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‘European sovereignty: from political discourse to legal reality?’ IRDEIC, CEEC symposium

September 26, 2019 September 27, 2019

Guy Isaac lecture hall

This symposium seeks to reflect on the uses and the very notion of European Union sovereignty.

The use of the term ‘European sovereignty’ has been on the rise in political discourse since 2017 at both the European level (2018 state of the Union speech) and national level (French President Macron’s speech at the Sorbonne; French senate resolution on the single digital market). On these different occasions, the term has been generally attributed to highly positive values by those expressing the term, with the intention to promote European integration. The use of such a term can certainly be debated, it is evoked as a shield against unilateralism and as a basis for the European Union’s mission to act as a protector (a protective Europe). The meaning given to European sovereignty should not disregard the fact that such a concept can also be a source of tension; it is controversial in the political sphere but perhaps just as much in the legal domain.

In law, the use of the concept of sovereignty very often conveys priorities and reveals the allegiance of the legal actors and system.

The emergence of European sovereignty as a political goal will therefore test legal experts. After debates on the enactment of a European constitution, the sudden entrance of this term could signal a new step in European thought or European integration, or both. Assessing the existence of a European sovereignty should lead to an inward questioning on the nature of the European Union through a new and highly unprecedented viewpoint. The analysis put forward is obviously reflective. It would also be an opportunity to consider the uses and the very concept of sovereignty, as established by constitutional theory (issues derived from a certain essence of sovereignty having supplanted the contextual characteristics attributed to it by theory). With this perspective, a new approach to sovereignty – an analytical approach deduced by the observation and assessment of competences attributed to the different levels of public power – seems to be linked to an ontological reading, which is far more concerned with the basis or source of the authority being exercised.

The analysis proposed could revolve around four complementary points that are aimed at understanding the circumstances of the appearance of this term, assessing the underlying hypothesis in theory and practice, before looking at how this European sovereignty manifests itself.

1. Theoretical approaches in Europe on sovereignty
2. Political uses of European sovereignty
3. Substantive components of EU sovereignty
4. Embodiment of European sovereignty

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