Universiteit Leiden

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Europa Institute


The progression of EU law: Accommodating change and upholding values Coordinator: Dr. Moritz Jesse

The law of the European Union is arguably the most dynamic field of law, leaving no other field of law untouched and even extending its appeal widely beyond legal scholarship and practice. It owes this mainly to the political venture of 'European integration'. Often called a 'project', or a 'process', it is this profoundly historic development, full of opportunity, of questions and of contestation, that EU law serves and that, in turn, it succeeds in capturing.

In December 2009, with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, twenty years of European turmoil following the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed to find a legal berth in the Treaties' new versions. Just then, however, the financial crisis and euro crisis broke a new test of strength for the Union.  The financial crisis and the ensuing eurocrisis have been weathered in part by their legal channeling into an overhaul of the EU monetary and fiscal rules and a further development of the EU's institutions beyond the Lisbon Treaty's arrangements.

Meanwhile, the Union is facing external challenges: new political firebrands are developing and old ones continue to smolder, as evidenced by the turmoil at its borders. The Lisbon Treaty's far-reaching changes in relation to external action are being put to the test. Migration issues, both for third country nationals and EU citizens, attract more attention than ever, pressuring the law of citizenship, migration, fundamental rights. Lately, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic posed its own set of challenges to the EU and its Member States.

While these historic and legal events are taking place, the more established fields of European Law continue on their restless course of development. Old and new EU legal rules on the Internal Market and Competition strike firmer root into the different national legal domains: of administrative law, of constitutional law, of private law, of criminal law, of procedural law. None of this occurs without raising questions; all is happening against the backdrop of lessening popular support for the Union, and a struggle to maintain legitimacy. Even the rule of law is under strain, given political developments within certain Member States, and in relation to institutional developments within the EU.


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