The Treaty of Amsterdam was the result of the 1996-97 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) amongst the then 15 EU Member States (March 1996- June 1998). Its three core objectives were making Europe more relevant to its citizens, enabling it to work better and preparing it for enlargement, and giving it greater capacity for external action. The Treaty was not the critical juncture in European integration history which the previous Maastricht Treaty had been. The 1996-97 IGC in the first place tried to complete some of the unfinished work of its predecessor. This included the further extension of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) and co-decision, the shaping of a European security policy and making further progress in dossiers such as energy, civil protection and the hierarchy of norms. Still it would be erroneous to simply downplay the Treaty as a mere ‘leftover’ text. Under the leadership of the successive Italian, Irish and Dutch Presidencies, the Heads of State or Government reached an agreement on an employment chapter, a strengthening of social policy, the creation of the position of a High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), a partial communitarisation of cooperation in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), provisions on flexible integration and the integration of Schengen into the Treaty. Highly sensitive issues such as the re-weighting of the Council voting system and the size of the European Commission were postponed to the next IGC. After a relatively smooth ratification process which raised little public attention, the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force on 1 May 1999.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Encyclopedia of European Union Politics
EditorsFinn Laursen, Derek Beach, Roberto Domínguez, Sung-Hoon Park, Sophie Vanhoonacker, Amy Verdun
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Intergovernmental Conference, legitimacy, democratic deficit, Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), co-decision, flexible integration, closer cooperation, employment policy, social policy, European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR), Western European Union, Petersberg Tasks, Schengen

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