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Why Europe does not need a constitution

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2000 31 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Europäische Union

Leseprobe

I. Introduction

The history of attempts for giving Europe a constitution is long and encompasses some famous names like the Abbé de Saint Pierre or Immanuel Kant, but also resistance groups during WWII1 and Winston Churchill, who presented his vision of the United States of Europe in 1946 in Zurich2. In the last months the discussion about a European Constitution has gained further popularity with the highly controversial speech of German foreign minister Joschka Fischer at the Humboldt University3. Fischer, who had already at the beginning of German Presidency expressed before the European Parliament that he deemed necessary a fundamental revision of the European integration process, develops in this speech his vision of a federal constitution for Europe. Until recently, most draft constitutions like the Spinelli initiative of the European Parliament in 1994 or the Herman Report in 1994 were discussed on a theoretical level without a hope for realization. Now there is a wave of speeches and contribution of key politicians on this subject. In fact, there are reasons to assume that there is more to it that just the typical German focus on constitutionalism4 but that “a window of opportunity is opening”5: the need for legal and institutional reform becomes evident in view of the incipient eastern enlargement and the results of the Amsterdam Conference and its postponing strategy have satisfied only few. Moreover, the fact that ECSC expires in 2002 gives further monumentum to the discussion about where Europe should be heading in the years to come and how the problems of a deeper and enlarged Union can be overcome.

In the following, it will be shown that a European Constitution does not offer a solution to these problems. Constitutions usually form the legal basis of states. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify first to what extent the EU is comparable to statal structures and then proceed to the question whether the founding treaties can be regarded as the constitution of the EU. The first part of the analysis is therefore centered around the question whether the EU does already have a constitution with its founding treaties and hence does not need one. It will be shown that this is not the case. Consequently, the second part will deal with the question whether Europe can and should give itself a constitution, i.e. if one can expect the EU to develop the currently missing attributes to qualify for a constitution in the full sense and if such a development would be a desirable one.

II. Does the EU have a constitution?

As Dieter Grimm has pointed out6, the debate about whether Europe (or more precisely: the EU) needs a constitution to some extent resembles a fight against windmills: The European Court of Justice as well as the German Bundesverfassungsgericht have repeatedly referred to the treaties which are the foundation of the European Communities as its 'Constitutional Charter'7. On the other hand, the current legal basis of the Community is seen as being insufficient and the urgent need for a European constitution is claimed.

In a first step, a clarification seems therefore necessary if the current legal system of the EU can be characterized as a constitution or not. If the first turns out to be true, the discussion will have to focus the problem on how to amend and improve the current constitution. If, however, the second should be the case, it will be necessary to discuss if the EU can and should have a constitution.

Before we can decide upon the constitutional character of the European treaties, a closer look at the specifics of a constitution seem necessary. What are the distinctive marks of a constitution and what are the differences vis-a-vis other forms of written law? First, it should be noted that there are two different meanings of the term 'constitution' - one is purely descriptive the other is normative.8 In the descriptive sense, every community has a constitution9, be it a gang of criminals or a totalitarian regime. In this sense, the Community obviously already has a constitution. Therefore, when discussing the creation of a constitution, only the normative meaning of the term can be of interest. In the normative sense, the term constitution refers to the basic legal order for the polity that has been developed at the end of the 18th century as a result of the revolutions in France and America.10 These revolutions did not only aim at changing the ruler or the form of government but to change the basis for rule11. The novelty of the normative concept of a constitution was legitimization as a requirement for public authority12 since rule was no longer accepted as a god-given fact13. The normative concept of a constitution did not aim at modifying rule but to constitute it14. The underlying idea - derived from natural-law theory - was that political rule had to be justified and could be justified only by the consent of those subject to it. Yet, rule was not an end in itself but derived its legitimacy from the effective protection of life and limb, individual freedom and equality it was able to supply15. The legitimacy of rule was thus derived by a procedure (the agreement of its subjects) and by its function - and positive law was found to be an adequate means of assuring its lastingness. However, the role of positive law in binding the state power was problematic, as it itself constituted a product of state power. „The question was then how State power could be bound by law if law was its own product.“16 The solution to this problem was found „in the splitting of positive law into two groups of norms, one on the institution and exercise of State power and the other on the conduct and relations of the individual.“17 The idea behind this concept of two groups of norms is the distinction between the pouvoir constituant (i.e. the sovereign, the people) as the highest and only source of legitimacy and the various pourvoirs constitués18. The first group of norms regulated the production and application of the latter and was given supremacy for that purpose (which was legitimate, since its author is the pouvoir constituant). This construction - a group of supreme norms that constitute and restrict public authority and that are not at disposal of this authority since they are derived from the people - offered a solution to the problem of how to bind public authority by its own product and is what we mean today by the term constitution19.

