Research Projects
Political Legitimacy in Times of Crisis: Evaluating Reform Models for the Economic Governance of European Union

According to the so-called “Five Presidents Report” (2015), a Commission White Paper dealing with the next steps for the widening and deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is due in the spring of 2017. A number of documents and reform projects concerning various aspects of EU economic governance, including the economic, fiscal, banking, and political union, have been set forth by Commission and Parliament over the past few years. Independent scholars have also contributed with proposals and analyses to the ongoing debate about the future of the EMU.


Despite diverging assessments as to the causes and mechanisms that have set off the euro- and sovereign debt-crisis, observers concur in indicating in the scope and depth of the economic governance at EU level, and the therefore required sovereignty transfer, the key issues to be discussed in the near future. Albeit with different nuances, the question of political legitimacy, and the accordingly required degree of political union, is also on the table.


In the spirit of the EU-wide debate about these issues that Council, Commission, and Parliament have repeatedly conjured up, the project aims to scrutinize the various proposals of economic governance reform that have been tabled both at institutional and scholarly level in the aftermath of the euro- and sovereign debt crisis, in particular as regards political legitimacy and political union. While a great number of analyses and proposals do address the technical and institutional shortcomings of the present economic governance, much less attention has been devoted to the political aspects of the EMU reforms – being it indeed the aspect on which agreement on Treaty reform seems less likely to be achieved. And yet, both institutional and scholarly proposals agree on maintaining that a higher degree of integration requires a corresponding degree of political accountability and legitimacy. The proposal evaluates existing proposals and formulates possible alternatives.


In the current governance structure, rules for fiscal policies and crisis management are largely determined at intergovernmental level. The budgetary distress of a number of EMU partners have led to strictly conditional programmes of financial assistance. Such programmes have required both administrative and legislative measures in the countries concerned, and have thus brought to the fore the amount of sovereignty transfer that is already implied in the participation in the EMU. Institutional and political conflicts cut as well right through the single Eurozone members, inasmuch as international obligations clash onto national political commitments as well as legal traditions. This has been the case wherever national constitutional courts have issued rulings concerning measures taken under financial emergency, as thus far in Italy, Portugal, Germany, Spain, and (although not belonging to the eurozone) Romania.


While issues of political mandate and commitment must be solved through the instantiation of an adequate system of multi-level political governance, issues concerning legal checks and balances and the rule of law must be addressed via an adequate system of legal scrutiny in which the involvement and possible interactions of national and supranational instances must still be adequately addressed. This is thus far the most neglected issue as regards EMU governance reforms. Accordingly, the proposal aims to address these issues while considering both the recent history of relevant constitutional courts rulings and the possible architecture of legal checks and balances in a multi-level EU governance to come.