Sovereignty, the Nation-State, and Integration History
Irish Journal of European Law, Volume 18, Issue 1
17 Pages Posted: 21 May 2014 Last revised: 20 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 6, 2013
This public lecture was given at the Royal Irish Academy on December 5, 2013, to keynote the 16th Irish European Law Forum on "Changing Sovereignty in Europe" at University College Dublin. In the context of the Eurozone crisis, few countries have experienced the changing nature of sovereignty more acutely than Ireland. But these acute transformations should not obscure for us how, in the context of European integration over the last half century, the transformation of sovereignty has also been a chronic phenomenon. This process began well before Ireland’s accession in 1973 and has certainly continued ever since. This lecture asserts that the changing nature of national sovereignty in relation to European integration is in fact a "new dimension to an old problem," albeit one with a peculiar, supranational dimension. That "old problem" is the legitimation of regulatory power as it diffuses and fragments away from more strongly-legitimated constitutional bodies of the nation-state – legislative, executive, and judicial – i.e., the privileged instrumentalities of sovereignty in modern liberal, representative democracies. This separation of regulatory power from the historically "constituted" bodies of the nation-state is the essence of modern administrative governance. In this sense, the changing nature of sovereignty in Europe is in fact part of a deeper historical transformation of modern governance tied not to integration per se, but rather to the emergence of the modern administrative state. One cannot understand this deeper transformation without an appreciation of the administrative state’s connection to – but also deep tension with – the constitutional consolidation of liberal, representative democracy as the presumptively legitimate form of "sovereign" self-government that took place over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Keywords: Sovereignty, Eurozone, integration, constitutional, regulatory power, governance
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