16 Colum. J. Eur. L. 521 (2010)

Matej Avbelj. Ph.D. EUI, Florence, LL.M. NYU School of Law, Associate Professor of European Law, European Faculty of Law and Faculty of State and European Studies, Slovenia.

This contribution analyzes the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon on the so-called “structural equilibrium” of European integration.

Structural equilibrium is the European Union’s functional, but for obvious reasons not nominal, equivalent of a federal equilibrium in federal regimes. It stands for rules and principles that govern the relationship between the constituent entities of the integration—Member States and the European Union as a supranational level—so that the integration can achieve its selected objectives efficiently while simultaneously preserving the Member States’ prerogatives. While the Treaty of Lisbon strikes a delicate balance between the Member States and the European Union, the post-Lisbon structural equilibrium might come as a disappointment for many. It neither lives up to the equilibrium of a constitutionalized federal state, nor does it meet the equilibrium of a confederacy. The Treaty of Lisbon in structural terms contains too little for a federation and too much for a confederacy. However, this is not a cause for regret, but rather another incentive to move European legal and political theory out of the federal-confederal box. Consequently, this Article argues that the Treaty of Lisbon puts up a structural equilibrium of its own kind, which places European integration in the middle of a federal-confederal continuum. This Article qualifies European integration as a Union (Bund), a non-state, non-federal, and nonconstitutional pluralist entity, which preserves the essential autonomy of its Member States and the supranational level, the European Union stricto sensu, within a viable common whole in a manner achieved by neither federations nor confederacies in the traditional sense.