Introduction: Overview of the 1996-97 Inter-governmental Conference (IGC) and the Treaty of Amsterdam
[Chapter from Finn Laursen, ed. The Amsterdam Treaty, Odense University Press, 2002]
The Amsterdam Treaty, which was finally negotiated in Amsterdam 16-17 June 1997, resulted from an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which had started on 29 March 1996. It was the longest IGC so far in the history of the European Union (EU). Further, the IGC had itself been prepared through the so-called Reflection Group during the second half of 1995.
That such an IGC took place at this point in time was not due to a great wish on the part of the Member States to further deepen integration (Dinan 1999, 169). It took place because the preceding treaty reform resulting in the Maastricht Treaty had included the stipulation in the Treaty's Art. N, that such an IGC should take place in 1996.
Article N specified:
1. The government of any Member State or the Commission may submit to the Council proposals for the amendment of the Treaties on which the Union is founded.
If the Council, after consulting the European Parliament and, where appropriate, the Commission, delivers an opinion in favour of calling a conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States, the conference shall be convened by the President of the Council for the purpose of determining by common accord the amendments to be made to those Treaties. The European Central Bank shall also be consulted in the case of institutional changes in the monetary area.
The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
2. A conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States shall be convened in 1996 to examine those provisions of this Treaty for which revision is provided, in accordance with the objectives set out in Articles A and B (Council & Commission 1992, 138).