Brigitte Leucht – Københavns Universitet

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Brigitte Leucht


Liberalisation Through Case Law? European Law and the Creation of a Single European Market, 1965-1986

This project will explore the role of European law in the gradual establishment of a single European market in the European Community from the mid-1960s to the breakthrough of the Single European Act (SEA) in 1986. The creation of a unified European market based on a customs union and liberalising policies including competition, harmonisation of product standards and indirect taxes formed the cornerstone of the Treaty of Rome of 1958. Market creation and market liberalisation quickly developed into the ‘glue’ that bound the member states in the Community. At the same time the creation of a functioning European market was fraught with difficulties; tariffs and quantitative restrictions were addressed in the 1960s but, due to the support of powerful economic interests in member states, the segmentation of national markets continued. Only the SEA efficiently addressed the important remaining non-tariff barriers to trade and paved the way for the establishment of a unified market.

This project challenges the success story developed by legal and some social science literature of how the European Court of Justice (ECJ), through its case law, significantly contributed to the breakthrough of 1986. It will test the assumption, guiding this literature that the case law of the ECJ impacted on the regulation and social practices of the European market on basis of archival evidence drawn from national governments and administrations in Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

It is highly likely that the relevant doctrines of the ECJ were either ignored or at the very least reshaped significantly by the ‘receiving’ member states given that the Court’s key constitutional doctrines were still vehemently contested by national courts and that most national governments continued to conduct policies of segmented national markets until the first half of the 1980s. This approach will explore how the case law of the ECJ influenced the dynamics behind the SEA reform process at both the European and the national level, and thus help to clarify the role of EU law in facilitating Europe’s ‘neoliberal turn’ with important repercussions up to the present.