The Treaty of Nice mainly addresses the issues left outstanding at Amsterdam, but also introduces other, non-institutional changes. The principal changes involve:
- putting in place a mechanism for preventing a Member State from infringing the founding principles of the Union;
- strengthening the defence capability of the Union;
- defining the tasks of Eurojust;
- creating a legal basis enabling the legislator to lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level;
- formalising the Social Protection Committee.
The Treaty of Amsterdam already championed respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by amending Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) and considering, in Article 7, the possibility of a Member State infringing these principles. The Treaty of Nice supplements the latter procedure with a prevention mechanism.
Thus, under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, the European Council may determine the existence of a serious and persistent violation of fundamental rights by a Member State. On that basis, it may suspend some of the rights of that Member State (for example, its voting rights within the Council). The Treaty of Nice supplements this procedure with a prevention mechanism. On a proposal by one third of the Member States, by the Parliament or by the Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four-fifths of its members after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious violation of fundamental rights by a Member State, and address appropriate recommendations to that State. Within the framework of this provision, the European Court of Justice will be competent (Article 46 of the EU Treaty) only for disputes concerning procedural provisions, and not for judging the justification for or appropriateness of the decisions taken pursuant to this provision.
SECURITY AND DEFENCE
Building on the Treaty of Amsterdam, which provided for both the progressive framing of a common defence policy and the possible integration of the Western European Union (WEU) into the Union, the Treaty of Nice brings some additional changes in the field of security and defence.
It amends Article 17 of the EU Treaty by repealing the provisions on the relationship between the Union and the WEU (incorporating the WEU's crisis management tasks into the Union).
Moreover, the Political and Security Committee ("PSC", the new name given by Treaty to the Political Committee), one of the permanent political and military structures of the Union's autonomous and operational defence policy, sees its role enhanced. Article 25 of the EU Treaty now provides that this committee may be authorised by the Council, for the purpose and duration of a crisis management operation, to take the necessary decisions to ensure the political control and strategic direction of that operation.
JUDICIAL COOPERATION IN CRIMINAL MATTERS
The Treaty of Nice supplements Article 31 of the EU Treaty with a reference to and description of the tasks of "Eurojust" (European Judicial Cooperation Unit), whose task will be to facilitate proper coordination between national prosecuting authorities within the framework of judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
POLITICAL PARTIES AT EUROPEAN LEVEL
The Treaty of Nice supplements Article 191 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty), which explicitly recognises the role of political parties at European level. A firm legal basis has been added enabling the legislator, in accordance with the co-decision procedure, to lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level, in particular with regard to the conditions for their recognition and the rules regarding their funding.
SOCIAL PROTECTION COMMITTEE
The Treaty of Nice amended Article 144 of the EC Treaty in order to formalise the Social Protection Committee established by the Council on the basis of the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council. This committee, which has advisory status, is designed to promote cooperation on social protection policies between Member States and with the Commission.
|EC Treaty||144||Social Protection Committee|
|191||Political parties at European level|
|EU Treaty||6 and 7||Fundamental rights (risk of violation and sanctions)|
|17||Relations between the EU and the WEU|
|25||Political and Security Committee (PSC)|