Constitutionalising Europe

The process of constitutionalisation of the European Union is a complex development and one of major significance for the process of integration in the European Union. A more inclusive definition of constitutionalisation goes beyond the phenomenon of European legal integration and relates to various processes and core principles of significance in the legal order of the European Union, as well as the political processes and legitimating ideas driving this development. The process of constitutionalisation tends to confer a constitutional status to the legal framework of the EU. In this regard, it also gives increasing salience to principles enshrined in (national) constitutions, such as representative democracy, separation of powers, fundamental political and social rights and a liberal economic order. In this regard, CERiM researchers examine more closely how such a process of constitutionalisation unfolds and probe into the legal, democratic and societal ramifications of this development.

There are two areas in which these general issues are studied specifically by CERiM researchers: First, we examine the relation between national constitutions and European integration. National constitutions stipulate limits to supranational integration as well as postulate national values and identities that are to be reflected in the process of EU integration. CERiM researchers address the issues of democratic accountability and living practices in how written constitutional principles are given shape in the EU context both through the examination of law and legal changes but also practices both at the EU institutional level as well as the national (constitutional) courts. Hereby the study of fundamental rights is of key importance. Second, CERiM researchers look into specific fields of law and policy where the process of constitutionalisation has a growing relevance such as that of security, economic or health policies. Policy-making in these fields is studied in relation to constitutional values or political principles such as accountability, protection of fundamental rights and openness and transparency. This discussion is also relevant regarding the way in which the EU is responding to the various crises facing Europe, often under conditions of high uncertainty and extreme time pressure. Think about the refugee crisis or the economic and financial crisis in which values such as transparency, fundamental rights, solidarity and democratic legitimacy are put to the test. Similarly, questions of citizens (lack of) trust in the ‘European project’ are addressed, also in a historical perspective.