Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Crisis Learning or Reform Backlog? The European Parliament’s Treaty‐Change Proposals During the Polycrisis

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Abstract:  In May 2022, the European Parliament (EP) launched a procedure to amend the EU treaties and began drafting a report with concrete reform proposals. In their resolution, EP members explicitly described this as a necessary response to recent crises (notably the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and climate change) as well as a follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe. However, the stated objectives of the reform, in particular more efficient and democratic EU decision-making, were not new but followed long-standing discourses on deepening EU integration. This raises the question of to what degree the EP’s initiative really reflected a lesson from recent crises—in line with a “failing forward” approach towards EU reform—or rather a “backlog” of reforms which had already been proposed before but whose implementation had been blocked by member states, and for which the crises only represented a window of opportunity. The article assesses the development of treaty change proposals by the EP and bodies close to it, comparing three comprehensive plans for institutional reform: the federalist Spinelli Group’s Fundamental Law for the EU (2013), the EP’s Verhofstadt Report (2017), and the EP’s latest Article 48 Report (2023). The comparison shows that, while the crises had an impact on the level of ambition in some policy areas, the EP’s general approach, especially on institutional issues, was characterised by a high degree of continuity.

Keywords:  crisis learning; European Parliament; EU treaty reform; institutional reform; polycrisis



© Manuel Müller. 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.