Until the emergence of supranational institutions, the characteristics of constitutions were very clear-cut: a constitution relates to the state, is unique (i.e. it forms a comprehensive basic legal order of the state and tolerates no second constitution within the area of applicability), enjoys supremacy over all other legal norms and forms the basis for the legitimacy of political rule. A constitution typically includes a catalogue of fundamental rights and an enumeration of the statal institutions and their competences.

In order to answer the question whether the current legal basis of the European Community can be regarded as its constitution, it is necessary to have a closer look at the the particularities of the Community structure. At a first glance, the answer seems to be a clear no, since constitutions form the legal basis of states, while supra- or international institutions are based on international treaties.20 There is broad consensus that the European Union in its current form is not a state. But to draw the conclusion that it hence can have no constitution would be rush. There are good reasons to assume that the EU is no ordinary institution of international law or a simple confederation of states either:

The first reason is that the Member states have transferred sovereign rights to the Community.

The Community is in comparison to traditional supranational institutions surprisingly powerful and is able to exercise this power directly in the Member states. Some of the sovereign rights conferred to the Community belong to what might be considered the core of national sovereignty21. The Community has its own currency, a citizenship and its own jurisdiction. A foreign and security policy, European secret service structures22 and military forces are coming into being. Briefly, the European Community disposes of many attributes of sovereignty that up to now had been reserved to states only: “The European Union enjoys powers unparalleled by any other transnational entity. It is not a state but in its powers it is pretty close.”23

Secondly, Member states cannot simply opt out, although the German Bundesverfassungsgericht has coined the word of them being the 'Masters of the treaties'. The European process of integration has gone beyond its „point of no return“24. This arrangement obviously is incompatible with the concept of an institution of international law or a confederation depending essentially on the goodwill of its members.

In the light of the classical analytical dichotomy state - international organization25, the EU is 'neither fish nor foul'26 and it would be wishful thinking to pretend that it fits either category27. Are we condemned then to accept it as something in-between constitutional and international law28, as an rather unspecified 'sui generis'?

One tentative to overcome the tertium-non-datur-dogma has been made by Bogdandy who proposes to introduce supranationality as a third category of public authority that is founded on the still-intact and fully functional states which should by no means be replaced29. Häberle points in a similar direction when he proposes Europe as a third supranational sphere beside the traditional polis and urges constitutional theory to reflect to what extent national constitutions might have ceased to be the only arena of the Res publica30. In this connection it should be noted, however, that in spite of the above-mentioned attempts, the term supranational is far from being clear and concise31. The complications when trying to classify the European Union should have shown that the originally state-based concept of a constitution cannot be applied to it without special caution.

When trying to assess the constitutional nature of the treaties, the first obstacle is to detach it from the state as point of reference. The special character of the EU (i.e. rule beyond the state) gives rise to the question whether „the need for legalisation met by the constitution refers to the form of government, namely the state, or rather to the means of government, namely sovereign power.“32 It should be evident that the need for a constitution does not arise from the statal structures themselves but from their “institutionalized chances to find obedience for their orders”33. The object of the taming efforts of the constitution is not the state but his potentially threatening sovereign power, “irrespective of whether it lies with the State or a suprastatal entity.”34 Thus, the non-statal character of the EU does not detract from its capability or even necessity35 to have a constitution.

