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Article

The Legal History of the European Union: Building a European Constitution  

Morten Rasmussen

Attempts to analyze and understand how European law developed from a set of international treaties in the 1950s to a constitutional, proto-federal legal order, accompanied by a constitutional legal discourse today, has been a key concern in European studies in the last three decades. Legal scholars, political scientists, and sociologists have explored this from their specific disciplinary viewpoints and have produced a rich literature of sophisticated theoretical as well as empirical studies. Since the mid-2000s, historians have also finally—after years of negligence—taken an interest in European law and produced a new body of archive-based studies of the history of European law from 1950 to 1993. Based on primary sources drawn from private, national, and European archives, historians have contributed with much new empirical information and managed to uncover the social, political, and legal forces that have shaped European law in a qualitatively new way. The central argument is that the constitutionalization of European law was part of the broader battle over the political and institutional soul of the European construction. Even though the ECJ successfully constructed a European legal order that resembled and worked as a proto-federal constitution, the project ultimately suffered a defeat in not being able to codify this achievement in the Maastricht Treaty as part of a broader step toward a federal Europe.

Article

Visa Policy in the European Union  

Jelena Dzankic

Most European Union (EU) Member States participate in the common visa regime, even though there is no common visa policy applicable to all of them. The visa policy explored here covers the Schengen Area (including EU Member States and other countries, as well as EU countries that are still outside the Schengen). The Schengen Area does not include two EU Member States—the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland—that have opted out from the EU’s visa policies and operate a common travel area between them. Furthermore, the common visa policy in the EU is related to the issuance of short-term visas, while visas of longer duration and residence permits remain in the national domain. Against this background, the visa policy of the EU has four relevant aspects. First, the gradual evolution of the Schengen Area has been driven not only by political developments within the EU and its Member States, but also by broader global developments (e.g., the fall of communism). Second, the consolidation of the internal and external aspects of the visa policy in the EU took place through the growth of the Schengen acquis. Third, visa liberalization has become one of the most powerful tools for policy diffusion beyond the EU’s borders. Finally, securitization of migration has had a strong impact on the EU’s visa policy, particularly in the domains of information exchange and police cooperation.

Article

The European Court of Justice (ECJ)  

Sabine Saurugger and Fabien Terpan

Considered an unusually powerful actor that has furthered European integration, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has attracted considerable interest from both scholars and the public. Legal scholars and political scientists, as well as historians, have studied the Court in the context of it being one of the main actors in the integration process. Those that saw European integration as “integration through law” originally considered the Court to be the core element driving this process. The Court’s case law has influenced market integration, the balance of power among the EU’s institutions, and the “constitutional” boundaries between supranational and national competences. The pathbreaking rulings Costa vs. Enel and van Gend en Loos introduced new legal principles of direct effect and primacy in the 1960s; the 2007 Laval and Viking rulings triggered criticism of the Court’s decision, which was said to put the rights of companies above those of workers; whereas the Mangold ruling in 2005 on age discrimination was widely welcomed in spite of some negative reactions in Germany. Hence, while “integration through law” remains a powerful narrative in the academic field of European studies, the Court’s decisions and its role in the EU system have not remained unchallenged. This view of the Court as being less central to European integration is based on two developments in this field of study. On the one hand, research findings based on various analytical approaches—from rational choice to post-positivist—suggest that “integration through law” since the beginning of European integration has been a far less straightforward process than we have otherwise been led to believe. Scholars assert that the Court has been constrained by political, administrative, and constitutional counteractions since its establishment in 1952. On the other hand, scholars have identified a number of developments in the integration process from the early 1990s and the Maastricht Treaty, such as the increase in new modes of governance and intergovernmental decision-making, that explain why the Court’s role has come into question. Understanding these debates is crucial to grasping the broader institutional as well as political and legal developments of European integration.

