Revisiting Art. 2 TEU: A True Union of Values?

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. Fundamental values and the Treaties of Lisbon. – II.1. Which values, and which status or role? – II.2. The EU’s limited competences to act upon, and enforce, its values. – II.3. How common and deep are the Union’s values? – III. Compliance with Art. 2 TEU at the stage of accession. – IV. Enforcement of Art. 2 TEU during membership of the Union. – IV.1. The use and non-use of Art. 7 TEU. – IV.2. The Commission’s Rule of Law Framework. – IV.3. The Court of Justice’s increasing role. – V. Concluding remarks.

Abstract: The Article offers a critical assessment of Art. 2 TEU, from its genesis to its implementation so far. It examines the enforcement of the Union’s foundational values both in the accession stage and during EU membership. Two main weaknesses related to Art. 2 TEU are highlighted in connection with the theme of this Special Section. First, there is an asymmetry between the nature of Art. 2 TEU’s values, which are foundational for the whole EU project and architecture, and the limited competences conferred upon the Union to legislate with regard to these values and to enforce their respect. Second, the EU and the Commission in particular have followed a legalistic-technocratic assessment of compliance with rule of law principles rather than endorsing a broader view of Art. 2 that combines all of its values. Under such broader view, other values like democracy, justice and solidarity could be given the same rank as the rule of law, at the time of the accession process and once membership is acquired. It is submitted that this would help the Union to connect more strongly with the citizens of the acceding countries and to reconnect with those of the Member States.

Keywords: Art. 2 TEU – Union of values – EU accession – EU membership – rule of law – EU competences.

European Papers, Vol. 5, 2020, No 1, pp. 255-277
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/376

* Jean Monnet Chair ad personam, Full Professor of International Law and International Organizations; Director, Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies (Institute for International Law, KU Leuven); Coordinator of the Horizon 2020 project RECONNECT (Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and Rule of Law),


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