Tuesday 14 September 1999
[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at
(Hugh Henry): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have apologies
from Tavish Scott.
Treaty of Amsterdam
The Convener: The first item on
our agenda is a discussion on the treaty of Amsterdam and its implications
for Scotland. I welcome Dermot Scott from the European Parliament and Elizabeth
Holt from the European Commission to the committee. Before I ask them to
take us through the presentation on the treaty of Amsterdamthat is after
Mr Wilson has stopped giving us a tune on his mobile phone.
Allan Wilson (Cunninghame North) (Lab):
The Convener: I should say that
they are here in an informal capacity. They are not here to answer questions
about the new Commission or anything else that might be going on.
Dermot Scott (European Parliament):
Convener, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your invitation. Liz
Holt and I are delighted to respond to your invitation for an informal
briefing on the Amsterdam treaty. I tried to think of something amusing
to say about the Amsterdam treaty but have not yet found it. The treaty
is a bit like the book of Deuteronomy: we all know that it is there; very
few people have read it from end to end; some bits of it are probably controversial
nowadays; and few people are expert on it.
Committee members have already received
a lengthy document on the Amsterdam treaty prepared by Sue Morris of SPICe.
We will not be revisiting the treaty at such length, but will instead give
a useful overview of its contents. Several committee memberssuch as yourself,
convenerhave experience and are knowledgeable in this area. Liz Holt and
I will split the presentation between us: I will set the scene and Liz
will outline the treaty's content.
In the mid-1980s, Europe was gripped by
economic stagnation; the US and Japan were creating jobs while Europe was
losing them. Since the oil crises of 1973 and 1979, Europe had been retreating
into protectionism. Although tariff
||barriers had been
removed, non-tariff barriers were being erected.
There were strategic uncertainties at the
highest level of the European Union due to various geopolitical factors,
such as the rapid changeover of American presidents and their points of
view on international politics; the invasion of Afghanistan; the crisis
in Iran; the twin-track NATO deployment in Europe and the reaction of various
European countries to that; and the star wars initiative.
Such uncertainties led to the completion
of the single market and the removal of non-tariff barriers that were now
separating the European market into national markets. It was hoped that
such measures would allow Europe to compete effectively with the large
US and Japanese markets. However, 300 trade barriers that were covered
by 300 directives had first to be removed. It was necessary to introduce
voting to get the directives through the Council of Ministers, because
the organisation had been stuck for years on the need for unanimity. A
system called qualified majority voting is used to achieve agreement in
the council on issues on which there is no unanimity and means that such
issues can be agreed if there is a majority of about 71 per cent.
However, qualified majority voting also
means that the national Parliament's influence over each member state's
minister in the Council of Ministers is reduced. The national Parliament
has no real sanction, because, although the minister might have argued
the Government's point of view in the council deliberations, he may have
been outvoted. More voting means more democratic control at a European
level through the European Parliament, which is what happened in the Single
European Act of 1985. Because of strategic uncertainties, there was a small
advance in the area of European political co-operation. Such co-operation
had been going on informally since 1970, but it was now formalised within
the treaty framework under the heading of common foreign and security policy.
That situation lasted from 1985 to 1992,
when the Maastricht treaty on European union was agreed. The treaty followed
up the single act's largely successful idea of creating a single market
by 1992 by suggesting the creation of a single currency. The proposal was
well prepared by a committee of top-level central bankers which was chaired
by Mr Delors and which reported in 1988 or 1989. Although the parameters
for a single currency were laid down in the Maastricht treaty, the idea
had been well researched in the Werner report in the early 1970s, through
the snake mechanism and other attempts to co-ordinate the European monetary
system and in the Delors report.
