After the Lisbon Treaty, the objectives of the European Union are more numerous and ambitious than ever. But what is their importance and function within the ‘thickening’ legal order of the EU? Combining insights from both the law of international organizations and comparative constitutional law, the article traces the diverging role of objectives for, on the one hand, a traditional international organization marked by the principle of ‘speciality’ and, on the other, a maturing legal order increasingly exhibiting ‘constitutional’ traits. It argues that in the case of the EU, objectives and competences have developed into two related but distinct norm categories. While objectives serve to bolster arguments to shape such powers, they no longer represent a rationale in their own right for founding competences. The EU no longer justifies its existence solely by striving for a particular set of goals. Rather, these norms represent an entrenched duty to pursue these objectives through the actors, structures and procedures available, regardless of the Union's ultimate form (finalité). Today, the EU stands for certain values and has been endowed with powers, the exercise of which is guided by promoting these various aspects of the ‘common good’.
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