R. Daniel Kelemen


On his book Eurolegalism: The Transformation of Law and Regulation in the European Union

Cover Interview of September 18, 2011

A close-up

I begin the book with the story of passenger rights in the EU—a story which illustrates many of the dynamics described in the book.

Many readers will be familiar with the posters and displays on computer monitors in airports across Europe that remind travelers of their rights under the EU passenger rights directive. “Denied boarding? Cancelled? Delayed for a Long Time?” the posters ask. They then instruct travelers on what their rights are and how to file compensation claims.

Thousands of disgruntled passengers have brought such claims under the EU directive.  European airlines formed an association to challenge the directive’s legality before the European Court of Justice, but lost the case. And the Court has continued to make expansive interpretations of the directive, bolstering passenger rights.

The European Commission has taken legal action against member state governments who failed to adequately implement the directive.  And a niche industry of compensation claims firms has emerged—working on a contingency fee basis—to help passengers file claims against the airlines.

This chain of legal events would have been unimaginable thirty years ago. Back then, the entire story would have been wholly out of step with prevailing patterns of law and regulation. Today, the air passenger rights saga is quite typical of broader trends in EU regulation.