Mr. President, Minister, esteemed fellow justices, dear friends and colleagues. First of all I take this opportunity to thank the Constitutional Court of Hungary for its kind hospitality in inviting me to attend this prestigious conference and for giving me the opportunity to address you here this morning.
I would like to start by reminding you of a basic truth that is at once self-evident and fundamentally important. The European Union is not an empire. It is a voluntary Union of sovereign Member States. Those States have not renounced their inherent national sovereignty but have pooled a significant part of it in order to create a new sui generis legal order that belongs to them all collectively. Indeed, as the Court of Justice made clear in its recent Wightman judgment – a preliminary ruling case from a Scottish court concerning the revocability of a Member State’s notification under Article 50 TEU of its intention to leave the Union – Member States join the Union of their own free will and where they activate the mechanism for leaving the Union, or withdraw any such notification, they exercise their sovereignty in making those choices.
Each Member State has, whilst retaining ultimate ownership of its own national sovereignty, conferred part of that sovereignty on the EU institutions in order that certain competences may be exercised supranationally in the interests of all Member States, including the Member State concerned. To take one obvious example, the EU single market would not be possible in the absence of that sharing of sovereignty. The primacy of EU law does not give rise to the imposition of “foreign” rules on any Member State. Rather, it is the consequence of a free choice made by each Member State to belong to the European Union, on the basis that membership is in the national interest.
In that context, my contribution today will focus on the relationship between, on the one hand, the shared values on which the European Union is founded and which reflect our common European identity, and, on the other hand, the distinctive national identity of each of the Union’s Member States. My aim will be to demonstrate, by reference to the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, that far from supplanting the identity of its Member States, the Union’s common identity is itself based on the values that are common to those national identities and that our shared identity in fact underpins and reinforces respect for those common values, and thus for those national identities.
One of our shared European values is respect for individual privacy. In the absence of evidence giving rise to suspicions that someone has committed – or will commit – a crime, every person is free to go about his or her business safe in the knowledge that his or her private communications are just that – private. Yet, Member State authorities have a legitimate interest in carrying out covert surveillance in certain circumstances, in order to fight serious crime, not least in the light of the terrorist threat with which we are, unfortunately, all too familiar. How can we reconcile these competing values?
Ön itt egy előadásrészletet talál, ami a 2019. március 8-án, Constitutional EUdentity 2019 címmel megrendezett konferencián
hangzott el. A teljes előadás szövegét az Alkotmánybírósági Szemle 2020. évi különszámában nyomtatott változatában olvashatja el. Előfizetni a folyóiratra itt tud.