In the early 2000s many people believed that European constitutionalism could push the integration project to a qualitatively new stage. Some understood the adoption of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe by the high contracting parties in 2004 as the Union’s constitutional moment, realising their much wished-for utopia. Then the Treaty was rejected in the French and Dutch referenda and the European Council officially abandoned the ‘constitutional concept’. Several crises and challenges of the Union followed, most of them having direct implications for constitutionalism in Europe: the financial and economic crisis, the refugee crisis, the rule of law crisis in Hungary and Poland, and of course, Brexit. The consequences of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis may prove to be truly existential for the integration project, as it exacerbates the impact of the crises mentioned and adds new dimensions to the numerous problems the project has been facing since 2004.
This paper argues that we need to understand the ideological nature of constitutionalism that has been employed to “further” European integration in the last three decades, if the whole project is not to collapse completely. The idea is not to abandon constitutional ideology completely. This is not possible for any collective project, which need ideology to make people feel united. Instead, the paper builds on what the Marxist theory calls ‘ideology critique’: an intellectual endeavour that seeks to judge utopian ambitions of collective projects by their practical realisation. Such critique can reveal new sources of domination collective projects – the European one including – inevitably bring. European constitutional scholars bear special responsibility in this respect – no matter their failures in this respect.
Suggested reading: “Why Read the Transformation of Europe Today? On the Limits of a Liberal Constitutional Imaginary”