Article

Future Scenarios of the European Union  

Brigid Laffan

Debate on the future of the European Union (EU) never abates because the Union is a polity characterized by considerable change in its internal and external environment. Scenarios are an important tool in mapping possible futures for the Union as they bring underlying trends into focus. Four scenarios on the future of the EU are presented: disintegration, piecemeal adjustment, functional federalism, and a United States of Europe. The political and policy battle concerning the future of the Union is between scenario piecemeal adjustment, the dominant response to the crisis and to events on Europe’s borders, and functional federalism, defined as more integration but in defined fields. Piecemeal adjustment represents a Union that muddles through, incremental reform, whereas functional federalism represents a Union that garners sufficient political capacity to be more strategic in particular functional areas. Systemic disintegration is regarded as unlikely, but partial disintegration may occur because of the exit of the United Kingdom, challenges to a number of EU regimes, and the threats to the Union’s normative order from some member states. A united states of Europe, is highly unlikely as the member states are not in favor of transforming the Union into a state-like federation. The degree of contestation about the future of the EU precludes a transformation of the system at this juncture. Three intervening factors will have a major impact on the future of the EU: the profound changes in the global environment, turbulent politics in the member states, and the Franco-German relationship as a source of leadership in the Union.

Article

Enlargement Policy and European Union Politics  

Eli Gateva

Enlargement has always been an essential part of the European integration. Each enlargement round has left its mark on the integration project. However, it was the expansion of the European Union (EU) with the 10 Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), Cyprus, and Malta, unprecedented in scope and scale, which presented the EU with an opportunity to develop a multifaceted set of instruments and transformed enlargement into one of the EU’s most successful policies. The numerous challenges of the accession process, along with the immensity of the historical mission to unify Europe, lent speed to the emergence of the study of EU enlargement as a key research area. The early studies investigated the puzzle of the EU’s decision to enlarge with the CEECs, and the costs and benefits of the Eastern expansion. However, the questions about the impact of EU enlargement policy inspired a new research agenda. Studies of the influence of the EU on candidate and potential candidate countries have not only widened the research focus of Europeanization studies (beyond the member states of the Union), but also stimulated and shaped the debates on the scope and effectiveness of EU conditionality. Most of the analytical frameworks developed in the context of the Eastern enlargement have favored rational institutionalist approaches highlighting a credible membership perspective as the key explanatory variable. However, studies analyzing the impact of enlargement policy on the Western Balkan countries and Turkey have shed light on some of the limitations of the rationalist approaches and sought to identify new explanatory factors. After the completion of the fifth enlargement with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, the research shifted to analyzing the continuity and change of EU enlargement policy and its impact on the candidate and potential candidate countries. There is also a growing number of studies examining the sustainability of the impact of EU conditionality after accession by looking into new members’ compliance with EU rules. The impact of EU enlargement policy on the development of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and comparative evaluations of the Union’s performance across the two policy frameworks have also shaped and expanded the debate on the mechanisms and effectiveness of the EU’s influence. The impact of the Eastern enlargement on EU institutions and policymaking is another area of research that has emerged over the last decade. In less than two decades, the study of EU enlargement policy has produced a rich and diverse body of literature that has shaped the broader research agendas on Europeanization, implementation, and compliance and EU policymaking. Comprehensive theoretical and empirical studies have allowed us to develop a detailed understanding of the impact of the EU on the political and economic transformations in central and eastern Europe. The ongoing accession process provides more opportunities to study the evolving nature of EU enlargement policy, its impact on candidate countries, the development of EU policies, and the advancement of the integration project.

Article

Israel and the European Union  

Sharon Pardo

Israeli-European Union (EU) relations have consisted of a number of conflicting trends that have resulted in the emergence of a highly problematic and volatile relationship: one characterized by a strong and ever-increasing network of economic, cultural, and personal ties, yet marked, at the political level, by disappointment, bitterness, and anger. On the one hand, Israel has displayed a genuine desire to strengthen its ties with the EU and to be included as part of the European integration project. On the other hand, Israelis are deeply suspicious of the Union’s policies and are untrusting of the Union’s intentions toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the Middle East as a whole. As a result, Israel has been determined to minimize the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process (MEPP), and to deny it any direct involvement in the negotiations with the Palestinians. The article summarizes some key developments in Israeli-European Community (EC)/EU relations since 1957: the Israeli (re)turn to Europe in the late 1950s; EC–Israeli economic and trade relations; the 1980 Venice Declaration and the EC/EU involvement in the MEPP; EU–Israeli relations in a regional/Mediterranean context; the question of Israeli settlements’ products entering free of duty to the European Common Market; EU–Israeli relations in the age of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP); the failed attempt to upgrade EU–Israeli relations between the years 2007 and 2014; and the Union’s prohibition on EU funding to Israeli entities beyond the 1967 borders. By discussing the history of this uneasy relationship, the article further offers insights into how the EU is actually judged as a global-normative actor by Israelis.

