An Institutional Perspective on Treaty Reform: Contextualising the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties

This paper discusses the organisational factors supporting or constraining EU treaty reform. It is argued that reform must be seen in its historical, cultural and institutional context to disclose the structural elements in which actors are embedded.

ARENA Working Paper 27/2001 (html)

Ulf Sverdrup

In this article, I investigate and map organisational factors that constrain and facilitate treaty reform in the EU. I argue that our understanding of the IGCs is incomplete if the analysis is based solely on the preferences and powers of the member states. Based on institutional theory, I argue that the treaty reform process needs to be situated in a distinct historical, institutional, and contextual setting, revealing how actors are embedded in a web of structuring elements. The article examines the particular importance of three major institutional and contextual factors; (i) path-dependency, (ii) legitimacy and normative order, and (iii) the temporal location and timing of the conferences. The perspective is not an alternative to the state centric perspective, but it questions some of its basic assumptions and offers a theoretical framework that supplements our understanding of the dynamics of treaty reform. The empirical focus is on the 1996-7 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which resulted in the Amsterdam Treaty, and on the 2000 IGC, which led to the Nice Treaty.

A later version of this article was published in Journal of European Public Policy 9 (1): 120-140.

Tags: treaty reform, Nice Treaty, Amsterdam Treaty, legitimacy, institutions, path dependence
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM - Last modified Apr. 26, 2011 11:44 AM