C. W. (Karin) van Leeuwen – Københavns Universitet

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C. W. (Karin) van Leeuwen


Promoting the Constitutional Practice? The Reception of European Public Law in the Netherlands, 1950-1983

In current research it is argued that Dutch constitutional openness towards international law greatly facilitated what was an entirely unproblematic reception of the constitutional practice of European public law. Due to the tradition of supporting the development of international law, so the argument goes, the Dutch political and legal elites found it only natural to accept the constitutional practice launched by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Yet, this argument fails to explain why Dutch governments at first rejected the 1953 constitutional reform that introduced the primacy of international law, opposed the establishment of a European constitutional court in the Treaties of Paris and Rome, and challenged the notion of direct effect of European law during the Van Gend en Loos case in 1963 – and found support for this position in academic debates time and again. Finally, this argument is insufficient in accounting for why Dutch courts took an exceptionally large part in bringing the first court cases on European Economic Community law to the ECJ in the late 1950s and early 1960s, yet left the floor for revolutionary cases to the other member states in the years thereafter.

This project sheds new light on the apparently ‘straightforward’ Dutch case by studying the exceptional history of the Dutch contribution to and reception of European public law in its broad historical context including, e.g., domestic political concerns, cultural patterns in company litigation and the development of a new academic field. Focusing on two crucial moments in Dutch constitutional history – the revisions of 1953-1956 and 1983 – it will not only take into account European law, but also ideas and practices from the fields of international law and national constitutional and administrative law. These ideas and practices provide an essential framework for the Dutch reception history and at the same time will help to develop an understanding of the history of European law as a truly entangled episode of both national and transnational history.