A Europe of the Member States or of the Citizens? - Two Philosophical Perspectives on Sovereignty and Rights in the European Community

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Today’s debate about the EC and its future can be grouped along two main lines. On the one side are those who hold that the EC is a grouping of sovereign states for the purposes of international cooperation. On the other side are those who maintain that the EC is a new political society that unites the citizens of Europe in a new political and legal community where the question of the sovereignty of the Member States must be reassessed. The aim of the dissertation is to investigate, from a political philosophy perspective, what explanatory values the theories of the Enlightenment, in particular the theories of English philosophers Hobbes and Locke have for the structure of the EC and the contemporary debate about it.

It is the question of sovereignty that dominates within the standpoint which sees the EC as a “Europe of the states”. The key components of this concept are, in turn, power and control. The view that sees the EC as “a Europe of citizens” departs from the position that the EC is a European political society founded at the behest of individuals, and that it exists in parallel with other political societies of which individuals are part. The Community puts at the disposal of citizens a common legislator and a common judge, both of whom may be regarded as charged with fulfilling a trusteeship function in relation to the citizens.

There are a number of questions of importance. The first is whether the EC is a political society (res publica or civitas). If the EC does not constitute a political society, the question arises what function is fulfilled by the EC, and what relation exists between the EC and its Member States.

Should the question whether the EC is a political society be answered in the affirmative, the next to arise is what requirements it must meet in order to be a legitimate political society. A consequential question is then whether the EC in its present form does indeed meet those requirements of legitimacy.

Two models are presented in the dissertation: the Member State model and the European Citizen model. The first model takes its departure in the conception of the EC as an association of sovereign states and is based on the theory of sovereignty. The other model is based on the conception of the EC as a political society dependent on a mandate from individuals and parallel with other political societies of which they are part. Along with the Member State model and the European Citizen model consideration will also be given to a conceivable intermediate model based on the idea of sovereignty divided between Member States and the Community.

The questions dealt with in the final part of the dissertation are the purpose of the EC, its structure, the citizens and EC legitimacy, the criteria for the sharing of competence between the EC and its Member States, and finally the question of the protection of the rights of individuals in the EC.


  • Ola Zetterquist
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law


  • European law, rule of law, legitimacy, political philosophy. federalism, constitutional theory, rights, European Community, sovereignty, EU-rätt, Philosophy of law, theory of law, Rättsfilosofi, rättsteori
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2002 May 11
  • Ola Zetterquist, Getingevägen 3, 3 tr, SE 222 41 LUND,
Print ISBNs91-628-5239-6
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2002-05-11 Time: 10:15 Place: May 11 2002 at 10.15, Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lundagård, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Tuori, Kaarlo Title: Professor Affiliation: Helsinki ---