Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

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The Commission and the Amsterdam Treaty

Michel Petite, Fellow, Weatherhead Center For International Affairs, Harvard University, Director, European Commission

After a long last night at the end of the Maastricht negotiation, a Head of Government willingfully and loudly declared to a press which loved it, something like: "game, set and match". It suggested that he or his country was a winner, and that consequently there were losers.

Sadly for the fun, an intergovernmental Conference only bears remote resemblance with a game of tennis or with the Superbowl.

While it is still hard to discern who the losers were in Maastricht, the risk at the time of being identified as one of them might not have helped a serene process of ratification of the treaty.

It seems that, possibly on account of the Maastricht experience, politicians abstained after Amsterdam from any warrior declarations.

The treaty of Amsterdam was greeted by commentators with scepticism for failing to reach agreement on some aspects exposed to the most intense media coverage because they supposedly pitted the large states against the smaller ones.

But politicians know that the Treaty of Amsterdam, like its predecessors, marks another stage in the process of the European integration. It will be followed by others, for which dates are already scheduled. And it probably simply represents the most that the Member States were prepared to agree among themselves at a given moment.

There is a danger in trying to describe the Amsterdam Treaty from the point of view of a particular institution or a particular Member State : the danger to suggest winners and losers, where there is simply progress as a whole.

For example, the fact that the European Parliament comes out from Amsterdam with an enhanced function, or the attempt to improve decisions in foreign policy, were not extorted from the Member States. They came as the conscious and shared view that the time had come for a proper and mature Lower Chamber, which Europe could not do without; or that Foreign Policy under Maastricht had been unconvincing and needed a serious review.

Let us attempt a description of how the Commission approached the negotiation in the first place, and to evaluate the likely impact of the new provisions on the Commission.

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