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The Value of European Values

Europe's leaders have revived the constitutional talks that broke down last December in a dispute about voting rights. Such disputes are, of course, subject to compromises, which are likely to be found. What still needs to be settled is a clear understanding of what the constitution is meant to achieve.

Two fundamental principles have underpinned European integration: solidarity and subsidiarity. Both principles lie at the crossroads of philosophy, politics, economics, sociology, and law. For years they have been present in the legal and institutional framework of the European Union - in treaties, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (which quotes them in the Preamble), in the recent draft Constitution. They are, in short, inscribed in the EU's history and ideals. But what do solidarity and subsidiarity really mean?