Accession talks - process of negotiation between applicants and the EU that can lead to membership.
Accession Treaty - treaty endorsing final membership of the European Union. It does not come into force on the day it is signed but on a pre-arranged date.
Accountability - the practice by which people are made to take responsibility for the results of their actions at work.
Acquis Communautaire - the entire body of EU law.
Action Plan - negotiated with individual countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The plans offer incentives (e.g. integration into EU networks) in return for progress on relevant reforms (e.g. political, economic, social).
Association Agreement - treaty promising tighter cooperation between the EU and an external nation in various economic, social, and political fields. Can also take the form of a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
Asylum seekers - people who migrate to another country looking to be protected from war or persecution.
Bond - a loan typically given to banks by investors over a fixed term, in return for a fixed rate of interest upon repayment.
Budget deficit - this is the difference between the amount of money the government spends and the amount it receives in taxation and other revenue.
Coalition - a formal agreement between political parties to share power in government.
Co-decision - a structure that means that EU decisions must be taken jointly by the Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
Committee of the Regions (CoR) - one of two 'consultative bodies' of the EU. It brings together elected local and regional government representatives from across the EU to discuss European policy.
Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - EU policy to protect agriculture throughout the EU by controlling prices and levels of production and by subsidising the rural lifestyle in order to safeguard the countryside.
Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP) - since 2003, the EU has conducted 28 civilian and military operations under the CDSP. Overall responsibility for CSDP lies with the EU High Representative for the Union in Foreign and Security Policy CFSP.
Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) - EU policy designed to make EU fishing grounds a common resource by giving access to all member states.
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) - controls the efforts of EU member states to act in a unified way on foreign policy and security affairs.
Competences - areas of law where the EU has been given control by its member states.
Competition - the rivalry between companies that is part of driving the market process.
Consensus - general political agreement around a majority opinion.
Consociation - arrangement in which various groups within a country or region, share power according to an agreed formula or mechanism.
Convention - an international agreement that, when ratified, imposes international law on any acceding country.
Convergence Criteria - the rules set down in the Maastricht Treaty that all countries have to meet in order to qualify for membership of the Euro.
Conversion Rates - the ratio by which one country's currency value would be replaced by the Euro (e.g. how many Euros would replace 1 Franc etc.)
Copenhagen Criteria - standards that must be met before a country can join the EU, as set down at the Copenhagen European Council in 1993.
General Court - formerly known as the Court of First Instance (CFI) set up in 1989 to assist the EU Court of Justice (ECJ), although it is an independent court. The CFI's primary role is to hear all actions brought by individuals, while the ECJ focuses on institutional disputes and those between member states.
Credit rating - an assessment designed to tell if an individual, business or even a country will be able to pay back any loans it takes out.
Customs Union - group of economies with no internal barriers to trade and a common external tariff.
Defence capability - the combination of weapons, manpower and organisation that goes into a country's defence forces.
Democratic deficit - the idea that the EU is deficient in democracy and lacks democractic principles such as represenation and accountability.
Development bank - an institution that provides financing and advice for development purposes.
Devolution - the transfer of decision-making power from national to regional government.
Direct Effect - the principle that EU law creates rights for individuals that must be upheld by national courts.
Eastern Partnership - launched in May 2009 to add an 'eastern dimension' to the ENP. Members include: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - reciprocal free trade agreements currently negotiated between the EU and six regional blocs of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
Economy of Scale - the increase in profit made by a business when it can produce and sell more without increasing costs.
Emissions Trading System (ETS) - a system to cap emissions of carbon dioxide by allowing firms that exceed their emissions limits to buy extra allowances from firms whose emissions are under target levels.
European Monetary Institute (EMI) - established in 1994 to oversee the co-ordination of the monetary policies of national central banks. The EMI also worked towards the creation of the European Central Bank.
European Monetary System (EMS) - the forerunner of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). It was a way of creating an area of currency stability throughout the European Community by encouraging countries to co-ordinate their monetary policies.
Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) - led to the establishment of the Euro. To be a part of the full EMU, states must obey the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP): to keep exchange rates stable, to keep government borrowing and spending under control, and to ensure low inflation and low interest rates. Within the EMU, member states agree to fix their exchange rates together and hand the power to set interest rates to the European Central Bank (ECB).
Enclave - part of the territory of a state surrounded by other states.
Energy Security - the protection of the production and delivery of energy.
Enhanced co-operation - the idea that a core of countries could co-operate more closely in more areas of policy without obliging other members to either veto these policies or adopt it.
Europe 2020 strategy - underpins all EU policy regarding the Single Market. It particularly aims to create jobs and an inclusive society.
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) - established by The Treaty of Paris in 1951. It originally had 6 members, who shared their coal and steel resources in the rebuilding of western Europe after the Second World war.
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - established in 1959 to hear cases brought by individuals, organisations and states against the countries that are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights (all European nations except Belarus). The Court is based in Strasbourg.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) - Formerly known as the European Court of Justice, the ECJ was set up under the Treaty of Paris (1951) and enforces EU law.
European Currency Unit (ECU) - used as a unit of account under the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Although not a real currency, the ECU became the basis for the idea of creating a single currency - an idea that was realised with the launch of the Euro in 1999.
European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) - set up in 2001 to make sure that all EU institutions and bodies respect people's right to privacy when processing their personal data.
European Defence Agency (EDA) - set up in 2003 to create a common European agenda for research, development and production of new weapons; and to break down cross-border trade in military goods.
European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) - one of two consultative bodies of the EU. The EESC brings together business and trade union leaders, along with representatives of farmers, consumers and other groups to discuss economic and business policies.
