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The constitutional framework of Europe

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On his 50th birthday on May 12, 2000, which was the day of the Schuman Declaration, Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister of Germany, kicked off a great debate on the question of the need for a European Constitution. This was supported by a speech made at the Humboldt University at Berlin. It was quickly followed by the main leaders of the state and the government of the member states of the European Union (EU) who discussed this subject.

A true ?constitutional fever? seemed to have prevailed in the old continent. Following the half-failure of the Treaty of Nice, the phenomenon knew an unexpected acceleration: one that announced the entry of a great debate which was to be completed in 2004 (following the Intergovernmental Conference or the C.I.G) with the establishment of the fifth institutional reform of the EU in less than twenty years. It is in this context that six eminent specialists in the European Union met with Professor Renaud Dehousse to clarify the stakes of the European constitutional debate. This contributed to the collective work that was published in March 2002.

The position of the various European political leaders on the issue of a possible European constitution is not the only factor that contributed to the development of the constitutional debate. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights, whose preparation has been launched at the Cologne European Council in June 1999 and was proclaimed in February 2001 at the Nice European Council, has fueled debate on the model of society that we intend to see developed at the European level.

Finally, the Nice European Council has projected light on the weaknesses of the conventional formula of the IGC and its many obscure bargains. The European Council itself seems so worried about the weak results and has raised a Declaration on the Future of Europe which is attached to the Nice Treaty. The foundation of this will be the debate for years to come on the upcoming division of powers between the EU and the member states, simplification of treaties, status of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the role of national parliaments in the European institutional architecture. It seems obvious that these elements are constitutional and therefore feed the constitutional debate.

Renaud Dehousse shows that there is some affiliation between the innovations of European law and the liberal spirit that has inspired the constitutions of Europe. For the author, European integration has opened a new era in international relations with the Europeans. It was no longer to merely impose certain restrictions on the freedom of States, but to empower the controls to ensure the effectiveness of these principles. Moreover, the originality of European integration is that it aims to unite the states without melting them in a common statehood. Thus, in this unprecedented undertaking, it was possible to use techniques borrowed from the state structures because "the institutional structures do not exist pure and simple."

This is the challenge to state sovereignty that constitutes the cornerstone of European integration. This questioning was done gradually and with the primary means of first the right and the human rights. It begins in 1950 with the signing of the European Convention on human fingers. The internationalization of the protection of fundamental rights has assumed the same function as recognition at the constitutional level.

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