Negotiating the Intergovernmental
Conferences: Maastricht, Amsterdam,
ROBERT HARMSEN AND NICKOLAS REINHARDT
The 1990s have seen the adoption of two treaties marking, to varying degrees, the continued development of the European integration project. The Maastricht Treaty or Treaty on European Union was agreed in December 1991 and entered into force, after a turbulent ratification process, in November 1993. The Amsterdam Treaty was agreed in June 1997. Following a protracted but uneventful ratification process, this later treaty entered into force in May 1999. Both Treaties were the product of Intergovernmental Conferences or ‘IGCs’.
An Intergovernmental Conference, as the name suggests, is a formal negotiation concerned with Treaty revision between the governments of the member states of the European Union. According to the terms set down in the Treaties themselves, these negotiations concern only the governments of the member states. The Commission, the European Parliament, and other interested parties may, of course, make representations and seek to influence the agenda. Indeed, they have occasionally done so to considerable effect. Nevertheless, it is the governments of the member states alone who must, unanimously, agree any change to the Treaties. The dynamics of the process are thus decisively ‘intergovernmental’ in the sense used in the integration theory literature.1 The outcome of an IGC remains largely (though not entirely) explicable with reference to the convergence or divergence of the policy preferences of the member states.
The Maastricht Treaty was the product of two parallel IGCs, dealing with Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and Political Union. Although both IGCs were concluded at the Maastricht summit in 1991,
1 A. Moravcsik, ‘Negotiating the Single European Act: National Interests and Conventional Statecraft in the European Community’, International Organization 45/1 (1991), 19–56. See also A. Forster, ‘Britain and the Negotiation of the Maastricht Treaty: A Critique of Liberal Intergovernmentalism’, Journal of Common Market Studies 36/3 (1998), 347–68; and A. Moravcsik and K. Nicolaïdis, ‘Explaining the Treaty of Amsterdam: Interests, Influence, Institutions’, Journal of Common Market Studies 37/1 (1999), 59–85.