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Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights brings together in a single text the fundamental rights applicable at Union level, thereby affording them greater visibility, solemnity and recognition.
The Charter is based on the Community Treaties, international conventions such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter and constitutional traditions common to the Member States.
The Charter was adopted on 18 December 2000. Whether it should be incorporated into the Treaties is one of the issues to be discussed by the Convention.

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Citizenship of the Union
Citizenship of the Union

Anyone who is a national of a Member State is considered to be a citizen of the Union. Union citizenship confers four special rights:
· freedom to move and take up residence anywhere in the Union;
· the right to vote and stand in local government and European Parliament elections in the country of residence;
· diplomatic and consular protection from the authorities of any Member State where the country of which a person is a national is not represented in a non-Union country;
· the right of petition and appeal to the European Ombudsman.
The introduction of the notion of Union citizenship does not, of course, replace national citizenship: it is in addition to it.

Clarity of the treaties (simplification of the treaties)

The question of the clarity of the treaties is often raised because of the nature of the Community legal structure, which is the result of a succession of treaties. Each new treaty makes additions to its predecessors but in doing so also changes them, which may sometimes cause ambiguity in interpreting the text and affect overall comprehension.

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Simplification of legislation
Transparency
Closer cooperation

To encourage closer cooperation between countries of the European Union who wish to go further than the degree of integration provided for by the Treaties, various instruments have been introduced (e.g.: Social Policy Agreement, Schengen Accords etc.). This has allowed Member States who so wish to make progress at a different pace or on different objectives outside the institutional framework of the European Union. After the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force, the use of this arrangement was put on a more formal footing with the introduction of the concept of "closer cooperation" in the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community.
Closer cooperation must meet a number of conditions. In particular it must:
· cover an area which does not fall within the exclusive competence of the Community;
· be aimed at furthering the objectives of the Union;
· respect the principles of the Treaties;
· be used only as a last resort;
· involve a majority of Member States.
Closer cooperation under the Treaty establishing the European Community is authorised by the Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament.
A Member State can always refuse to allow closer cooperation in a particular area for reasons of national political importance. However, a qualified majority in the Council can refer the matter to the Heads of State or Government or the European Council, which must act unanimously.

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Europe "à la carte"
"Multi-speed" Europe
Single institutional framework
"Variable-geometry" Europe
Codecision procedure

The codecision procedure was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht. It gives the European Parliament the power to adopt instruments jointly with the Council. In practice, it has strengthened Parliament's legislative powers in the following fields: the free movement of workers, right of establishment, services, the internal market, education, health, consumer policy, trans-European networks, environment, culture and research.
The Treaty of Amsterdam extended the codecision procedure to new areas such as social exclusion, public health and the fight against fraud affecting the European Community's financial interests.

See:
Council of the European Union
European Parliament
Comitology
Under the Treaty establishing the European Community, where Community legislation prescribes implementation by the Community and not by the Member States, as is the general rule, the Council confers this task upon the Commission. In practice, each legislative instrument specifies the scope of the implementing powers granted to the Commission and how the Commission is to use them. Frequently, the instrument will also make provision for the Commission to be assisted by a committee in accordance with a procedure known as "comitology".
These committees consist of representatives from Member States and are chaired by the Commission.

Committee of the Regions

Set up by the Treaty of Maastricht, the Committee of the Regions consists of 222 representatives of local and regional authorities appointed for four years by the Council, acting unanimously on proposals from the Member States. It is consulted by the Council or the Commission in areas affecting local and regional interests, such as education, youth, culture, health and social and economic cohesion.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Committee of the Regions has to be consulted on an even wider range of fields - the environment, the Social Fund, vocational training, cross-border cooperation and transport.
It may also issue opinions on its own initiative.

Common foreign and security policy (CFSP)

The CFSP covers all areas of foreign and defence policy and is aimed at safeguarding the Union's common values. The CFSP is the so-called "second pillar" of the Union; its objectives are pursued through specific legal instruments (joint action, common position) or through systematic cooperation, political dialogue, démarches, declarations, the conclusion of intergovernmental agreements and, in general, through Member States' diplomatic activity. In those areas where the Member States have important interests in common, the European Council frames common strategies.
The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced some major innovations, namely:
explicit mention of the tasks that may be undertaken by the European Union: humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management (the so-called "Petersberg tasks");
the creation of the office of High Representative for the CFSP.

Common position (CFSP)

The common position is a legal instrument by which the Council defines the Union's approach to a particular matter. In the context of the CFSP it is designed to make cooperation between Member States binding, compulsory and systematic. Member States are required to comply with and uphold such positions, which are adopted unanimously at Council meetings.

See:
Common foreign and security policy (CFSP)
Common position (cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs)

The common position for matters concerning cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht.
The common position is a legal instrument by which the Council defines the Union's approach to a particular matter. The Member States then undertake to give full effect, both domestically and in foreign policy, to decisions adopted unanimously at Council meetings.

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Justice and home affairs (JHA)
Communitisation

Communitisation means transferring a matter which is dealt with using the intergovernmental method to the Community method.

See:
Community method and intergovernmental method
Community acquis

The Community acquis or Community patrimony is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the Member States together within the European Union. It is constantly evolving and comprises:
· the content, principles and political objectives of the treaties;
· Community legislation and the case law of the Court of Justice;
· the declarations and resolutions adopted by the Union;
· measures relating to the common foreign and security policy;
· measures relating to justice and home affairs;
· international agreements concluded by the Community and those concluded by the Member States between themselves in the field of the Union's activities.
When further countries join the European Union, full compliance with the Community acquis is one of the requisites for accession.

