The Imperfect Union: Constitutional Structures of German Unification

By Peter E. Quint | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23
The Unification of Germany and the
Unification of Europe:
European Community and European Union

FOR THE purpose of “embedding” or dissolving German sovereignty in European structures, the most important institution was not NATO—as important as the alliance may have been—but rather the economic and political organization of the European Community or European Union. Indeed, much of Germany's future in Europe, as well as much of the future of European unification, lies within this institution. Accordingly, the decisions of the Union play an increasingly crucial role in German law, and the German constitution itself—both in its text and its interpretative doctrine—has come to recognize the special role of the European institutions.

The European Community or Communities, which include most of the countries of western Europe, were originally created through the adoption of three treaties: the European Coal and Steel Agreement (1951), the European Atomic Energy Agreement (Euratom) (1957), and, by far the most important, the Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) (1957). 1 The origins and development of the European Community parallel, in the area of economics, some of the goals and intentions of NATO in the realm of security. 2 The European Coal and Steel Community, the EC's predecessor, grew out of European cooperation on Marshall Plan aid and was intended, at least in part, as a bulwark against the east bloc as well as a defense against any residual threat from an economically resurgent Germany. 3

In the following years, however, the European Community came to assume an independent economic role that went far beyond its function as a possible instrument of the Cold War. Indeed, the Community became a central factor in the economic and legal life of Europe. A significant portion of the internal law of the member states, extending far beyond direct economic regulation into areas such as environmental control, is determined by treaty, legislation, or judicial interpretation of the EEC. Indeed, it has been estimated that, with the completion of the single European market, approximately 80 percent of legislation affecting markets would be issued by the EC rather than the member states. 4

In its founding and subsequent development, the EC was also intended to serve a central political goal. The founders believed that economic integration, coupled with eventual steps toward political union, was the only way to prevent the national rivalries that could lead to European war. 5

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