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Constitutionalising the European Union, Constructing EU Borders

Thursday February 22, 2007, at 15:30
Sala Seminario - Planta Baja IBEI
Thomas Christiansen (European Institute of Public Administration)
In the first few years of the 21st century, the EU has continued to develop at remarkable speed. 2004 stood out in particular as a year in which important decisions were taken which may in the future be regarded as historic. In particular the accession of 10 new member states to the Union, agreement among EU leaders to sign a Constitutional Treaty and the decision to begin accession talks with Turkey in 2005 may come to define the kind of polity the EU is seeking to become. All these developments are ‘constitutional’ choices in the wider sense in which they reflect the underlying values of the integration project, while also seeking to provide the EU with a firmer and more lasting normative structure. However, both the Constitutional Treaty and the accession of Turkey are aims at this point, with the very real possibility that either or both may run into objections in one or more member states and be derailed as a result. Still, unless and until this happens, the decisions of 2004 constitute indicators of the likely normative direction of the European project. Whereas the Constitutional Treaty, and the more formal process of constitutionalisation that led up to it, are about the legal-normative structure of the Union, the decisions concerning accession are not explicitly about normative choices. Indeed, past and future accessions to the Union imply the acceptance of acceding states of the ‘acquis’ – the existing legal framework based on treaties and secondary legislation. However, the nature and the sheer size of the recent and possible future enlargements have a qualitative impact on the Union itself. They may come to define the Union in a territorial sense given that they significantly extend the border of the Union outwards, and that the new external border may indeed become the ultimate border of the Union. In this way, in response to and in preparation for EU enlargement, two long-term processes – constitutionalisation and territorialisation – have come to a head (if not quite to a conclusion) in the early 21st century. The time is right to ask where that leaves the European Union and its relationship with the ‘margins’ or the ‘periphery’, in particular in the North of Europe, as is the aim of this volume. This chapter approaches the subject by first taking a closer look at the driving forces behind, and the consequences of, each of these two processes. The chapter then assesses the significance and the impact of these processes on the ‘remaking’ of Europe in the margins. By way of conclusion this chapter argues that the discourses more than the decisions, which have dominated the integration process in recent years, mark something of a departure from the previous ‘post-Westphalian’ path of European integration, and instead point towards a more statist conception of the European Union. It remains to be seen to what extent these discourses will subsequently have ramifications in normative, institutional and policy-terms, and what resistance to the choices implicit in these discourses will have to confront.


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