Amsterdam Summit: Europe fails to deliver its own future

Leaders agree on common defence policy but Blair is confident Nato will not be undermined

A battle for power between Europe's large and small states last night scuppered a deal on key areas of reform in the Amsterdam Treaty negotiations.

After 18 months of negotiation, European leaders decided to defer a decision on a fairer distribution of votes among member states, following the failure of the 15 countries to reach a deal.

The deadlock on sharing votes meant member states were also unable to finalise a new deal on streamlining the European Commission, which had been another key objective of the Amsterdam talks. Failures to reach a deal on these fronts will raise serious questions about the validity of the new Amsterdam Treaty.

One of the key objectives of the latest round of talks, launched to re- write the 1991 Maastricht Treaty, was to re-design European Union institutions in order to prepare for the accession of new EU members from east and central Europe.

However, last night's decision to defer final agreement will smash the hopes of integrationists, and renew doubts about whether Europe is ready to go forward to enlargement.

European heads of government were negotiating the final shape of their new treaty late into the night, as negotiators battled to secure compromises which they would be able to sell to voters back home.

Tony Blair, attending his first full European summit, claimed that he had secured satisfactory deals for Britain on several fronts.

Mr Blair was assisted in his attempts to resist a large-scale move towards wider reduction in veto powers by Germany, which took the initiative in blocking an extension of qualified majority voting over several areas. However, necessary trade-offs inevitably meant that Britain had to give ground in order to agree the final treaty text.

Having gained his prime objective of securing Britain's frontier controls, Mr Blair last night focussed his negotiating skills on preventing a Franco- German plan to gradually build a European defence, and securing a deal to curb fish quota-hopping. Mr Blair claimed that the final treaty text on a common defence had satisfied his demands that Europe's new defence powers be limited to carrying out humanitarian and peace-keeping tasks.

The Prime Minister also won agreement from his partners that no moves to pool defence decisions would undermine the pre-eminence of Nato.

However, Britain was forced to give some ground in the defence debate, accepting that the Western European Union, Europe's de-facto defence arm, could, over time, be "integrated" into the EU structures. The Government would have preferred to have kept the word "integration" out of the final agreement altogether, but Franco-German pressure appears to have forced the concession.

As the treaty negotiations came to a head last night, British negotiators announced that a side agreement had been finalised with the European Commission, giving new guarantees that fish quota-hopping can be curbed.

Announcement of the agreement could help Mr Blair to sell the overall Amsterdam package to the House of Commons, where he will outline the outcome of the treaty talks today.

However, there was widespread disagreement last night about whether the agreement was legally binding. Spain has not been a party to the agreement and could still challenge such a deal in the European Court.

Jacques Santer, the European Commission President, has accepted British proposals under which all vessels fishing the British quota must in future land 50 per cent of their catch at British ports. Furthermore, the agreement states that fifty per cent of the fishermen on such vessels must be of British origin.

The deal is framed to deter foreign fishermen from taking over British quota licenses.

The late-night negotiations revealed just how far apart member states remained on several core issues raised during the Amsterdam negotiations.

The package of reforms is certain to be seen by integrationists as a minimalist package, which falls far short of the objectives set out by Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, for a leap forward towards political union.

However, important further power-sharing has been agreed in asylum and immigration policy. Areas set aside for further discussion, such as the institutional questions, could bring calls for another treaty revision before Europe moves ahead towards enlargement to the east.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?