they were considering setting up an intergovernmental conference to bring
about the single market, a political event upset the apple cartthe collapse
of the Soviet Union. In May 1990, it was decided that there would not be
one intergovernmental conference to reform the treaties to allow for the
single currency, there would be two, with the other dealing with political
co-operation and how to react to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The
result was the introduction of economic and monetary union in the Maastricht
treaty and advances in the common foreign and security policy. Those are
the two pillars of the Maastricht treaty. I will come to the third one
soon. The first pillar is the old treaties that go back to the 1950s and
the second pillar is the structure that deals with common foreign and security
Within the first pillar, we get more qualified
majority voting, because the Single European Act was seen to have been
a success and the powers that were given to the European Parliament were
also seen to have been successful. They had not caused, as some people
had expected, a great delay in the legislative process. Therefore, in 1992
the Parliament was rewarded with co-decision, the equal right with the
council to take decisions on a limited number of areas15 areas were agreed
in the Maastricht treaty. That changed the balance between the council
and Parliament. The council knows that the Parliament may vote something
down, so it behaves differently in the bargaining process. A lot of interesting
work has been produced on that matter.
The third pillar established by the Maastricht
treaty is co-operationwhich had again been going on informallyon matters
such as visas, police and judicial co-operation and immigration. Co-operation
in those matters is pillar 3. The difference is that in pillar 1 the community
method is used: only the Commission can make a proposal and the council
and the Parliament have defined powers in making the legislation. In pillars
2 and 3, it is more or less purely inter-governmental. The Commission may
be associated with the work of common foreign and security policy and justice
and home affairs, and the European Parliament may be consulted, but it
does not have the role that it does in pillar 1. That is an important distinction
The important point about Maastricht is
that they came to agreement at 3 o'clock in the morning on 16 December
1992, when they were dead tired and they signed on the bottom line. They
could not agree on some issues. They could not agree on extending qualified
majority voting further on the extent to which the European Parliament
should be given co-decision rights or on how far to go on reforming common
foreign and security policy. They knew that events were dynamic in central
and eastern Europe, so they would need to come
||back and review
this in a few years time. They knew that the Western European Union treaty
was expiring in 1998. There was disagreement on whether new areas, such
as tourism, should be brought into the treaty. Therefore, they said, "We
will sign now and come back in 1996 to consider those matters again."
Elizabeth Holt (European Commission):
Now we get to the Amsterdam treaty, five years on from Maastricht, when
the member states revised the Treaty on European Union. They tried to progress
on the existing treaty by revising it. The trick of understanding the Amsterdam
treaty is not to try to understand everything about it, because it is a
huge, sprawling complexalmost organicsymbol of how Europe is developing.
Certain key areas represent the important parts of the treaty. Dermot and
I will go through the four main areas today.
What is the scope of the Amsterdam treaty?
Central to the treaty is the idea that the European Union should have the
interests of the people of Europe at heart. The difficulties experienced
by certain member states, particularly Denmark, but also France, the United
Kingdom and others, in ratifying the Maastricht treatythe delays and the
evident reluctance to move too fastquickly concentrated the minds of Europe's
political leaders on a single conclusion: that the European Union must
be made more accountable and relevant to ordinary people than it had been
The Amsterdam treaty is, therefore, very
much about the people of Europe and their most immediate concerns: their
jobs, their way of life and their rights as individual citizens. We will
show how the Amsterdam treaty puts the fight against unemployment at the
top of the European agenda, how it seeks to extend the rights of individuals
in the member states, and how it reinforcesclarifies absolutelythe principle
that European Union decisions should always be made at the lowest appropriate
level, so that things are done that make the actions of the European Union
more open, more accessible and better understood.
The second major issue dealt with by the
Amsterdam treaty is the building of a safer and more just EU, in which,
as is right in a union, there are no internal frontiers. Dermot will handle
that issue. He will talk about how the Amsterdam treaty is intended to
make the European Union a place in which its citizens can move around more
freely than ever before, but at the same time a place that is secure and
where the power of law and order is assured, despite the openness and freedom.
The treaty brings significant parts of
||called third pillar,
which Dermot has already mentionedjustice and home affairsunder the Community
umbrella. The importance of that should not be underestimated. It is clear
that for European Union citizens the things that count are security, effective
Community action and networking and co-operation among Europe's police
In the early years of the Common Market,
the right to live and work in other European Union member states was limited
to those in paid employment, but since 1993 any European who wants to can
exercise that right: students, the self-employed, tourists, pensioners,
and so on. In practice, however, it is true that we have not yet achieved
full freedom of movement for people. That is partly because member states
are reluctant to give up passport checks at their borders until they can
be sure that there are common standards on immigration and asylum seekers
and that effective controls on international criminals are in place at
the external borders of the European Union. The EU island nationsIreland
and the UKare particularly sensitive about that.
