European Union reaches modest treaty agreement
June 18, 1997
Web posted at: 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT)
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- European Union leaders
reached agreement early Wednesday on a treaty that sets the
stage for eastern expansion, but it fell short of the
ambitious document some members had sought.
"It's not as strong as we had hoped," said Italian Prime
Minister Romano Prodi, who added that he was "moderately
satisfied" with the progress the organization made.
The treaty had to give everyone something to take home to
voters, and finding a formula to fit 15 national agendas
proved a daunting task.
"There was this tendency to load the wagon with every good
idea you could think of," said Irish Prime Minister John
Bruton. "We might have been better off to have concentrated
on a few items."
EU leaders agreed to a watered-down version of proposals put
forth on the first day of the two-day summit -- proposals
that came out of two years of talks.
And while some expressed open disappointment, most said they
felt the new treaty was strong enough to begin the work of
"The Treaty of Amsterdam is a solid basis for the coming
tasks of unifying Europe," German Chancellor
Membership talks are expected to begin within six months with
a dozen applicants as the organization prepares to expand
into former Communist bloc countries. Hungary, Poland, the
Czech Republic and Cyprus are considered the leading
Prospective member countries will be invited to a debriefing
in about 10 days.
Compromise in order
To win approval of the modest expansion plans, other key
components of the original proposals were diluted. For
instance, a plan to redistribute votes proportional to a
country's population ran afoul of Europe's smaller nations,
who feared a loss of influence in decision-making processes.
"Proportional voting, had it been approved, would have been
introduced when the Union expanded," said Luxembourg Foreign
Minister Jacques Poos. "Now the debate has been put off until
A French and German drive to strengthen the EU's defense role
fell prey to concerns from Britain and other countries that
such a strategy would undermine NATO's role in Europe.
Decision-making won't get any easier
The new treaty did give the EU some authority over
immigration and border security, although it granted
exemptions to Britain, Ireland and Denmark.
The Union inched closer to a single European currency by
closing a gap between France and Germany on Monday, but
France opened a new one the following day by announcing it
wanted new concessions before agreeing to the plan.
Outside the summit, protesters staged a series of
demonstrations -- the last one disrupting the Dutch
president's concluding address -- to express their objections
to the EU's plans.
Inside, the leaders had come to an agreement. The treaty,
while not a huge success, could not be termed a failure,
either. However, as the organization expands, consensus is
likely to become harder to reach.
Brussels Bureau Chief Patricia Kelly contributed to this
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