A crisis of democratic legitimacy in Europe and new European unity in the light of constitutional law

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Author: Vasily Zagretdinov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-4-14-35

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; European Central Bank; European integration; Federal Constitutional Court


The article aims to study the constitutional aspects of further European integration in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious challenge for the new European Parliament and the new College of the European Commission. After a controversial first 100 days in power, Ursula von der Leyen’s team faced the necessity to strengthen its leadership but also to come closer to implementing its election promise of economic and societal transformation within the European Union. This transformation includes internal structural reform. Second, the pandemic has exacerbated a key contradiction within the EU’s legal structure – the conflict between the sovereignty of member states and the powers of the EU institutions. The author examines this contradiction through the prism of philosophical debates on the nature and future of a single European state. In this regard, the article compares approaches to the possible constitutional structure of a single European political entity. Third, the author argues that the recent decision of the Federal constitutional court of Germany aggravated the political and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court attacked the legality of the European Central Bank Programme aimed at supporting the economy of the Eurozone countries. Although not formally related to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision of the Court jeopardized further EU pandemic response policy and, thus, prompted the adoption of unprecedented measures to stimulate economic growth in the region. It is expected that the national debt of the member states should be distributed at the level of the European Commission, which in itself marks a move towards further integration. Fourth, the decision of the Federal constitutional court is worth considering for other reasons. The Court went into an open confrontation with the European Court of Justice. In fact, the national court of a member state of the European Union acted as an arbitrator setting the limits of the supranational bodies’ competences. In addition, the judges of the Federal constitutional court subsequently became active in the political sphere. In a series of interviews with the German press following the decision, the President of the Court criticized the “liberal elites” who ignore the interests of “normal people”, thus using the German court itself as a platform for correcting the course of further European integration.

About the author: Vasily Zagretdinov – Ph.D. Student, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Zagretdinov V. (2020) Krizis legitimnosti evropeyskikh gosudarstvennykh institutov i novoe evropeyskoe edinstvo: konstitutsionno-pravovoy aspect [A crisis of democratic legitimacy in Europe and new European unity in the light of constitutional law]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.4, pp.14–35. (In Russian).


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