“RULE OF RESPECTING THE NATIONAL IDENTITIES
OF THE MEMBER STATES”
„ZASADA POSZANOWANIA TOSAMOCI NARODOWYCH
National identity is characterized by particular features of the members of a given national
group. It is joined by such elements as: culture, political past, common customs,
traditions, languages etc.
Contemporarily, a sense of belonging to a wider community is developing within the
number of European national communities, and, thus, a so-called, “European identity” is
being formed. In the course of developing the European integration, the European
Community and its successor – the European Union, put an increasing emphasis on the
necessity of preserving the national identities.
For that reason, the European Union has established the requirements for respecting the
identities of particular nations as early as in 1992 in the Maastricht Treaty. This way, the idea
of respecting national identities has become one of the constitutional regulations of the
European Union. The preamble to the Treaty puts emphasis on the desire “to deepen the
solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their
traditions”. What is more, the Article F, point 1 of the Treaty on European Union clearly stated
that the Union “shall respect the national identities of its Member States, whose systems of
government are founded on the principles of democracy”.
Initially, it was argued that the regulations within the treaties were only declarations of
political intentions which had been introduced to the Treaty on European Union in order
to calm the parts of public opinion in the Member States due to their anxiety about the
negative influence of the European integration on the national identities and sovereignty.
At present, the rule of national identities of Member States, in the form greatly expanded
by the Lisbon Treaty, is placed in the Art 4, point 2 of the Treaty on European Union.
In the Treaty on European Union, according to the interpretation by the Lisbon Treaty, the
idea of “natio nal ide ntity” has been specified and its unbreakable connection to the basic
political and constitutional structures of the states, including local and regional governments,
has been underlined. Moreover, the Union is obli ged to respect the basic functions of the state,
especially the functions which aim at assuring its territorial integrity, keeping public order and
protecting national security. The treaty emphasizes that the issues of national security remain in
the exclusive responsibility of every Member State.
The Lisbon Treaty accentuates that national identity includes also the constitutional
identity of Memb er Stat es. Resp ecting of the national identity of Member States in its
constitutional dimension is a duty of the Union, set upon it in the founding acts. However, it
needs to be clarified that maintaining the constitutional identity of the Member States cannot be
understood as absolute respect of all of the national constitutional regulations. If that was the
case, the national constitutions could become instrument s which would allow the Member
States to release themselves from the Union law in certain areas.
Furthermore, the Treaties protect the cultural and lingual diversity of nations and
societies. It needs to be stressed that the nation, whose identity is to be respected by the
* John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin