More than a place: The Hitchhiker's guide to EU jargon

14th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

To avoid drowning in a sea of place-names, we offer help for the uninitiated.

Brussels -- The problem with trying to understand EU jargon is that half of the time you need a political dictionary, and the other half you need a map.

It sometimes seems that half of the EU's main policies were named after the cities in which they were created. The problem is that the nicknames almost never come with footnotes, leaving the unsuspecting visitor drowning in a sea of place-names.

Here, therefore, is a brief dictionary of the EU's more obscure place-names, and an explanation of the processes they refer to.

Barcelona: This is best known in the EU as the place where European, North African and Middle Eastern leaders met in November 1995 to try and improve their often-strained relationship.

The result was the "Barcelona process," by which the EU tried to boost trade and political ties with its Mediterranean neighbors while urging them to do more for human rights and regional peace.

The process seldom made headlines until early 2007, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed scrapping it in July and creating a much more sweeping "Mediterranean Union" modeled on the EU.

EU members without a Mediterranean coastline blocked the idea but allowed Sarkozy to later launch a watered-down version with a catchy title: The "Barcelona process: union for the Mediterranean."

Copenhagen: Denmark's capital has become EU code for the set of standards which countries have to meet if they want to join the bloc.

The "Copenhagen criteria," adopted in June 1993, say that a state should be able to preserve democracy and human rights, have a market economy and accept the EU's "obligations and intent," such as peace.

Over the last year, the criteria has most often been mentioned in the context of EU hopefuls Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, all of whom have been accused by critics of falling short in key areas.

Dublin: famous for its literary giants, its dark beer and its distressing tendency to reject EU treaties, "Dublin," in EU circles, is a term used when talking about refugees.

The "Dublin convention," which came into force in 1997, is aimed at streamlining the way EU member states deal with refugees and, in particular, deciding where each applicant should be dealt with. With the current French presidency of the bloc pushing for an EU "pact" on migration, Dublin is usually referred to when member states want to accuse one another of not doing enough for refugees.

The Hague: This city is famous as the home of various international courts, all of which tend to be nicknamed "the Hague tribunal."

The one the EU refers to most often at present is the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), set up by the UN in 1993 to deal with atrocities committed in the separatist Balkan wars of the 1990s.

While not an EU body, ICTY regularly features in EU meetings because the Dutch government has vetoed any kind of EU rapprochement with Serbia until ICTY's chief prosecutor rules that the Belgrade government is cooperating fully with his organization.

Lisbon: The Lisbon Agenda, agreed to in March 2000, is a plan aimed at making the EU the world's most competitive economy by 2010.

The Lisbon Treaty, signed in December 2007, is an agreement between the bloc's 27 member states aimed at making it easier to make EU-wide decisions and giving the union a higher profile abroad.

With the EU lagging behind key rivals such as the United States and Japan in terms of innovation, the word "Lisbon" has in the past usually been used to describe the gap between the EU's targets and its results.

However, since Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum on June 12, current headlines referring to "Lisbon" often also mean the treaty.

Maastricht: The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992, created the EU out of its forerunner, the European Economic Community and set up the legal process that created the euro.

The Maastricht Criteria are the strict rules on inflation and government spending that countries have to meet in order to join the euro.

The criteria last made the headlines in July, when EU finance ministers invited Slovakia to become the euro club's 16th member.

Manchester: Britain's football giant is known in the EU for the political call, made by finance ministers in September 2005, not to respond to fuel-price rises by cutting taxes.

Barely mentioned until the recent oil-price surge, the Manchester Declaration has now come back to haunt ministers, as they urge one another not to break ranks in increasingly nervous tones.

Nice: The Nice Treaty, signed by EU leaders in 2001, updated the union's internal workings so the bloc could absorb 12 new member states between 2004 and 2007.

Its main update was to set the number of votes in EU councils each member state should have, from 29 in Germany to three in Malta.

When EU leaders were negotiating the Lisbon treaty in 2007, Poland, which stood to lose some of its voting power under the new rules, demanded that the "Nice" voting weights remain unchanged, going into negotiations with the slogan "Nice or death!"

Schengen: The Schengen Convention, which came into force in 1995, abolished border barriers between Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

The agreement created the Schengen zone, which now includes all the EU's current members except Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania. Non-EU members Iceland and Norway are also in the zone.

Schengen most recently hit the headlines in late 2007, when it expanded to take in nine countries which joined the EU in 2004.

Tampere: The Finnish town of Tampere is best known in EU circles for its links with international law enforcement.

The Tampere Process, launched in 1999, is the series of talks which EU member states are holding to discuss how they can improve cooperation on sensitive issues of justice and internal affairs.

The process was given a renewed impulse at a summit in The Hague in 2004 -- whereupon some officials renamed it the "Hague process."

However, some diplomats say that the process will receive a new impulse when Sweden takes over the EU's rotating presidency in the second half of 2009. They therefore call it the "Stockholm process."

DPA with Expatica

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