Are the treaties as amended by the Amsterdam Treaty a European constitution then? Just as a national constitution, they constitute the Community, define its objectives and institutions as well as their competences and procedures. The so called primary Community law is supreme, binds all Community institutions and even contains (admittedly rudimental) guarantees for basic rights36. Certainly, the content of the treaties resembles to some extent what is typically found in constitutions. Yet, there are also important differences that require further analysis: Although the primary law is highest in the hierarchical system of Community law, it is debatable if it qualifies as an autonomous legal order37. Unlike national constitutions who command totality, it is not the basis of a comprehensive and unique legal system but will always need to coexist beside the national constitutions38. Therefore, it cannot claim universal applicability and is confined by the principle of limited individual empowerment to a sectoral validity. However, the omnipotence of the constitutions of the Member states is contested as well39, although to a much lesser extent: The Community bodies can exercise the sovereign power transferred to them with direct domestic effect. This means that the national constitutions as well have to cooperate with a second supreme legal order within their own domain - without losing their constitutional nature.

Furthermore, the principle of legal binding is only partially implemented: it is true that the Community institutions have no power to alter the law they are subject to40. The treaties also install the European Court of Justice to assure the rule of law41 and to submit the institutions of the Community to an effective control - but the jurisdiction of the ECJ encompasses only the first pillar of the EU; the Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as the Cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs are excluded42. This and the the very restrictive access of individuals to the court43 may be seen as being inconsistent with the idea of a community based on the rule of law.

However, the most important difference to ordinary statal constitutions lies in the genesis of the European Union. It has been founded by an international treaty - which is in itself a very uncommon legal form for enacting of amending a constitution44. This should not be regarded as an insurmountable problem: the idea behind a constitution is - as shown above - the concept of a treaty45. Why shouldn't a European Constitution have the legal form of an international treaty then?

Firstly, we have to account for the evolutionary nature of the European process of integration. Statal constitutionalization usually happens in a 'big bang' which clearly can be located in time. In the case of the EU, things are a bit different. Surely, even no adherent of the view that Europe currently has a constitution would contend that already the ECSC-treaty could be considered to have constitutional quality. The problem here is obvious: The evolutionary step-by-step development of the EU makes it difficult or even impossible to tell when exactly the European integration made the step from a non-constitutional to a constitutional order46.

[...]


1 see Schneider, Heinrich: Gesamteuropäische Herausforderungen an eine Europäische Union, in: Wildenmann, Rudolf (Hrsg.): Staatswerdung Europas? Optionen für eine Europäische Union, Baden-Baden Nomos, 1991 (Studien zur gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung, Bd. 9), pp. 125.

2 see Weidenfeld, Werner: Die Reformbilanz der Europäischen Gemeinschaft: 'Bundesrepublik Europa' als Perspektive? in: Weidenfeld, Werner/Wessels, Wolfgang (Hrsg.): Wege zur Europäischen Union. Vom Vertrag zur Verfassung? Bonn Europa Union, 1986, pp. 28, and Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip. Normativität und Legitima- tion als Elemente des Europäischen Verfassungsrechts, Berlin Duncker und Humblot, 1999 (Tübinger Schriften zum internationalen und europäischen Recht, Bd. 47), Diss. Univ. Tübingen 1998, pp. 21.

3 Fischer, Joschka: Vom Staatenbund zur Föderation - Gedanken über die Finalität der europäischen Integration. Rede am 12. Mai 2000 in der Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/4_europa/index.htm.

4 Kohler-Koch, Beate: A Constitution for Europe?, Mannheim, 1999 (Arbeitspapiere - Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung, Bd. 8), pp. 2.

5 ibid. pp. 3.

6 cf. Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung? München Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung, 1995 (Themen, Bd. 60), pp. 11.

