of Amsterdam was approved by the European Council held in Amsterdam on16-17 June
1997 and signed on 2 October 1997 by the Foreign Ministers of the fifteen member countries
of the European Union. On 1 May 1999, it came into force having been ratified by all the
member States, following their own constitutional rules.
The Treaty of Amsterdam (1992)
As a legal document, the Treaty
of Amsterdam has as main objective to modify certain regulations of the Treaty of the European
Union, the constituent treaties of the European Communities (Paris and Rome) and of some acts related
It does not substitute the previous treaties, but rather it is added.
of Amsterdam attracted widespread criticism. These are some of the main
It did not solve one of the greatest pending problems of the
the adaptation of the institutions to a increasingly wider Community.
Some institutions were thought for an inferior number of member States and are not
efficient for the Europe of the Fifteen, not to mention for the future Union that will arise
from the future accession of Central and Eastern Europe countries.
For the more pro-Europe point of
view, the Treaty was not a step courageous enough towards political Union. Community
competences in spheres as common
foreign and security policy (CFSP) or police
and judicial cooperation were not enhanced.
No advance was done to work out the so known
democratic deficit of the Union.
The negotiations that precede the Treaty continued being based on give and
take between governments and States, with neither public participation, nor transparent and sufficient information.
Parliament, the sole community elected institution, role has not been
The text of the treaty went on being quite complicated -it consists of three
parts, one annex and thirteen protocols- and is not easily intelligible neither
citizens, nor, even, to legal, economic and political agents that should act
according to its regulations.
European Parliament in Strasbourg
In spite of all those insufficiencies, the Treaty
of Amsterdam meant an advancement in the road towards the European Union.
Let's have a glance at four main aspects of the Treaty.
Freedom, security and justice
The Treaty states
unequivocally that the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy,
respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law,
principles which are common to the member States. In 1998, the European
Council held in Cologne, decided to begin drafting a Charter
of Fundamental Rights. The treaty considered that the fundamental rights
applicable at Union level should be strengthened in a Charter in order to raise awareness
of them among citizens. The Charter was to be based on the Community Treaties,
international conventions such as the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights
and the 1989 European Social Charter, constitutional traditions common to the member States and various European Parliament declarations.
The Article 6 of the treaty
"1.The Union is
founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the
2.The Union shall respect
fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4
November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to
the Member States, as general principles of Community law (...)"
Treaty of Amsterdam, 1997
Regarding to social rights, the great
change is the signing of the new British government, presided over by Tony Blair,
of the Social
Charter annexed to the Treaty of Maastricht.
This Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers,
commonly known as the Social Charter, was included in the Treaty of Amsterdam.
It is a political instrument that contains moral
obligations to guarantee the respect of certain social rights. They are related
to labour market, vocational training, equal opportunities and the working
It was adopted that the Council, after complying with
different conditions, might determine the existence of a serious and
persistent breach of principles included in Article 6 by a member State. In
that case, the Council, by a qualified majority, might agree to suspend
certain of the rights derived from the Amsterdam Treaty to that member State, including the voting rights of the representative of
government in the Council.
The sanctions adopted by the EU against Austria in February
2000 because of the access of Jörg Haider's far right party to Vienna
government, shows a general attitude of defence of fundamental rights and of prevention against
political views that attempt against these rights.
Under the Treaty of Amsterdam a
new Article 13 has been written into the EC Treaty to reinforce the guarantee of non-discrimination
laid down in the Treaties and extend it to the other cases
The Union committed to establish a common area
of freedom, security and justice.
All affairs related to free
movement of persons; controls on external borders; asylum,
immigration and safeguarding of the rights of third-country nationals; and
judicial cooperation in civil matters were "communitised" by the Treaty
of Amsterdam, that is to say, they were brought under the legal framework of
the first pillar. To this effect, the Schengen
Agreement and Convention were included in the Treaty. United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark
voluntarily stayed out and, therefore, kept the right of exercising controls on people in their
frontiers. Denmark joined Schengen in 1996.
As the free movement of persons makes necessary to create
information systems in an European scale, the guarantees of protection of personal data were
reinforced as well.
On 28 July 2000, four important EU countries,
Spain, Italy, Germany and France, agreed to eliminate the obligation of
obtaining a residence permission to the rest of UE citizens.
and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (fight
against racism and xenophobia, terrorism,
organised crime and money-laundering) continued included in the third pillar and,
accordingly, are matters of intergovernmental
cooperation. The objectives of making easier the judicial collaboration,
facilitating the extradition procedures among member States and fomenting police
collaboration, were settled on. In this way, a gradual program of development of the
Police Office) activities was agreed.
The Union and the citizen
As well as developing the concept of Citizenship
of the Union, the Treaty included different measures trying to set the
common citizen in the centre of the Union concerns:
Measures to foster the EU intervention to fight against
unemployment; to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment; and
to improve consumer
European citizens have the right to access all
documents of EU institutions and to communicate with them using in
whatever official language of the Union (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian,
English, Irish Gaelic, Dutch, German, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Greek).
Common foreign policy
The dramatic break-up of Yugoslavia and the
coming back of the war to our continent evidenced how badly was needed an Union
able to act and prevent, and not only to react after events come up.
The former Yugoslavia crisis made again evident the weakness of the European States when reacting
by their own in the presence of an international crisis.
A major problem of the EU common
foreign and security policy from its start with the Treaty of Maastricht
has been the conspicuous imbalance between its ambitious objectives and the
meagre means the Union counts on to accomplish
The main change introduced by the Treaty
of Amsterdam is the establishment of a new post, labelled by the journalists
as Mr. CFSP.
Javier Solana, former Spanish cabinet minister and secretary general of NATO,
was appointed in October 1999, Secretary General of the Council of the European
Union and High representative for the Common
foreign and security policy. This same year was elected Secretary General of
European Union (WEU). The Treaty also provides the Union with a common
security policy that covers all matters relating to its security, including the
gradual formulation of a common
defence policy. The main role
of Mr. Solana is personifying the still weak and new common European foreign and
security policy. The CFSP should elaborate a progressive framing of a common defence
policy , which might lead to common defence.
The reform of the EU institutions
Taking into account the future
enlargement and in the perspective of a necessary overhaul of the EU
institutions, the treaty of Amsterdam introduced some reforms in the functions
and competences of the main institutions. The competences of the European
Parliament were enhanced, as well as the functions of the Court
of Auditors, Economic
and Social Committee and Committee
of the Regions. Some reforms were also established in the functioning of the
of the European Union.
After the Amsterdam Treaty came into force, the concept of closer
cooperation was introduced in the Treaty of the European Union. The aim of such
cooperation is to enable a limited number of Member States that are willing and
able to advance further, to deepen European integration within the single
institutional framework of the Union. This closer cooperation will
prevent the most eurosceptics countries from setting a slow pace to the
integration process. Journalists have used different ways to convey the idea of
"à la carte", "Multi-speed"
Europe, or an
Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam...
General awareness of the
insufficiency of the agreed institutional reforms caused that the very treaty
had a clause calling an Intergovernmental
Conference (IGC) to overhaul the Union institutions before a new enlargement