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Enlargement and Legitimacy of the European Union

Bart M.J. Szewczyk

Columbia Law School


Polish Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 30, pp. 131-168, 2011

The EU’s enlargement across Central and Eastern Europe reflects the dual legitimacy structure based on European citizenship and national democracy embedded in the EU treaties. Its primary focus on the Copenhagen political criteria (rather than the economic or acquis criteria) - and in particular, ensuring the candidate countries’ commitment to EU fundamental rights - was justified in light of the concurrent shift in EU decision-making from de facto unanimity to QMV. Since an EU decision could now be taken against a nation’s democratic will, the old EU Member States had to ensure that the new Member States would share their core political values, such that all Member States would be expected to pursue the same basic shared interests and could credibly claim to act on behalf of European citizens. Even as a pre-condition of accession negotiations, the EU required candidate countries to meet stringent political criteria reflecting the EU’s new orientation around fundamental rights and excluded those states that failed to do so; in contrast, it extended membership to countries even if they did not fully meet the economic or acquis criteria. This new consensus should be formalized through a “Strasbourg Compromise,” mirroring the Luxembourg Compromise that underpinned the European Communities, but orienting it around European citizenship rather than the national veto.

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Date posted: July 8, 2011 ; Last revised: August 10, 2015

Suggested Citation

Szewczyk, Bart M.J., Enlargement and Legitimacy of the European Union (2011). Polish Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 30, pp. 131-168, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1881713

Contact Information

Bart M.J. Szewczyk (Contact Author)
Columbia Law School ( email )
435 West 116th St
New York, NY 10025
United States
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