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Rapporteur

Literally a reporter, the rapporteur is the speaker of a committee or presenter of a committee's report. Rapporteurs play a significant part in the European Parliament's deliberations, where the cut and thrust of debate is rare.

Ratification

The Treaty of Rome set a precedent for later EU Treaties by stipulating that it would not enter into force until all the signatory states had ratified it according to their 'respective constitutional requirements'. This would normally entail parliamentary approval (and in the UK's case royal assent), but some countries also require a referendum, while in other instances a referendum has been voluntarily undertaken. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty, for example, was submitted for political reasons to a referendum in France, but its ratification necessitated a referendum in Ireland, because it involved a change in the constitution, and in Denmark, because the Folketing passed it by an insufficient majority. The unanimity rule for ratifying Treaties meant that the Danish rejection which followed would have prevented Maastricht from entering into force, had not the country been persuaded to hold a second referendum, this time voting in favour.

The best-known cases of non-ratification by plebiscite were those of Norway, which twice rejected a Treaty of Accession in 1972 and 1994, and Switzerland, which in 1992 voted against the EEA agreement negotiated by its government. In theory, the law courts may also block a treaty if they consider that it breaches a national constitution, especially a written constitution. The German ratification of Maastricht was in the end dependent on the ruling of the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, following a private action by objectors. As a result of that ruling, any significant change in the powers of the EU now requires ratification by a two-thirds majority in both German houses of parliament. A similar legal challenge by individuals was mounted in Denmark; and more than one European court was called upon to rule on the constitutionality both of ratifying the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam and of abolishing national currencies. In France, the Amsterdam Treaty, like the Maastricht Treaty, was submitted to the Constitutional Council and held not to conform to the French constitution, the remedy being to amend the constitution.

'Reasoned Opinion'

A paper in which the Commission sets out why it considers that a member state is in violation of an EU obligation, as a preliminary to an action before the Court of Justice.

Referendum

Referendums are widely used in Europe to ratify constitutional change. Ratification by referendum has been sought for various European Treaties (with varying degrees of success) by Denmark, France, Ireland and Switzerland; and Sweden, Norway, Finland and Austria held votes in 1994 to determine whether to enter the EU. In 1982 Greenland voted to leave the Community. The British referendum of June 1975 - the first national plebiscite in the country's history - was intended to terminate uncertainty over the UK's continuing membership of the Community. At the time the concept was thought alien to the spirit of parliamentary democracy. As the years went by, however, parliamentary opposition began to weaken as it became apparent that the EU raised fundamental issues that cut across party lines. In 1997 both the UK's main parties agreed to call a referendum if the government of the day decided to apply to join the single currency.

Referendum Party

Uniquely in British electoral history, Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party ran in the 1997 general election on the platform that if elected it would hold a referendum on the UK's relationship with the EU and then disband itself. Backed by 20 million from its leader, and fielding some candidates who were markedly more colourful than the conventional domestic politician, it did not come near to winning a seat but polled over 800,000 votes, a fair level of support in a country not given to personality cult politics. More importantly, it raised public awareness of the European question and so alarmed the main parties that they undertook not to adopt the single currency without themselves calling a referendum - a promise that was to have momentous repercussions in the years that followed, deterring Prime Minister Tony Blair from abandoning the pound and sharpening differences over the desirability of integration.

Regional development policy

See structural funds.

Regionalism

Regionalism is a significant element in Belgian, German, Italian and Spanish political administration; in the UK it relates specifically to the Celtic fringe; and it is of lesser importance in the more unitary states of France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Scandinavia. These differences stem from ethnic, religious or political features of the past, with consequences varying in extremity from the terrorism of ETA in Spain and the IRA in Northern Ireland to the virtual partition of Belgium and the ordered federalism of Germany. At its mildest, regionalism is merely folkloric, or an occasion to attract structural funds from the EU. At its strongest it represents an alternative to the nation state. The Basque country, Catalonia, Scotland, Flanders, Ulster, Bavaria and Italy's Northern League all present different aspects of the regional phenomenon.

The influence of Germany in European affairs has led to a presumption in favour of the German style of government as a constitutional model for the EU, with a multiplicity of regional governments and bureaucracies taking responsibility for administration in such areas as education, health, 'spatial planning' (that is, land use, transport and the environment) and much of the rest of the spending budget. Justice, monetary policy, defence and foreign policy are left to the federal centre. This model is well suited to the Commission's ambition to transfer power from national parliaments upwards to the supranational bodies of the EU and downwards to 111 regional bodies, many of which are artificial constructs with little, if any, grounding in traditional loyalties. (It has, for example, been remarked that the Commission's regional map nowhere contains the name 'England'.)