The third big issue in the treaty of Amsterdam
is the idea of a stronger Europe in the world. We will briefly examine
the way in which the Amsterdam treaty attempts to carve out a stronger,
but appropriate, world role for the European Union by moving towards an
effective and coherent external policy. As Dermot has already suggested,
foreign policy is one of the most delicate areas for the European Union
and one in which activity is essentially intergovernmental.
Kosovo, the Union's most public post-Maastricht
foray into foreign policy, was widely considered to have been a failure.
In spite of the good work done since, it was difficult to shake off the
feeling that the European Union's foreign policy provision did not fit
Europe's circumstances at the end of the 20th century. A careful
balance has to be struck between the development of common EU action on
security and defence and respect for national traditions of neutrality.
The fourth area that we want to talk about
today is a wider European Unionthe idea of enlarging the European Union
to include new members. However, it must remain a Europe that works and
can function. The sort of structures that were put in place were ideal
for a group of six member states, but not, arguably, for 15, and certainly
not for 20 or more. We want to talk about how the treaty has addressed
the way in which the European Union is moving towards taking in new member
states while embarking on the reform of its own institutions to keep them
effective and democratic.
I have elected to talk about social policy
as that is my main background in the Commission. For 18
||years, I have been
an official working in the Directorate-General V, Employment, Industrial
Relations and Social Affairs, in Brussels. I have worked as a desk officer
and as an individual official on a wide range of social policies, so it
is appropriate that I talk about them. Arguably, employment and social
affairs are the best thing about the treaty of Amsterdam. They are the
area in which there was greatest progress in the negotiations, and that
is perhaps the part of the treaty of which many people in Brussels are
most proud. They feel that they did well in the treaty of Amsterdam.
Employment is obviously a central issue
in anyone's thinking, and the treaty of Amsterdam introduced a new employment
chapter that has put employment and job creation at the heart of the process
of European integration. It is perhaps the single most positive outcome
of the treaty and has been steadily built on since 1997, when the treaty
was agreed between the member states. European leaders have recognised
that stability and growth policiesthe economic progress made by the European
Unionhad to be matched by a stronger commitment to employment at a European
The treaty made employment a matter of
common European concern. In other words, solving European labour market
problems would not be done by individual European Union member states,
but by member states co-operating to address those problemsat the European
and the national levelin a co-ordinated way. That important provision
has been the mechanism that has, since 1997, seen the development of what
is called the European employment strategy. It came into effect immediately,
at the explicit wish of member state governments. In other words, the Commission
did not have to wait until the ratification of the treaty in all the member
states to begin working on the strategy. Member states agreed that we could
begin to pull it together straight away.
The strategy has proved extremely effective;
it is already producing results. It is based on common commitments and
targets, not unlike those that have been so successful in European monetary
union. We hope that, when applied to the job market, those common commitments
and targets will lead to better employment performance, greater emphasis
on employability, the building of a stronger spirit of entrepreneurship
in European economies, much greater adaptability for both workers and firms
in the labour market, and a considerable emphasis on equal opportunities
between men and women.
An enormous amount has been achieved since
1997. The European employment strategy is now in its third year, and has
been publicly endorsed
||by the G7 summit
in its scrutiny of the direction of the European economy. A few days ago,
the Commission officially proposed its new guidelines for member state
employment policy for 2000. For the first time under the new employment
strategy, it has proposed to the Council of Ministers ways in which individual
member states can improve their labour market performance. Peer review
is an important part of the employment strategy.
The treaty of Amsterdam also gave the European
Union something very important in terms of wider social policy: a single
legal framework for agreeing social policy. In other words, Amsterdam integrated
what is known as the social chapter into the body of the Treaty on European
Union and ended the UK opt-out.
I was working in Brussels on social policy
during the 1990s and it was not easy to deal with the European Union, with
14 member states implementing some European social policies and 15 member
states implementing certain others. There was a fragmented approach to
social policy, which did not make a lot of sense. Although member states
all have their own approach, they also have an enormous amount in common
in how they deal with social policy. The achievement of the treaty of Amsterdam
is therefore important; European social policy making is now done by all
the 15 member states, and that can only be a good thing.
