The Shifting Battleground of Article 4(2) TEU: Evolving National Identities and the corresponding need for EU management?

Mary Dobbs


Article 4(2) TEU requires that the European Union (EU) respect the Member States’ national identities, creating a legal obligation enforceable before the CJEU and valuable in political negotiations. However, the concept of national identities is unclear, leaving open questions about the scope or parameters of the provision and its applicability. The CJEU appears likely to take a relatively flexible approach in light of Article 4(2) TEU’s relationship with national constitutional courts’ reserves. This flexible approach would enable Member States to rely upon a range of aspects as part of their national identity, including ones that were previously unidentified. This is a crucial feature if one considers that national identities may evolve gradually or even dramatically, including where Member States purposefully attempt to develop their national identities further. This possibility of an evolved national identity is exemplified by the French Charte de l’Environnement. It may thereby be possible for Member States to stretch the scope and application of Article 4(2) TEU through reference to these evolving national identities. This potential raises significant challenges for the EU regarding the management of Article 4(2) TEU, which it will need to address if it wishes to ensure harmonisation and uniformity in the relevant areas.

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