The Amsterdam Treaty (Treaty), politically agreed on 17 June and signed on 2 October 1997, is the result of two years of discussions and negotiations in a conference of member state government representatives. It entered into force on 1 May 1999, after having been ratified by the fifteen member States of the European Union under their respective constitutional procedures.
The Treaty on European Union1 specifically required (former Article N) an intergovernmental conference to be convened to review certain provisions. In the first half of 1995, each of the Community institutions prepared a report on the functioning of the Treaty on European Union. A reflection group chaired by Carlos Westendorp, the Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs, then devoted the second half of the year to an in-depth analysis of the possible options. The group presented its report to the Madrid European Council in December 1995. After consulting the Commission and the European Parliament, whose opinions had to be obtained under Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union before the intergovernmental conference could be launched, the Turin European Council formally opened the negotiations on 29 March 1996, with the goal of creating the necessary political and institutional conditions to allow the Union to meet its future challenges, with particular regard to the evolution of the international situation, to globalization and its effects on employment, to the fight against terrorism and international organized crime, to ecologic imbalances and to risks for public health. The mandate of the intergovernmental conference was extended to issues concerning the functioning of the institutions, such as the composition of the Commission and the weighting of votes in the Council of the European Union. During the negotiations, other themes proposed by Member States and Community institutions were included on the agenda. A series of European Councils in Florence (21-22 June 1996) and Dublin (twice - 5 October and 13-14 December 1996), and an informal Council in Noordwijk (23 May 1997) scrutinized and discussed the various proposals. After fifteen months of work, a consensus emerged on the Amsterdam Treaty, which was signed on 2 October 1997 and entered into force on 1 May 1999.
Structure of the Treaty
The Treaty consists of three parts, an annex and thirteen protocols. The Intergovernmental Conference also adopted fifty-one declarations, which are annexed to the Final Act, and noted a further eight declarations by various Member States, which were also annexed to the Final Act.
The first part covers the substantive amendments and comprises five articles:
-Article 1, which contains the amendments made to the Treaty on European Union;
-Article 2, which contains the amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Community2;
-Article 3, which contains the amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community;
-Article 4, which contains the amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community;
-Article 5, which contains the amendments to the Act annexed to the Council Decision of 20 September 1976 on the election of representatives to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage.
The second part of the Treaty (Articles 6 to 11) deals with the simplification of the treaties establishing the three European Communities and their annexes and protocols, with a view to deleting lapsed clauses and adapting the text of certain provisions accordingly. It also provides for the repeal of the Convention of 25 March 1957 on certain institutions common to the European Communities and of the Merger Treaty of 8 April 1965 (Article 9). However, it makes clear that this simplification exercise does not alter the legal effects of the texts or the acts in force adopted on their basis (Article 10). Moreover, the Court of Justice is competent to interpret the provisions of this part of the Treaty (Article 11).
The third part - Articles 12 to 15 - contains the general and final provisions of the Treaty. Article 12 relates to the renumbering of the provisions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, Article 13 specifies that the Treaty is concluded for an unlimited period, Article 14 deals with the ratification and entry into force of the Treaty itself, and Article 15 lists the different language versions. The annex to the Treaty contains the tables of equivalence for the renumbering of provisions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. There are the following protocols:
-Protocol on Article 17 (ex Article J.7) of the EU Treaty, dealing with the Western European Union and the progressive framing of a common defence policy;
-Protocol integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union;
-Protocol on the application of certain aspects of Article 14 (ex Article 7a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community to the United Kingdom and to Ireland;
-Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in relation to the new Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community on "visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons";
-Protocol on the position of Denmark in relation to the new Title of the Treaty establishing the European Community on "visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to free movement of persons" and to certain aspects of the common foreign and security policy;
-Protocol on asylum for nationals of Member States of the European Union;
-Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiary and proportionality;
-Protocol on external relations of the Member States with regard to the crossing of external borders;
-Protocol on the system of public broadcasting in the Member States;
-Protocol on protection and welfare of animals ;
-Protocol on the institutions with the prospect of enlargement;
-Protocol on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies and departments of the European Communities and of Europol;
-Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union.
Freedom, security and justice
The Treaty introduced guarantees to protect fundamental rights within the European Union, with particular regards to equality between men and women, non-discrimination and data privacy. Clarification was also introduced on the changes concerning freedom of movement within the European Union and the inclusion in the Treaty on the European Community of a new Title IV on visas, asylum, immigration, and other policies linked to the free movement of persons. A new Title VI, dealings with police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and the conditions for the integration of the Schengen acquis into the legal framework of the European Union, was also added to the Treaty on European Union.