One result of that change, and it is something
that is considered especially important in the Commission, has been to
bring the so-called social partnersthe employers and trade unionson board
as major players in social policy making at European level.
The treaty contains a provision on people's
fundamental rights and an article on anti-discrimination. Article 13 of
the Amsterdam treaty gives the European Union the capacity to lead the
fight in member states against any form of discrimination, defined in broad
terms, whether on the basis of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or
belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.
The treaty emphasises gender equality and
the achievement of real equality between women and mensomething for which
a great deal of work has been done at European level for many years, but
where final success still eludes us. Article 2 of the treaty of Amsterdam
now makes equality of opportunity between men and women one of the main
objectives of the European Union.
Dermot Scott: The second area for
discussion is freedom, justice and securitythe third pillar of the Maastricht
treaty. There are two contrary tendencies in this area. There is a desire
to improve freedom of movement for the citizens of Europeas a personal
right and as a means of
||assisting in the
breakdown of barriers to trade, industry and economic development; there
is also an unwillingness to let that happen if it will lead to more cross-border
crime. Internationalising crime flies in the face of the logic of such
All member states except Britain and Denmark
agreed to the freedom of movement across borders provided for by the Schengen
agreementSchengen is the name of the village in Luxembourg where the agreement
took place. The agreement was made outside the Treaty on European Union.
The Amsterdam treaty brings it in so that it is now incorporated in the
To allow for the fact that Britain has
a different view, however, one must allow for flexibility. How does one
do that? In the treaty of Amsterdam, the circle has been squared by setting
out precise instructions about how certain countries may go ahead, under
what conditions they may do so and whether other member states can stop
Because the detail has been laid out in
the Amsterdam treaty, there is permission to invoke the Schengen agreement
for some, but not all, countries. There are detailed provisions that allow
Ireland, in particular, to rejoin if it wishes.
Denmark is in a curious half-in, half-out
situation. It complies with the agreement, but under title 6 of the treaty
of Maastricht rather than under title 3 of the treaty of Amsterdam. As
usual, it is a very complex procedure.
Visa policy, residence permits and asylum
procedures are now included in the text of the European Community treaty.
They have been brought into the treaty structure and in five years' time
a decision can be made to move to majority voting on them.
There are also rules for civil-judicial
co-operation as part of that title. They are in the wrong place. That should
mean that visa policy, residence permits and asylum procedures are now
subject to Community rule, and possibly, in five years, to majority voting.
Rules on civil-judicial co-operation are not yet subject to Community rules.
As is elaborated in the treaty, decisions
made to improve the European police office for better information exchange
are the counterpoint to the freedom of movement. In other words, if there
is to be freedom of movement, the police in different countries must have
freedom to enjoy effective exchange of information. Europol is not yet
a federal bureau of investigation for the European Union. It is a mechanism
whereby national police forces co-operate. It is an information exchange.
In criminal matters, police remain inter-governmental.
The fights against terrorism,
crimes against children, drugs, fraud and corruption also remain inter-governmental.
Governments co-operate in those areas, although those areas are not communitised.
Elizabeth Holt: The treaty has been
used to bring greater effectiveness and coherence to the European Union's
external policy. The strategy that lies behind the treaty of Amsterdam
is two-pronged. The treaty extends the scope of the EU's common commercial
policy to promote its worldwide economic interests. The second part of
the strategy is a reform of the EU approach to a common foreign and security
From the outset, the EC has always defended
the commercial interests of member states. However, international trade
in the 1990s is very different from what it was in the 1960s, when it involved
mainly agriculture and manufacturing. Invisibles now account for most of
the wealth of the EU, which is why the Amsterdam treaty has extended the
competence of the common commercial policy to the key areas of intellectual
property and services.
That there should be such an extension
of the common commercial policy is underlined by the fact that 92 per cent
of the union's gross domestic product comes from trade between member states.
External trade makes up only a relatively small proportion of Europe's
wealth. Europe has become a single economic entity.
