Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Constitutional Abeyances: Reflecting on EU Treaty Development in Light of the Canadian Experience

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Abstract:  The concept of constitutional abeyances, originally proposed by Foley (1989), describes aspects of a political system that are left deliberately ambiguous. Foley suggests that the maintenance and management of such areas of “settled unsettlement” are indispensable to prevent and resolve conflict about a polity’s constitutional order. The concept of constitutional abeyances has been used productively to analyze constitutional development in Canada, especially the country’s constitutional crises in the 1980s and 1990s. However, with very few exceptions, it has not been applied to analyze the EU and its treaty development. This article leverages the comparison to Canada to argue that a focus on constitutional abeyances, and their successful or unsuccessful institutional reproduction, provides fresh perspectives for analyzing European integration, including insights into the emergence of the EU’s current crises and principles that might guide a political response.

Keywords:  Canada; constitutional abeyances; EU; historical institutionalism; institutional development



© Achim Hurrelmann. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.