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The founding principles of the Union


Values and objectives of the Union


Introduction
Establishment of the Union
The values of the Union
The fundamental principles
The objectives of the Union
The fundamental rights
Summary table

INTRODUCTION

The Preamble to the draft Constitutional Treaty is preceded by a quotation from Thucydides: "Our Constitution (...) is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the greatest number".

Recalling, among other things, Europe's cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance, and invoking the desire of the peoples of Europe to transcend their ancient divisions in order to forge a common destiny, the Preamble largely addresses the same themes as addressed in the Preambles to the existing Treaties. New themes are also added, such as humanism and the reason and national identity of peoples. The issue of whether the Preamble should contain any reference to God or to Christian values and the Greco-Latin heritage was debated long and hard by the Convention. A consensus was reached, so that the Preamble ended up containing a reference to Europe's "cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance", a formula which was acceptable to all the Convention members.

Although Title I of Part I of the draft Constitution is "Definition and objectives of the Union", the citizen will not find therein any precise definition of the European Union listing its characteristic features. The definition is provided indirectly in the first six Articles, which concern the establishment of the Union, the Union's values and objectives, fundamental freedoms, relations between the Union and the Member States and legal personality.

Title II of Part I contains provisions relating to fundamental rights (Article I-7) and citizenship (Article I-8). Thus, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which hitherto had no legal force, is integrated into the Constitution and reproduced in Part II of the text of the Constitution. This represents a major step forward.

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ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNION

In Article I-1, the Constitution established the European Union, reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a common future. The Member States confer competences on the Union to attain objectives they have in common, and the Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise the competences conferred on it by the Constitution.

The formula adopted by the Convention is constitutional in nature, since it is stated that "the Constitution establishes the European Union", whereas in the existing Treaties it is the "High Contracting Parties" that establish the Union and the Community among themselves. This language proper to international Treaties is replaced by a new formula which highlights the constitutional nature of the new Treaty.

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THE VALUES OF THE UNION

The Union is founded, according to the Convention's proposal, on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These values, which are set out in Article I-2, are common to the Member States. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination. These values play an important role, especially in two specific cases. Firstly, under the procedure for accession set out in Article I-57 any European State wishing to become a member of the Union must respect these values in order to be considered eligible for admission. Secondly, failure by a Member State to respect these values may lead to the suspension of that Member State's rights deriving from membership of the Union (Article I-58).

In comparison with the existing Treaties the Convention has included new values, notably human dignity and equality, as well as characterising the values upheld by the societies of the Member States.

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THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

As regards relations between the Union and the Member States, the Convention has brought together the pertinent provisions of the existing Treaties in Article I-5, in particular the obligation to respect the national identities and the fundamental political and constitutional structures of the Member States. The principle of loyal cooperation is also included in this Article.

Article I-6 confers on the European Union legal personality, something that was still unimaginable at the Nice Intergovernmental Conference in 2000. The merging together of the European Community and the European Union will therefore give the new Union the right to conclude international agreements, in the same way as the European Community can do today, yet without compromising the division of competences between the Union and the Member States.

Title III, spanning Articles I-9 to I-17, lays down the Union competences . It should be noted that the principle of the primacy of Union law over the law of the Member States, a principle established by the Court of Justice, has been formally integrated into Article I-10.

Article I-4 of the draft Constitution guarantees the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the Union and strictly prohibits any discrimination on grounds of nationality.

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THE OBJECTIVES OF THE UNION

Article I-3 of the draft Constitution, which covers the internal and external objectives of the Union, merges the provisions of the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) and those of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty). These objectives must guide the Union in the defining and implementation of all its policies.

The main objectives of the Union are now to promote peace, the Union's values and the well-being of its peoples.

To the objectives already set out in the existing Treaties, the draft Constitution adds the promotion of scientific and technological advance, of solidarity between generations and of the protection of children's rights. Economic and social cohesion now additionally acquires a territorial dimension. Cultural and linguistic diversity, and the safeguarding and enhancing of Europe's cultural heritage, also become Union objectives.

This Article also introduces as an objective that the Union shall offer its citizens a single market where competition is free and undistorted, and an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers. Article I-4, also devoted to the single market, guarantees the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and freedom of establishment within the Union.

Paragraph 4 of Article I-3 is devoted to the Union's promotion of its values and interests in its relations with the rest of the world. This paragraph brings together the objectives from the EU Treaty relating to a common foreign and security policy , and the provisions of the EC Treaty relating to development cooperation. The Convention suggests including here as a new objective the protection of children's rights on the international stage.

Finally, in Part III of the draft Constitution, Articles III-1 to III-6 contain provisions relating to more specific requirements which the Union must take into account in implementing the Constitution, in particular, equality between men and women, protection of the environment, promotion of sustainable development, consumer protection and the specific nature of services of general economic interest. The Convention proposes adding as another objective, in Article III-3, the combating of discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, reproducing the wording of Article 13 of the EC Treaty.

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FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

As regards the protection of fundamental rights, the Convention makes significant advances. Article I-7 of the draft Constitution reproduces the guarantee of fundamental rights provided in the EU Treaty and refers to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to the constitutional traditions common to the Member States. This Article also opens the way for the Union to seek formal accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In addition, the Convention reached a consensus enabling the Charter of Fundamental Rights, solemnly proclaimed at the Nice European Council in December 2000, to be included in Part II of the Convention. The European Union therefore acquires for itself a catalogue of fundamental rights which will be legally binding not only on the Union, its institutions, agencies and organs, but also on the Member States as regards the implementation of Union law. The inclusion of the Charter in the Constitution does not compromise the division of competences between the Union and the Member States.

The Charter will be interpreted by the courts of the Union and the Member States. The Convention has slightly amended the presentation of the Charter to adapt it to the changes introduced by the draft Constitution.

The inclusion of the Charter, which contains additional rights not contained in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, such as workers' social rights, data protection, bioethics or the right to good administration, makes it more visible to citizens, who will thus be better informed of their rights.

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SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject Comments
I-1 Establishment of the Union -
I-2 The values of the Union Significant changes
I-3 The objectives of the Union Significant changes
I-4 Fundamental freedoms and non-discrimination -
I-5 Relations between the Union and Member States -
I-6 Legal personality New provision
I-7 Fundamental rights Significant changes
I-8 Citizenship of the Union -
I-10 Union law Significant changes
I-57 Conditions of eligibility and procedure for accession to the Union -
I-58 Suspension of Union membership rights -
Part II The Union Charter of Fundamental Rights -

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The fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Convention.


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