11 Colum. J. Eur. L. 465 (2005)

Koen Lenaerts. Judge of the European Court of Justice; Professor of European Law, Leuven University (Belgium).


The perspective of the biggest enlargement in EU history-so far and probably forever-prompted the Member States to reassess the Union’s working and decision- making procedures. The seeds of the Constitution go further back, however, to the aftermath of the Maastricht Treaty and the expressions of hostility or indifference that occurred in the process of its ratification. While Maastricht was supposed to mark a new milestone in European integration through the establishment, at least legally, of an economic and monetary union and the introduction of European citizenship, the rather complex structure of the Union (the so-called “pillars”) it laid down and its poor achievements in terms of political integration led to a period of disenchantment and disconnection between the people and the “European project.”

Since then, the EU seemed to live under opaque structures and procedures, in a context of adolescent crisis characterized by a loss of the deeper raison d’être of its enterprise; a time of “normal politics” where the typical “piece-meal engineering” did not necessarily convince the people anymore of its added value. Admittedly, it was clear since the very beginning that “Europe would not be made all at once, or according to a single plan” (Schuman Declaration, 9 May 1950). But, fifty years of small-steps-by-small-steps integration started to look like a patchwork of initiatives with the sole consistency that smart commentators were able to give to it.