Alexandre Bernier – Københavns Universitet

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Alexandre Bernier


Between Sovereignty and Integration: France and the Formation of the European Legal System, 1958-1981

This project investigates how the establishment of a constitutional practice in the European legal system was received at the national level, more specifically, in one of the European Community’s (EC) most impor­tant member states, France. This project will not only focus on how French political, administrative, legal and judicial bodies as well as relevant private groups received European public law but it will also explore how French legal and po­litical elites in turn influenced the development of the European legal system. The time frame of the project ranges from the nearly simultaneous rise of the French Fifth Republic and the European Economic Community in 1958 to the French National Assembly’s failed attempts to break with European law with the so-called Aurillac amendment in 1981.

The key methodological challenge of this project is to go beyond the apparently clear division between the domestic and international dimensions, which typically has characterized the historiography of European integration. This is done by using Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘field’ and ‘habitus’ as a starting point for empirically exploring the various legal and political net­works that were involved in the battle over how France should receive and influence European public law. As a result this project will capture the complex relationships between French politicians, lawyers, officials and judges on the one hand and the European institutions on the other. This methodological approach requires the analysis of a broad range of primary sources, namely private, state and European archives never used before.

This project will argue that French judicial acceptance of the supremacy of European law is the result of the struggle of two informal networks made up of powerful individuals and with competing goals: while one network aimed at facilitating the penetration of European law into French national law the other network challenged this.