The Amsterdam Treaty and The European Union

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The Amsterdam Treaty and The European Union

The creation of the European Community (EC) and the European Union (EU) involved the establishment of a new legal order promoting the process of European integration within member states; economically, monetarily, politically and legally the EU strives through the treaties to evolve a unitary state1. Changes in EU institutional and legal system are normally realised as a result of amendments in the constitution of the EU, its very basic treaties. The EU does not have a formal document as its constitution, presently it is developed 'primarily through processes of international negotiation which produce treaties, supplemented by the interpretative role of the Court of Justice'.2

In terms of the Single European Act (SEA) there were 5 basic provisions3. The first was to amend the EEC treaty to achieve the objectives of a European Parliament (EP) white paper; to define the Internal Market under Article 7a EC treaty and to set in place procedures for the free movement of persons, goods etc by 1993; to set up the new law-making powers of the Council acting by a qualified majority vote (QMV) in co-operation with the European Council necessary to attain the goals set out in Article 7a; to introduce the new legislative co-operation procedure in the European Parliament which would force a second reading of any legislation.(Article 189 EC treaty).

The second provision of the SEA was to consolidate de jure some of the extensions of competence that had taken place de facto since the 1970's within the EC4. For example, an amendment of Article 6(2) EC Treaty allowed the Council acting by a QMV to, in co-operation with the EP, introduce rules to prevent discrimination on the grounds of nationality, this constituted an evolution in the principle of the free movement of persons.

Specific competence's such as policies' in relation to regional development, research in technology development and the environment evolved in the 1970's although these were also further amended in the Maastricht Treaty Articles 13 A-T.

Institutionally, the Court Structure of the EC was developed as a result of the SEA- the ever increasing workload of the ECJ lead to the creation of the Court of First Instance (CFI) which began its work in 1989. This amendment was attached to Article 168 EC Treaty (which created the ECJ) as sub-section (a). Article 3 of Decision 88/591 set out the specific caseload of the CFI which comprised complete jurisdiction of all cases brought by 'natural and legal persons'.

The SEA developed the role of the EC on the international stage; Title 1 of the SEA consolidated and institutionalised the activities of the European Council, until then a relatively 'informal gathering'5. The Council was now required to meet at least twice a year and foreign ministers and a member of the Commission assisted the representatives from each member state.

Politically, Title 2 of the SEA put Europe's Political Co-operation policy (EPC) on a 'much firmer footing'6; although this system was essentially intergovernmental in nature where it involved the European Council there were links with the Community's institutional structure; - for example, the EPC was chaired by whichever Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country who held the presidency of the Council. The Commission was fully associated with the work of the EPC under Article 30(3)(b) of the SEA; the Presidency had to inform the EP of foreign policy issues arising within the EPC.
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However, the SEA was criticised due to the clauses 'submerged in a flood of verbuse vagueness' of its wording, the derogation it allowed member states' and its assertions that completing the internal market by 1993 was a new goal for the EC7. Pescatore8 remarked that, the SEA was 'fundamentally deceptive', it ignored the progress already made towards an internal market and set no legal obligation for it to be achieved before 1993. Pescatore argued that the SEA conjured 'elusive notions' on the 'unilateral protective measures by member states' on subjects like safety and protection of the environment under ...

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