The Union and the citizens
The Treaty introduced several innovations in the fields of rights, interests and well being of European citizens, with particular regards to:
-the development of the concept of European citizenship, with additions to the list of civic rights enjoyed by citizens of the Union and a clarification of the link between national citizenship and European citizenship;
- the insertion into the Treaty establishing the European Community of a chapter on employment, providing for the development of common strategies for employment and the coordination of national policies;
- the incorporation into the Treaty establishing the European Community of a stronger social agreement with a commitment to tackle social exclusion and uphold equality between men and women;
- the consolidation of environmental policy, with emphasis being placed on sustainable development, the consideration of environmental aspects in all sectoral policies and the simplification of Community decision-making;
- an improvement in the instruments available to the European Union for promoting high standards of public health;
- the clarification of the aims of consumer protection policy and a better integration of the measures taken in this area with other policies:
- a guaranteed right of access for each citizen to the documents produced by the European Union institutions and the right to communicate with the institutions in their own language3.
The Treaty introduced improvements aimed at defending the interests of the Union on the international stage. The external policy is both economic and political: as for the first dimension, the scope of the common commercial policy was extended, while the political side concerned the reform of the common foreign and security policy (CFSP). As for the economic issues, the challenges and practicalities of extending the scope of the common commercial policy to include international agreements on services and intellectual property rights were dealt with. As for CFSP, the following reforms were adopted:
- the creation of a new instrument: the common strategy;
- an improved decision-making process, through a greater use of qualified majority voting in the Council;
- the creation of the post of High Representative for the common foreign and security policy to give the CFSP greater prominence and coherence;
- the establishment of a policy planning and early warning unit to encourage joint analysis of international developments and their consequences;
- the incorporation of the so called "Petersberg tasks" into Title V (CFSP) of the Treaty on European Union, to demonstrate the Member States' common desire to safeguard security in Europe through operations to provide humanitarian aid and restore peace;
- the simplification of the procedures for funding the CFSP.
The Treaty introduced institutional reforms related to the enlargement of the Union. The following issues were regulated and updated:
- the scope and functioning of the co-decision procedure, which strengthens the role of the European Parliament;
- the weighting of votes in the Council of the European Union and the extension of qualified majority voting;
- the structure and operation of the European Commission, particularly the number of Commissioners, the Commission's power of initiative and the role of the Commission president;
- the role of the Court of Justice in areas such as fundamental rights and certain matters closely affecting the internal security of the European Union;
- an enhanced role for the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions;
- a greater involvement of national Parliaments in the activities of the European Union through a better provision of information;
- consolidation of the subsidiarity principle through the inclusion of a protocol containing legally binding guidelines;
- the possibility of closer cooperation between those Member States that want it.
Subsequent historic developments
The Nice Treaty
The reforms introduced by the Treaty were considered to be a step in the process of revision of the treaties made necessary by the enlargement of the Union. The Treaty itself provided for an intergovernmental conference to be started in 2000 in order to review the provisions of the treaties concerning the composition and functioning of the institutions4. The need for the Conference was confirmed by the Cologne European Council of June 1999, which led to opening the Conference on 14 February, with the mandate to draft amendments to the Treaties – in preparation to the enlargement – with regards to the dimension and functioning of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council, the extension of qualified majority voting, and enhanced cooperation. The Treaty was signed in Nice on 26 February 2001 and entered into force on 1 February 2003.
The Lisbon Treaty
At the entering into force of the Nice Treaty, a further verification of the future of the Union was already foreseen, with the aim of further developing the issues concerning the competences of the Union and of Member States, the Charter of fundamental rights, simplification of the treaties and the role of national parliaments in the European architecture. With the Laeken declaration of December 2001, the European Council specified that the reform would develop through a Convention, in order to prepare an intergovernmental conference. Similarly to the Convention that established the Charter of fundamental rights, the Convention was composed of representatives from national Governments and Parliaments in the Member States and candidate countries and representatives from the European Parliament and the Commission. Its inaugural session was held on 28 February 2002 and work came to an end after 17 months of discussions. The Convention produced a draft Treaty establishing a European Constitution that was presented to the Thessaloniki European Council. The draft Constitution served as the basis for the work of the intergovernmental conference, convened in October 2003. Heads of State and Government signed the draft finalized by the Conference on 29 October 2004. The entering into force of the Constitution was subject to ratification by all Member States, in accordance with each one's constitutional rules. Due to the difficulties encountered in certain States, the Heads of State and Government decided, at the European Council meeting on 16 and 17 June 2005, to launch a period of reflection on the future of Europe.
At the European Council meeting on 21 and 22 June 2007, European leaders reached a compromise and agreed to convene an intergovernmental conference to draft, instead of a Constitution, a reform treaty for the European Union. The result has been the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, after ratification by all 27 Member States, and includes relevant institutional and procedural reforms aimed at conforming the Union to its enlargement to 27 States and preparing it for the current economic and geopolitical challenges.
1Also known as Maastricht Treaty.
2The European Economic Community was so renamed pursuant to the Treaty of Maastricht.
3Emphasis was placed on improving the standard of drafting, so to make legislation easier to understand and apply.
4This declaration was reported in a specific Protocol on the institutions in the perspective of enlargement. As enlargement was to be implemented in 2001, the conference had to be started in 2000.
Editor: Lucio LANUCARA
© 2010 ASSONEB