This paper presents an initial response to the conclusions of the Nice Summit and the new EU Treaty which emerged from it. It consists of two sections: in the first I discuss the climate in which the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) took place and the opening positions of the Institutions, the Member States and the applicant countries. This will serve as useful background for understanding what was at stake in the negotiations and the stance of the actors on the questions they either tackled or left to one side. It will also shed some light on the conditions and balance of power in the negotiations and thus contribute to a better understanding of the results achieved at Nice.
These results are set out in the second part, with special emphasis on the themes that mark a shift of power within the Community's institutional architecture; i.e. the extension of qualified-majority voting in the Council and the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament, the reweighting of votes and the composition of the Institutions with a view to an enlargement which is both imminent and unprecedented in the history of the EU.
I conclude that while the results of the IGC and the new Treaty of Nice fall short of what is needed in an EU with ambitions on a continental scale, they do mark another stage in the process of European integration and the permanent evolution of its constitution. In this sense, the balance of power is likely to be different from what it has been in the past. The Franco-German axis has been severely weakened, the UK and Spain seem to be determined to play a central role, and the smaller countries are seeking to retain some influence over how the process works. New alliances are likely to emerge, particularly after enlargement, with Germany in search of a dominant position, France desperately trying to preserve the status quo and the UK wanting to influence the direction of moves towards integration from the inside. Nice seems to mark an interim stage in this process.
A new IGC has already been scheduled for 2004. There is no doubt that the post-Nice period will be one of transition towards a new distribution of power within the EU, sanctioned by a new, highly constitutional treaty.