At its meeting in Luxembourg in December 1997, the European Council decided to establish an annual summit meeting, known as the European Conference, as a ‘multilateral forum for political consultation’ between the heads of state or government of the member states of the European Union and those of ‘the European states aspiring to accede to it and sharing its values and internal and external objectives’. The first and only European Conference was held in London in March 1998.
The European Conference was chaired by the member state holding the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers. Proposed by the European Commission, it was devised in part as a means of reassuring those applicant countries not involved in the first round of bilateral accession negotiations that their aspirations were being taken seriously, within a ‘single framework’ of which the summit would be the most visible symbol. It was hoped that attendance at the Conference would serve, in particular, as a consolation for Turkey – whose application was put on hold in December 1997, whereas that of Cyprus was allowed to go forward – but the Turkish government simply rejected the invitation. At its meeting in Helsinki in December 1999, the European Council decided to ‘review’ the future of the European Conference. No further gatherings of this kind were held.
Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012
Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry