Desmond Johnson

Desmond Johnson

No job title VIP

  • The Faculty of Law - allocation

    Njalsgade 76, 2300 København S

Primary fields of research

Start Date 13/9/10

Supervisor: Helle Krunke  

The focal point of the research project is the concept of institutional balance. The term is often used to describe the horizontal distribution of powers and explain the inter-institutional relationship between the main decision-making institutions, the Council of Ministers (the Council), the European Parliament (the Parliament) the European Commission (the Commission) and the European Council at the European Union (EU) level. The issues surrounding the institutional balance are among the most contentious and complex in the EU, illustrating the need to clarify the essential concept in a comprehensive research project, while addressing, if and how, the various dimensions of the concept impact the inter-institutional relationships in the EU, influence the EU decision-making process, and shape European governance. As a result, the research is designed to clarify and more precisely define the institutional balance in the aftermath of the Lisbon Treaty.

The European Court of Justice, along with much of the literature addressing the EU institutional framework argue that the institutional balance is the relationship between the Union institutions established in the Treaties, that the Treaty prescribes the competences and functions each institution shall enjoy and that no institution shall go beyond the powers that are granted to it in the Treaty. Thus, the institutional balance is designed to prohibit an institution from infringing on any powers that are granted to another EU institution. However, the research project assesses whether it is more accurate to describe the institutional balance as a dynamic relationship that is not only based, on the institutional design established in the Treaties, but on several other factors that have the ability to impact the horizontal distribution of powers at the EU level. For example, the research addresses many of the factors that arguably have a significant impact on the institutional balance, from changes  that occur due to the Court of Justice of the European Union case law to inter-institutional agreements between the main decision making institutions to soft law instruments that have the ability to alter the institutional balance to the way the Union institutions and institutional actors operate in practice, it is plausible that the institutional balance is more than the ECJ and most literature suggests. Thus, the research also addresses whether the legal effects of a measure are more important than the binding-nonbinding distinction, when determining the impact on the institutional balance.

A law in context approach is utilized in order to address the following research issues:

  1. What methods are available for the EU institutions to alter the institutional balance? What are the criteria for determining the validity of the methods? What is the significance if the measure alters the institutional balance through invalid methods?
  2. Do the legal effects of a measure outweigh the binding nonbinding distinction, in its ability to alter the institutional balance?
  3. Does the existing institutional balance post-Lisbon provide for a coherent EU institutional framework with a clearer delimitation of competences and functions for EU institutions?

ID: 22737763