Sovereign citizens are a real thing

The European Union

The European Union is not a nation state. Its structure cannot be understood with well-known standards. Principles such as the legal community characterize it as a union of states and citizens.

Voting booth for the French referendum on a European constitution in 2005. (& copy AP)

Older people know this: they cannot see something correctly and then realize that they are wearing the wrong glasses. We often feel the same way with the European Union. One finds their structure and institutions complicated and confusing because one does not use the correct analytical framework.

The European Union is not a state. Therefore, any comparison with the structures of the nation state falls short. If you still apply the standards that you know from home, the whole thing becomes difficult to see through. The European Union is a union of states and citizens. So it has a double basis of legitimacy, through the Member States (represented by the governments) and through the population (represented by the European Parliament).

Before looking at the structures in detail, however, one should familiarize oneself with the principles on which the European Union is based.

The European Union is a community of values.
This is not just said, but is fundamental for the EU. It is not only an association of states that can represent their interests together better than in isolation, but it is based on common basic democratic values, which are set out in Article 2 of the EU Treaty in the version of the Lisbon Treaty and, in more detail, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are shown.

Respect for human dignity, freedom, pluralistic democracy, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination, justice and the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the protection of minorities, form the foundation of the European Union.

The European Union is based on the principle of supranationality.
This basic principle distinguishes the EU from other alliances. Supranationality means that the states give up national sovereignty and exercise it jointly at the European level. This limits the possibility for each member state to decide matters alone. But it increases the possibility of influencing others and coming to joint decisions, which are then also binding for everyone.

The European Union can directly enact laws (so-called ordinances) or make specifications ("directives"), which the states then have to implement into national law. Only in this way is it possible to develop Europe into a common space for living and acting. Examples of supranationality are the internal market including consumer protection, monetary policy (euro), environmental protection or the regulations of the Schengen Agreement.