There are broadly two views on the evolution of the political conditions of accession. Article 21(1) TEU states that
the principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law have “inspired”the EU's “own creation, development and
enlargement”. Timmermans, the first Vice President of the Commission, recently said: “The rule of law is part of
Europe's DNA, it's part of where we come from and where we need to go. It makes us what we are.”
statements find support in some recent as well as older academic literature.
De Búrca, for example, has argued that
the European Community was, from its inception, committed to the ideas on membership which had inspired the
Statute of the Council of Europe (1949) and in particular the draft treaty for a European Political Community
Article 116(1) of this draft provided that “accession to the Community shall be open to the Member States
of the Council of Europe and to any other European State which guarantees the protection of human rights and
fundamental freedom”. The alternative view, most forcefully defended by Thomas, is that the EEC was originally a
functional organization established to promote the free market and trade.
It was not open to the communist states
of Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, and in that sense political conditions did apply, but other
than that all European countries were eligible to join as far as the character of their legal and political systems was
concerned, including Portugal and Spain, the two dictatorships which survived the Second World War.
The fact that
the Six could easily have retained the political conditions for membership of the draft 1953 EPC Treaty in the 1957
EEC Treaty, but did in fact choose the ambiguous preambular reference to liberty, suggests that the EEC Treaty
marked a “retreat from constitutionalization”in favour of a “functionalist and then a free‐market vision of European
“The Six”, he writes, “simply did not share the membership norms that had come closest to realization
in the EPC treaty and did not want their membership choices to be constrained by such stringent criteria”.
toThomas, the origin of political conditions of membership lie in the “highly contested political process”in 1962 over
Spain's rapprochement with the Community which led to a “re‐conceptualization of the community's membership
norms”resulting in the principle that “only parliamentary democracies were eligible for membership”.
This article does not aim to establish what Article 237 and the preambular reference to liberty meant in 1957;
conclusive evidence is lacking and the arguments in favour of either interpretation have been eloquently and force-
fully defended by their proponents.
TheTreaty of Rome was formulated in exceptionally terse language; the drafters
FransT immermans, ‘The European Union and the rule of law’,keynote speech at conference on the rule of law, Tilburg University, 31
August 2015. Retrieved on 21 September 2017 from https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014‐2019/timmermans/announcements/
G. de Búrca, ‘The road not taken: The EU as a global human rights actor’(2011) 105 American Journal of International Law, 649–693;
C. Hillion, ‘The Copenhagen Criteria and their Progeny’, in C. Hillion (ed.), EU Enlargement: A Legal Approach (Hart Publishers, 2004), 1–
22, at 4; H. Mosler, ‘Die Aufnahme in internationale Organisationen’(1958) 19 Zeitschrift für Ausländisches Öffentliches Recht und
Völkerrecht 275, 285–7(‘Obwohl der Text darüber schweigt, hat das Wort Europa in den Satzungen der Gemeinschaften und des
Europarats außer der geographischen Bedeutung auch einen politischen Unterton. Nur Staaten mit freiheitlich‐humanitärer
Gesellschaftsordnung im Sinne der europäischen Tradition sind als Mitglieder willkommen’.)
de Búrca, above, n. 2, 664–667.
D.C. Thomas, ‘Constitutionalization through enlargement: The contested origins of the EU's democratic identity’(2006) 13 Journal of
European Public Policy, 1190–1210; D.C. Thomas, ‘Beyond Identity: Membership Norms and Regional Organization’, (2017) 24 Euro-
pean Journal of International Relations, 217–240. See the overview of authors holding a similar position in A. Williams, EU Human
Rights Policies: A Study in Irony (Oxford University Press, 2004), 137–157.
Thomas, ‘Constitutionalization through enlargement’, above, n. 4; Thomas, ‘Beyond identity’, above, n. 4, at 223–228. See also K.
Hebel and T. Lenz, ‘The identity/policy nexus in European foreign policy’(2016) 23 Journal of European Public Policy, 473–490,
Thomas, ‘Constitutionalization Through Enlargement’, above, n. 4, at 1190–91, 1193.
Thomas, ‘Beyond Identity’, above, n. 4, at 226.
Thomas, ‘Beyond Identity’, above, n. 4, at 227, 229, 233; and Thomas, ‘Constitutionalization Through Enlargement’, above, n. 4, at
There is no reference to political conditions of membership in the Messina Resolution adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the ECS C
Member States (Messina, 1–3 June 1955) or in the Rapport des Chefs de Délégation aux Ministres des Affaires Etrangères of 21 April
1956 (also known as the Spaak Report), which led to the drafting of the EC Treaty. The silence in other parts of the traveaux
préparatoires is noted in de Búrca, above, n. 2, 664.