European regionalism finds its main institutional outlets in the Committee of the Regions, a consultative quango established by the Maastricht Treaty, and the European Regional Development Fund, set up on a small scale in 1975 but subsequently boosted. There are also various bodies attached to the EU which occupy themselves with regional, municipal or local government agendas oriented either to the solicitation of subsidies or to propaganda. For instance, town twinning is arranged by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions; and the promotion of regionalism and federalism is the mission of the Assembly of European Regions.

Regulation

Regulations rank with Decisions and the better known Directives as the key legal instruments of the EU. The difference between them is that Directives have force only when passed into law by each member state, whereas Regulations and Decisions have direct effect, that is, they become law throughout the Union as soon as they have been issued. Historically, Regulations have been the means of implementing the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies. The Commission intends in future to use Regulations more widely instead of Directives, since it can do so with the easily obtained assent of the Council of Ministers (and, within limits, on its own authority), avoiding the delays and closer scrutiny associated with national parliamentary legislation. (For the volume of Community legislation see Directive and for a general description see Community law.)

Religion

Of the EU's most populous nations, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Portugal are Catholic, as is Poland, which is due to join the Union early in the next century. Greece is Orthodox and The Netherlands is somewhat more Catholic than Protestant. South Germany and Austria are Catholic, but North Germany is Protestant. The UK is predominantly Protestant, though with a significant Catholic minority (as well as a sizeable Muslim minority), and Scandinavia as a bloc is Lutheran Protestant. Europe is thus divided into a Nordic, Germanic, Anglo-Saxon Protestant vein, accounting for approximately one-third of the population, and a Latin and Central European Catholic vein, accounting for approximately twice as many. Some detect a deeper cultural significance in these historical divisions, going beyond theological beliefs to reflect ethical, social and even political attitudes, such as the independent-mindedness of the UK, Norway and Denmark. There is perhaps, for example, less resistance in Southern Europe to the collectivism of the EU, and less tolerance in Northern Europe for wayward attitudes towards compliance. On a minor scale, support for this type of analysis is to be found also in the mutual hostility and incomprehension of Catholic republicans and Protestant loyalists in Northern Ireland. There are, however, too many exceptions for any generalisation along these lines to yield reliable inferences.

Christian Democracy, the largest centre-right political movement in Europe, is a relic of a more religious age, owing its origins - at least in Germany - to the late 19th century Kulturkampf, or struggle between beliefs, when Prussia's Bismarck tried to drive the Catholic Church out of politics. After World War II the descendants of the old Church party found a unifying cause in moderate Christian conservatism, in opposition to the more secular social democracy of the centre left and the atheistic Marxism of the extreme left. In Bavaria the movement remained Catholic and is embodied in the Christian Social Union party; elsewhere in Germany it is represented by the CDU, or Christian Democratic Union. In Italy, until the party's demise in corruption scandals in the early 1990s, Democrazia Cristiana was its personification. The other major affiliated parties in Europe are the Christian Democrats in The Netherlands and the two Christian parties in Belgium.

With the passing of time, increasing secularisation, together with the inevitable compromises and shifting alliances of politics, have substantially drained Christian Democracy of its religious content, and when Turkey, stung by the blocking of its accession to the EU, accused Europe in 1997 of being an exclusive Christian society, it was anachronistically wide of the mark. There is indeed bias against Muslims (including Turkish, Pakistani and North African immigrants) in several European countries, but this is as much racial, or inspired by fear of competition for scarce jobs, as religious; and although the defining EU Treaties ban such discrimination, they cannot prevent it.

Renegotiation

In 1974, the British Labour Party won power committed to renegotiate the 'Tory terms' of membership of the EC. After some trifling concessions, a referendum was held in 1975 which confirmed British membership, without, however, permanently settling the debate, for the misleading assurances of the 'Yes' campaign caused an enduring sense of injustice.

In recent years, certain British politicians have again taken to citing as their aim the renegotiation of one or more unwanted aspects of EU legislation, or even the wholesale renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the Community. Such declarations often skate over real difficulties. Renegotiation of significant Treaty obligations would require unanimity among the member states and would not be possible without the use of the veto to block other EU business in return for concessions to the UK. Across-the-board renegotiation could not be achieved without a credible threat of withdrawal from the Community or a constitutional convention which reshaped the EU's Treaties and permitted a far greater degree of flexibility than exists today. Thus 'renegotiation' has come to be regarded by Europeanists as a code word, masking a wish to leave the EU.

Research

The Treaty of Rome reflects the Commission's belief in a Community policy to make European industry more competitive in high technology by subsidising basic research. There was no greater enthusiast for spending public money on such activity than Commission president Jacques Delors, and no greater sceptic than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The current 1998-2002 programme, amounting to some 614 billion over four years, focuses mainly on information technology, the environment and 'the promotion of growth'. (See also CERN, European Space Agency and JET.)

Residui passivi

Residui passivi, or residual liabilities, are Italian state funds voted by parliament for government departments but withheld by the Treasury under its programme to meet the convergence criteria for the single currency. It is not clear to what extent these obligations will eventually have to be met. By the end of 1997 they amounted to some 15% of Italy's GDP, and were causing concern abroad about the sustainability of the country's new-found financial rectitude.

