R. Daniel Kelemen


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

Cover Interview of September 18, 2011


There are two sides to the rise of Eurolegalism.

On the one hand, critics might view it as a kind of American disease. The growing role of law, lawyers, and litigation will bring with it some of the pathologies we are all too familiar with here in the US, such as high legal expenses, slow, conflictual regulatory procedures and adversarial relationships between stakeholders in the policy process.

On the other hand, Eurolegalism may increase the transparency of regulatory processes, enhance access to justice, and ultimately force public officials to be more accountable for their policy decisions.

Whether the positives will outweigh the negatives remains to be seen. What is clear is that the rise of Eurolegalism will affect not just the legal system but European democracy itself. Growing judicial power and the tendency to frame policies as individual rights will make it more difficult for countries to pursue consensus policies formulated to serve broad public interests where judges declare that these conflict with individual rights.

With the Eurozone in crisis and some skeptics questioning the long-term viability of the EU, it is a good time to remember the key role that the EU legal system plays in holding the EU together.

The EU is a community under the rule of law, and, whatever its present challenges, it is a community that has promoted democracy, peace and prosperity across Europe over the past half century. The rise of Eurolegalism may bring with it an excess of law, lawyers and litigation, but we may simply have to accept this as a small price to be paid to maintain European unity.