The European Court Of Justice / Edition 1

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This book provides a broad-ranging assessment of the Court's contribution to the integration process. It shows how the Court has taken advantage of opportunities when they have arisen in the European political process to "constitutionalize" the founding treaties and to exert a strong influence on policy decisions. It also examines challenges confronting the European Union and examines why the Court's active role has not encountered greater opposition and analyzes the implications for the Court of current issues.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Succeeds brilliantly in making the European Court of Justice accessible to non-legal scholars . . . No student of the European Union can afford to neglect [it].” —Professor William E. Paterson, University of Birmingham

“If a political scientist could read only one book about the European Court of Justice (EJC), this is the book he or she should choose.” —The Law and Politics Book Review

Mary L. Volcansek
If a political scientist could read only one book about the European Court of Justice (ECJ), this is the book he or she should choose. This book should, in fact, be read by anyone who is interested in understanding the political potential of judiciaries in any polity. Renaud Dehousse has crafted a short and elegant volume on the Court that bridges the gap between law and politics. Most books on the ECJ are either case books or descriptions addressed to the legal community, and much of the current literature on the ECJ outside of legal circles is couched in international relations theory. The virtue of the Dehousse book is that it succeeds, in a mere 200 pages, in locating the ECJ not only within the European Union (EU), but also within European society.

This book was originally published in 1994 in French as LA COUR DE JUSTICE DES COMMUNAUTES EUROPEENNES, and its positive reception prompted a revision and expansion in English. Professor Dehousse's thesis is that the European Court of Justice and its jurisprudence serve simultaneously as a dependent and independent variable, "the product of social pressure for some and instrument of social change for others." The ECJ has, according to Dehousse, independently shaped the institutions of the European Union and the evolution of the larger European experiment, but it has been molded, at the same time, by the political environment in which it operates. Environmental factors are primary.

Dehousse is able to speak about the Court with the authority of a lawyer, but also with a steady confidence about the growing literature on the ECJ outside the legal community. That combination enriches his writing and enables him to merge two often divergent approaches to explore his thesis. The ease with which he moves between schools of thought and disciplines makes the book uncommonly approachable and complex arguments seemingly obvious. The author is not struggling with his logic, nor must the reader.

The first two chapters explain the powers, functions and organization of the ECJ and review the major jurisprudential landmarks of the Court. For someone familiar with the workings of the Court, this is familiar ground, but for those encountering it for the first time, Dehousse presents a thorough, brief and non-intimidating introduction to very complex subjects. The so-called "constitutionalization" of the treaties, i.e., transformation of treaties into a constitution for the European Union, is where many analyses of the ECJ's contributions begin and end. Dehousse simply treats that entire phenomenon as a given and explains it cogently within the introductory chapters. He then moves on to less obvious or less often explored ways that the ECJ has impacted integration. In Chapter 3, he explores the Court as an independent variable and its influence on the internal functioning of the Union and its effects on member states. He uses a matter-of-fact approach to the lawmaking and policymaking roles of the Court. Some of his arguments are transferable to many other judicial institutions and are explained in far less tortured terms than political scientists generally employ; the ECJ can, for example, suggest new legal avenues, legitimate some and delegitimate other policies, provoke legislative intervention, "judicialize" policy debates among other institutional actors, and oversee policy implementation. Each of these possibilities is discussed in detail, with specific examples of how the ECJ acted.

Dehousse then turns to how the Court has made its force felt in other political sectors of the Union and made "legal recourse . . . a part of the arsenal by which . . . groups attempt to promote their particular interests." He explores, in other words, the "judicialization" of politics. The example he invokes to demonstrate how this has happened is the rise of the European Parliament as a litigant, resorting to the Court to vindicate and then enhance its powers under the treaties. A similar path, as he explains, has been chosen by other EU institutions, private parties, corporations, and national governments. Law suits can be, however, unpredictable in their outcomes; the judges have, on occasion, changed their perspective and cases ended with unanticipated consequences. The larger point that Dehousse makes is that the ECJ need not even be approached to affect a change, as the threat of taking an issue there is often sufficient to achieve the desired policy. The force of the Court can be felt not only in the legal forum, but in any forum. Professor Dehousse acknowledges, however, that there are also limits to what can be accomplished by resort to the ECJ and by implication to any court. Most notable as a limiting factor is the absence of democratic legitimacy attached to the Court.

Dehousse then turns his attention in the next two chapters to a perhaps more interesting question than the reach of the Court: how did a judicial body attain such political influence? The focus is altered to the Court as a dependent variable, and the arguments become much narrower and ECJ specific, as few other courts in the world have amassed equivalent authority. This is not a novel question in European circles, but Dehousse dissects it systematically and eschews settling on a single causal factor. The ECJ evolved as a major institution because of an environment favorable to it, characterized by the absence of partisan cleavages, the technical nature of many issues, and the level of indifference that is so often accorded to judicial decisions. In keeping with his very balanced approach, he devotes Chapter 6 to explaining how the Court reached the limits of its activism in the 1990's and discovered that judicial self-restraint could be a virtue. The political environment changed, and a more dynamic system in which greater attention is centered on the Court and different litigants are appearing before it. The Court apparently recognized a shift in the environment and adjusted its own behavior in the direction of judicial self-restraint.

This is a compelling book, and one that should be read by everyone who studies Europe and the European Union. It is very approachable, and that quality is enhanced by the use of charts, graphs, diagrams and tables. Dehousse's volume can serve as an introduction to the politics of the European Court of Justice, but it also offers keen insights to how courts everywhere operate in the political sphere. To those who follow the ECJ and its jurisprudence, this book offers a well-argued explanation for subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the Court's decisions. I recommend it strongly.
Department of Political Science, Florida International University
Dehousse (law, U. of Pisa) expands on his book published in French in 1994, adding two chapters and nearly doubling its length. He provides a broad-ranging assessment of the Court's contribution to the integration process, showing how it has influenced policy decisions, examining why its active role has not encountered greater opposition, and analyzing the implications for the Court of current issues. Appendices contains tables of equivalence between the old and new numbers of the EC and EU Treaties. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312215101
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/15/1998
  • Series: European Union Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Renaud Dehousse is Professor of Law at European University Institute in Florence.

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Table of Contents

• Introduction
• The Court in the European Institutional System
• The Constitutionalization of the Community Legal Order
• The Court and the Dynamics of Integration
• The Juridification of the Policy Process
• The Paradox of Compliance
• The Structural Roots of Judicial Self-Restraint
• Conclusion

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