Home International The hitchhiker’s guide to European Union jargon

The hitchhiker’s guide to European Union jargon


Brussels : The problem with trying to understand European Union (EU) jargon is that half 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 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 neighbours 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 and creating a much more sweeping “Mediterranean Union” modelled on the EU.

EU members without a Mediterranean coastline blocked the idea, but allowed Sarkozy to launch on July 13 a watered-down version catchily titled 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 have 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 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 the 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.