Amsterdam Summit: Europe Fails to Deliver Its Own Future

By Amsterdam, Sarah Helm | The Independent (London, England), June 18, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Amsterdam Summit: Europe Fails to Deliver Its Own Future


Amsterdam, Sarah Helm, The Independent (London, England)


A battle for power between Europe's large and small states last night scuppered a deal on key areas of reform in the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations.

After 18 months of negotiation, European leaders decided to defer a decision on a fairer distribution of votes among member states, following the failure of the 15 countries to reach a deal.

The deadlock on sharing votes meant member states were also unable to finalise a new deal on streamlining the European Commission, which had been another key objective of the Amsterdam talks. Failures to reach a deal on these fronts will raise serious questions about the validity of the new Amsterdam Treaty. One of the key objectives of the latest round of talks, launched to re- write the 1991 Maastricht Treaty, was to re-design European Union institutions in order to prepare for the accession of new EU members from east and central Europe. However, last night's decision to defer final agreement will smash the hopes of integrationists, and renew doubts about whether Europe is ready to go forward to enlargement. European heads of government were negotiating the final shape of their new treaty late into the night, as negotiators battled to secure compromises which they would be able to sell to voters back home. Tony Blair, attending his first full European summit, claimed that he had secured satisfactory deals for Britain on several fronts. Mr Blair was assisted in his attempts to resist a large-scale move towards wider reduction in veto powers by Germany, which took the initiative in blocking an extension of qualified majority voting over several areas. However, necessary trade-offs inevitably meant that Britain had to give ground in order to agree the final treaty text. Having gained his prime objective of securing Britain's frontier controls, Mr Blair last night focussed his negotiating skills on preventing a Franco- German plan to gradually build a European defence, and securing a deal to curb fish quota-hopping. Mr Blair claimed that the final treaty text on a common defence had satisfied his demands that Europe's new defence powers be limited to carrying out humanitarian and peace-keeping tasks.

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