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Saturday, May 1, 1999 Published at 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK


World: Europe

Amsterdam Treaty brings Europe closer

New dawn, but how long before anyone notices?

The European Union enters a new phase of integration on Saturday, when the Amsterdam Treaty comes into effect.

The treaty lays the foundation for a common justice policy and closer co-operation in foreign affairs and defence.

It was agreed by Europe's leaders in the Dutch capital Amsterdam in 1997.

The European Parliament will gain joint legislative powers with EU governments in all areas except monetary and economic issues - and it will have the authority to reject the new president of the European Commission.

First test

The parliament will exercise this power next week when it votes on whether to accept Romano Prodi.

The Amsterdam Treaty followed the Maastricht agreement which paved the way for the European single currency.

Member States will share asylum and immigration laws, although countries not signed up to the EU's border-free Schengen agreement - Britain, Ireland and Denmark - will be partially exempt.

Foreign policy

EU leaders are going to name a high representative to deal in situations like Kosovo next month.

In future, the body may deploy forces for humanitarian and peace-keeping tasks, an area in which the EU is widely seen as having failed to act together. There will also be more co-operation in defence matters.

The treaty also makes a commitment to job creation - at the time it was written, unemployment was seen as Europe's biggest problem

But BBC Europe Correspondent Jonathan Beale says that, even though the Amsterdam Treaty comes into force today, the truth is that it may take years for Europe's citizens to notice the results.



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