We still have a few things to cover, and
I would like to look briefly at foreign policy. Progress has been necessarily
limited. The need for caution and to take incremental steps is obvious.
We are, in effect, moving towards a common foreign policy and strategy,
but we are still far from it. The Amsterdam treaty amounts to a set of
innovative principles, but not a great deal more.
The common foreign and security policy
is grounded in the principle of territorial integrity of member states.
Great care has been taken to ensure that it is in explicit conformity with
the principles of the United Nations charter. However, it expects member
states to increase the amount of co-operation and to develop, where possible,
new forms of political solidarity.
The union is now empowered to carry out
humanitarian aid and peacekeeping tasks, which are known as Petersburg
tasks. One very positive move is that even the union's traditionally neutral
member statesAustria, Finland, Sweden and Irelandhave agreed to contribute
to humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. It is felt that their neutral
status is not in any way threatened or questioned, which is obviously very
The treaty has also brought in some innovative
methods, allowing for the working out of common strategies, general guidelines,
joint actions and common positions to be decided by the European Council.
I think that you can feel the caution that underlines this whole area of
policy, but those methods can be put into effect by a qualified majority
of the Council, to ensure the flexibility that is essential to any foreign
policy operation. Also worth noting is the constructive abstention clause,
which allows one or more member state to abstain on certain decisions without
preventing the other member states from acting. The most important decisions,
however, are put to the Council for a unanimous vote.
The new approach has been given further
prominence by the creation of a high representative for common, foreign
and security policy. The French initials for that are PESC: Mr PESC is
a lot easier than Mr CFSP. When people are talking in French, they often
refer to the new high representative as Mr PESC, but that is a bit too
close to Mr Pesky in my estimation. You will all be aware that the representative
is Javier Solana, the former secretary general of NATO. That really puts
a face and a name on developing European Union foreign policy.
A policy planning and early warning unit
has also been established, to help the union's member states identify and
anticipate crises. That is important if we consider the events of the past
There are certain basic things that must
be emphasised. No European defence or military policy has been adopted
as part of the Amsterdam treaty. There is no provision for a European army
and no provision for European military service. We are nowhere near any
of that, because of the treaty. What the treaty does is take the European
Union towards the progressive creation of a common defence policy that
covers humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and the use of combat
forces in crisis management, while leaving NATO as the major player in
Dermot Scott: Finally, there are
institutional questions. In brief, they are: improved access for the citizen,
which underlies the whole strategy of the Amsterdam treaty in its effortsafter
the bad experience of Maastricht, and for other reasonsto make things
more citizen-friendly; fundamental rights, which are written into the treaty
for the first time; access to documents, which is now a legal right, also
written in for the first time; and other things such as the rights of consumers
to health and safety.
The power of the European Parliament is
slightly increased over that of the Commission in so far as it now has
the right to vote in the president of the Commissionas happened with Mr
Prodiin addition to its right to vote for the investiture of the
which is scheduled for tomorrow.
The number of areas in which the European
Parliament has co-decision rights has increased from 15 to 38, so we not
only have agreement to the principle of the issue, which was important,
but it has been greatly expanded. Such an increase would normally go hand
in hand with an increase in the application of qualified majority voting
in the Council but curiously, for reasons to do with the German Government,
Mr Kohl was not able to countenance that at the last moment, so it did
not go through.
There was a failure to face up to the institutional
dynamics of the necessities of enlargement, which have in effect been postponed
for another day. There was no agreement on reforming the voting strengths
on the Council of Ministers to reflect the fact that, in the event of a
considerable enlargement of the union, the large countries could be outvoted
by a large number of small countries, which would have a much smaller population.
The decisions on the size of the Commission
were sketched out but not decided and it was clear that a further intergovernmental
conference was required. That has now been agreed and the conference will
open next year. Those, in brief, are the institutional questions that are
raised by the treaty of Amsterdam.
I have put up a slide on impact. Members
will be pleased to know that it is the penultimate slide; the last one
shows three or four subjects for the next intergovernmental conference.
Liz has discussed the increased rights for the citizen and the great strides
that are being made on the employment package. The European Parliament
welcomed both those areas but was very disappointed by the progress on
the common foreign and security policy, particularly in view of the situation
that is evolving in Europe and elsewhere. It was also disappointed that
the preparation for enlargement had been postponed and will have to be
returned to next year.