Article

The Schengen Area  

Steve Peers

Abolition of internal border controls—with corresponding harmonization of external border controls and other relevant policies (short-term visas, freedom to travel, control of irregular migration)—has become a cornerstone of the European Union’s (EU) overall integration project, being linked also to harmonisation of asylum policy, external relations issues, and policing and criminal law cooperation, including the ongoing development and extension of justice and home affairs databases such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System. However, the Schengen process has been frequently contested over the past decade, first of all in the context of the Arab Spring in 2011 and subsequently due to the perceived migration crisis of 2015–2016. The EU has responded with a combination of further integration (such as more funding, more harmonization, and more power for EU bodies) along with deference to Member States regarding re-imposing border checks in order to stop flows of asylum-seekers. It may be questioned how well this strategy will work in the long term, but in the medium term it has succeeded in keeping the Schengen policy afloat in this modified form. The research in this field has concentrated on whether the Schengen system has accomplished its objectives and the possible tension between the system and human rights and data protection standards, as well as the overlapping tensions between the attempts to develop a uniform policy at EU level and the divergences in implementation and policy priorities at national level, particularly at times of crisis or intense political debate.

Article

Europeanization  

Søren Dosenrode

Europeanization refers to the mutual influence of the European Union (EU) and its member states, to interactions within and between member states driven by the EU, and to the effect of the EU on EU applicant states. It affects domestic politics, policy, and polity and therefore is relevant for citizens and businesses. Europeanization effects also raise an issue of legitimacy: who bears responsibility, the member states or the European Union? In the broadest sense, analysis of Europeanization began with the theories of regional integration in the 1950s, which explained what was to become the early 21st-century EU and how it began and developed—the making of a polity. In the narrow and more common use of the concept, studies of the effect of what was then known as the European Community began at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s under the name of “adaptation.” It was not until 1994 that Robert Ladrech used and defined the term “Europeanization” for analyzing the effect of the European Community on its member states. Thus, in its most encompassing sense, a complete typology of Europeanization includes five types, each with its own primary mechanisms at work: (a) meta-Europeanization, the processes whereby the member states that have created the EU have set the overall frame, that is, the EU; (b) downloading, which implies a pressure on EU member states’ policies and governmental structures to adapt to EU standards (but this does not lead to “uniformity,” as the member states have diverse histories and traditions); (c) uploading, whereby the member states contribute to the EU’s further development by making policy suggestions to the EU and its institutions; (d) cross-loading, whereby the EU creates frames for the member states to exchange best practices and experiences, with little or no involvement from the institutions; and (e) export Europeanization, whereby the EU makes potential members comply with the Union. In a narrow sense, Europeanization is about downloading, uploading, and cross-loading. Studies on Europeanization have contributed greatly to our understanding of how the EU works and how it influences its member states and vice versa (not to mention its influence on subnational actors as well as on interest organizations and neighboring countries). In the early 21st century, Europeanization studies expanded to policies that were previously not sufficiently considered: for instance, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Common Security and Defence Policy, and social movements.

Article

Lithuania and the European Union  

Ramūnas Vilpišauskas

For Lithuania, the geopolitical motive to join the European Union (EU) in order to prevent a repetition of the 1940s occupation has been as important as a motive to “return to Europe.” This motivation to become part of the West led the country’s political elites to conceptualize accession into the EU as an important part of the transition reforms which were expected to modernize Lithuania’s economy, public administration, and governance as well as contribute to the country’s security and create conditions for economic catching up. Membership in the EU, accession into NATO, and good neighborly relations became the three cornerstones of Lithuania’s foreign policy since the early 1990s and enjoyed broad political support. It was this support that arguably allowed for the maintenance of political and administrative mobilization and consistency of preparations for the membership during the pre-accession process. Public support for the EU membership remained above the EU average since accession in 2004. Around the time of accession, a new concept of Lithuania as “a regional leader” was formulated by the core of the nation’s foreign policy makers. The concept of a regional leader implied active efforts of mediating between Eastern neighbors and the EU, often in coordination with Poland, which was driven by the desire to stabilize the Eastern neighborhood and advance relations between Eastern neighbors and the EU and NATO. Although coalition building within the EU has been fluctuating between a strategic partnership with Poland and Baltic-Nordic cooperation, also most recently the New Hanseatic league, attention to the Eastern neighborhood and geopolitical concerns originating from perceived aggressive Russian policies remained a defining characteristic of the country’s European policy independent of personalities and political parties, which have been at the forefront of policy making. Completion of integration into the EU, in particular in the fields of energy and transport, as well as dealing with “leftovers” from accession into the EU, such as joining the Schengen area and the euro zone, became the other priorities since 2004. Lithuania has been one of the fastest converging countries in the EU in terms of GDP per capita since its accession. However, membership in the EU Single Market also had controversial side effects. Relatively large flows of emigrants to other EU member states generated political debates about the quality of governance in Lithuania and its long-term demographic trends such as a decreasing and aging population. Introduction of the euro in 2015 was perceived by the public as the main factor behind price rises, making inflation the most important public issue in 2016–2018. High per capita income growth rates as well as the prospect of the United Kingdom exiting the EU triggered discussions about excessive dependency on EU funding, the potential effects of its decline after 2020, and sources of economic growth. There are increasingly divergent opinions regarding further deepening of integration within the EU, especially in regard to alignment of member states’ foreign and security policies as well as tax harmonization. Still, membership in the EU is rarely questioned, even by those who oppose further integration and advocate a “Europe of nations.”

