approval to countries trying to shed a reputation for authoritarian rule. Faced, however, with a choice between maintaining high moral standards or expanding its membership, it has tended to take the soft option. This was highlighted in 1999, when the Council took a soft line with its new member, Russia, in its brutal conflict in Chechnya.

Council of Ministers (Council, or Council of the European Union)

The Council of Ministers (not to be confused with the European Council of heads of government) is in theory the most powerful institution of the EU, being on the one hand the interface between member states and the Community's supranational entities and on the other hand the Union's highest regular decision-making and law-making body. The Council retains its supremacy in policy formation in areas that are regarded under the EU Treaties as matters of 'common interest' between member states - for example, foreign affairs, justice and economic management. But in areas that fall under Community law the Commission is at least as influential, having the advantage of greater continuity as well as executive and legislative powers far exceeding those of a conventional bureaucracy.

The presidency of the Council rotates between the EU's member states, changing every six months. It is composed of ministers (one from each state) appropriate to the subject under discussion, the most important gatherings being Ecofin (for economic issues), the Council of Foreign Ministers and the Council of Agriculture Ministers, each of which meets monthly. The arrangements are flexible enough to allow less frequent meetings of other ministers and occasional cross-departmental Councils. The Council of Foreign Ministers used to be regarded as the senior body, but this status has been largely assumed by Ecofin as integration has proceeded (although since the launch of the single currency in 1999, Ecofin's superiority has itself been challenged by the informal committee of eurozone finance ministers known as 'Euro-X').

The Council's representatives are required by the Treaty of Rome to be 'authorised to commit the government' of their member state. The significance of that provision is that it diminishes the power of national parliaments to exercise control over decisions which affect their interests. Since the Council meets in secret and reaches most of its conclusions by a process of bargaining, it is in practice substantially unaccountable (although Denmark, for example, keeps a tight grip on its representatives).

In respect of the single market and other matters covered by the Treaty of Rome, the Council's decisions are normally subject to qualified majority voting, and although every effort is made to avoid putting contentious issues to a vote, the knowledge that the mechanism exists is generally enough to extract concessions from a country that is in a minority. The Council's Resolutions, Conclusions, Recommendations and Opinions are not legally binding, although it is unwise to disregard them, since they are apt to lead to subsequent legislation and constitute evidence of intent, which shapes the interpretations of the European Court of Justice. As a legislature, the Council issues Regulations, Decisions and Directives, sharing with the Commission responsibility for the several thousand new legal instruments which each year affect European citizens. The European Parliament is consulted about legislative proposals and under the 'co-decision' procedure it can in the last resort veto them in certain areas of policy. More often, the Parliament secures amendments.

Despite the formal primacy of the Council, however, the key to real power is the bureaucracy. The Council is served by three different types of bureaucrats: the permanent representatives, or national delegations, who meet as a committee under the name COREPER to prepare the agenda for Council meetings; the Council's own permanent secretariat (some 2,500 officials in six departments); and the ubiquitous Commission, which has the sole right to initiate Community legislation and rarely misses a meeting at any level. Even if a national delegation has a strong mandate, the pressures of 'Community spirit', the exhaustion of travelling ministers with domestic concerns on their mind, and the unlimited staying power of the Commission usually combine to produce results which are acceptable to Brussels.

Over the years, the Council's powers have evolved along the lines of the Community's own development. In the 1960s, reflecting Charles de Gaulle's battles with Commission president Walter Hallstein, virtually all decisions were taken unanimously to avoid confrontational vetoes. After de Gaulle's retirement, the veto continued for a decade to exert its influence without actually being invoked, but the scope of qualified majority voting was greatly enlarged by the 1986 Single European Act and by common consent the veto could now be used to override a vote only where a vital national interest is at stake.

The 'democratic deficit' arising from the unaccountability of Community institutions and the absence of an effective EU body directly answerable to voters has prompted numerous constitutional suggestions. Some integrationists favour a system whereby the Council would become an upper chamber, leaving the Commission and a Parliament with enhanced powers to divide authority between them. Some in France, and many in the UK, would like national governments to increase their influence through tilting the balance back in favour of the Council. This view gained ground in 1999 with the humiliation of the Commission when it was obliged to resign en bloc for maladministration. Currently the probability is that the Council's position will continue broadly unchanged but that it will have increasingly to share power with the Parliament under the co-decision procedure.

