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The term supranationality (from the Latin supra “over” and natio , “ people ” or “ state ”), more rarely the synonym supranationality , denotes a level above the nation or above the nation state . Supranationality is a concept of international law and political science , more precisely the theory of international relations . It means a shift in legal responsibilities from the national level to a higher level, which is also known as a supranational organization . Such a level or organization can make binding resolutions even if not all members agree. The alternative to cooperation between states in the form of supranational organizations is cooperation between states according to the principle of intergovernmentalism : It only provides for intergovernmental cooperation between governments, without deepening and institutionalizing them in terms of content and space.


The idea of ​​supranational decision-making processes is not new and can already be found among philosophers, lawyers and statesmen of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet are considered the fathers of the supranational integration theory.

Autonomous legal system

The term supranational was coined with regard to the European Communities and has also applied to the European Union (EU) since the Treaty of Lisbon . Conventional international law international (lat. "Interstate") groupings of states (eg. As WTO or UN ) differs a supranational organization through their autonomous legal system . Nevertheless, supranational organizations differ fundamentally from states. They have no original sovereignty ( competence-competence ), their competences are based instead on the transfer of sovereignty rights by the member states (so-called derivative or "derived" sovereignty).

Primacy of supranational law

A characteristic of supranational organizations is above all the ability to issue legal acts that have direct legal effects for natural and legal persons in the member states. According to the prevailing opinion, the supranational norms have priority over national law . In contrast to international law, supranational law can also be judicially sanctioned and enforced against member states that violate their contractual obligations (e.g. by taking legal action before the Court of Justice of the European Union ). Due to the direct effect of supranational law, any natural or legal person can claim damages in the event of a violation of the law of the supranational organization . In the European Union, damages can be obtained within the framework of state liability, especially if guidelines have not been implemented or not implemented in time and the directive is not directly applicable (no objective applicability, interference with the rights of third parties).

The supranationality of the European Union is particularly evident in those areas in which the Community method is applied, in which bodies independent of the national governments such as the European Commission and the European Parliament have essential legislative powers. In addition, there are (more) intergovernmental organized areas in the EU , such as cooperation in the European Council and the common foreign and security policy , where decisions are made unanimously by the governments of the member states and, as a rule, only bind them.

Examples of supranational organizations

Examples of supranational organizations are the European Community and the European Atomic Energy Community , the African Union , the Association of Southeast Asian Nations , the Caribbean Community , the Andean Community and the Common Market of South America . The oldest organization is the European Coal and Steel Community (Montanunion), which existed until 2002, as its existence was contractually limited to 50 years. The European Community is through the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009 the Confederacy European Union risen.

Supranational organizations are characterized by a pronounced and balanced organizational structure as well as close legal ties between their member states. Integration systems such as NAFTA and DR-CAFTA , which rely more on negotiations and flexibility in their agreements, expressly reject the supranational integration model and prefer the intergovernmental one .

See also


  • Michael Schweitzer: Constitutional Law III. Constitutional law, international law, European law. 8th edition. Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8114-9024-9 , Rn 271 and 691.
  • Fischer, Köck, Karollus: European law. 4th edition. Linde, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-7073-0047-1 , margin nos. 890 and 1281 ff.
  • Guido Thiemeyer: Supranationality as a novelty in the history of international politics in the fifties. In: Journal of European Integration History , Vol. 4 (1998), pp. 5-21.

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