Negotiating Flexibility in the European Union: Amsterdam, by Alexander Stubb

By Alexander Stubb

Alexander Stubb, a player within the 1996-97 and 2000 Inter-governmental meetings analyzes the evolution of versatile integration from the early Seventies to the current day and past. He focuses within the technique of negotiations which resulted in the institutionalization of suppleness within the Amsterdam and great Treaties. This publication presents a precious insider's view on historic decision-making within the european.

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Qxd 2/25/02 3:06 PM Page 20 20 Negotiating Flexibility in the European Union still very wide. In the 1996–97 IGC the issues ranged from a declaration on sport to the institutionalisation of flexible integration. In the 2000 IGC the scope was much more limited, focused mostly on institutional questions. Each negotiated issue in an IGC has both a political and a legal dimension. Flexible integration, for instance, was a political timebomb because of the implications it was thought to have on the general development of the Union and the relationship between the Member States.

Elaborating ideas put forth by Brandt, Leo Tindemans (1975: 27) argued that it was not ‘absolutely necessary that in every case all stages of integration should be reached by all the States at the same time’. He pointed to the divergence of the economic and financial situations of the Member States and suggested that (1) those states which were able to progress had a duty to forge ahead, and (2) those states which had reasons for not progressing should allow the others to forge ahead. Tindemans objected to the idea of a Europe à la carte.

In EU negotiations there is a mutual understanding that the negotiators follow the path of integrity. Member States work together in many negotiating situations on thousands of issues. No EU negotiator can afford to be branded a cheat or thought to be underhand, as such a stamp on a particular Member State would seriously weaken its negotiating position across the board. Threats are of course possible in all negotiating situations. Coercion can take the form of a threat to walk away from the negotiations or a refusal to sign an agreement.

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