The Lies About Nice and Enlargement


Grattan Healy puts the record straight about the treaty that the Irish people thought they’d killed.

It would appear that Commission President Romano Prodi is the only senior political figure in the EU to have read the Treaties, before shoving them down our throats. He kindly pointed out to all of us, after Ireland said 'NO', something that the NO campaign knew and said all along. Namely, that Nice was not necessary for enlargement. He had clearly taken the trouble to read and understand the now famous Amsterdam Treaty Protocol on Enlargement. How could something be so famous, while clearly only a handful of people have actually read it? It reads, in full:

"THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES,  HAVE AGREED UPON the following provisions, which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaties establishing the European Communities,

Article 1

At the date of entry into force of the first enlargement of the Union, notwithstanding Article 213(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community, Article 23(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community and Article 149(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, the Commission shall comprise one national of each of the Member States, provided that, by that date, the weighting of the votes in the Council has been modified, whether by reweighting of the votes or by dual majority, in a manner acceptable to all Member States, taking into account all relevant elements, notably compensating those Member States which give up the possibility of nominating a second member of the Commission.

Article 2

At least one year before the membership of the European Union exceeds twenty, a conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States shall be convened in order to carry out a comprehensive review of the provisions of the Treaties on the composition and functioning of the institutions."

So, we are expected to believe that Enlargement is blocked in the absence of the changes to be made to this Protocol by the Nice Treaty, and the addition of a Declaration on Enlargement. During the Nice debate, and since, it was reluctantly conceded that this Protocol allowed five countries to join in any case, which is not in fact a correct interpretation.

If you read the text above, very carefully this time, nowhere does it say that new Member States may not join, for any reason. What it does say is in Article 1 is that the number of Commissioners will be one per Member State, if by the time of the first enlargement, the votes in Council have been changed. By virtue of Article 2, the EU is obliged to hold a conference, once the number of Member States reaches 20. Mind you, given the way Nice went, that could be a crisis in itself.

We should maybe recall that the EU (or EEC) has already been enlarged by 9 countries in its history. Curiously enough this was a much easier job than one might be forgiven for imagining at the moment. Not one enlargement was put to referendum in any other country. The Irish never voted to let in the Spanish, or the Austrians. They didn't need to, because that did not constitute the concession of new powers to the EU, rather it meant the sharing of the existing powers with a greater number of Members.

So why should we suddenly need to vote on Enlargement? In fact we didn't, and still don't. All 13 current applicants could join tomorrow. The Commission would become even more unwieldy, but that is it. All other matters, such as Council votes, could be sorted out in the Accession Treaties, as was always done in the past.

The political issue to be solved at Nice was to reduce the numbers of Commissioners, to suit certain national sensibilities, in return for gains in real powers for the large Member States, who currently have two Commissioners. Britain manages with a plethora of Ministers, and Secretaries of State. But the French prefer a tighter ship. And while you're at it, Germany would like more power to reflect its new found size and stature.

Here we have the point, and an examination of the shift in power, in the form of Council votes, , will show that Spain does well, and that France, the UK and Italy also gain. Everyone else loses.

So don't let anyone else tell you that Nice is about enlargement per se, or that our Eastern European friends cannot join if Nice is not ratified. Pure nonsense, to hide the real issues!

Grattan Healy is a policy advisor to the Green Group in the European Parliament. This article expresses his own views, and not those of his Group, whose members hold a variety of opinions on the issues he discusses.

A more detailed version of this article can be found at