Democracy and Federalism in the European Union and the United States: Exploring Post-National Governance

By Sergio Fabbrini | Go to book overview

3

The constitutionalization of the EU

Steps towards a supranational polity

Alec Stone Sweet


Introduction

With the Treaty of Rome, European states designed a set of policy domains related to trade and the regulation of markets, a complex of governmental organizations, and a binding set of substantive and procedural rules to help them achieve the construction of a European Economic Community. Although the treaty traced the broad outlines of this new Community, it was the purposeful activities of representatives of national governments, of officials operating in the EC's organizations, such as the Commission, and of leaders of transnational interest groups that subsequently produced the extraordinarily dense web of political and social networks that now functions to generate and sustain supranational governance. But it was the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the judicial organ of the European Union (EU), 1 that fashioned a judicially enforceable constitution out of international treaty law, transforming the EU in the process (Weiler 1991). The constitutionalization of the Treaty of Rome not only provoked the gradual emergence of a quasi-federal legal system. It fundamentally altered, within a very wide zone in Western Europe, how individuals, groups and firms pursue their interests, how judges resolve disputes, and how policy is made at both the national and supranational levels. This chapter examines how the EU legal system has been constructed and operates, focusing on the impact of constitutionalization on European integration and governance. 2


The Treaty of Rome and European integration

With the 1957 Treaty of Rome, six European states established a political system to facilitate market and political integration. Integration originally referred to the process through which a common market would be achieved and regulated by EU law and institutions of government. Today the European common market consists of: (1) a zone of free movement, wherein restrictions on the movement of labour, goods, services and capital within the area have been abolished; (2) a collective external customs policy, whereby goods imported from outside the area are subject to uniform treatment; (3) an EU-wide regulatory system, whereby common legislation and other public policies

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