Article

Justice and Home Affairs in the European Union  

Florian Trauner and Ariadna Ripoll Servent

Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the most salient policy fields at European Union (EU) level. It deals with issues closely related to the sovereignty of member states including immigration, borders, and internal security. This article takes stock of the policy’s development and current academic debates. It argues that EU justice and home affairs is at a crossroads. Most EU actors underline the value added of European cooperation to tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime as well as the challenge of international migration. Indeed, the EU has increased its operational cooperation, data-sharing and legislative activities. The EU home affairs agencies, notably the European Police Office (Europol) and European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), have been substantially empowered. Yet JHA has also become a playing field for those attempting to politicize the European integration process. Therefore, recent years have seen major conflicts emerge that risk fragmenting the EU. These include controversies over the distribution of asylum seekers within the EU and the upholding of rule of law standards in some Eastern European states. Scholars have followed these developments with interest, contributing to a multifaceted and rich literature on aspects such as the dynamics of EU decision-making and the policy’s impact on the member states’ respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties. Promising avenues of further research include the implications of the politicization of the field and the consequences of ever more interconnected internal security databases and technologies.

Article

Europe’s Supranational Courts and LGBT Rights  

M. Joel Voss

Europe has some of the most powerful human rights legal institutions in the world including two supranational human rights courts—the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights and the European Union’s Court of Justice (hereafter, together—the Courts). After decades of relative quiet, the Courts have begun hearing more cases concerning LGBT rights. Judgments of the Courts have advanced some facets of LGBT rights like anti-discrimination in the workplace while disappointing gay-rights advocates in other areas, for example family life and asylum. Scholarship on European courts and LGBT rights is not as developed as scholarship on norm advocacy or policy diffusion within states in Europe. The research that does exist looks at how decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice deal with current European law, how the institutions are designed, or how the supranational courts may act as agents of change or status quo institutions in shaping wider European behavior. This lack of newer research on the Courts presents ample opportunity for new avenues of research that examines not only how decisions are made at the Courts but also how states implement decisions and how states view the legitimacy of each Court.

Article

Citizenship of the European Union  

Willem Maas

Citizenship is usually conceptualized as a unitary and exclusive relationship between an individual and a sovereign state; yet the European Union (EU) has developed the most advanced form of contemporary supranational citizenship. Citizenship of the European Union guarantees EU citizens and most members of their families the right to move, live, and work across the territory of the EU. It also guarantees the right to vote in local and European elections in the member state of residence, the right to consular protection outside the EU when the member state of nationality is not represented, the right to access documents or petition Parliament or the Ombudsman in any of the official languages, and the right to be treated free from nationality-based discrimination. Though on the political agenda since the postwar origins of European integration, EU citizenship was not formalized into EU law until the Maastricht Treaty. Since then, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has declared that “EU Citizenship is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States” and there are ongoing discussions about the relationship between EU and member state citizenship. In terms of identity, increasing numbers of Europeans see themselves as citizens of the EU, and questions of citizenship are at the heart of debates about the nature of European integration.

