Date: 05 Dec 2012

When Sovereignty Means So Much: The Concept(s) of Sovereignty, European Union Membership and the Interpretation of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland

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Abstract

Sovereignty is the watchword in Polish constitutional debate on European integration in politics, diplomacy and in the courtroom. The following is an attempt at a description of how the notion perseveres in the public life of the country. The idea of sovereignty not only inspired the constitutional regulation of the possibility of and the procedures for accession to the EU (1), but it also recurs throughout constitutional controversies such as the case concerning the unconstitutionality of the European Arrest Warrant finally rendered constitutional by way of a constitutional amendment (2), or the case in which the Constitutional Tribunal considered the constitutionality of the Treaty of Accession (3). The Treaty of Lisbon decision of the Constitutional Tribunal attempted to deflate the outdated intuitions of state sovereignty but associated national sovereignty with the legal safeguard of the moral and social order established by the state in its law (4) or—as some insist—in its national culture (5). The notion of sovereignty and constitutional identity also appears to underpin the decision to admit and circumscribe the constitutional review of EU secondary legislation of 2011 (6). The 2011 attempt at a constitutional amendment to finally comprehensively regulate Polish involvement in the European Union bears testimony to the perennial character of the traditional understandings of the concept of sovereignty (7). It appears therefore that there is a perennial interplay between the societal concept(s) of sovereignty and their legal expression in the constitutional regulation of the position of EU law in the domestic legal system, the domestic understanding of the principle of delegated powers of the EU and the supremacy of the national constitution. A comprehensive ‘European clause’ thus deserves its place in the first chapter of the Constitution.