Addressing breach of principle in international agreements
The [Treaty of Amsterdam] (1997) proclaims that the European Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States. At the same time, the new Treaty acknowledges that these principles may be infringed by a Member State and lays down the procedure which the Union should follow in dealing with the Member State concerned. On a proposal from the Commission or one third of the member states, the Council - in the shape of the heads of state or government - may determine the existence of a breach by a Member State. The breach must be "serious and persistent". The European Parliament has to give its assent by a majority of its members and a two-thirds majority of the votes cast. The government of the Member State in question is first invited to submit its observations. Once a serious and persistent breach has been established, the Council may (but need not necessarily) suspend some of the Member State's rights under the Treaty. However, the country remains bound by its obligations. The suspension of rights might, for instance, involve withdrawing the Member State's voting rights in the Council.
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