Committee Reports::Report - The Treaty of Amsterdam::24 April, 1998::Report


Joint Committee on European Affairs

Report on the Treaty of Amsterdam


1.1The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed by the Foreign Ministers of the fifteen Members States of the European Union on 2 October, 1997.

1.2The Dáil and Seanad have passed the necessary legislation in order for the question of ratifying the Treaty to be put to the people, by way of a referendum on an amendment to the Constitution.

1.3The wording of the proposed constitutional amendment to Article 29 is as follows:

“5°The State may ratify the Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related Acts signed at Amsterdam on the 2nd day of October, 1997.

The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.11, 2.5 and 2.15 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 5° of this section and the second and fourth Protocols set out in the said Treaty but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.”.

1.4The date for the referendum has been set for May 22.

1.5The Joint Committee on European Affairs was addressed by the following bodies on this question:

(i)Irish Congress of Trade Unions;

(ii)Institute of European Affairs;

(iii)Irish Business and Employers Confederation;

(iv)Peace and Neutrality Alliance;

(v)The National Platform;

(vi)Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed.

1.6A special meeting of the Joint Committee was held on Friday, 24 April to discuss this draft report. The Friday sitting was arranged with the intention of facilitating the attendance of MEPs.

Presentations to the Joint Committee

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)

2.1On 25 February, 1998, the Joint Committee heard a presentation from Mr. Peter Cassells, General Secretary and Ms. Patricia O’Donovan, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The presentation covered the background to the Treaty, employment, key trade union demands and whether they were met, social rights and the relevant provisions of the Treaty.

2.2The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ presentation concluded that:

“Whilst the Amsterdam Treaty is not going to radically change the direction in which Europe is going, Congress believes that it contains important new elements in the areas of employment and social rights. These have the potential to impact significantly on the lives of the citizens of Europe. If these provisions can be activated and developed in a meaningful way, then the Amsterdam Treaty could come to be regarded as an important milestone on the way to building a Citizens’ Europe..”.*

Institute of European Affairs (IEA)

2.3The Committee was addressed by representatives of the Institute of European Affairs at its meeting of 25 March, 1998:

Terry Stewart, Director General, Institute of European Affairs; Professor Jim Dooge, Chair, Institute of European Affairs IGC Monitoring Group;

Eugene Regan BL, Chair, Institute of European Affairs Lawyers Group;

Professor Brigid Laffan, Chair, Institute of European Affairs Agenda 2000 Governance and Institutions Group.

2.4The Institute’s Director General circulated its publication Amsterdam: What the Treaty Means edited by Ben Tonra*. Professor Dooge outlined the background and contents of the publication. The delegation also dealt with questions from Members of the Joint Committee on common foreign and security policy, majority voting, accountability and openness, the armaments industry, common defence policy and Irish neutrality, police and judicial co-operation, employment and social exclusion in the context of the Treaty of Amsterdam.

Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC)

2.5A delegation from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation consisting of Mr. Peter Brennan and Ms. Karen Glennon addressed the Joint Committee on 8 April, 1998.

2.6Mr. Brennan said that IBEC supports the Amsterdam Treaty which is an important gradual step towards a better future for EU citizens. IBEC would agree with its description as the people’s treaty and welcomes the addition of unemployment to the EU competences. It is an important Treaty though not in the category of the Maastricht Treaty.*

Peace and Neutrality Alliance

2.7Mr. Roger Cole (Chairman) and Mr. John O’Dowd of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance addressed the Joint Committee on 8 April, 1998. The Alliance submitted to the Joint Committee that “the Treaty effectively ends the State’s commitment to the policy of neutrality in so far as Article J7 commits its signatories to ‘progressive framing of a common defence policy”’.

2.8The Alliance will be campaigning for a “No” vote in the referendum. Their objective is to have the Treaty re-negotiated and to include a Protocol excluding Ireland from defence commitments.*

The National Platform

2.9Mr. Anthony Coughlan of The National Platform made written and oral submissions to the Joint Committee. In his oral submission on 8 April, 1998 Mr. Coughlan outlined the position of The National Platform and its opposition to the Treaty on democratic and internationalist grounds. He considers that the Treaty has huge implications for the Irish Constitution.

2.10He reiterated The National Platform’s opposition to holding the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty on the same day as the referendum on Northern Ireland. Mr. Coughlan also presented the Committee with a copy of Revolt or Revolution: The Constitutional Boundaries of the European Community by Dr. Diarmuid Rossa Phelan*. The submission from The National Platform is attached.

Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU)

2.11Mr. Mike Allen made a presentation to the Joint Committee on 8 April, 1998 on behalf of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed. Mr. Allen circulated two documents at the meeting:

(i)INOU Briefing Paper on the Amsterdam Treaty; and

(ii)European Network of the Unemployed (ENU) Analysis of Amsterdam Treaty.

Both of these documents are attached.

2.12The ENU considered that the Maastricht Treaty had the goal of “high employment”, but this proved too vague to have any real impact. While recognising the progress made in the Amsterdam Treaty, this does not counterbalance the setbacks of the Maastricht Treaty.

2.13The five key goals of European Network of the Unemployed on the Treaty were full employment, linking full employment to other economic goals, the addition of unemployment to the EMU convergence criteria, introduction of a social audit and the inclusion of the voluntary sector as a social partner.


Information in relation to the Referendum

3.1The Joint Committee is concerned at the level of publicity which has so far been given to the issues involved in the referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam. At its meeting on 8 April, 1998, the Joint Committee decided to write to the relevant authorities in order to highlight this question. A copy of the relevant correspondence is appended to this report.

3.2Members of the Joint Committee have received briefing material from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the question of the Amsterdam Treaty. The purpose of this material was to inform Members of a delegation of the Joint Committee who had a number of meetings with EU Commissioners and officials on 19 and 20 March, 1998. As part of this briefing material, the Members of the Joint Committee received a summary of the White Paper on the Treaty of Amsterdam.

3.3The Joint Committee would recommend this summary to the Houses and to the public as giving succinct but comprehensive coverage of the issues involved.


3.4The Joint Committee is greatful to those bodies who made oral or written submissions to the Joint Committee in the course of its consideration of the Treaty of Amsterdam. A wide variety of opinion and expertise on the Treaty was made available to the Joint Committee to aid its deliberations.

Debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas

3.5The Joint Committee notes that the Dáil and Seanad have passed the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998 in relation to the referendum on the Treaty.

3.6Nevertheless, the Joint Committee recommends to both Houses that debates on this report should be held as soon as possible to allow Members to voice their opinions on the Treaty and the referendum and hopefully to inform public opinion further of the issues involved in both.

Bernard J. Durkan, T.D.


24 April 1998

* A copy of the ICTU submission circulated to the Joint Committee meeting is appended to this report.

* A copy of this publication has been placed in the Library for the information of Members and is available through the Institute of European Affairs at a cost of £15.

* A copy of the IBEC Newsletter on the Treaty is appended to this report.

* A copy of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance submission is appended to this report.

* A copy of this book has been placed in the Library for the information of Members.