EU members sign treaty to prepare for expansion
October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 8:27 a.m. EDT (1227 GMT)
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- European Union foreign ministers signed a treaty Thursday to prepare the organization for expansion in the next decade.
The ministers, hosted by Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, met at
the Royal Palace on Amsterdam's Dam Square, where the 15
European leaders signed the charter during a brief ceremony. To take effect, the treaty, first brokered at an EU
summit in June, must be ratified by all national legislatures, a process expected to take years.
In contrast to the landmark Maastricht Treaty on economic
and monetary union -- engineered six years ago -- Thursday's Amsterdam Treaty fell far short of the historic document many had hoped for.
It was designed to pave the way for eastward expansion but
was viewed by observers as a compromise document which leaves
many issues unresolved.
The latest version of the EU charter was supposed to
simplify decision-making ahead of the new members.
But two years of talks led to little on that score.
The treaty signed Thursday provides for a lifting of internal
border controls, closer police cooperation and an EU-wide
visa and asylum policies, except for Britain, Ireland and
Denmark. It also commits governments to joint employment
The treaty also makes it harder for individual nations to
block international policy decisions and creates an
international policy planning unit at the EU head office.
At least 11 nations are to join the EU in coming years. Leading them are Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus. Further behind are Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia. The first newcomers will probably not join before 2003 or 2004.
Outside the building where the treaty was signed, riot police repeatedly drove back hundreds of protesters who charged the square. There were no reports of injuries, but several protesters were arrested.
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