On the Outside Looking in: The View from Norway
Die Union: Vierteljaherszeitschrift Für Integrationsfragen, Vol. 4, pp. 73-84, 1998
11 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2010
Date Written: 1998
Constitutions serve triple roles, in creating, curbing and channeling the use of political powers. In each of these roles, some aspects of the Norwegian Constitution are relevant.
Constitutions must foster predictability, yet be able to adopt to changing circumstances and new threats to the common good.
Minority protections must be carefully crafted to protect the vital interests of vulnerable groups - including third country nationals and cultural and ethnic minorities.
Much attention must be paid to the procedures and goals which channel politics, such as the distribution of voting power.
Arguments must be guided by a shared vision of the ends of the political unit, and by a commitment to the equal worth of all affected parties.The second part of the contribution poses three sets of questions concerning the call for a Constitution for the European Union. Is a constitution a) necessary, b) efficacious and c) possible? a) New institutional bodies already exist at the level of the EU, with a new legal order in place. Thus the creative task of constitutions have partly been carried out. Some important curbs are already secured by the human rights conventions which bind member states. Thus it may be fruitful to consider the EU treaties and the European Convention of Human Rights as parts of an embryonic European Constitution, and consider which parts must be added for the European Constitution to be just. b) Can a European Constitution contribute to achieving and maintaining a just polity? The balance between empowering and checking central and domestic government must be adjusted along the way, reflecting the change between getting to a roughly legitimate European political order, and maintaining such an order. Adjustments will also have to be made irregularly, guided by a shared conception of the common interests of Europeans. More is needed for a just European polity that a Constitution. A political culture is important, for instance shared informal norms which help deliberation and which curb party disagreement. c) One might doubt that a European Constitution is possible. The common ends of Europe are contested, as is the need for a European Constitution and the best design of European institutions. Finally, there is disagreement about what civic virtues must be shared among Europeans, and how this is best achieved in the absence of a European public sphere. A shared conception of justice in Europe is strongly overdue, to ensure that the European polity expresses a commitment to equal respect for all individuals in Europe.
Keywords: European Union (EU), Norway, Constitution
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