Convention of the Future of Europe, working on the EU Constitution (Photo: European Convention)


A constitution is the basic rulebook for a state that limits the powers of all authorities, including the legislators, and gives citizens common fundamental rights.

The EU Court in Luxembourg has developed a system of EU law where EU rules and laws overrule and prevail over national laws and constitutions. The Court sees the EU legal system as a supra-national constitutional system. See the Court case "Les Verts" from 1986.   

The proposal for the EU Constitution proposed a "constitutional Treaty" which would establish a "constitution for Europe" highlighting the primacy of EU rules and laws over national rules and laws - and also over national constitutions. 

The word constitution was used 180 times in the proposed EU Constitution embodied in the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. The Lisbon Treaty has deleted the word “Constitution” everywhere in the text. Instead, it refers in Declaration No 17 to the existing case law of the EU Court having established the principle of the primacy of EU law.  

There is also a statement from the Court referring to the EU treaties as 'the Constitutional Charter of a Community of Law, a new legal order for the sake of which the States have limited their sovereign rights” (Opinion 1/91). 

The Melloni case from 2013 also gives the Charter for Fundamental Rights primacy over national constitutions. 

Before, a country could only leave the EU by a unanimous decision of the Council or by breaching the rules. The Lisbon Treaty makes it possible to leave the EU within the two years that an agreement is negotiated. The member states  can decide to leave the EU on their own after two years. 

The Convention on the Future of Europe drafted an EU Constitution to replace the existing EU and EC treaties. The text was agreed by 'consensus' in the Convention on June 13 2003. No voting took place.

It was presented by Giscard d´Estaing to the heads of governments and states at the Thessaloniki Summit (Greece) on 20 June 2003 - with a minority report from the eurocritical intergroup, Democracy Forum, attached. I

The official name was "The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe".

The Constitutional Treaty was divided into four parts:

At present, a country can only leave the EU according to international law or/and after a unanimous decision, or by breaching EU law. The proposed EU Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty has a clause allowing member states to leave after negotiating an agreement with the EU or on their own accord after two years. 

The word "Constitution" was used 23 times in the first 17 Articles of the draft EU Constitution and it appeared in most of the subsequent Articles of the 500 plus pages of the original EU Constitution. 

As the text was rejected by Dutch and French referendums in May/June 2005, a new Intergovernmental conference was given a mandate for drafting a new treaty in June 2007. On the occasion of the European Council meeting in Lisbon on 13 December 2007, European leaders agreed upon the Lisbon Treaty, amending the two basic European treaties, the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community.

These two amended treaties are now the Constitution of the EU. 



See Lisbon Treaty 

The Convention- on the FutureS of Europe (115 pages)

The "Reader-Friendly version of the European Treaties" as they would be if amended by the Lisbon Treaty may be downloaded at:

The main stages in the institutional reform of the European Union