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The Jurisprudence of Constitutional Conflict: Constitutional Supremacy in Europe before and after the Constitutional Treaty

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One of the core constitutional questions for national constitutional courts in the EU in the past decades has been whether to accept the claim made by the Court of Justice that EU law is the supreme law of the land, taking primacy even over conflicting national constitutional provisions. With the inclusion in the recently adopted Constitutional Treaty of a clause explicitly confirming the ‘primacy of EU Law’ appearances suggest that the EU is about to establish a characteristic of mature, vertically integrated, federal states such as the USA. This article argues that this view is mistaken. It develops a comprehensive jurisprudential framework for addressing constitutional conflicts, ‘Constitutionalism Beyond the State’ (CBC). CBS detaches the discussion of supremacy and constitutional conflict from a statist framework; provides a jurisprudential account that explains and justifies the highly differentiated, context-sensitive and dynamic set of conflict rules that national courts have in the past adopted; and provides the lacking theoretical basis for the more attractive, but undertheorised sui generis accounts of European constitutional practice that have recently gained ground in the literature. CBS provides a jurisprudentially grounded reconstructive account of why the issue of constitutional conflict is as rich and complicated in Europe as it is and why it is likely to remain so even if the Constitutional Treaty is ratified. The article then goes on to make concrete proposals addressed to national constitutional courts and the Court of Juctise respectively about how, in application of the developed approach, constitutional conflicts ought to be addressed doctrinally. It includes a proposal to read the new ‘constitutional identity’ clause as authorising Member States as a matter of EU Law to set aside EU Law on constitutional grounds under certain circumstances.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2005

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