I will move on to the last slide. An intergovernmental
conference will open next year; it will probably be declared open at the
Helsinki summit in December. The Finns are very keen on it. The conference
will have to face institutional challenges. We wonder whether it will generalise
qualified majority voting or extend it somewhat in view of the fact that
we may have enlargement. It will consider whether there is any movement
on the great questions of security and defence. Given the present crisis
in Europe, the conference will also consider whether we need a refinement
of the way in which the union deals with the third-pillar issuespopulation
movement, immigration, refugees and visasand whether more such
||issues will move
into the decision-making structure of the main treaty.
The Convener: Thank you very much
for that comprehensive overview of a major and significant treaty. You
covered many different aspects and, although it is difficult to cover everything
in such a short time, you have given us a good grasp. Does anyone have
questions and comments?
Oldfather (Cunninghame South) (Lab): I echo the convener's welcome
for that comprehensive presentation.
There are major challenges ahead for Europe,
first in relation to the common foreign and security policy, which will
have to be addressed, and, secondly, on the structural and institutional
questions that will arise as a result of enlargement. Considering enlargement
as an opportunity as well as a threat will also be a challenge. As well
as the changes in structural funding that will be required as a result
of enlargement, there are 100 million consumers out there and there is
much work that we could do to try to gear Scotland up to grasp that market
as an opportunity.
We have had the opening up and liberalisation
of markets, but social change has been a bit slower. We still have some
way to go on that front. That is disappointing and I hope that there will
be some movement on it during the next few years.
Allan Wilson: In the presentation,
you talked about the dichotomy at the heart of the treaty: promoting greater
freedom of movement while responding to a popular demand to combat crime
internationally. You mentioned the Schengen agreement and the fact that
a pan-European police force modelled on the Federal Bureau of Investigation
had not been agreed on. It was not clear to me whether that could subsequentlyperhaps
five years down the linebe subject to a qualified majority vote, as will
visa policy, residence permits and asylum procedures. Will the subject
Dermot Scott: I am sure that it
will be revisited next year in the light of the experience with Europol.
However, it is early days for Europol, which is just getting going. The
treaty of Amsterdam allows for a certain amount of executive work by Europol
officers, but Europol is not a free-standing police service. It is mainly
a co-operative venture. Policemen and women are assigned from national
police forces to co-operate and share information in The Hague. I would
be happy to look at the definitions in the treaty afterwards, but I do
not want to do that now.
Ms Margo MacDonald (Lothians) (SNP):
I am interested in the underlying philosophy of
the possible stand-off between enlargement and deeper democratisation of
the institutions of the EU. Liz and Dermot touched on big countries' rights.
Coming from a small country, which I hope in the not too distant future
will have the same legal and political rights as others around the European
table, I am not altogether thrilled with anything that will protect the
rights of the big countries. I am much more concerned about the smaller
and peripheral countries.
My theory is that unless the national differences
in an enlarged EU are recognised, the smaller and peripheral countries
are unlikely to co-operate in the sort of social development that Irene
wants. There is a great danger that the arrogance of the big states will
cause the EU to implode. I would be interested to hear your comments on
Elizabeth Holt: There are differences
of opinion among large and small member states about the sort of union
that we should have. That is partly driven by an economic rationale, but
also by several other things. The lack of agreement last time showed just
how powerful small member states are in holding up the larger ones. There
is much greater equality than there appears to be from the outside.
It is in everyone's interests for enlargement
to succeed. I say that with the caveat that it is essential that enlargement
is not used to dilute the democratic achievement of the European Union
and the conditions that prevail in member states.
Any new country will be required to come
up to the European Union's level, rather than the European Union making
concessions. One of the reasons enlargement is taking such a long time
is that it takes member states time to prepare. Behind the current process
of negotiations is a huge and elaborate process of developmentnot just
political, but economic and social. I have never found the small countries
in the European Union shy about protecting their interests and I do not
expect it to be any different next year.
