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Glossary

Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)

This term is used to describe negotiations between the Member States' governments with a view to amending the Treaties. These conferences are convened under the framework of the ordinary revision procedure of the Treaties provided for by Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.

Under this procedure, any Member State, the Commission or the European Parliament may present to the Council proposals for the amendment of the Treaties. These proposals are submitted to the European Council by the Council and the national Parliaments are notified. If the European Council, acting by simple majority after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, decides in favour of examining the proposed amendments, the President of the European Council convenes a Convention. The Convention is composed of representatives of the national Parliaments, of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, of the European Parliament and of the Commission. It examines the proposals for amendments and adopts by consensus a recommendation to a Conference of Representatives of the governments of the Member States. The Conference is then convened by the President of the Council to decide by common accord the amendments to be made to the Treaties.

The most important IGCs in recent years have resulted in the following treaties:

  • The Single European Act (1986): this introduced the changes needed to complete the internal market on 1 January 1993;
  • the Treaty of Maastricht (1992): the Treaty on European Union was negotiated at two separate IGCs, one on economic and monetary union (EMU) and the other on political union, instituting the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and cooperation on justice and home affairs (JHA);
  • The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997): this is the result of the IGC launched at the Turin European Council in March 1996. The task of the Conference was to revise those provisions of the Maastricht Treaty which gave rise to problems of implementation and to prepare for future enlargement;
  • the Treaty of Nice (2001): the IGC preceding this was launched in February 2000 to address the issues not resolved by the Treaty of Amsterdam, namely: the size and composition of the European Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council of Ministers, the possible extension of qualified majority voting in the Council and closer cooperation - included during the Santa Maria de Feira European Council of June 2000;
  • the Treaty of Lisbon (2007): following the rejection of the Convention in 2005 and after a 2-year period of reflection, Member States reached an agreement at the June 2007 European Council on the mandate for a new IGC responsible for drafting a proposal for an amending treaty which would help to resolve the main institutional obstacles, such as the voting system, the European Council presidency, and extending the scope of the qualified majority.

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