Ann-Christina Lauring Knudsen – Københavns Universitet

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Ann-Christina Lauring


On the Edge of the Law? The European Parliament in Transnational Legal Politics, 1955-1979

The European Parliament (EP) languished for the first decades of its life with virtually no formal powers, and with only indirect demo­cratic legitimacy as its members were appointed rather than directly elected. Against this background, the EP’s history has so far attracted only limited attention among European integration scholars. However, with new theoretical and conceptual inspiration, scholars have recently begun to nuance this picture by showing how many Members of the European Parliament, as multi-positioned and transnational actors, were able to shape European politics also in areas that so far have been assumed to be handled exclusively by national governments. In this vein, the project examines how the development of European law was perceived and acquired a life at the interface of parliamentary and judicial politics.

This project’s focal point is the EP’s Legal Affairs committee from its establishment in 1955 up to the time when the EP turned to direct elections of its members in 1979. Although this committee was initially conceived as an ‘independent board’ to deal with ‘purely legal aspects of a question’, new research has shown that it soon attracted a number of key people engaged in European and national politics, above all lawyers and economists. This project explores, firstly, how members of the Legal Affairs committee used this board over time in discussions over the development of European law. Secondly, the project looks more closely at how the key judgments by the European Court of Justice were received in the Legal Affairs committee and at the transnational political channels of its members. This project will thus bring in an entirely new dimension to the effectiveness of transnational legal politics in Europe, and connect these to the political discussions and activities over the democratic future of the Community.