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EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Glossary of summaries

EU powers and competences

European powers are those that are conferred on the European Union (EU) in specific areas by EU countries.

There are 3 types of powers, which vary in how they are conferred:

  • Explicit powers: these are clearly defined in the relevant articles of the Treaties.
  • Implicit powers: according to the implicit powers theory, competence in external matters derives from explicit internal competence. Where the Treaties assign explicit powers to the EU in a particular area (e.g. transport), it must also have similar powers to conclude agreements with non-EU countries in the same field (the principle of parallelism between internal and external powers).
  • Subsidiary powers: where the EU has no explicit or implicit powers to achieve a Treaty objective concerning the common market, Article 352 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU allows the Council, acting unanimously, to take the measures that it considers necessary.