Law and Identity in the European Integration

| EUdentity 2019

with Nincs hozzászólás
Mr. János Martonyi
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

The European integration process has been the most successful exercise in the history of our continent. It has been and is confronted with numerous challenges and a series of crises prompting various reactions generally called reforms. (No wonder that the two most frequently used words in the history of European construction are crisis and reform.)

One of the main reasons for this success is the fundamental and indispensable role that law, legal norms, rules and regulations have played all through this complex political, economic and institutional development.

It all started as a political project (“finalité politique”), born in a given historical situation to be achieved after the failure of establishing a political union, a “European Political Community and a European Defence Community„ by means and on the basis of a gradual economic integration. What was, however, unique, perhaps unprecedented in the exercise, was the method, the instrument of rulemaking for the building of a legal and institutional structure and establishing a constitutional order. This construction has been established and developed by the law and has been functioning through legal norms – legislation or case law – creating legal rights and obligations for the European institutions, Member States, and most importantly for their citizens and economic actors as well. Without this legal construction and without its core elements the primacy of community law and its direct effect, that is without an autonomous legal order, neither the common and later the single market, nor the common policies could have been put in place, and the economic integration could not have reached the level – by far not yet perfect –, where it stands now.

What was one of the main factors of success – at least of the economic dimension of the project – also gave ground for criticism addressed precisely to the preponderant role of rulemaking and the legalistic approach dominating the integration process. Critiques referred to the excesses of regulatory fervour together with the rulemaking competition between European Institutions, all this contributing to the perceived or real “competence creep” of the same institutions.

However, law is not only an instrument, a useful device of the integration process. It is, at the same time, the core element of European identity. It is often said that this identity is symbolized by the three hills; the Acropolis, the Golgotha and the Capitoleum, standing for the antique Greco-Roman cultural heritage, the Christianity and the heritage of Roman law, which directly or indirectly shaped or influenced all European national legal systems. Law is therefore an indispensable and core element of the cultural heritage upon which Europe is based and should be based also in the future.

While European construction was a political project to be put in place via economic integration, the third basic driver of any individual or collective human venture, i.e. the cultural dimension upon which a European identity could be built, has largely been neglected.

Out of the three main drivers of history of mankind in general, the trade – representing economy – performed with excellent notes; the flag – representing political power – was less successful, while the Script representing culture and based upon the heritage of the past but supposed to address the present and the future essentially failed in the case of the European integration. The result is a fundamental disequilibrium between these three dimensions. The political objective is lagging behind the economic integration, while the cultural element, a common vision and identity, is no doubt, the weakest point. In other words or to put it symbolically, the Merchant went far ahead, the Soldier only followed him from a distance and the Missionary representing ideas was falling behind.

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