The constitutional challenge – A European state of Emergency

Wesemann, Anne (2015). The constitutional challenge – A European state of Emergency. In: Adrift in the European Crisis: Interrogating the impact of global and regional legal reforms on economic rights, 17/09/15, University of Westminster, London.


Ever since the financial crisis hit, the European Union has found it difficult to cope with the challenges that came with it on various levels. The lack of the so often advertised solidarity (e.g. Malcom Ross; Yuri Borgmann-Prebil) and the overarching effects of austerity mechanisms left this Union of states in a state of shock. The EU seems to struggle to find a structured and functional way out of this.
Just when the financial crisis hit the world, the new Treaty of Lisbon came into existence in Europe. A treaty that was long fought for and could not fail like its predecessor. What it lacked was a constitutional mechanism to deal with a crisis of this kind on a European level. The EU institutions have clearly structured competences, but a situation like the one the Union found itself in required quick decisions, following an efficient and productive process involving the Member States in need and those whose solidarity was so urgently required.
While Ireland, Portugal and Spain struggled, the situation in Greece unlocked a whole series of attempts to contain and balance the effect that the global crisis and national mismanagement have had on this Member State.
This paper will argue that a constitutional mechanism of an economic state of emergency on the European level would have avoided some of the issues exacerbated by the lack of a structured approach to the crisis. If the Lisbon Treaty would have entailed such a mechanism, Greece could have been in a position to establish reforms, restructure the state and support the people suffering much earlier and more efficiently organised support from a European Union level.
As the Member States seem to drift apart as a consequence of the struggle with Greece, it is questionable whether agreement on the actual content and structure of such a state of emergency regulation will be found in the near future, also considering that other Member States (e.g. Italy) are in danger of going the same way. However, this paper will make the attempt to present one possible version of such a regulation, which could allow the EU institutions to act swiftly and in agreement of all the Member States.

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