The necessary evil - On law, power and institutional politics in the European Union


More information from Päivi Leino-Sandberg

This is project is both on law and about law.

‘Law’ is linked to the legitimacy of the EU. It appeals to those wishing to limit power politics, integrationist ambitions and institutional discretion. But the way in which law is used also renders it an instrument in political contestation. It is traditional for lawyers to find politics a ‘necessary evil’: somewhat obstructive, perhaps even dangerous, but difficult to avoid. My concern, however, is not about politics intervening in the sphere of law. My interest relates to the way in which the EU decision-making process operates, and what factors and players influence decision-making. In particular, I examine how the balance between legal arguments and other considerations is drawn.

The Treaties establish only part the main building blocks of the decision-making process. Real life decision-making is multidimensional. It builds to a large extent on practice and interinstitutional agreements. These more informal arrangements are linked to the way in which ‘the EU institutions make conscious decisions about whether to be bound in their interactions by informal institutional rules or follow the normal constitutional paths prescribed by the Treaty.’ This decision-making framework can only be examined with an interdisciplinary approach. The roles allocated to law and politics are linked with questions of participation, accountability and democratic decision making.

Funded by the Academy of Finland