The NGEU – a Constitutional Change without a Constitutional Change

I will not argue that the NGEU is contrary to the EU treaties. This we do not know, but the Court is not in the habit of annulling measures because they infringe on Member State sovereignty. What we do, however, know is that until 2020 the NGEU funding model was understood to require Treaty amendment by both the Commission and Council and their Legal Services. No Treaty amendment has taken place. However, the COVID-19 crisis presented too tempting an opportunity to overcome a Treaty obstacle that so far had appeared insurmountable. The situation raises a number of fundamental questions concerning constitutional scrutiny and the role of EU scholarship.

In the EU, there is no independent body, without a political master, to scrutinise legal compliance of new proposals with the Treaties prior to their adoptionFinding flexibility where it did not exist before involves a balancing act between the Union’s ability to respond to unexpected events and the stability of its constitutional framework. I argue, with reference to constitutional debates in Finland, that delivering results is not the only thing that counts; how you deliver them also matters. The real challenge for the Court will be to frame its judgment in a manner that maintains trust in the existence of proper constitutional control in the EU and assures the more sceptical audiences that the Treaties matter, even in cases where they constrain Union action.The role of the academia is equally important. When things that the Institutions previously considered contrary to the Treaties suddenly become possible, questions need to be asked. Critical debate is not about undermining the Union, but about making it stronger.