Precedents and Present Events in the European Union - An Institutional Perspective on Treaty Reform

Taking the Amsterdam Treaty as object of study, this paper makes the case for an institutionalist perspective of the EU. Institutional reform, it is argued, stems less from member state power and preferences than from path-dependence, internal dynamics and specific circumstances of the ICG.

ARENA Working Paper 21/1998 (html)

Ulf Sverdrup

The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and the Amsterdam treaty were set to prepare the European Union (EU) for the challenges of the 21st century. A radical review and reform of the EU institutions was considered of paramount importance. During the IGC, issues related to institutional reform ranked high on the agenda and played a prominent role in the discussions. In this paper I investigate and map the organizational factors that constrained and facilitated institutional reform in the EU. I challenge the liberal intergovernmental perspective (Moravcsik 1993, 1995), which argues that preferences and power of the member states are the key factors explaining the dynamics of European integration. I demonstrate that a careful analysis of the constraints and possibilities created by the path-dependent development of the EU, the internal dynamics and the procedures of decision-making in the IGC, and a distinct temporal location contribute to increasing our understanding of decision-making in the EU. Based on the empirical investigation of the IGC, I suggest that an institutional perspective of governance (March and Olsen 1989, 1995) unveils important aspects of political reform that have previously been neglected.

Tags: Amsterdam Treaty, institutionalism, methodological issues, power analysis, IGC 1996
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM