IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Building Europe’s Constitution. The parliamentarization and institutionalization of human rights


  • Berthold Rittberger & Frank Schimmelfennig


Over the past half century, the European Parliament has undergone a remarkable transformation from an assembly endowed with supervisory powers to a directly-elected legislator, co-deciding most secondary legislation on equal footing with the Council. Furthermore, while human rights were not institutionalized in the founding Treaties, the European Court of Justice began to make references to fundamental rights in its jurisprudence since the late sixties, and the recent past has seen the codification of fundamental rights in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Under what conditions have the parliamentarization and the institutionalization of human rights at the EU level progressed? We explain the constitutionalization of the EU – parliamentarization and the institutionalization of human rights – as strategic action in a community environment. According to this approach, community actors use the liberal democratic identity, values and norms that constitute the EU’s ethos strategically to put social and moral pressure on those community members that oppose the constitutionalization of the EU. We find that salience has been the most relevant condition for triggering incremental constitutionalization: The more a proposed or implemented decision by the member states to pool or delegate sovereignty is perceived to curb the competencies of national parliaments and to undermine national or other international human rights provisions, the more salient the “legitimacy deficit” of European integration becomes. This state of affairs, in turn, generates normative pressure on EU actors to redress the situation through strengthening the powers of the EP and human rights provisions at the EU level.

Suggested Citation

  • Berthold Rittberger & Frank Schimmelfennig, 2006. "Building Europe’s Constitution. The parliamentarization and institutionalization of human rights," ARENA Working Papers 7, ARENA.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0218

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    polity building; European Parliament; fundamental/human rights; legitimacy;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0218. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sindre Eikrem Hervig). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.