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Protecting the Values of the European Union under Article 7 TEU: Functions and Significance of a “Democratic” Instrument.

Fabien Terpan
Sciences Po Grenoble
Fabien Terpan
Sciences Po Grenoble
Open Panel

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explain why a specific instrument (Article 7 TEU) was created to protect the values of the European Union. This instrument was included in EU law by the Amsterdam treaty and modified by the Nice treaty. It allows the Council to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to a Member State that would breach the values of the European Union. The instruments approach is applied to a “legal” provision which may be seen as “tool of Government” (Salomon, 2002, The Tools of Government) or a “policy instrument” (Kassim, Le Galès, 2010, Exploring Governance in a Multi-Level Polity: a Policy Instruments Approach). The paper is based on the assumption that Article 7 TEU fulfils two main functions: a legal one (ensure compliance to EU values through a soft law mechanism) and a symbolic one (showing to people that the EU is no more suffering from a Democratic Deficit). The fact that the instrument has not been used yet tends to demonstrate that the symbolic function is far more important than the legal one. In order to understand why the instrument was created, why it was modified (Nice treaty) and why it has not been used, we will focus on interactions between EU institutions and Member States, while using different concepts and theoretical approaches (governance, intergovernmentalism, constructivism, rationalist approach). Instead of applying one speficic theory, the article will try to identify the theory that best explains the instrument.