Dermot Scott: I have worked in a
small member state for the past 20 years and I have watched Ireland approach
the negotiations for the Single European Act, the Maastricht treaty and
the Amsterdam treaty. The bottom line for the Irish Government has always
been to hold on to the Commissioner. If there is a marginal variation in
the strengths of voting in the Council, Ireland may have reservations about
it, but it is not the bottom line.
During the reflection group and the intergovernmental
conference, the perceived threat was the body of opinion among member states
that 20 Commissioners is too many, there is the risk of going to 25 or
30, so why not go back to a smaller number such as 10 or five? In other
||words, there was
a move to break the link between a member state and a Commissioner and
to choose 10 people from throughout Europe on their merit. The small member
states were suspicious of that and wanted to hold on to their Commissioners.
That was the principal issue.
Ms MacDonald: What about the trade-off
on qualified majority voting? That can often mean a big difference to a
Scott: Ireland's view was that qualified majority voting was in general
beneficial except in certain areas where it had objections. Everyone had
objections to certain areas so we ended up not going with it at all. Everyone
is in favour of extended qualified majority voting in all the areas that
do not matter to them.
Ms MacDonald: I want it for the
areas that matter.
Crawford (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): I am interested in the fact
that 92 per cent of the European Community's gross domestic product comes
from within its own boundaries and the difficulties that that may lead
to the in the longer term. It might isolate the European Community from
the vagrancies of world market fluctuations and create more stability.
Does helping the Russians and Brazilians to restructure their economies
really assist the Community? Obviously conflicts can arise from the impact
of various trade wars with the USfor example the banana wars that happened
over cashmere and which were discussed through the World Trade Organisationand
those may begin to grow. I worry that not being able to expand and enlarge
further will create greater difficulties for our influence, not just the
EC's influence but Scotland's influence, in other parts of the world economy.
Maybe that is a bit rambling but I think I know what I mean.
Elizabeth Holt: The fact that the
European economy is as self-sufficient as it is is not anything other than
a strength. We are considering 92 per cent of an extraordinarily rich block.
It means that the European Union is not dependent on other parts of the
world for the success of its society and economy. It is not a zero-sum
gain. Only 8 per cent of the European economy is trade with the rest of
the world, but that may change. What we have is really the creation of
a single European economy. We do not yet have a single currencywe are
moving towards thatbut the European economy is undoubtedly a strength
not a weakness.
Bruce Crawford: I agree that it
is an internal strength; it might help us in terms of how we operate within
the European Community. I wonder about the impact that it has on other
world players outwith the European Community. In the longer
might build up between Europe and the rest of the world and lead to trade
barriers that can spin off into other types of conflicts.
Holt: People would not want to erect too many of those barriers. I
do not link the tremendous self-sufficiency of the European economy with
barriers to the rest of the world.
Dermot Scott: The next World Trade
Organisation round will decrease barriers. There will be intense pressure
on Europe to decrease even its agriculture barriers. The trend is entirely
in the direction of decreasing barriers.
If Europe is a strong and integrated player
it will be better able to help to regulate, and create balance in, the
world economy. It has been the big countries such as the United States
that have been able to rescue Mexico and Brazil; if the EU becomes a player
of that sort, it may be able to help to regulate the world economy in such
a way. That should not be confused with the idea of the EU being fortress
Europe, as that idea is dead in the brains of most of the people who make
Ben Wallace (North-East Scotland) (Con):
Thank you very much for the presentation. You talked about the rights
of EU citizens. What about the rights of citizens in areas that are not
covered by EU treaty, such as defence? You talked about the equality of
men and women in the EU, but I know of a number of cases in which women
are in court on defence matters because their rights do not seem to be
protected as defence is not under EU judicial control. Are there moves
towards overlapping, even though defence does not come into that realm?
Dermot Scott: Defence matters have
always been left out of EU treaties. If those people have a case in the
courts, it will be based on the European convention on human rights and
on the Council of Europe rather than on anything to do with the European
Community legal system.
Ben Wallace: So, effectively, the
rights of EU citizens apply only within the bounds of the EU treaties?
Dermot Scott: Yes, except that the
Amsterdam treaty brings the European convention on human rights into the
text of a treaty for the first time.
