The Amsterdam Process: A Structurationist Perspective on EU Treaty Reform
European Integration online Papers (EIoP), Vol. 3, No. 1, January 15, 1999
25 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2002
Intergovernmental Conferences are generally seen as key events in the design of the European Union. This paper challenges this traditional view. Arguing that treaty reform should be regarded as a continuous process rather than a series of events, the paper develops a procedural understanding of constitutional change based on structuration theory. In such a perspective, analytical attention is re-directed from the political limelight of largely ceremonial events to the more obscure 'valleys' ? the periods between the IGC summits in which the more momentous developments of European integration occur. The study of past instances of constitutional change as well as an analysis of the IGC leading to the Amsterdam Treaty demonstrate the significance of a wider set of actors and of the structural environment: the trajectory of past decisions, the multilateral generation of reform agendas, the institutionalised patterns of negotiation and decision-making and the constitutionalisation of the EU order. This severely limits the ability of national governments to negotiate on the basis of 'national interests' and thus dissolves one of the cornerstones of intergovernmentalism ? the over-arching significance of IGCs.
Keywords: European integration, intergovernmental conferences, constitutional change, Amsterdam Treaty, structuration theory, polity building, administrative adaptation, agency theory, differentiated integration, European law, integration theory, intergovernmentalism, treaty reform, political science
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