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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2004

GOV 357M • Constitutionalism and Sovereignty: The US and Europe

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35102 -TBA


Course Description

This Maymester course takes place in Sevilla, Spain. Europe is on the brink of a momentous decision. A constitution has been proposed that, if adopted, is expected to be signed in Rome around June 1, 2004. Unlike the Treaty of Rome and subsequent treaties that underpin the current European Union, the proposed constitution creates an entity of a different sort that has many similarities to the U.S. Constitution, especially at our founding. Europe is in the midst of a "Constitutional moment." This is a rare moment for Europe, but it is also a rare moment in constitutionalism. The course will center on a comparison of the U.S. Constitution and the European Constitution with particular attention given to the federal nature of the documents. Some attention will also be given to constitutionalizing rights. There is debate over whether the European Constitution actually establishes a federal structure. The central issue in the early development of the U.S. Constitution was the relationship of the states to the federal government, and the issue remains an important one. The current U.S. Supreme Court has reignited federalism controversies thought to have been long-settled. The relationship of the nation states of Europe to the European Union will continue to be the central issue for European governance for some time whether or not the current draft of the Constitution is adopted. Students will learn about the evolution of the federal structure in the United States and use that as a reference point to try to understand the problems and potential for European constitutionalism. Implicit in this focus is an examination of whether or not the experience of the United States is especially relevant. In the course of study, students should learn a fair amount about how the European Union is governed, and they should learn a fair amount about American constitutional law. Most importantly for this program, presence in Europe will allow students to be on the scene to observe the politics of a possible constitutional founding moment. The course could be profitably taught in any of the countries of the European Union. The advantage of being in any EU country is that students will be able to observe the extent to which the authority of that country is being replaced or modified by the EU, more generally, the nature of the debates and issues involved in a situation of dual sovereignty. If the Constitution is passed and signed in June, it should also be exciting to be in Europe at the founding moment. Speaking Spanish is not required for the course, but an additional advantage to being is Spain is that many students will have the opportunity to improve their Spanish, and many students will be able at least to recognize debates about Europe occurring in the media.


Generally speaking, students will read some works on the American founding and many of the famous Supreme Court cases wrestling with issues of power between the national government and the states. Students will also read materials on the structure of the European Union and read several cases in which the European Court of Justice has acted in ways centralizing power that offer striking parallels to what occurred in the U. S. Supreme Court.


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