EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Treaty of Amsterdam

The Treaty of Amsterdam was approved by the European Council held in Amsterdam on 16-17 June 1997 and signed on 2 October 1997 by the Foreign Ministers of the 15 EU Member States. On 1 May 1999, it came into force, having been ratified by all the Member States, following their own constitutional rules.

The Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997 made important changes in the form of substantive amendments to the treaties, particularly to the three-pillar structure of the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht). The focus in what follows is on those changes concerned with employment and industrial relations.

The Treaty of Amsterdam added new objectives in Article 2 EU, including the promotion of a high level of employment. The acquis of the 1985 Schengen Treaty on the gradual abolition of common border checks was integrated by a Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty into the EU framework, and the 13 Member States party to the arrangement were authorised to engage in future ‘closer cooperation ’ in this field.

Significant changes to the Community Treaty include the addition of new tasks in Article 2 EC: promotion of equality between women and men is explicitly mentioned as a task. In addition, there was introduced a new non-discrimination provision in Article 13 EC, which expressly confers legislative competence on the Community to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation.

The importance of unemployment as an issue facing the EU was recognised in a new Title on Employment added to the EC Treaty (Articles 125-130 EC). It provided for the establishment of a new Employment Committee with a primarily advisory role.

The election of a Labour Government in the UK in May 1997 allowed for the repeal of the Protocol on Social Policy and the incorporation of the Agreement on Social Policy into the EC Treaty. The Social Chapter of the EC Treaty was amended to include an express legal basis for legislation on equality between women and men in employment, and new provisions on positive action for women (Article 141 EC). The Treaty of Amsterdam came into effect on 1 May 1999.

See also: competences of the European Union; employment title; EU law; immigration; Single European Act; social competences; Social Policy Protocol; Treaties of Rome; Treaty of Nice; Treaty of Paris; treaty provisions.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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