Court of Auditors

Arguably the most admirable and most neglected of Community institutions, the Court of Auditors, based in Luxembourg, is not a court in the accepted sense, having no powers other than to draw attention to financial incompetence and irregularity. Set up in 1977, it replaced the former Audit Board, with the remit of auditing all the EC institutions as well as the official bodies in the member states which receive Community funds. With its staff of some 400, the Court is under-resourced even for its limited statutory function of reconciling accounts and monitoring the legality of underlying transactions, let alone for any wider role of analysing risk controls or investigating value for money. It works largely by sampling and extrapolation, its members (one from each state) serving six-year terms of office.

Even after undergoing the annual procedure of exchanging a watered down text for Commission promises of remedial action, the Court's reports present a devastating year-by-year indictment of neglect and incompetence. The Commission generally blames national governments or downplays the Court's findings, except to the extent that they support the use for legal harmonisation and greater powers of intervention by Brussels. (See also Fraud.)

Court of First Instance

The Court of First Instance was created under the Single European Act as an attachment to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It shares the burden of the ECJ by taking on lesser cases, such as staff disputes, certain actions against the Community and actions relating to competition policy. Appeals against the Court's decisions on points of law may be made to the ECJ.

Court of Human Rights

See European Court of Human Rights.

Court of Justice

See European Court of Justice.

Craxi, Bettino (1934-2000)

The first Socialist Italian premier and the longest serving since World War II (he led his country for four years from 1983-7), Bettino Craxi was best known for his leading part in the Tangentopoli ('Bribesville') corruption scandals, which fatally undermined the public's faith in Italian political standards and led to his flight to Tunisia in 1994 to escape a long jail sentence. In exile, Craxi saw himself as a titan in the Europeanist cause, against which the laundering of party slush funds should be counted as a trivial - not to say necessary - peccadillo. But in reality he was a domestic machine politician. Although his party was in an electoral minority behind the Christian Democrats and the Communists, he manoeuvred cleverly to turn it into a centre-left pivot, a platform from which he attacked inflation by abolishing wage indexation. In foreign affairs he took a pro-NATO line, allowing cruise missiles on Sicilian soil, but he played little part in the EU.

Crédit Lyonnais

A state-owned French bank, encouraged under President François Mitterrand's regime to conquer the financial world. Eventually, after a lending and spending binge, it was rescued in the second half of the 1990s at a cost to French taxpayers estimated at over FFr150 billion ($23 billion) - arguably the largest banking disaster in European history. The Crédit Lyonnais scandal revealed numerous irregularities, epitomised the shortcomings of politically motivated management and brought France into conflict with the Commission, which considered the bail-out terms to be anti-competitive. It was later claimed that the scale of the catastrophe was deliberately understated by the authorities lest the truth undermine EMU and the drive towards European integration.

Crocodile Club

For some years eclipsed by Jean Monnet, Altiero Spinelli assumed the role of spiritual and intellectual leader of the European federalist movement after his rival's death in 1979. In 1980 he founded the Crocodile Club, named after the Strasbourg restaurant where he used to meet with a small group of MEPs. There they plotted to turn the European Parliament into a proper legislature, with responsibility for drafting a European constitution. These ideas, vehemently opposed by Margaret Thatcher, survived in watered down form in the Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.

CSCE (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe)


Customs union

An area with free internal trade but common external tariffs or quotas. In the context of the World Trade Organisation (formerly the GATT), a customs union is a permitted exception, as a regional trading arrangement, to the rules forbidding discrimination. In post-war Europe, Benelux was the first example, followed in 1957 by the European Economic Community, or Common Market, set up to establish a customs union in traded goods between its six member states.

