||This thesis explores a conception of the EU as a modified confederal system of sovereign member peoples and their states. A confederal conception which demonstrates how, contrary to popular belief, European integration does not conflict with sovereignty or democracy. For, properly conceived and constituted, the EU reasserts the sovereignty of the member peoples, and liberates national democracy from the confines of the state.To this end, this thesis reconnects the EU to two classic constructs of constitutional theory: confederalism and sovereignty. Two powerful but unfashionable constructs whose joint potential for European integration remains largely unexplored and undervalued. The primary instrument to explore this potential is comparative. The EU is contrasted with the rather unknown but rich example of the American Articles of Confederation, and their evolution into the now famous American federate system. A comparison with the confederal roots of the United States which is revealing for both confederalism and sovereignty, and illustrates the potential of linking both for a constructive constitutional theory of the EU. A theory which does not have to overcome history and the statal system it has created, but connects with it. A theory, therefore, that may help to recapture the EU and the increasing authority it wields, both in theory and in practise.
The thesis is subdivided in three parts. Part I addresses confederalism. It demonstrates how the constitutional system of the EU combines a confederal foundation with a federate superstructure, and explores the particular strengths, weaknesses and limits of this modified confederal system. Part II discusses sovereignty. It first demonstrates how the EU forms a logical confederal evolution of popular sovereignty, and how European integration does not conflict with sovereignty. Subsequently, it shows how the concept of confederal sovereignty equally helps to dispel the presumed conflict between statism and pluralism, how it respects and conciliates national and EU claims to supremacy, and how it allows a confederal evolution of national democracy, which updates democracy to the global reality it is to control. Part III applies the findings of Part I and II to the EMU crisis and the challenge of establishing an effective democratic foundation for the EU at the national level. An application which demonstrates the concrete and attractive contributions a confederal approach can make to addressing some of the core challenges facing the EU.