European Law Beyond ‘Ever Closer Union’ Repositioning the Concept, its Thrust and the ECJ's Comparative Methodology

Date01 July 2016
Published date01 July 2016
European Law Beyond Ever Closer Union
Repositioning the Concept, its Thrust and the
ECJs Comparative Methodology
Armin von Bogdandy*
Abstract: The article investigates competing understandings of European law. It supports,
against the prevailing EU-centred understanding, an ecumenical concept that embraces
EU law, supplementing international instruments, the European Convention on Human
Rights and, importantly, variousdomestic laws enacting or responding to such transnational
law, as well as European comparative law. To keep the concept in sync with European poli-
tics, it posits a newidea that binds the parts together: to provide for a European legal space
rather than furtherEuropean integration (the evercloser union). This idea can also serve as
European laws functional equivalent to forming one legal order. European law thus con-
ceived grasps the puzzling complex of interdependent legal orders, sets a common frame
for corresponding reconstructions (European composite constructions, legal pluralism, net-
work theories, federalism or intergovernmentalism) and allows forces with diverging out-
looks to meet in one legal f‌ield, on one more neutral disciplinary platform. Within this
framework, European comparative law f‌inds a new mission as well as a sound legal basis.
I European LawMore than a Name
What should we understand by European law? That has been contentious since the 1960s.
Article 1 of the FIDE Statutes equates European law with the law of the European
something the Council of Europe already opposed in 1967.
In 1968, Hermann
Mosler elaborated a truly broad concept, whereby European law consists of Community law
today EU law, the European Convention on Human Rights, various domestic laws
enacting or responding to such transnational law and, as an ancillary component,
* Max-Plan ck-Institut fur auslandisches of fentliches Recht und Volkerrech t, Im Neuenheimer Feld 535,
Heidelberg, Germany, 69120. Emai l: Plenary pr esentation at the XXVII FIDE
conference, Budapest, May 2016 . I wish to thank Caspar Behme, Micha l Bobek, Dana Burchardt, Iris
Canor, Christoph Krenn, Felix Lang e, Jörg Polakiewicz, Sabrina R agone, Pál Sonnevend, Daniel
Sarmiento, Theodor Shulman, Le onie Vierck, Antoine Vauchez, Mattias Wendel, and an anonymous
reviewer forimportant insights.
Article 1 of the Statutes reads, The International Federation for European Law is set up, bringing together the na-
tional associations created in the Member States of the European Community, the activity of which is devoted to the
studyand development of the law and institutions of the European Community.For a gripping account of FIDEs
early role, see A. Vauchez, The Transnational Politics of Judicialization, (2010), 16 European Law Journal, 1-28.
For the Councilof Europe, see The Teachingof European Law in MemberStates, EXP/Spec. Comp . (67) 14, at
9. The challengehas not abated: manynominally Europeanlaw journals, textbooksor encyclopaedias continue
to publish littlebeyond EU-law scholarship.Also, German law mostly followsthe narrow understanding,see
e.g. s 8 para. 2 No. 11, Verordnung des Justizministe riums über die Ausbildung und Prüfung der Juristen in
Baden-Württemberg (Regulationon Legal Education in Baden-Württemberg) of 08 October2002.
European LawJournal, Vol. 22, No. 4, July2016, pp. 519538.
© 2016 John Wiley& Sons Ltd. 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street,Malden, MA 02148, USA
European comparative law.
For Mosler, the thrust to advance European integration is what
brings these different strands together. His broad concept was by no means thought to dimin-
ish Community law: Mosler, a key legal advisor to Konrad Adenauer and Walter Hallstein,
was close to them in his political convictions as well.
This contribution will provide reasons for following this broad concept.
In two
respects, however, our understanding of European lawshould move ahead. First, the do-
mestic and comparative componentsof European law are not of secondary but of primary
importance. Second, the core idea of European law is no longer more and more integra-
tion (ever closer union)but to provide a common legal space that advancescommon aims
under common values.This common legal space is then presented as a functional equiva-
lent to an overarching European legal order.
In this conceptualset-up, Europeanlaw pursues three objectives:it identif‌ies this puzzling
complex of interdependent legalorders; it articulates theambition of its conceptualisation;
and it frames corresponding doctrinal reconstructions. It thus provides an analytic tool
that aims at the full picture by encompassing national, supranational and international
elements. At the same time, it has a distinct normative objective: European law is not a
neutral descriptor; rather, it takes a position and plays a performative role.
First, the European lawapproach pursues European unity as expressed by the
preamble of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). European unity, if in line with the
values of Article 2 TEU, presents a fundamental value itself. Although it remains open
in many respects, it is devoid neither of contours nor of many settled components. Some
can be grasped easily through comparison with other attempts at regional integration.
Second, and contrary to an idea of European law that focusses on EU law, it considers
the different domestic legal orders as the loci of most legal operations, deep normativity
and rich scholarship. It aims attruly ascertaining their astounding diversityadiversity
of stronger and weaker states, of administrative structures that f‌low from English and
French to Ottoman traditions,
of unitary and federal systems, of different forms of judi-
cial review and of academic learning. If properly construed as mirroring, structuring and
guiding legal communication in the Europeanlegal space, European law will substantiate
and structure the complex ties of Europeanunity.
Third, Europeanlaw advocates scholarship thatlives up to the complexity of these ties.
This implies joining what our conventional thinkingthat is, thinking in terms of legal
orders’—sets apart neatly: EU law, the EuropeanConvention on Human Rights, various
H. Mosler,Begriff und Gegenstanddes Europarechts,(1968)28HeidelbergJournal of InternationalLaw,481
502, 484,500; see also H. Mosler,European LawDoesit exist?,(1966)19Curr ent Legal Problems,168191;
similarlyG. P. Orsello, Autonomiae originalità del dirittoeuropeo,inidem (ed.), LItaliae Europa,VolumeII
(Abete, Rome,1966), 419433, at 422; more recently,P.C. Villalón, European Essentials:A Contribution to
ContemporaryConstitutional Culture,in H. J. Blanke, P.C. Villalónand T. Klein (eds.), Common European
LegalThinking. Essays in Honourof Albrecht Weber (Springer,2015), 2739,at 28; B. Stirn, Versun droit public
européen (Montchrestien,2012), at 149.
H. Mosler, Die Entstehungdes Modells supranationaler und gewaltenteilender Staatenverbindungen in den
Verhandlungen über den Schuman-Plan, in E. von Caemmerer, H.J. Schlochauer and E. Steindorff (eds.),
Probleme des europäischen Rechts.Festschrift für Walter Hallstein (Klostermann, 1966), at 355386. On M.
F. Lange, HermannMosler und die praxisorientierte Herangehensweise an das Völkerrecht im Rahmen des
Max-Planck-Instituts,(2015)75Heidelberg Journalof International Law,307344.
For the institutional practicein the FIDE Julia Laffranque, FIDEUnitingGreat Minds of European Law:
50 Years of theInternational Federationfor European law,(2011)18Juridica International, 173181.
In detailM. Ioannidis and S.-I. Koutnatzis,The History and Gestalt of the GreekState, in A. von Bogdandy,
S. Cassese andP.M Huber (eds.), Max Planck Handbook of Public Lawin Europe I: State and Administration
(Oxford University Press, 2017,forthcoming)
European Law TodayJuly 2016
© 2016 John Wiley& Sons Ltd.520

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