7 see Schwarze, Jürgen: Auf dem Wege zu einer europäischen Verfassung -Wechselwirkungen zwischen europäischem und nationalem Verfassungsrecht, Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt, Jg. 114 (1999) Heft 24, pp. 1681 and Weiler, Joseph H. H.: The Constitution of Europe. „Do the new clothes have an emperor?“ and other essays on European integration, Cambridge and New York Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 12. Ipsen explicitly uses the term constitution for the founding treaties, cf. Ipsen, Hans-Peter: Zum Parlaments-Entwurf einer Europäischen Union, in: Der Staat, Jg. 24 (1985), Heft 3, pp. 326.

8 on this distinction see Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip. Normativität und Legitimation als Elemente des Europäischen Verfassungsrechts, Berlin Duncker und Humblot, 1999 (Tübinger Schriften zum internation- alen und europäischen Recht, Bd. 47), pp. 29 and Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung? München Carl Frie- drich von Siemens Stiftung, 1995 (Themen, Bd. 60), pp. 16.

9 cf. Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip. Normativität und Legitimation als Elemente des Europäischen Verfassungsrechts, Berlin Duncker und Humblot, 1999, pp. 29, 43.

10 Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung? München Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung, 1995, pp. 16.

11 ibid. pp. 20.

12 Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip. Normativität und Legitimation als Elemente des Europäischen Verfassungsrechts, Berlin Duncker und Humblot, 1999, pp. 34, 43.

13 cf. ibid., pp. 34.

14 see ibid., pp. 35f. and Morlok, Martin: Grundfragen einer Verfassung auf europäischer Ebene, in: Häberle, Peter/Morlok, Martin/Skouris, Wassilos (Hrsg.): Staat und Verfassung in Europa. Festschrift Tsatsos, Baden-Baden Nomos, 2000 (Baden-Badener Gespräche, Bd. 1), pp. 79.

15 Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 19f. Although, in the hobbesian view, this legitimacy-by-function- ality argument is relevant only when constituting political rule, not in its daily exercise.

16 ibid. pp. 21.

17 ibid. pp. 21f.

18 cf. Grimm, Dieter: Vertrag oder Verfassung. Die Rechtsgrundlage der Europäischen Union im Reformprozeß Maastricht II, in: Grimm, Dieter et al.: Zur Neuordnung der Europäischen Union: Die Regierungskonferenz 1996/97, Baden-Baden Nomos, 1997, pp. 13.

19 cf. Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 22.

20 cf. ibid. pp. 11.

21 cf. Murswiek, Dietrich: Maastricht und der pouvoir constituant. Zur Bedeutung der verfassungsgebenden Gewalt im Prozeß der europäischen Integration, Der Staat, Jg. 11 (1993), Heft 2, pp. 161-190, pp. 186.

22 ENFOPOL for instance. Furthermore, the Amsterdam treaty designates the Europol to a development into an “EU-FBI”.

23 Weiler, Joseph H. H.: The Constitution of Europe. „Do the new clothes have an emperor?“ and other essays on European integration, Cambridge and New York Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 336. See also Brok, Elmar: Die europäische Verfassung und die Regierungskonferenz 1996, in: Mouton, Jean-Denis/Stein, Torsten (Hrsg.): Vers une nouvelle constitution pour l'Union Européenne? - La Conférence Intergouvermentale de 1996, Köln Bundesanzeiger, 1997 (Publications de l'Académie de Droit Européen de Trèves, Vol. 21), pp. 16, who holds that the EU is de facto a state.

24 as the treaties do not provide for a termination, exiting the Union is not only politically but also legally impossible, cf. Murswiek, Dietrich: Maastricht und der pouvoir constituant. Zur Bedeutung der verfassungsgebenden Gewalt im Prozeß der europäischen Integration, Der Staat, Jg. 11 (1993), Heft 2, pp. 187 and Iglesias, Gil Carlos Rodríguez: Zur 'Verfassung' der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Europäische Grundrechte-Zeitschrift Jg. 23 (1996), Heft 5-6, pp. 129.

