Ancilla Iuris

Lagen des Rechts
Constellations of Law


Succession of States in the EU

Ancilla Iuris 2014

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A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of separatism. Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders, South Tyrol – all these regions have separatist movements pursuing independence from their current National State. The breakup of an EU Member State no longer seems impossible. To date, it is unclear what impact this would have on the EU membership of the new entities (with consequences for the character of citizenship, voting rights in the council, number of MEPs etc.) that emerge from the old States. The common rules of Public International Law governing the succession of States are insufficient in the case of a succession of States in the EU. Although the Treaties do not provide for such a situation and the past 60 years of European history offer only a few and not really persuasive precedents, the nature of the EU as a joint association of sovereign States (“Staatenverbund”) demands a special approach: A separated State will neither be automatically excluded from the EU nor will it automatically become a new Member State. Drawing on the ideas of Articles 49 and 50 TEU this essay develops a procedure for balancing the interests of the EU, its Member States, and the people living in the seceding State, who are likely to be pro-EU. If a Member State breaks up, both the remaining State and the new entity will continue to represent the former Member State in the European institutions. The former Member State will provisionally continue to exist for both the EU and its Member States with respect to European matters. A process of negotiation between the two “new” States themselves and with the other Member States will lead to a new balance within the EU and the adaption of the Treaties – the solution has to be a political one. If the negotiations are successful, the former Member State can finally be dissolved at the EU level. In this case either both new States will become new Members or the remaining State will continue the membership (with necessary modifications) while the separated State will become a new Member. No part of the State would have left the EU – not even for a moment. But if one Member State or one of the two concerned States rejects further negotiations – which must be considered every Member State’s due right – the breakup will be final ex nunc. Whether both States or just one of them leave(s) the EU (while the remaining State continues the former’s membership without being affected by the secession) would then be a question of classical Public International Law governing the succession of States. This solution identifies the legal order of the EU as preeminent while Public International Law is only subsidiary. This political and legal “Staatenverbund”-approach recognizes the EU as a special form of entity, a joint association of sovereign States.

How to quote this article
Mario Martini / Matthias Damm , Succession of States in the EU, in: Ancilla Iuris ( 2014, 159-181.

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