BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 07:34 GMT
Landmark EU treaty comes into effect
Mr Ahern in a referendum polling station
Ireland ratified the treaty in October, the last country to do so

The Treaty of Nice, which paves the way for the enlargement of the European Union, has finally come into force.

The details of the treaty were agreed by EU leaders at a marathon summit in Nice in December 2000, but it then had to be ratified by every EU member state.

Prospective new members
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia
Ireland submitted its ratification documents in December, the last country to do so.

That set 1 February 2003 as the date when the treaty becomes law.

The Treaty of Nice is long, complex and often confusing.

But without it, the European Union would not be able to add 10 new members to its ranks on 1 May next year.

What Nice does is to set out the institutional arrangements which will govern the new, enlarged EU.

It increases the size and some of the powers of both the European Commission and the European Parliament.

The commission will have 25 members -

  • up from 20.

    The five biggest countries will no longer have two commissioners each.

    Majority voting

    The treaty also establishes a new system of voting in the Council of Ministers, setting out how many votes each country gets on all policy issues.

    And it increases the scope of what is called qualified majority voting, allowing more decisions to be made by a majority of member states rather than by unanimous vote.

    In other words, the treaty is supposed to ensure that the EU does not grind to a bureaucratic halt when the new members join.

    The current President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, says Nice will allow the EU to function more effectively, but even he agrees that it is far from ideal, and it may soon be superseded.

    The Convention on the Future of Europe, led by the former French President, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, is already working on a new constitutional treaty which could shake up the system far more radically.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley
    "Estonia will soon be the furthest flung outpost of the European Union"

    Key stories

    Europe's new frontiers

    Background

    CLICKABLE GUIDES

    LaunchIN PICTURES

    TALKING POINT

    AUDIO VIDEO
    See also:

    20 Oct 02 | Europe
    Internet links:


    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


     E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Europe stories

    © BBC ^^ Back to top

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
    South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
    Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
    Programmes