The invention of the European legal tradition and the narrative of rights

Kaius Tuori (2022). In: Journal of European Studies, 52(3–4), 204–218.


This article examines the historical roots of ideas behind European integration, the legal and administrative alignment of countries in Europe that begun after the Second World War in 1945. It argues that many of them, such as that Europe has a shared legal tradition, emerged in the 1930s as a reaction to Nazism and Fascism prevalent at the time. Nazis, for example, said that law should be based on nationality and ethnicity, only German law should apply for Germans. The authors studied in this article presented a new theory opposing these racist ideas. Instead, they claimed that there are common traits in law throughout Europe that are signs of a shared legal culture. They also maintained that this shared legal culture was based on ideas such as rule of law, dignity and justice, which were in opposition to the ideas of totalitarian governments, which was a reason why many of the authors discussed had to flee and wrote in exile. The article concludes by demonstrating how the ideas developed by these lawyers were later incorporated into the treaties and other texts of European integration starting in 1973. Alongside human rights, ideas of rule of law and legal heritage were turned into major parts of European self-image.   

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