Ben Wallace: Why does the EU feel
that it needs to develop a common defence policy?
Dermot Scott: The EU does not yet
say that. The treaty says that it may progressively lead to the development
of a common defence policy. There are various stages: we now have a common
foreign and security policy, which may lead in time to a common defence
policy, which may lead to a common defence. The treaty leaves doors open.
||The neutrals have
opposed movement because they do not want to be drawn into a mutual defence
guarantee, and the NATO enthusiasts have opposed movement because they
do not want NATO watered down or rivalled by anything European. Those two
tendencies have been sufficient to break the process. It will be interesting
to see at next year's IGC whether both sides have moderated their convictions,
as there is movement in the neutral countries.
The Convener: I will draw that part
of the discussion to a close, as I am aware of the time.
You talked about decision making being
brought closer to the average citizen and about decisions being made at
the lowest possible level. In the papers that accompany your presentation
you talk about a safer, more just European Union, about employment, and
about the rights of the citizen. Given our relationship with Europeas
members of the European Committee of a Scottish Parliament that is still
part of the UKwhat are the most significant implications of the Amsterdam
treaty for this Parliament and for the work of this committee over the
next couple of years?
Elizabeth Holt: The most obvious
implication is in the area of structural policy and funds and in the implementation
of the new package. For all the fine words that can be said about employment
and job creation and so on, jobs are created at local level. An important
role for the committee will be to participate in the success of those programmes.
Dermot Scott: It occurs to me that
the major significance of the Amsterdam treaty is not for the people of
Scotland, but for the people of Europe. Europe is now more citizen-friendly.
The European Union is increasingly concerned with issues such as unemployment;
it is giving citizens more rights and is involved in difficult matters
such as immigration, refugees and visas. The EU is concerned that it has
failed to do things properly in Kosovo and would like to do things better.
It is considering how to move forward in those areas.
It would be of great benefit if the committee
and the Parliament could communicate all that to the people of Scotland.
The Amsterdam treaty will be of assistance in achieving a European Union
that is more up to date and more user-friendly than before. Although the
treaty is not specific to Scotland, it can be used in the Scottish environment.
The Convener: Does anyone else want
to comment on that?
Dr Sylvia Jackson (Stirling) (Lab):
I want to follow on from Elizabeth Holt's comments. I refer to the
section on creating jobs in the yellow leaflet,
||"10 Points about
the Treaty on European Union", which talks about building on best practice
for job creation and about pilot projects. Is that initiative still in
the pipeline, or has it started? Which monitoring procedures will be involved?
Elizabeth Holt: Essentially, the
yellow leaflet talks about the new provisions on employment laid down by
the treaty of Amsterdam. As I suggested, in only two years, an enormous
amount has been done in that area. In terms of exchanging best practice,
each year, member states have submitted national action plans that have
been scrutinised by the Commission, which reports to the European Council.
All the member states have been able to examine the labour market policies
of the others and to say where they are right or wrong. There has been
substantial development from a low-key beginning. Although it began as
a pilot project, it is now part of a mainstream European activity in support
Dr Jackson: I wondered whether there
had been research in order to identify good models. Which key issues arose
Elizabeth Holt: I do not think that
there is one model that everyone should follow.
Dr Jackson: No, I just want to know
where we can find out more about that, to get an overall picture.
Elizabeth Holt: I can give you a
lot more information on the development of employment policy, but we are
talking about large documents. I should be happy to talk to you about European
The Convener: We are running out
of time. Cathy has not yet asked a question and I want to draw the matter
to a close.
Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and
Doon Valley) (Lab): I am interested
in equal opportunities and improving social rights. Will you outline the
positive action opportunities to redress some of the gender imbalances,
particularly in employment?
Elizabeth Holt: Year on year, the
member states agree certain priorities for their labour market policies.
One of the four priorities on which they agree is equal opportunities for
men and women. In the past, that influenced matters such as European social
fund regulations, but it is now an absolute priority for labour market
policy. When, at each December European Council, the direction and performance
of the European employment strategy is assessed, specific attention is
paid to the pay gap between men and women and to whether women are moving
into the kind of jobs from which they were previously excluded. That has
a great deal to do with the labour market, but is also connected with other