European Economic Community (EEC) - predecessor of the EU. It was set up in 1957 as the first step towards a supranational Europe, and eventually became the EU.
European Free Trade Area (EFTA) - made up of Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland. EFTA provides a framework for free trade between member states, and for Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to be made with other nations (notably the EU's 27 member states).
European People's Party (EPP) - the main centre-right group in the EU Parliament.
European Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) - up to 60,000 combat troops provided by EU member states can be deployed at 60 days notice for missions including crisis management, peacekeeping and peace-making operations.
European Union (EU) - economic and political union of 27 member states, which operates in a mixture of supranational and intergovernmental models.
Eurozone - geographical/economic area formed by the 17 EU countries that have adopted the euro.
Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) - part of the the European Monetary System, the ERM committed all member states' governments to keep their currency exchange rates within bands in order to create stable exchange rates to help the development of the single market.
Exchange rates - the ratio in which one country's currency is valued against another.
Food mountains - a metaphor for the warehouses where piles of surplus agricultural products are stored.
Free trade - international trade when there is no restriction on the import or export of goods.
Freedom, Justice and Security (JHA) policy - formerly known as Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), this policy area aims to protect citizens from international crime and terrorism, provide them with equal access to justice and protection of their fundamental rights. It also includes policies on immigration from countries outside the EU.
Frontex - EU agency created to coordinate cooperation between Member States in the field of border security.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - value of goods produced within a country in one year.
Gross National Product (GNP) - GDP plus the total capital gains from overseas investment minus the income earned by foreign nationals domestically
Hung parliament - a parliament where no party or coalition has a clear majority.
Intergovernmental - a form of international organisation where governments work together to achieve shared goals.
Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) - formal procedure for debating and deciding amendments to the EU's founding treaties.
Judicial review - the power of the European Court of Justice to review any new EU legislation to ensure that it is legal.
Majority voting - voting system whereby legislation can be passed where a specified proportion of delegates' consent.
Monetary policy - policies employed by governments or central banks to control money supply and interest rates to achieve economic goals.
Mutual recognition - that one member state must recognise laws that exist in another.
Negotiation chapters - the EU acquis is divided into 35 chapters, each relating to a specific policy area. In order to join the EU, candidate countries must 'close' negotiations on each chapter.
Neutrality - the decision to support neither side in armed conflicts.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) - defence alliance set up in 1949. It has 28 members.
Opt-out - the ability to decline from signing an agreement, against a presumption to do so.
Peacekeeping - when armed forces are deployed to help keep the peace without taking sides in a conflict.
Pre-cursor text - a treaty, charter or convention that provides the basis for each of the rights and freedoms.
Privatisation - the transfer of companies from state ownership to private control.
Proportional representation - an electoral system whereby the number of votes a party receives is directly proportional to the number of seats they are given in the parliament.
Protectionist - restriction of free trade in an attempt to protect domestic producers and markets.
Protocol - additions to a previous treaty which are not binding for all signatories.
Public debt - the government borrows money to make up for the shortfall in revenue to fund government projects. As a result it has debt with lenders, which it pays off over a number of years.
Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) - majority (as opposed to unanimous) voting procedure used in the Council of the European Union for an increasing number of decisions.
Ratification - the process by which member states' parliaments confirm their country's acceptance of a treaty.
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals) - EU system for authorisation of chemical safety.
Rebate - refund of part of budget contributions.
Rules of origin - criteria used to define where a product was made.
Schengen Information System (SIS) - allows police and justice authorities in the member states to share information about suspected criminals trying to enter the EU.
Single European Act (SEA) - signed in 1986, this Treaty set a deadline for the creation of a full single market by 1992, and it also enabled deeper integration.
Social Market Model - free market economy that shows concern for social issues through welfare and other supports, developed by Ludwig Erhard after the Second World War.
Solidarity - the EU aim of encouraging member state to provide financial support to poorer members to improve overall growth.
Sovereignty - having the ultimate power to make decisions about your country.
Species quota - a limit on the number of any particular species of fish that can be caught, under the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.
Stabilisation and Association Process - strategy to prepare countries for membership negotiations with the EU. SAAs typically offer the incentive of free trade in exchange for commitments to political, economic, trade or human rights reform.
Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) - agreement between members of the Eurozone to keep the amount they spend and borrow under control in order to help create stable conditions for the single currency.
Subsidiarity - the principle that decisions should be made at the lowest level and as close to the citizens as possible.
Subsidy - government money used to keep down prices.
Supranational - form of organisation through which decisions are made by international institutions, not by individual states.
Supremacy - the principle that EU law is superior to national laws when the ECJ has jurisdiction.
Sustainable development - development that meets the needs of the present population without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Tariffs - a type of tax imposed on imports or exports.
Tax harmonisation - term used in the EU to describe a possible unified tax system.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) - in existence from 1949-93, GATT was replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995.
Total Allowable Catches (TACs) - maximum quantities of fish that can be caught from a specific stock over a given time period. Negotiations take place every December and TACs are shared among EU states according to national quotas.
Unanimity - the need for all member states to agree on a proposal before it can be adopted as legislation.
Union for the Mediterranean - partnership agreement between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours to improve stability, free trade and cultural understanding. Formerly known as the Barcelona Process, before its re-launch in 2008.
United Nations (UN) - international organisation founded in 1945. It aims to maintain international peace and security, better living standards and human rights. It currently has 192 member states.
Value-added tax (VAT) - an indirect tax on most sales of goods and services.
Veto - the right of one country to block a decision.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) - international organisation established in 1995 to supervise and liberalise trade between nations at a global level.