The UK's initial caution about joining the Common Market was largely based on its Commonwealth links, including preferential tariffs and cheap food, and its belief in free trade. These features were incompatible with the protectionist Common Agricultural Policy and the European customs union. In the event, the UK sacrificed Commonwealth preference to join the Community; but the feared high level of trade barriers did not materialise, for over the years industrial tariffs were sharply reduced throughout the developed world.

The persistence of non-tariff distortions, such as subsidies, state monopolies and purchasing discrimination, means that the underlying purpose of the European customs union - to create a perfect internal market - remains uncompleted. Nevertheless, it has formidable achievements to its credit and was largely responsible for the remarkable growth of the Community in the 1960s.


A former British protectorate which gained its independence in 1960 only after an armed struggle, Cyprus is divided between a Greek Cypriot majority, which has often sought union with Greece, and a smaller Turkish minority (around 20% of the population), which has close links to Turkey. Turkish-Greek relations have been hostile for centuries, and in 1974 Turkish forces invaded the northern part of the island, where their compatriots were concentrated. Since then Cyprus has been partitioned. In 1983 the Turkish sector, which constitutes over a third of the island's territory and has attracted considerable immigration, declared itself the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)'. Neither the EU nor the UN, however, recognises the legitimacy of the TRNC.

Since 1973, the year before the invasion, Cyprus has had an Association Agreement with the Community, and in 1990 the Greek Cypriot government applied to join the EU. The Turkish Cypriots supported the idea but rejected the government's right to represent them. The Commission's opinion was favourable from the economic standpoint, but cautious politically. Indeed, it is evident that a heavily militarised and partitioned island would not make a suitable member state.

Nevertheless, there are some grounds for optimism. In 1999 Turkey was itself accepted in principle as a candidate for eventual membership of the EU and its relationship with Greece began to improve. With nearly twice the population of Luxembourg and a GDP per head similar to those of Portugal and Greece, Cyprus is more than a microstate. It would probably qualify for EMU and has made good progress towards creating a customs union with the Community. Thus it is likely that Cyprus will be granted accession to the EU if the constitutional impasse can be resolved peacefully.

Czech Republic

Created with artificial boundaries after World War I, Czechoslovakia was invaded and occupied by Germany in World War II until its 'liberation' by Soviet troops in 1945. In 1948 a communist coup brought the country under the domination of the Soviet Union. Alexander Dubcek's 'Prague Spring' of 1968 was quickly crushed, ending an attempt to introduce 'Socialism with a human face', but the 1989 'Velvet Revolution', in which the Communist Party Central Committee was forced to resign after a massive popular protest, was in the Czech tradition of intellectual independence going back to a 15th century martyr, Jan Hus. It was thus natural that it should fall to a dissident writer, Vaclav Havel, to lead a mixed government through a programme of political and economic reform, until the elections of 1990 brought the defeat of the remaining communists. Nationalist feelings, long suppressed under the grip of the Soviet Union, came to the fore with freedom, soon leading to the separation of the Czech and Slovak states. In 1993 Havel was elected president of the new Czech Republic (a post to which he was re-elected in 1998).

There followed a period of triumph and setback. At first, under Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, the Republic appeared a model of success for liberalisation. Regulation was eschewed and industry privatised on an unprecedented scale through the issue of vouchers to the population. Foreign investment was attracted and economic growth was rapid. The Republic was accepted as a future member of the EU (despite the Commission's bizarre challenge to the Czech policy of banning former secret police and communist activists from public office). But the unfettered operation of free markets proved a mixed blessing. Bank-dominated investment funds bought up the privatisation vouchers and the stock exchange became a crooks' paradise. Industrial restructuring was held back by corruption, bankruptcies and the conflicting lending and ownership roles of the financial sector. Growth stalled and the foreign trade deficit grew. Pollution inherited from the communist years was a menace to public health.

Late in 1997 Klaus was forced to resign, brought down as much by the realisation that his economic miracle was evaporating as by allegations that his party had accepted bribes in return for ensuring the success of a privatisation deal. Nevertheless, the country joined NATO in 1999, and with the highest standard of living of the major East European countries, its future as a member state of the EU, perhaps around 2005, seems assured.

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