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A Principle in Need of Renewal? The Euro-Crisis and the Principle of Institutional Balance

Federico Fabbrini
July 2016

A central element of the constitutional architecture of the European Union (EU) is the principle of institutional balance. 1 The Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) has recognized in its case law that the EU treaties set up a system for distributing powers among the different institutions, assigning to each of them a given role in the institutional structure of the EU and the accomplishment of specific tasks. Hence, the ECJ ruled that “each of the institutions must exercise its powers with due regard for the powers of the other institutions.” Moreover, the ECJ has derived from the principle of institutional balance an obligation to safeguard the constitutional prerogatives that each institution enjoys under the treaties against encroachments from other institutions, albeit subject to the principle of sincere cooperation. Hence, specifically protecting the European Parliament (EP), the ECJ ruled that “the effective participation of the Parliament in the legislative process of the [EU] in accordance with the procedures laid down in the treaty, represents an essential factor in the institutional balance intended by the treaty.”

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