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Administration or Federation? Constitutional Self-Image and the World Political Order in Which the EU Finds Itself

Abstract

In this article, I compare constitutional and administrative models in terms of their implications for the EU legal order’s interaction with other legal regimes. I aim to make a twofold argument on the implications of the EU’s constitutional self-image to the world political order. First, as the CJEU adopts an identity-centred strong constitutionalist position on the Union’s external relations, it implicitly frames the EU legal order’s interaction with other legal regimes as in a federated order. Yet the strong political implications of federation are likely to bring about more inter-regime conflicts and provoke reactions from Member States. Second, I provide a critique of the administrative model in the light of GAL’s intervention in inter-regime relations, suggesting a post-identity constitutional alternative in times of crisis. Freed from the value-laden concept of constitutional identity, but without de-constitutionalizing itself, the EU can have the benefits of both the constitutional and administrative models by moving towards a weak-form constitutional order. In the event, the debate, as to whether to conduct the EU’s external relations according to the constitutional or the administrative model, is misconceived.

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Can the EU’s constitutional framework accommodate democratic politics?

Abstract

The robustness of the EU’s constitutional framework – and its ability to accommodate democratic politics – is challenged as never before. The growing disconnect between formally democratic procedures and substantive choice is well illustrated by the Greek crisis. Since its first bailout in May 2010, Greece has held four general elections and a referendum. Yet, the anti-austerity preferences of the Greek electorate have not been effectively translated into policy.

This article uses the Greek crisis to analyse the EU’s democratic deficit, and the related issue of the locus of legal and political sovereignty in the EU. It argues that the EU’s constitutional framework is not sufficiently responsive to changing material conditions or to the changing preferences of Europeans. Thus, EU constitutionalism needs to be refashioned in order to strike a better balance between democratic and technocratic governance, as well as between the needs of individual citizens, national citizenries, and states.

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Constitutional and administrative paradigms in judicial control over EU high and low politics

Abstract

This article explores the particular tensions surrounding judicial review in EU external relations. The tensions are classified using a two-dimensional framework. Firstly, a distinction based on policy domains of high and low politics, which is derived from constitutional theory, and external to the CJEU; and secondly a distinction based on legitimizing paradigms of administrative (EU as effective global actor) or constitutional (judicial review as guarantee of fundamental rights) in character and determined by the Court itself. Even though one would expect a dominance of the administrative paradigm in the domain of high politics, the Court uses both the administrative and the constitutional paradigm in its external relations case-law. The decision on which of these becomes the guiding frame seems to depend more on the policy domain, and be made case by case, which suggests politically sensitive adjudication, rather than a coherent approach to legitimizing the nascent judicial review in EU external relations.

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The Functions of Constitutional Identity Performed in the Context of Constitutionalization of the EU Order and Europeanization of the Legal Orders of EU Member States

Abstract

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.

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How to Bridge the Gaps between Competing Paradigms for EU Law: An Introduction

Abstract

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.

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The Interpretive Function of the CJEU and the Interrelationship of EU and National Levels of Consumer Protection

Abstract

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.

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Paradigms for EU Law and the Limits of Delegation. The Case of EU Agencies

Abstract

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.

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Reflections on the ‘Administrative, Not Constitutional’ Character of EU Law in Times of Crisis

Abstract

As is broadly recognized, the realm of administrative power greatly expanded over the course the twentieth century (particularly after 1945). This essay argues that this expansion, along with differential conceptions of legitimacy deeply bound up with it, are crucial to understanding not just the modern administrative state but also the nature of EU governance and the law governing its operation. Despite a dominant paradigm that seeks to understand EU governance in autonomously democratic and constitutional terms, the legitimacy of integration as a whole has remained primarily ‘administrative, not constitutional’. The EU’s normative power, like all power of an ultimately administrative character, finds its legitimacy primarily in legal, technocratic and functional claims. This is not to deny that European integration involves ‘politics’ or has profound ‘constitutional’ implications for its member states or citizens. The ‘administrative, not constitutional’ paradigm is meant only to stress that the ultimate grounding of EU rulemaking, enforcement, and adjudication comes closer to the sort of administrative legitimacy that is mediated through national executives, national courts, and national parliaments to a much greater extent than the dominant paradigm supposes. This is the reality that the ‘administrative, not constitutional’ paradigm on EU law has always sought to emphasize, and it is one that is particularly pertinent to the integration process in times of crisis. It is unsurprising, in these circumstances, that the public law of European integration has continually resorted to mechanisms of nationally mediated legitimacy in order to ‘borrow’ legitimacy from the national level. Unless and until Europeans begin to experience democracy and constitutionalism in supranational terms, the ‘administrative, not constitutional’ paradigm suggests that the EU’s judicial doctrines must be adjusted. The purpose should be to address the persistent disconnect between supranational regulatory power and its robust sources of democratic and constitutional legitimacy on the national level.

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The Single Market and Synchronized Mechanisms for the Exercise of Administrative Functions: Converging Pathways or New Pathways for Integration? The Case of the European Banking Union

Abstract

The EBU represents a clear investment in administrative integration with clear implications for the constitutional features of the EU. This paper aims to give an analysis of the administrative arrangements, through which the functions of supervision and resolution are affecting the single financial market. This case study is very interesting because these functions represent a genuine novelty in the history of financial integration since they are pre-ordained to a specific public interest: financial stability. Particularly, they cause a shift in the decision gradient from the technical to the political, as market integrity is less and less the key interest compared to financial stability. However, this wider discretionary power is not adequately counteracted by checks and balances in favour of accountability. As a result, the EBU makes a new contribution to the well-known ‘fragmentation of the executive power’ of the EU by introducing a new governance tool positioned between the Communitarian and Intergovernmental Method, but its development is still full of uncertainties given that constitutional equilibrium is far from being definitively reached.

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The Theory of EU Constitutional Pluralism: A Crisis in a Crisis?

Abstract

The paper deals with the validity of constitutional pluralism as a constitutional theory for the European Union and a paradigm for the understanding of EU law in the current times of crisis. It reconstructs the way in which constitutional pluralism came to the fore, the different ways in which the theory was presented, and considers historical criticism it has faced. It then looks at the anomalies that, allegedly, cannot be explained today by constitutional pluralism as a paradigm, linked to the current economic and political crises in the Union. The reconstruction of the debate is complemented with reflections on both the descriptive and normative validity of EU constitutional pluralism’s claims.

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