Friday, March 11, 2005

The Unwritten Constitution of the European Union

Opposition to the EU Constitution is concentrated in the United Kingdom, which itself has no written constitution, but only an "unwritten" one, comprised of documents having "constitutional status". We have posted about this legal fiction before as perhaps a subliminal reason for UK resistance to the EU Constitution. We now want to examine this issue from a different perspective.

Essentially, the European Union is currently in the same position as the UK. It already has an "unwritten" constitution similar to that in the United Kingdom and it is called the community acquis (acquis communautaire).

This community acquis in the European Union is defined at the EU pages at the SCADPlus: GLOSSARY as follows:

"Community acquis

The Community acquis is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the Member States together within the European Union. It is constantly evolving and comprises:

  • the content, principles and political objectives of the Treaties;
  • the legislation adopted in application of the treaties and the case law of the Court of Justice;
  • the declarations and resolutions adopted by the Union;
  • measures relating to the common foreign and security policy;
  • measures relating to justice and home affairs;
  • international agreements concluded by the Community and those concluded by the Member States between themselves in the field of the Union's activities.

Thus the Community acquis comprises not only Community law in the strict sense, but also all acts adopted under the second and third pillars of the European Union and the common objectives laid down in the Treaties. The Union has committed itself to maintaining the Community acquis in its entirety and developing it further.

Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the Union. Derogations from the acquis are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited in scope. To integrate into the European Union, applicant countries will have to transpose the acquis into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession."


This community acquis developed through the complex history of the European Communities and the European Union.

Now, it is clearly possible -- in an island culture dominated by one language, one legal system and a fairly homogenous culture that has developed over thousands of years -- to exist without a written constitution. We see in the UK that this works.

However, opponents of the EU Constitution in the UK should carefully consider whether that is a sensible option for a European Union consisting of currently 20 official languages, various historically diverse legal systems, and a much more heterogenous group of people.

In our opinion, anyone who examines the current community acquis seriously will see that a unified EU Constitution is the only sane alternative to the present unnecessary complexity and confusion which marks EU law. People need ONE document - not thousands, which defines their rights and obligations as citizens of the European Union.

We do not address here the people who strongly oppose the EU or the EU Constitution on personal political grounds. We understand them, and disagree with them, but it is their democratic right to think as they do.

Rather, we address those persons who are in the undecided category about the EU Constitution, whether in the UK or elsewhere, and we suggest that the EU Constitution largely merely "codifies" the already existing "unwritten" EU Constitution, reducing thousands of documents to one, which seems to us to be the optimal solution.
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