The Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, 2003 (Internet, 2005: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/treaties/dat/constit.html) defines subsidiarity as follows:
“The Union is established reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a common future. For this purpose the Member States confer competences on the European Union. The Union shall coordinate the common policy.” (Title I. Article 1.1)
“The limits of Union competences are governed by the principle of conferral. The use of Union competences is governed by the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality.” (Title III. Article 9.1)
“Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.” (Title III Article 9.3) “The Union’s institutions shall apply the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in the Protocol. The Protocol emphasised the necessity of the cooperation between the Commission and the national Parliaments. The Parliaments of the Member States could decide the compliance of the Commission’s decision with the principle of subsidiarity.”
This definition of subsidiarity has a long historical development. In the Latin vocabulary the word subsidium or subsidiaries initially meant something in reserve or, more specifically, reserve troops: troops used in the case of necessity. Later it acquired the broader sense of assistance or aid. Later it was used as the principle of autonomy in social organization. It referred to the role of the authority in general, not only the authority of the state (Millon-Delsol 1992: 6). From the 16th century subsidiarity developed in opposition to sovereignty and, in practice, it served as the rational distribution of competences in all sphere of the social organization of the state. In our days it became the principle of distribution of powers and competences in interstate relationships.
The definition of the idea of subsidiarity as the legal principle of the EU is very controversial (Endo 2001; Estella 2002; Millon-Delsol 1992; Merten 1993; Subsidiarity 1991; Making Sense of Subsidiarity 1993). It is not clear whether this principle is an integrationist or anti-integrationist principle of EU policy. The purpose of this paper is to present the historical development of the idea of subsidiarity in the democratic, European thought with the goal of clarifying its role in the internal and external organization of states, and in the development of the democratic international law.