A new model of European integration?

A new model of European integration?

Bulletin article
David Harrison
01 December 1998

Ben Hall writes interestingly about the distinction between looser, inter-governmental forms of EU co-operation and actual EU legislation ('detailed, centrally-set rules') in CER Bulletin Issue 2. I agree such a distinction is helpful. But is it in fact new?

Since at least 1964 (and the landmark case of Costa v ENEL) the Court of Justice has upheld the concept of a body of autonomous EC law which binds both the member states and their nationals, and which national legal systems are bound to apply (as in fact they do). This body of law has grown, spurred, as Ben Hall suggests, by the single market programme. However, there have also been plenty of examples of the member states acting in pursuit of common objectives as well. What about the running of the EMS in the years prior to Maastricht? Or European political co-operation in the years prior to the Single European Act?

The heart of the matter is working out arrangements which translate today's common programmes, such as employment policy, CFSP policy, or indeed anything else, into measures which, although not law, are not so constraining as to stifle effective action or so loose as to be meaningless. In doing so it may be worth remembering that this is not laying down legislation binding all EU nationals but just making agreements binding EU governments.

Since this is so, it may be unnecessary to read across into such areas procedures appropriate to law-making. As the subject matter of areas of common political objective can vary so widely, why not innovate and tailor the procedure to suit the individual policy rather than (as in CFSP) trying to fit the policy into the procedure? Working backwards from the point of view of the common problem to be solved, and the most effective practical means of doing so, might clear the way to deal with all kinds of economic and political, but non-legal issues in a greatly enlarged EU.

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