25 cf. Bogdandy, Arnim von: Supranationale Union als neuer Herrschaftstypus: Entstaatlichung und Vergemeinschaftung in staatstheoretischer Perspektive, Integration Jg. 16 (1993), pp. 210.

26 see Grimm, Dieter: Vertrag oder Verfassung. Die Rechtsgrundlage der Europäischen Union im Reformprozeß Maastricht II, in: Grimm, Dieter et al.: Zur Neuordnung der Europäischen Union: Die Regierungskonferenz 1996/97, Baden-Baden Nomos, 1997, pp. 9; Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip. Normativität und Legitimation als Elemente des Europäischen Verfassungsrechts, Berlin Duncker und Humblot, 1999, pp. 54, Iglesias, Gil Carlos Rodríguez: Zur 'Verfassung' der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Europäische Grundrechte-Zeitschrift Jg. 23 (1996), Heft 5- 6, pp. 130, Beyme, Klaus von: Fischers Griff nach einer europäischen Verfassung, http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/JeanMonnet (Harvard Jean Monnet Working Paper, No.7/00, Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer), and Schneider, Heinrich: Gesamteuropäische Herausforderungen an eine Europäische Union, in: Wildenmann, Rudolf (Hrsg.): Staatswerdung Europas? Optionen für eine Europäische Union, Baden-Baden Nomos, 1991, pp. 47.

27 Weiler, Joseph H. H.: The Constitution of Europe. „Do the new clothes have an emperor?“ and other essays on European integration, Cambridge and New York Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 269.

28 Iglesias, Gil Carlos Rodríguez: Zur 'Verfassung' der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Europäische Grundrechte-Zeitschrift Jg. 23 (1996), Heft 5-6, pp. 130.

29 cf. Bogdandy, Arnim von: Supranationale Union als neuer Herrschaftstypus: Entstaatlichung und Vergemeinschaftung in staatstheoretischer Perspektive, Integration Jg. 16 (1993), pp. 215 and similarly Koenig, Christian: Anmerkungen zur Grundordnung der Europäischen Union und ihrem fehlenden 'Verfassungsbedarf', Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht, Heft 6, 1996, pp. 551.

30 Häberle, Peter: Europäische Verfassungslehre – ein Projekt, in: Häberle, Peter/Morlok, Martin/Skouris, Wassilos (Hrsg.): Staat und Verfassung in Europa, Baden-Baden Nomos, 2000 (Baden-Badener Gespräche, Bd. 1), pp. 13.

31 cf. Weiler, Joseph H. H.: The Constitution of Europe. „Do the new clothes have an emperor?“ and other essays on European integration, Cambridge and New York Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 246, and Pechstein, Matthias/Koenig, Christian: Die Europäische Union. Die Verträge von Maastricht und Amsterdam, 2. neu bearbeitete Auflage, Tübingen Mohr Siebeck, 1998, pp. 5. Some authors use it synonymous to 'federal', see for instance Grundmann, Reiner: The European public sphere and the deficit of democracy, in: Smith, Dennis/Wright, Sue (Hrsg.): Whose Europe? The turn towards democracy, Keele Blackwell/The Sociological Review, 1999, pp. 126, others as a term for the sui-generis-character of the EU, see Bogdandy, Arnim von: Supranationale Union als neuer Herrschaftstypus: Entstaatlichung und Vergemeinschaftung in staatstheoretischer Perspektive, Integration Jg. 16 (1993), pp. 210-224.

32 Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 27.

33 see Morlok, Martin: Grundfragen einer Verfassung auf europäischer Ebene, in: Häberle, Peter/Morlok, Martin/Skouris, Wassilos (Hrsg.): Staat und Verfassung in Europa. Festschrift Tsatsos, Baden-Baden Nomos, 2000 (Baden-Badener Gespräche, Bd. 1), pp. 75 with reference to Max Weber.

34 Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 27.