Resolution

A decision by the Council of Ministers or the European Council, having no status in law, but expressing a political agreement to take some common action. In the context of the European Parliament, a Resolution is a statement of views, akin to an Opinion, which may or may not be taken seriously by higher authority.

Restitution

An agricultural export subsidy, allowing high-cost EU farmers to sell their produce at world prices.

Rhine model

The consensus-based German-style economic structure, often known as the 'social market economy' and contrasted with the more free-wheeling British and American system. (For a fuller comparison, see Anglo-American model.)

Right of initiative

The exclusive right to initiate legislation is the closely guarded privilege of the Commission, setting it apart from conventional bureaucracies and paralleling the power of its commissioners to intervene in European political affairs. This prerogative stems from the ambition of the EU's Founding Fathers that the Commission should in time become the government of Europe.

Rights

See Human rights.

Romania

Recognised as an independent kingdom since the late 19th century, Romania underwent significant territorial changes in 1918 and again in 1940. It collaborated with Germany in World War II until it was overrun by the Soviet army in 1944. The forced abdication of King Michael in 1947 presaged over 40 years of communist oppression, the last 24 under the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose professed opposition to interference from Moscow provided some cover for a reign of terror and cultural destruction. After Ceausescu's summary execution in 1989 President Iliescu conducted affairs on neo-communist principles, with hyperinflation and minimal reform. The election of President Emil Constantinescu in 1996 gave Romania its first glimpse of genuine liberalisation, but the country is starting from an impoverished base and its application to join the EU was not recommended by the Commission. Its application for membership of NATO was also rebuffed.

Among the obstacles to Romania's early membership of the EU are the prevalence of political corruption and authoritarianism, the fragility of its democracy and its lack of progress in modernising a backward economy that is still too state-dominated and too dependent on agriculture. Discrimination against the Roma (gypsy) minority was another factor criticised by the Commission. Thus although Romania enjoys the support of France, it is unlikely to be admitted to the Community for at least a dozen years, if not more.

Russia

Part European, part Asian, Russia casts a long shadow over Europe. When Stalin's Iron Curtain descended on Europe after World War II, most of the countries of free Europe received Marshall Aid and successively coalesced into what eventually became the EU - a democratic prosperity zone reliant on NATO for military security. On the other side of the Iron Curtain, old Central European civilisations sank into fear and poverty as oppressed satellites of the USSR. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, however, a half century of confrontation ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved and most of its former members applied to join the EU and NATO. The Soviet Union also disintegrated, as its constituent parts declared their independence.

Struggling against a background of gangsterism and economic chaos to retain the vestiges of superpower status and to earn acceptance as a civilised democracy, Russia has become a member of the Council of Europe, a participant at the Group of Seven summit meetings and a member of the UN Security Council, where it inherited the seat of the Soviet Union. It co-ordinates policies with the former Soviet republics and addresses problems relating to the break-up of the Soviet Union through the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), established in 1991. Fearful of encirclement, Russia tried for some time, though without success, to block NATO's eastward expansion. But armed hostility has been replaced by friendlier exchanges, and as a participant in OSCE the country plays a part in peace-keeping and international crisis management.

In 1997 (to the evident surprise of the UK and Italy) France, Germany and Russia announced that they had agreed to meet annually 'to review the state of the Continent'. This reflected the grandiose Commission view, first enunciated by President Jacques Delors, that the EU (of which France and Germany characteristically cast themselves as spokesmen) had a 'historic vocation' to organise the Continent together with Russia, 'as the two principal European powers'. It was consistent with this Great Power vision that the EU had offered 'Europe Agreements' to those former Soviet-bloc states that it accepted as candidates for Community membership, including the Baltic states, which had been annexed by Stalin in the 1940s: but that Russia, together with the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, had been offered 'Partnership and Co-operation Agreements', which explicitly excluded the prospect of joining the EU.

In 1998 the Russian stock market collapsed, followed by the rouble. Meanwhile, the civil war in Islamic Chechnya which had started in 1994 reached new peaks of ferocity. In 2000 the capital, Grozny, was brutally sacked by Russian troops. President Boris Yeltsin, too ill and often too drunk to remain in command of affairs, gave way to the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, who was promptly received in state by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Economic relations between Russia and the EU were now more or less confined to gas exports. With Russia as weak economically as the EU was militarily, Delors' Napoleonic concept was looking frayed. As for the ex-communist countries of Central Europe, they could only hope that their entry into the EU would come soon enough to forestall any possibility of relapse into the Russian domination of the past.

Ryder Cup

A biennial golf contest between teams from the USA and Europe, the Ryder Cup is perhaps unique in stirring spontaneous European emotions among ordinary sports fans, a feat not matched by official attempts to create a European identity. (See also Sport (2).)

 
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