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What is an Intergovernmental Conference?

An Intergovernmental Conference is a series of meetings between representatives of the governments of the Member States, the aim of which may be to revise the Treaties or resolve other EU issues. An Intergovernmental Conference often extends over several months and comprises repeat meetings, culminating in a summit meeting between the Heads of State or Government.

An Intergovernmental Conference must be convened if the Heads of State or Government have decided that the EU’s Treaties are to be amended. The country holding the Presidency  is responsible for convening the Intergovernmental Conference, once the European Parliament has been consulted and the Council has expressed itself in favour of an Intergovernmental Conference being held.

If the Intergovernmental Conference results in a political agreement to amend the Treaties, this agreement must subsequently be ratified by the national parliaments of all the Member States in order to come into force.

By way of example of the course taken by Intergovernmental Conferences, the negotiations on the Treaty of Nice started with an Intergovernmental Conference being convened on 14 February 2000 and taking place from 7-10 December 2000, when the European Council met in Nice and reached political agreement on the Treaty of Nice. The Irish Government was the last of the then 15 EU countries to ratify the Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February 2003.

At the meeting in Nice it was also decided to convene a new Intergovernmental Conference in 2004, as stated in a declaration on the future of the EU annexed to the Treaty of Nice.

However, the date for convening the Intergovernmental Conference was brought forward, and the Italian Presidency convened the Intergovernmental Conference on 4 October 2003. After a breakdown part-way through the negotiations, the Conference ended in political agreement on the ‘Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe" at the European Council meeting of 17-18 June 2004.

After the failure of the Constitutional Treaty due to the no-votes in France and The Netherlands in 2005 and the pursuant two year reflection pause, a new Intergovernmental Conference was launched on 23 July 2007. The confernece resulted in the Lisbon Treaty which was signed on 13 December 2007 in Lisbon. In order for the Lisbon Treaty to come into force it must be ratified in all member states, which is not yet the case.

Sidst opdateret: 23-07-2008  - ANSJ