This Day in International Law – October 2

This Day in International Law | October 2

by Madeleine Wykstra

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Photo Credit: Rock Cohen

On October 2, 1997, European leaders signed the Amsterdam Treaty, introducing a set of procedural reforms to the European Union (EU). The treaty updated and clarified the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which was the document responsible for the creation of the EU and the eventual introduction of a single European currency, the euro. The Amsterdam Treaty also prepared the EU for expansion to include former communist countries of Eastern Europe.

In its entirety, the Amsterdam Treaty is not a particularly groundbreaking document. Rather, it illustrates the incremental reform that has typically characterized the evolution of the EU. It did, however, bring about some notable changes for the EU’s institutional balance. First, the Amsterdam Treaty altered decision-making in the EU by expanding the scope of issues that could be subject to Qualified Majority Voting, including some issues of foreign policy. As a result, the European Parliament garnered increased power to legislate on a range of social matters. The treaty also expanded the power of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, and the role of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which addresses international issues of politics, security, and diplomacy. Additionally, the treaty notably created open borders between twelve of the member states.

The Amsterdam Treaty received some criticism, even from EU leaders, pertaining to institutional issues that remained following its eventual ratification in May 1999. In hindsight, the treaty produced “modest” results, as it fell short of many EU leaders’ ambitions. For example, it did not enable expansion of EU membership to include Eastern Bloc countries as originally intended. Many of these lingering issues were addressed in two subsequent documents, the Treaty of Nice (2001) and the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). Both treaties continued the institutional development of the EU, as framed—albeit modestly—by the Amsterdam Treaty.

Madeleine Wykstra is a J.D. candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.

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