Dissertation: Differences between member states’ constitutions translate into unequal influence on the development of the European Union


The primary treaties of the EU state that member states are equal before Union law. Yet, as Tomi Tuominen demonstrates in his dissertation, some national courts are in a better position than others to engage with the Court of Justice and thus to influence development of the Union. Mr Tuominen finds the reasons for this disparity in the differences between the constitutions of the member states.

As an association of states, the European Union is special: it is not a federal state in the proper sense, unlike the United States of America, for example; yet it is more than an international organisation with its own laws, such as the United Nations. The problems that arise from this status perhaps figure most significantly in the work of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU): the members of the Eurozone have a common currency, the euro, yet have no common economic and fiscal policy, that is, joint taxation and a joint budget.

Mr Tuominen explains that the sovereign debt crisis sparked by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 not only brings to light the problematic structure of the EMU, but also reveals shortcomings in the constitutional structure of the European Union itself. From the outset - its creation back in the 1990s - the EMU has had an asymmetrical structure: a joint monetary policy without a joint economic policy. When members of the Eurozone sought improved economic governance following the debt crisis, this proved to be difficult legally given the EMU’s lack of specific economic policy competences. As Mr Tuominen observes, at the end of the day, all the crisis response mechanisms put in place seem dubious from a legal perspective and are open to criticism.

Mr Tuominen examines four legal mechanisms enacted in response to the Eurozone crisis. For each case, he presents a detailed analysis of how and why the measures were instituted as well as how the various national courts affected these processes. The case studies highlight that while the response mechanisms further economic governance within the Eurozone, they do not alter the underlying asymmetry of the EMU. It is evident that economic and political pressures led to legal measures which are open to criticism.

Interaction between the member states’ constitutions and constitutional pluralism

Each member state of the European Union has a constitution of its own but at the same time is bound by the primary treaties. The national constitutions and the constitutional framework of the European Union are in force at the same time and there seems to be no clear hierarchy between them. Such overlapping of different constitutional regimes is called constitutional plurality.

Mr Tuominen points out that a particularly illustrative instance of pluralism is seen in the differing possibilities of national courts to interact with the political and legal processes of the European Union. What took place following the Eurozone crisis is a salient example of this, particularly as states’ views on the correct direction of development differ. For example, the judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany influenced the content of the crisis response measures taken. However, its views do not concur with those of the other national courts, but these courts have not had a similarly influential position.

Mr Tuominen’s research reveals that constitutional plurality is the order of the day in Europe, but establishing what is cannot justify the normative claim that this is what ought to be. The study concludes that the possibilities of national courts to directly engage with the political and legal processes of the European Union should be reduced, because the courts do not have the required democratic legitimacy to alter the course of European integration. The Court of Justice of the European Union is the institution which should ultimately settle disputes arising due to constitutional plurality. This is the only way to guarantee the equality of the member states.

Information on the public defence

The dissertation, titled The European Constitution and the Eurozone Crisis: A Critique of European Constitutional Pluralism, by Tomi Tuominen LLM, will be publically examined in the Faculty of Law at the University of Lapland on Friday, 3 November 2017. The defence will be held in lecture room LS 2, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi, Finland. The Opponent is Professor Leonard Besselink from the University of Amsterdam and the Custos Professor Jaakko Husa from the University of Lapland. Coffee and cake will be served in the restaurant Felli after the event. Welcome!

Information on the doctoral candidate

Tomi Tuominen (born 1986 in Vantaa) graduated from Vaskivuori Upper Secondary School in 2005 and began studying law at the University of Lapland the same year. He completed his mandatory military service in the Lapland Air Defence Regiment in 2006–2007. He currently holds the rank of lieutenant. During his studies, Mr Tuominen was an active member of the Student Union. Among other positions of trust, he served as president of the union in 2010.

Mr Tuominen graduated in 2012 with an LLM. He was awarded the Finnish Lawyers’ Association’s prize for best master’s thesis. He has worked as a doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Law since 2012. During his doctoral studies, he spent a semester at the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance and at the European University Institute in Florence.

Further information

Sale of the dissertation: Juvenes webstore. Further information and press copies: Lapland University Press, tel. 040 821 4242, email: julkaisu (at) ulapland.fi

Information on the publication

Tomi Tuominen: The European Constitution and the Eurozone Crisis: A Critique of European Constitutional Pluralism. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 363. ISBN 978-952-337-036-4. ISSN 0788-7604. Lapland University Press, Rovaniemi 2017. Online version (pdf): Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 230. ISBN 978-952-337-037-1. ISSN 1796-6310.

LaY/Communications & Language centre/J-EK & RF

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