Transatlantic Constitutions: Comparing the US and the EU

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At the Laeken European Council of December 2001, government and state leaders of the European Union (EU) Member States decided to draft a `Constitutional Treaty' for the EU. The draft would then be discussed, amended, approved or rejected by an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) held in 2003. The aim of Fabbrini's article is thus to contribute to the understanding of the constitutional evolution of the EU through a comparison with the constitutional experience of the United States.

Worth noting is the fact that there originally were two American constitutions, that the EU does not yet have a formal constitution; but also that the similarities between the constitutionalization process of the two powers are so similar that they warrant a closer look.

According to Sergio Fabbrini, "`Constitutionalism' means a set of procedures and principles used, in a given society and at a given historical period, to define the nature of the supreme law of the land (which constitution?), to promote the strategy of limitation of public powers (for which polity?) and to select the authors of the constitutional plan (which constitution making process?) (Pennock & Chapman 1979)." The following pages will examine this concept in the light of both American and European constitutionalism, by explaining the US constitution making process, giving examples, and comparing and contrasting between America and Europe.

Part 1: American constitutionalism from a comparative perspective.

Which constitution? A frame of government.

According to Fabbrini, democratic constitutions can be both written or unwritten. In America, although there is a written constitution, unwritten norms have been added in order to deal with unexpected challenges that arose af...

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...). Transatlantic constitutionalism: Comparing the United States and the European Union [Electronic version]. European Journal of Political Research, 43, 547-569.

Moull, David. (2004). Lessons the EU should learn from the formative years of the US: Challenges to EU authority in the areas of legitimacy and interpretive competence and the implications for the conceptualisation of the EU [Electronic version]. Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics.

Breyer, Stephen G. (2004). Europe's Constitution is Welcome, but Very Different from it's U.S. Counterpart. The European Union Constitution: An American Perspective. A Report of the European Institute.

Sweeney, Richard J. (2004). Introduction: Constitution-Making for the Great Federations. McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University.

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