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The Treaty of Amsterdam

Page history last edited by Christos Lymbouris 14 years ago

The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed on the 2nd of October 1997 and came into force on the 1st of May 1999. Its main changes were focused on the Treaty on European Union, created by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.


Its main areas of focus were increasing the democratic legitimacy of the European Institutions by increasing the powers of the European Parliament, Security and Justice Reforms including the introduction of a common foreign and security policy, the reformation of the three pillars of the EU and the reform of the institutions to better prepare them for the upcoming enlargement.



Origins/ History

The Treaty of Amsterdam, or to give it its full name the “Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty of the European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts, commonly known as the Amsterdam Treaty” came into force on the 1st of May1999.


The Treaty was the result of a series of long negotiations beginning in 1995, in Messina, Sicily, and reached completion in Amsterdam on the 18th of June 1997. It was formally signed into EC law on the 2nd of October 1997 and a long and complex ratification process began. The procedure was finally concluded after the European Parliament ratified it on the 19th of November 1997 and after two referenda and 13 national parliament decision in the Member States.






The Treaty of Amsterdam is made up of 13 protocols and 3 huge sections, both introducing new articles and renumbering all the articles that came previously. Article 1 amended the Treaty on European Union and discusses criminal and policy cooperation as well as the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The following four articles amend the EC treaty and the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty (now expired), the EURATOM treaty and the acts covering the election and operation of the European Parliament. The final provisions contain a further four articles. The treaty also set out to simplify the Community Treaties, removing obsolete articles and renumbering the others to try to make the massive document more easily read and useful.


Other chapters of the treaty dealt with more pressing concerns mainly affecting European Citizens, dealing with their legal and personal security, immigration and fraud prevention. The EU could now legislate on immigration and civil procedure in so far as it was necessary to ensure the free movement of persons, one of the 4 core freedoms of the EC.


Two major reforms occurred with regards to the institutions. The Co-decision procedure, involving the European Parliament and the European Council was changed in terms of scope, with Parliament now playing a much stronger role. The president of the Commission also now needs the personal trust of the European Parliament, which will then give them the power to lay down the Commissions policy guidelines more effectively and be able to actively choose members of the Commission with help from the national governments. This makes the Commission more politically accountable mainly as it is more accountable to the European Parliament. The treaty also allows the Member States to cooperate more closely, and encourages a multi-speed Europe, under a commission proposal, in areas where joint action can be taken, in so long as it does not undermine the Coherence of the EU or the rights and equalities of its citizens


Cooperation in the criminal justice systems of the Member States has also been improved, meaning States will now be able to coordinate their activities more effectively, creating a common area of “freedom, security and justice”, in addition to the original idea of creating a common economic area. The Schengen Agreements allowing EU Citizens to travel across borders without border controls, as not been incorporate in the EU law (excluding Ireland and the UK). Linked to this the Treaty of Amsterdam laid down new principles for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, emphasising projection of the EU's values to the world outside of it, and reforming its modes of action. Common Strategies will be laid down by the European Council and Qualified Majority Voting will be used to put them into effect. Certain restrictions exist on the use o this voting, and abstentions can be made “constructively”.


Also to ensure the EU was better recognised outside, a singular person was created, the High Representative for EU foreign Policy, so that outside actors had one person to go to when approaching the EU in terms of foreign policy. This put a “face and name” to EU foreign policy, and although Amsterdam did not provide for common defence in the EU, it did also increase peacekeeping responsibilities and humanitarian possibilities, forging closer links with the Western European Union Organisation.



Future and Criticism


The Treaty of Amsterdam laid the foundations for future revisions of the treaty, being followed up with the treaties of nice and then the proposed constitutional treaty, which was eventually scrapped and replaced with the proposed Lisbon treaty.


The Treaty Attracted Criticism in many areas, mainly around democratic deficit, and the perceived short comings of its reforms.


The democratic deficit of the European Union was not fixed by this treaty. Negotiations preceding the treaty were primarily between governments and states, with no public participation, and the negotiations were held behind closed doors with again no transparency of discussion. The Europeans Parliaments power, although boosted by the treaty was not expanded into enough areas sufficiently. This was to be partly addressed by the Treaty of Nice.


The Treaty did nothing to make it more understandable by the common citizen, and is a mess of 3 huge parts, and thirteen protocols, causing great difficulties when trying to interpret what its regulations are and thus how actors interacting with the treaty should behave. This was to be addressed by the Lisbon treaty.

Also the heavy renumbering and restructuring of the treaty articles, although providing easier use for the future, caused confusion in the meantime as treaty articles had to be tracked down, using both the old and new numbers until people were used to the shifted article numbers.


The treaty also did not prepare the Union for the upcoming potential enlargement, and the institutions were poorly adapted to deal with this based upon this treaties revisions. Many states believed the intuitions were already unwieldy and inefficient even for the current 15 Member states, without even taking into account the potential for additional members. The composition of the Commission and the weighting of Member States votes and the use of Qualified Majority Voting were all not addressed, but were due to be in the Treaty of Lisbon.


Also it was heavily criticised for not being a large enough step towards political Union. Competence in areas outside of the economic sphere were not expanded much, and Police and Judicial Cooperation, as well as the Common Foreign and Security Policy, remained weak and fledgling.




Blackstones Statutes on EU Treaties & Legislation 2008-2009

Duff, Andrew, The Treaty of Amsterdam, (1997, Sweet and Maxwell, London)

Monar, Jorg and Wessels, Wolfgang, The European Union after the Treaty of Amsterdam, (2001, Continuum, Essex)

Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Mette, Debates on European Integration, (2006, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke)

Nugent, Neill, The Government and Politics of the European Union, (2006, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke) 




External Links


The Amsterdam Treaty – a Comprehensive Guide

Full text of the Amsterdam Treaty

The Treaty on European Union (as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam)

The Treaty establishing the European Community (as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam)

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