See:
Pillars of the Treaty on European Union Single institutional framework
Community "bridge"

The Treaty of Maastricht introduced the possibility of bringing some areas relating to police and judicial cooperation under the Community framework.
Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, Community provisions may be applied to any one of the areas relating to police and judicial cooperation that appear in Title VI of the Treaty. Such "Communitisation" See:
Communitisation
Justice and home affairs (JHA)
Community competences

The European Community enjoys only those powers conferred on it by the Treaties. Community competences cover certain areas.
There are three types of competence:
· exclusive competences of the Union: for areas in which the Union alone may act and any action by the Member States is excluded, unless authorised by the Union. A limited number of areas are concerned: common commercial policy, high-seas fisheries policy and monetary policy for the Member States in the euro area;
· concurrent (or parallel) competences: for areas in which the Union may act, but Member States may continue to act insofar as the Union has not exercised its powers. Most areas covered by the Treaty come within this category;
· complementary competences: for areas in which Member States have legislative power, with the Union's action seeking to support, coordinate or supplement that action.
These competences may be recognised explicitly or implicitly: where the European Community has explicit competence in a particular policy (e.g. transport), it also has implicit competence in the same field with regard to external relations (e.g. negotiation of international agreements), provided certain conditions are met.

Community law

Strictly speaking, Community law consists of the founding Treaties and the provisions of instruments enacted by the Community institutions by virtue of those Treaties. In a broader sense, it includes also general principles of law, the case law of the Court of Justice, law flowing from the Community's external relations and supplementary law contained in conventions and similar agreements concluded between the Member States to give effect to Treaty provisions.
All these rules of law form part of what is known as the Community acquis.

See:
Community acquis
Community legal instruments

The term "Community legal instruments" refers to the instruments available to the Community institutions to carry out their tasks. The principal instruments are:
· regulations: these are binding in their entirety and directly applicable in all Member States;
· directives: these bind the Member States as to the results to be achieved; they have to be transposed into the national legal framework and thus leave a margin for manoeuvre as to the form and means of implementation;
· decisions: these are fully binding on those to whom they are addressed;
· recommendations and opinions: these are non-binding.

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Hierarchy of Community acts (hierarchy of norms)
Pillars of the European Union
Subsidiarity and proportionality
Community method and intergovernmental method

The "Community method" is the expression used for the institutional operating mode for the first pillar of the European Union. It proceeds from an integration logic and has the following salient features:
· Commission monopoly of the right of initiative;
· general use of qualified majority voting in the Council;
· an active role for the European Parliament in co-legislating frequently with the Council;
· uniformity in the interpretation of Community law ensured by the Court of Justice.
The method used for the second and third pillars is similar to the so-called "intergovernmental method", with the difference that the Commission shares its right of initiative with the Member States, the European Parliament is informed and consulted and the Council may adopt binding acts. As a general rule, the Council acts unanimously.

See:
Court of Justice
Pillars of the European Union
Qualified majority
Right of initiative
Composition of the Commission

The Commission is currently made up of at least one national of each Member State (two for France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy). However, the question of the composition of the Commission has arisen in the light of enlargement. The problem is to determine what is the optimum number of Commissioners needed to guarantee the legitimacy, collective responsibility and efficiency of an institution whose purpose is to represent the general interest and whose Members are completely independent.

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European Commission
Confirmation of the Commission

There are two separate procedures, the first concerning the President and the second the entire Commission.
To begin with the governments of the Member States nominate by common accord the person they intend to appoint as President of the Commission. Their nominee is then approved by the Parliament. After that the Member States nominate the other persons they intend to appoint as Members, in consultation with the nominee for President. The entire Commission is then subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament, after individual hearings by the appropriate parliamentary committees, and is finally appointed by the representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council.

See:
Composition of the Commission
European Commission
European Parliament
President of the European Commission
Consultation procedure

Under the consultation procedure (involving a single reading) the Council must consult the European Parliament and take its views into account. However, it is not bound by Parliament's position but only by the obligation to consult it. The procedure applies in particular to the common agricultural policy.

See:
Council of the European Union
European Parliament
Council of the European Union

The Council of Ministers of the Union is the European Union's main decision-making institution. It consists of the ministers of the fifteen Member States responsible for the matters on the agenda: foreign affairs, agriculture, industry, transport, etc. Each country in the Union in turn holds the Presidency of the Council for six months. Decisions are prepared by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper), assisted by working parties of national government officials. This Committee also carries out the instructions given to it by the Council.
The Council acts either by a qualified majority or unanimously depending on the legal basis of the act to be adopted. In the European Community context, the qualified majority rule is the one most often applied.
Procedural matters are decided on by a simple majority.

See:
European Community
Pillars of the European Union
Presidency of the Union (rotation of the Presidency)
Qualified majority
Unanimity
Court of Auditors

The Court of Auditors is composed of fifteen members appointed for six years by unanimous decision of the Council after consulting the European Parliament. It audits Union revenue and expenditure to make sure it is lawful and proper and ensures that financial management is sound.

Court of Justice

The Court of Justice of the European Communities is made up of fifteen judges assisted by nine advocates-general appointed for six years by agreement among the Member States. It has two principal functions:
to check whether instruments of the European institutions and of governments are compatible with the Treaties;
at the request of a national court, to pronounce on the interpretation or the validity of provisions contained in Community law.
The Court is assisted by a Court of First Instance, set up in 1989, which has special responsibility for dealing with administrative disputes in the European institutions and disputes arising from the Community competition rules.