This article examines the EU's failed attempt to approve the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (Constitutional Treaty) and its successful replacement by the Treaty of Lisbon. It discusses the negotiation and ratification process of the Constitutional and Lisbon Treaties, the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on the EU's functioning, political science perspectives on the Constitutional and Lisbon Treaties, and recommendations for the EU's treaty reform process.
There is a temptation to suppose that the creation and maintenance of an integrated trading area in the EU brings with it a need for a general regulatory competence vested in the EU institutions. The Treaties, however, do not so provide. The competences and powers of the EU are no more than those conferred upon it by its Treaties, and are limited to and by that mandate. That it may seem desirable for the EU to act in a particular way may collide with the constitutional point that its Treaties do not permit such action. In this sense all choices and preferences about the nature and scope of policy making in the EU are underpinned by constitutional constraints that are particular to the EU. This article presents an account of those constitutional constraints in law and in practice.
Karen J. Alter
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) was established as part of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950, and later adapted as part of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The most important design feature of the ECJ proved to be the “preliminary ruling mechanism,” intended to provide national courts with technical support in interpreting complex European law. In practice, preliminary ruling references provided a means for the ECJ to insert itself into national debates regarding the relationship of European law to national law, and to harness national courts as enforcers of ECJ decisions. This article explores the ECJ's role in European integration and locates its remarkable experience in the larger context of international courts and international law. It also discusses comparative politics and the role of the ECJ as an interlocutor.
Loïc Azoulai and Renaud Dehousse
This article focuses on the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In the EU system, control powers have been granted in particular to a supranational judicial body, the ECJ, which is a relatively small and isolated circle: less than 2,000 people currently work at the Court, located in Luxembourg. However, it has gained a major role in the daily lives of most European citizens, and has played a leading role in the integration process. The ECJ has decisively shaped the structure of the EU legal system and its relationships with national legal orders, and is now increasingly called upon to address delicate issues involving fundamental choices between economic freedom and social justice. But the context in which it operates has changed: EU competences have been substantially extended, as have the areas in which majority decision making is possible in the Council; the Parliament has gained new powers; and there are growing fears of an unequal distribution of the costs and benefits of integration in an enlarged and less-homogenous Union.
Shirin Ahlbäck Öberg and Helena Wockelberg
Recurring themes relating to the central constitutional principles of the public sector and the courts can be summarized as administrative dualism (administrative agencies are organized in separate units outside the ministries) and institutional autonomy. The scope of the dual Swedish administrative model, as well as how much institutional autonomy government agencies and the courts are granted by the Constitution, have been strongly debated. These debates exemplify what we refer to as “the Swedish Constitution as a story of unresolved issues.” Paradoxically, substantial constitutional reforms in this area rarely come about due to regular constitutional reform-making in Sweden. Instead, they are often the result of formally less demanding political decision-making.