Table of Contents

Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law

Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law

Research Handbooks in European Law series

Edited by Adam Lazowski and Steven Blockmans

Research Handbook on EU Institutional Law offers a critical look into the European Union: its legal foundations, competences and institutions. It provides an analysis of the EU legal system, its application at the national level and the prevalent role of the Court of Justice. Throughout the course of the Handbook the expert contributors discuss whether the European Union is well equipped for the 21st century and the numerous crises it has to handle. They revisit the call for an EU reform made in the Laeken Conclusions in 2001 to verify if its objectives have been achieved by the Treaty of Lisbon and in daily practice of the EU institutions. The book also delves into the concept of a Europe of different speeds, which - according to some - is inevitable in the EU comprising 28 Member States. Overall, the assessment of the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is positive, even if there are plenty of suggestions for further reforms to re-fit the EU for purpose.

Chapter 2: Competences: codification and contestation

Monica Claes and Bruno de Witte

Subjects: law - academic, european law


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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