The Treaty of Amsterdam
The Treaty signed on 17 June 1997 at Amsterdam, only six years and a half after the signature of the Treaty of Maastricht, did not bring fundamental changes to the integration process, but it marked some progress in several policy areas. The most important development was the transfer, under the European Community’s wing, thus entailing the Community decision-making method, of policies related to the free movement of persons, notably concerning visas, asylum and immigration [see section 8.1]. In particular, it made the Union's institutional structure more efficient by extending the co-decision procedure (Parliament/Council) and qualified majority voting in the Council. Another important objective of the Amsterdam Treaty was to place employment and social protection at the heart of the Union [see sections 13.3 and 13.5.3]. While confirming that the Member States bear primary responsibility for employment, the revised Treaty on the European Community engaged them to act together to find solutions to unemployment. The Labour government of the United Kingdom accepted the social objectives of the Treaty and therefore the social policy agreement, exempting the UK from this common policy, was abolished.
Under its European Union wing, the Amsterdam Treaty strengthened the common foreign and security policy by making the European Council (heads of State or government) responsible for defining common strategies to be implemented by the Union and the Member States and by designating a High Representative for the CFSP (the Secretary General of the Council) [see section 8.2].