This article provides an analysis of the functions performed by constitutional identity in constitutional discourses of both the EU and its Member States, in the context of emerging post-Westphalian and supranational constitutionalism. The analysis tries to demonstrate that constitutional identity may serve as one of the key normative ideologies, legitimation strategies and ordering schemes of EU constitutionalism. It reasserts through functional analysis the suitability of constitutional identity for organizing and explaining multiple constitutional orders in a non-hierarchical and inclusive way.
The article is based on a socio-legal approach, deliberately avoiding the predominant legal realist and legal positivist discourses. This is due to the fact that a functional analysis presupposes admitting the existence of ideal, legal and socio-legal dimensions of constitutional concepts and institutions and the taking into account of social implications produced by their functioning. The article deliberately takes a constitutionalist stance on the EU and the EU integration. It is focused on the contribution of constitutional identity for the further constitutionalization of the EU from a socio-political and constitutionalist perspective.
For the first time since its creation, the European Union (EU) has been living its probably most significant identity crisis. This crisis has its roots in different critical situations that have hit the EU, have affected its functioning and have fundamentally questioned its legitimacy. The gaps in the EU integration process have been uncovered and the fragmentation of EU policies has become a source of different risks.
On the anniversary of sixty years of the Rome Treaties, this Special Issue aims to reflect on the paradigms for EU law looking beyond their competing accounts of EU integration. The analysis is developed through a series of contributions that challenge the paradigms in different directions. The discussion is articulated on two levels. On the one hand, a group of contributions focuses on the historical and legal analysis of the emergence and transformation of the EU legal order. These contributions delve deeper into the absence of a European identity and go beyond the inherent critique that the EU is a demoi-cracy that struggles with a democratic disconnect or even deficit. On the other hand, other contributions debate paradigms and their implementation in important policy domains. These contributions aim to give a more practical perspective on the constitutional and/or administrative character of the European Union, showing its implications and concrete questions.
This paper analyses the ways in which the Unfair Contract Terms and Unfair Commercial Practices Directives try to steer a path between imposing a common European standard and allowing national variation. The open wording of the norms and safeguard clauses in both directives allows room for their flexible application. The differentiated role between the Court of Justice, as the interpreter of European law, and the national courts, as the party that applies it, provides a release valve to prevent any direct clashes and allows a subtle way for national perspectives to be reflected.
The analysis finds that, irrespective of the underlying level of harmonisation, and with the backing of the European legislator’s intention of ensuring a high level of consumer protection, the CJEU is gradually painting the average European consumer with more realistic features. Here, the case law of the CJEU fulfils a bridging function between the labelling requirements in the Foodstuff Regulation, the transparency requirements in the Unfair Contract Terms Directive and the informed decision requirements in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. In these three domains the CJEU recognises that the level of customer attention may be suboptimal, even in the presence of comprehensive and correct information.
The CJEU’s approach contributes to more convergence in consumer protection throughout the EU. Yet, in terms of legitimacy, it must be noted that in all cases the CJEU has maintained a clear distinction between interpretation and application. The particular constitutional legal order in which the CJEU operates only allows for a process whereby the contours of a more coherent European consumer protection policy are gradually revealed. In the absence of sufficient legislative guidance at the European and national levels, national courts may be increasingly informed by the case law of the CJEU in an effort to establish clearly desirable common expectations. Those who believe that, in practice, uniformity can be achieved overnight by simply adopting a common maximum norm appear over-optimistic.
This article questions the idea that the EU is a pure regulatory power based on supranational delegation of competence from the Member States. It claims the insufficiency of this single paradigm to explain the developments of EU law and the need to integrate it with recognition of the constitutional foundations of EU law.
The analysis demonstrates this by focusing on a specific case study of institutional design in the internal market integration: the delegation of powers to EU agencies. By recognising the judicial evolution of the so-called Meroni doctrine concerning the non-delegation of powers to EU agencies, the article unveils that, legally speaking, the enhancement of EU agencies’ powers takes place in the autonomous constitutional framework of the EU legal order.
This constitutional foundation of EU law shall therefore complement the supranational delegation paradigm. Only in this wider approach can the legitimacy of EU agencies’ powers be framed and accommodated in the composite nature of the EU as a Union of Member States. On these grounds, the final remarks highlight the need for a more comprehensive paradigm for EU law that can explain these different aspects of EU law under a common approach based on a wider public law discourse.