Sigfrido Manuel Ramírez Pérez – Københavns Universitet

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Sigfrido Manuel Ramírez Pérez

On the Vanguard of the Constitutional Practise? The History of the Legal Service of the European Commission, 1969-1986

The Legal Service of the European Commission has been ascribed a key role in the establishment of the constitutional practise in European law in the mid 1960s, when the Court of Justice (ECJ) in two seminal judgments (Van Gend en Loos, 1963 and Costa v. E.N.E.L., 1964) gave European law direct effect and primacy vis-à-vis national law. Under the leadership of Michel Gaudet, the service pushed a reluctant court towards finally assuming a constitutional responsibility and carving out of the Treaties of Rome an effective European legal order that could be enforced in the member states. However, recent historical research suggests that the Legal Service was not only internally split in its support for the constitutional practise, but it even lost interest in promoting it under the leadership of its second director, Walter Much, who replaced Gaudet in 1969. As a consequence it was only when the third director Claus-Dieter Ehlermann took over the service in 1978 that it returned to its former position as a promoter of European constitutionalism. This concerned particularly the negotiations of the Single European Act, where the Legal Service played a key role.

This project will explore the role of the Legal Service in the battle over the constitutional practise from 1969 to 1986. Arguably this role had two core dimensions. Firstly, the project will offer the first systematic analysis of the extent to which the Legal Service continued to support the constitutional practise of the ECJ, and on the role of the leadership of the Legal Service in this process. Secondly, in 1958 the Legal Service obtained a core role as legal councillor inside the Commission in order to ensure that policy proposals would underpin the constitutional practise and the attempt to create a coherent European legal order. The crucial question is if the Legal Service maintained this key position throughout the period investigated here. This project aims to produce both academic articles but also crucially an oral history of the Legal Service based on systematic interviews with former employees. The Historical Archives of the European Union in Florence have agreed to publish the oral history by the end of 2015. All in all, the project will offer a coherent history of the role of the Legal Service in the making of a constitutional practise of European law from 1969-1986.