35 on this issue, see also below chapter III.

36 Iglesias, Gil Carlos Rodríguez: Zur 'Verfassung' der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Europäische Grundrechte-Zeitschrift Jg. 23 (1996), Heft 5-6, pp. 125ff, who points out the important role of the European Court of Justice who has developed a Community standard for the protection of human rights, based on the national constitutions and the European Convention on Human Rights, see also Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 29 (note 19).

37 on this higly controversial debate between the Bundesverfassungsgericht and the European Court of Justice, see Hertel, Wolfram: Supranationalität als Verfassungsprinzip, pp. 50, who holds that in connection with a non-statal concept of a constitution, the autonomy of a legal order is of no relevance, ibid, pp. 85ff.

38 cf. Kohler-Koch, Beate: A Constitution for Europe?, Mannheim, 1999 (Arbeitspapiere - Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung, Bd. 8), pp. 6.

39 see Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 30.

40 see ibid. pp. 30.

41 which might be regarded as an indication that the EU is no ordinary international institution but a nearly-statal structure and thus would strengthen the case for an European Constitution, see Iglesias, Gil Carlos Rodríguez: Zur 'Verfassung' der Europäischen Gemeinschaft, Europäische Grundrechte-Zeitschrift Jg. 23 (1996), Heft 5-6, pp. 131.

42 Brok, Elmar: Die europäische Verfassung und die Regierungskonferenz 1996, in: Mouton, Jean-Denis/Stein, Torsten (Hrsg.): Vers une nouvelle constitution pour l'Union Européenne? - La Conférence Intergouvermentale de 1996, Köln Bundesanzeiger, 1997, pp. 21. On the problematic exclusion of the Court for the two intergovenmental pillars with regard to the Europol Convention see Jacobs, Francis G.: The Community Legal Order – A Constitutional Order? A perspective from the European Court of Justice, in: Mouton, Jean-Denis/Stein, Torsten (Hrsg.): Vers une nouvelle constitution pour l'Union Européenne? - La Conférence Intergouvermentale de 1996, Köln Bundesanzeiger, 1997 (Publications de l'Académie de Droit Européen de Trèves, Vol. 21), pp. 35.

43 Jacobs, Francis G.: The Community Legal Order – A Constitutional Order? A perspective from the European Court of Justice, in: Mouton, Jean-Denis/Stein, Torsten (Hrsg.): Vers une nouvelle constitution pour l'Union Européenne? - La Conférence Intergouvermentale de 1996, Köln Bundesanzeiger, 1997, pp. 35.

44 cf. Grimm, Dieter: Braucht Europa eine Verfassung?, pp. 31.

45 Morlok, Martin: Grundfragen einer Verfassung auf europäischer Ebene, in: Häberle, Peter/Morlok, Martin/Skouris, Wassilos (Hrsg.): Staat und Verfassung in Europa. Baden-Baden Nomos, 2000 (Baden-Badener Gespräche, Bd. 1), pp. 83.

46 see Murswiek, Dietrich: Maastricht und der pouvoir constituant. Zur Bedeutung der verfassungsgebenden Gewalt im Prozeß der europäischen Integration, Der Staat, Jg. 11 (1993), Heft 2, pp. 169. See also Weiler, Joseph H. H.: The Constitution of Europe. „Do the new clothes have an emperor?“ and other essays on European integration, Cambridge and New York Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 3ff. Of course, there are some candidates for the 'Constitution-day' like the Single European Act, the Maastricht or Amsterdam Treaty, but choosing one of these dates would neglect the importance of the continuous process of reinterpretation of the treaties by the political actors and most important, the ECJ.

Details

Seiten
31
Jahr
2000
ISBN (eBook)
9783638133425
ISBN (Buch)
9783638722896
Dateigröße
744 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v5484
Institution / Hochschule
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg – Political Science
Note
1,0 (A)
Schlagworte
EU Verfassung Constitution European demos

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Titel: Why Europe does not need a constitution