The Dual Character of Supra-Nationalism and the Euro Crisis


Thirty years ago, Joseph Weiler wrote of the ‘dual character’ of the then EEC as legally supranational but politically intergovernmental. Whereas the motor of integration took the form of the formulation, implementation, execution and adjudication of supranational law primarily by EU institutions, and particularly European Court of Justice, EU politics lagged behind, confined to intergovernmental bargaining and negotiation more redolent of classic international relations. The relationship between supranational law and politics was inverted, in that the success of the former was causally linked to the weaknesses of the latter.

Watching ‘Merkozy’ on the steps of the Elsyee on Monday in their latest bid to save the Euro, I reflected on the extent to which Weiler’s thesis, rather than having diminished or been overtaken by the significant steps towards further integration undertaken in the intervening thirty years since the piece was written, was actually vindicated by the events surrounding the Euro and the sovereign debt crisis. If the dual character of supranationalism meant the advancement of law at the expense of politics in pushing integration forward, then the rise of an intergovernmental politics of integration should relegate the law to a subsidiary role, with a concomitant relegation of supranational institutions including the Court, Commission and ECB to a secondary status in the future of the integration process. This seems to have been played out by the almost complete sidelining of the European Commission in devising a road map or magic formula to save the single currency. Even where the Commission has been involved, for example in the bailout packages provided to Greece and Ireland, the terms and conditions applying to even the EU’s involvement seem to have been written by Berlin and Paris rather than in the corridors of the Berlaymont ...

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