Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Adam Lazowski and Steven Blockmans
The European Union is an organisation with limited competences, attributed to it by its Member States. This is expressed unambiguously in the first sentence of Art. 1 TEU: ‘By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Union, hereinafter called “the Union”, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common.’ This means, positively speaking, that any legal acts adopted by the EU institutions must be traceable to one of the competences given to the EU by the Treaties, and negatively speaking, that the EU institutions are not allowed to act beyond those limits set by the Treaties. The text of Art. 1 is a recent confirmation of the Member States’ legal perception of the Union as an international organisation with a limited range of competences. Art. 5(2) TEU calls this the principle of conferral and clearly expresses both the positive and the negative implications of that principle. This has been the position ever since the foundation of the European Communities but, interestingly, the original text of the Treaties did not express those basic ideas so clearly and explicitly. What has happened, because of the evolution of the European integration process, is that what used to be self-evident is now seen to require express confirmation.
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