Europe - Intergovernmental Conference: Treaty Time Again

The European Union will this month launch a new Intergovernmental Conference, its sixth in less than twenty years. But this is treaty-making with a difference. Previous conferences have resulted in reforms that have been laboriously prepared over many months. This time there is already a draft constitution for the heads of state and government to sign if they choose. And the aim is that this should be over by Christmas. Or so the Italian government, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, hopes. Whether it will get its way is another matter, since it is reliant on unanimous agreement among the twenty five member and soon-to-be-member governments.

The World Today Updated 21 October 2020 Published 1 October 2003 4 minute READ

Dr Julie Smith

What is at stake at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), and why is the timing so crucial? The fundamental aim, as with its two immediate predecessors, is to try to create an effective, efficient and democratic Union able to function with twenty five or more members. Neither the treaties of Amsterdam nor Nice brought the sort of wide-ranging reforms that were needed, and so the Treaty of Nice called for a new IGC, perpetuating what has become an almost constant process of treaty reform and renegotiation.

In addition, the Treaty of Nice required the Swedish and Belgian governments, which were to hold the EU presidency during 2001, to open a dialogue on the future of Europe, with particular emphasis on bringing the political elite closer to the public. The December 2001 Laeken summit agreed to a convention on the future of Europe, which would prepare for the new IGC.

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