Annex B. An essential glossary of the European Union’s development co-operation system

Treaties: The Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, is the legal basis for the European Union. It comprises the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It amended the previous versions of the TEU and the Treaty on European Community.

European Union: The European Union (EU) is the legal successor to the European Community. The EU is an economic and political union of member states (currently numbering 28) and has legal personality. The Treaties, which lay down the objectives of the EU, contain fundamental values such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The EU has a sui generis legal nature. Its legitimacy is dual, based on both the legitimacy of the governments of the member states that are represented in the Council (i.e. indirect legitimacy) and the legitimacy of the European Parliament that is directly elected by EU citizens (i.e. direct legitimacy). The EU is a full member of the DAC and a donor of ODA in its own right, having its own resources and budgetary authority. The source of EU development aid is the general budget of the European Union, which is financed wholly from the EU's own resources (Article 311 TFEU). The EU is thus to be treated as a bilateral donor in its own right and not as a recipient and disburser of funds from its member states.

28 European Union member states in 2018: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus,1 Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

20 European Union member states reporting to the DAC in 2018: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

European Union entities:

  • European Council comprises the heads of state or government of all EU member states, the President of the European Council (who chairs its meetings), and the President of the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) also takes part in meetings of the European Council. Neither the presidents of the European Council and Commission nor the HR have a vote. While the European Council has no legislative power, the Lisbon Treaty established that it defines the general political directions and priorities of the European Union. The European Council also deals with complex and/or sensitive issues that cannot be resolved at a lower level. The European Council defines the principles of, and general guidelines for, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and decides on common strategies for its implementation. The President of the European Council represents the EU on issues concerning its Common Foreign and Security Policy at the level of heads of state or government.

  • Council of the European Union exercises legislative and budgetary functions, jointly with the European Parliament. It carries out policy-making and co-ordinating functions as laid down in the Treaties. The Council is composed of one representative at ministerial level per member state, while the precise configuration of its meeting is determined by the topic under discussion. The Presidency of the Council rotates every six months among the governments of member states, except in the area of foreign policy. Council decisions are made by weighted qualified majority voting in most policy areas and unanimity in others.

  • Foreign Affairs Council is a configuration of the Council of the European Union. It elaborates the Union's external action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensures that the Union's action is consistent. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Affairs Council is chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (instead of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union). It meets once a month, bringing together the foreign ministers of the member states. Other ministers participate depending on the agenda. The Foreign Affairs Council also may meet in different formats (i.e. trade, development, defence) several times a year to discuss those policy areas.

  • Permanent Representatives Committee, or Coreper, comprises the permanent representatives of the member states to the EU (Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary) and it is responsible for preparing the work of the Council of the EU. It is divided into two groups: Coreper I, comprising the deputy permanent representatives, prepares work in the more technical areas, including agriculture, employment, education and the environment; Coreper II addresses matters falling more within the field of ‘high politics’, in particular foreign, economic and monetary affairs and justice and home affairs. Coreper is assisted in its preparatory work by some ten committees and around a hundred specialised working parties.

  • Working groups of the Council prepare decisions to be addressed by the Council. Member state civil servants, whether based in capitals or at the Permanent Representations in Brussels, take part in working-level meetings that prepare these decisions. In the foreign policy field, working groups can be either geographical (e.g. regional) or thematic (e.g. development, trade).

European Parliament is the assembly of directly-elected representatives of European Union citizens. It has three main functions: legislative, budgetary and control. Together with the Council of the EU, the European Parliament both legislates and acts as budgetary authority, deciding on the multi-annual and annual EU budgets. Its consent is required on a wide range of international agreements negotiated by the EU. It exercises political oversight over the use of funds within the annual budget discharge procedure. The European Court of Auditors, whose reports form the basis for the annual discharge exercise by the Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, scrutinises all external actions, including development aid.

European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. It has the sole right of initiative, except in the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). All policy and legislative proposals must be presented by the Commission, which has autonomy in deciding whether to do so. The Commission, along with the EU civil service, is also responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EU including implementing policies and executing the budget. The Commission oversees the application of EU law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and in areas other than CFSP and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it ensures the external representation of the European Union. The Commission is steered by a team, called the College, consisting of 28 Commissioners (one for each member state) who take collegial decisions. Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also automatically acts as a Vice-President of the Commission. The Commission is appointed for a five-year term by the Council acting by qualified majority in agreement with member states. It is subject to a vote of appointment by the European Parliament, to which it is answerable. The Commission comprises Directorates-General or services that are responsible for individual policy areas.

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP) is a dual-role post established under the Lisbon Treaty (Figure E.3). In the first role, the HR is responsible for foreign affairs and security policy, chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, and has authority over more than 130 EU delegations. In the second role, the HR is a Vice-President of the European Commission whose responsibilities within the Commission are to ensure the consistency of the EU’s external relations and to co-ordinate other aspects of the EU’s external action. The HR also represents the EU in matters relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

European External Action Service (EEAS) is the EU's diplomatic service. Formally launched on 1 January 2011, it is responsible for assisting the HR/VP in functions such as developing and implementing the Common Foreign and Security Policy and co-ordinating other areas of the EU's external relations. The EEAS, working with European Commission services, ensures coherence between external policy objectives and development. It comprises European civil servants, diplomats from the foreign services of the EU member states and local staff in countries around the world.

European Court of Auditors is responsible for auditing EU finances. It provides external checks to ensure the EU budget has been implemented correctly. The European Court of Auditors is composed of one member from each EU member state who is appointed by the Council of the European Union following consultations with the European Parliament and serves a six-year renewable term.

European Investment Bank (EIB) has decision-making independence within the EU’s institutional system and operates in accordance with the provisions of the EU Treaties. It was founded in 1958 and its shareholders are the EU member states. The task of the European Investment Bank is to contribute, by having recourse to the capital market and utilising its own resources, to the balanced and steady development of the internal market in the interest of the Union. The EIB aims to support EU policies internally and outside the EU, acting under the supervision of a Board of Governors that comprises the 28 member states’ finance ministers.

Court of Justice of the European Union includes the Court of Justice, the General Court and specialised courts. It ensures that in the interpretation and application of the Treaties the law is observed. The Court of Justice, composed of one judge from each member state, also acts as arbiter between EU governments and EU institutions.

European Central Bank is the central bank of the 19 European Union which have adopted the euro. It is responsible for maintaining the stability of the euro, and controlling the amount of currency in circulation. It has legal personality and it is independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances.

ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (also referred to as the Cotonou Agreement), is a co-operation agreement between the European Union and the 7979 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). It provides for a number of joint ACP-EU institutions: a Council of Ministers that meets annually and brings together representatives of the EU and of signatory governments; a Committee of Ambassadors that assembles representatives of the signatories in Brussels; and a joint Parliamentary Assembly that meets twice a year and includes representatives of the parliaments of the ACP countries and the European Parliament. The ACP-EC Partnership Agreement is supported by a secretariat in Brussels and financed by the EU.

Chapter 4 and Figure 4.1 provide an additional summary of key institutions involved in the European Union’s development co-operation policy.


← 1. Footnote by Turkey:

The information in this document with reference to “Cyprus” relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus” issue.

Footnote by all the European Union member states of the OECD and the European Commission:

The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

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