Article

Legislative and Judicial Politics of LGBT Rights in the European Union  

Uladzislau Belavusau

Since the 1980s, the law of the European Union (EU) has become a substantial transnational source of political empowerment for LGBT actors in Europe. The Rome Treaty (1957), which established the European Economic Community, contained a gender equality clause. In the 1990s, this provision was used to protect employment rights of intersex individuals via litigation schemes based on EU law. Yet the subsequent attempts to push forward a similar legal protection for gay and lesbian equality at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), based on the EU sex-equality clause, failed. Since then, the position of the LGBT community in EU legislative politics has evolved significantly through two dimensions. First, the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) extended the number of grounds protected against discrimination in EU law, adding sexual orientation, among others, to this palette. The Amsterdam Treaty permitted the EU Council to adopt the Framework Equality Directive 2000/78/EC, an instrument of secondary Union law that has safeguarded minimum standards of protection against homophobia in relation to matters of employment in all member states. This framework EU legislation has been used by LGBT litigants in their fight for equal working opportunities and pension rights at the CJEU. Second, the introduction of EU citizenship by virtue of the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the respective secondary law (the EU Citizenship Directive 2004/38/EC) have paved the way for status recognition of same-sex spouses in the member states that have not previously recognized same-sex partnership or marriage. The future of LGBT legislative politics and the LGBT community in Europe will largely depend on whether EU law is able to extend protection beyond the current confines of the employment area, broaden its scope to cover social dimensions such as health and education, and fully recognize same-sex marriages and partnerships throughout the EU.

Article

The Lisbon Treaty  

Jacques Ziller

The expression “the Lisbon Treaty” (LT) is a shortcut to the treaties upon which the European Union (EU) has been based since December 1, 2009. During the “reflection period” that lasted from June 2005 to December 2006 three options were available: remaining with the European treaties as amended by the Nice Treaty; starting new negotiations in order to adopt some changes deemed technically necessary; or trying to get “the substance” of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) of 2004 approved in the form a new treaty. Most member states and the EU institutions were in favor of the third option. The negotiations that led to the adoption of the LT in December 2007 departed from the usual treaty amendment scenarios. The content of the LT is to a large extent similar to that of the CT, as most of the novel provisions of that treaty have been taken over as they were written in the CT and introduced in the existing European Community (EC) and EU treaties. Apart from a few institutional innovations such as the Permanent President of the European Council and the new voting system in the Council, most innovations with regard to the European communities are to be found in the details. The ratification process of the LT was difficult, as it was slowed down by the necessity to hold two referenda in Ireland, and to overcome the resistance of the President of the Czech Republic, an overt Euroskeptic. The negotiations of 2007–2009 shed some light on the importance in EU policy-making and especially in treaty negotiations of the epistemic community of legal experts and, more precisely, of experts in EU law. Events in the years 2010 and 2011 led to minor treaty amendments, shaping the present content of what is usually referred to as the LT. Whether Brexit and the EP elections of 2019 will lead to important changes remains unknown.

Article

Democratic Backsliding in the European Union  

Nick Sitter and Elisabeth Bakke

Democratic backsliding in European Union (EU) member states is not only a policy challenge for the EU, but also a potential existential crisis. If the EU does too little to deal with member state regimes that go back on their commitments to democracy and the rule of law, this risks undermining the EU from within. On the other hand, if the EU takes drastic action, this might split the EU. This article explores the nature and dynamics of democratic backsliding in EU member states, and analyses the EU’s capacity, policy tools and political will to address the challenge. Empirically it draws on the cases that have promoted serious criticism from the Commission and the European Parliament: Hungary, Poland, and to a lesser extent, Romania. After reviewing the literature and defining backsliding as a gradual, deliberate, but open-ended process of de-democratization, the article analyzes the dynamics of backsliding and the EU’s difficulties in dealing with this challenge to liberal democracy and the rule of law. The Hungarian and Polish populist right’s “illiberal” projects involve centralization of power in the hands of the executive and the party, and limiting the independence of the judiciary, the media and civil society. This has brought both governments into direct confrontation with the European Commission. However, the EU’s track record in managing backsliding crises is at best mixed. This comes down to a combination of limited tools and lack of political will. Ordinary infringement procedures offer a limited toolbox, and the Commission has proven reluctant to use even these tools fully. At the same time, party groups in the European Parliament and many member state governments have been reluctant to criticize one of their own, let alone go down the path of suspending aspect of a states’ EU membership. Hence the EU’s dilemma: it is caught between undermining its own values and cohesion through inaction on one hand, and relegating one or more member states it to a second tier—or even pushing them out altogether—on the other.