Research Projects

Our focus is on constitutional, administrative and economic development of European Union (EU) law in a multi-level and highly integrated legal and political system.

In this context, research is conducted in varied fields of EU public law with an emphasis on litigation, regulation, competition, and public international law. This focus includes research into the interaction of legal orders and theories of the European integration.


Major on-going projects

They consider:

  • the dimensions of external relations;
  • the simplification of EU procedural law with its constitutional, administrative and regulatory law aspects;
  • the relation between rights and remedies under EU law;
  • the reception of EU law within the Member States in a comparative perspective.

The activities of the Centre for European Law are linked to a multitude of international research networks and are supported by grants from the European Union (EU), the Fonds National de Recherche (FNR) and several other entities.


Some of the topics addressed

The Consequences of Development towards a Rights-Based Union

The pluralism of sources of fundamental rights of the Union increasingly shapes the reality of the multilevel relation between Courts, Parliaments and the executive branch of powers.

Several questions on the possibilities and limits of effective judicial protection in the Union arise in this context. What are the possibilities for Union and national Courts? What are the alternative international (and regional) forms of judicial review? What roles and powers should be accorded to instruments of coordination? To what degree is competition between jurisdictions a helpful concept?

These questions are discussed in the context of a pluralism of levels of Fundamental Rights protection and the relationship between EU institutions as well as Member States when acting in the scope of EU law. These research questions on the sources of rights and principles in constitutional litigation and their relation are also linked to the questions on multiple levels of judicial protection and have an impact on many braches of research undertaken in the Research Unit in Law including on media law, criminal law and business law.

Multiple Levels of Judicial Protection

In the following years the Centre for European Law will conduct research on some of the consequences of dealing with overlapping levels of judicial protection, namely “Judicial Dialogue”.

The objective of this contribution to the overall research project is to identify, establish and present the underlying factors, challenges and opportunities linked to the various forms of interaction between judges across Europe. It undertakes a novel approach to coordinated and comprehensive research explaining underlying normative assumptions and covering also the semantics of ‘judicial dialogue' at the international, European and domestic levels.

Different methodological approaches to Law as regards the dialogue of judges will be dealt with in a theoretical way, such as the transmission of legal concepts or the perception of trans-national law as a network structure; these are necessary preconditions for establishing dialogue between judges.

Another methodological approach coordinating efforts through information networks will focus on understanding the challenges arising from an ever more integrated executive.

Theory of Integration and the Future of the Constitutionalisation of EU Policies

The reforms following the financial crisis are a living example of a fast-paced transformation of political concepts into legal frameworks either within the traditional zone of the ‘Union’ method or in the more open-ended international framework which is used to fortify and Europeanise certain policy areas.

This part of the project studies the possibilities of developing constitutional concepts for the challenges of this phase of European integration. It makes a contribution to the understanding of institutional design and change as well as institutional effects by moving away from a focus just on formalised decision-making fora and procedures, and asks instead how less formal, cooperative forms and modes of decision- and policy-making might be used.

Research objectives in this field include developing theory-based explanations of the impact of institutional cooperation on policy-making in the widest sense and deriving comprehensive and comparative explanations of cooperation by adopting an inter-disciplinary approach.

Developing the Law on Administrative Procedures for Protecting Rights in the Context of Implementing EU Policies in a Multidimensional Environment

The field often referred to as EU administrative law is key to materialising constitutional principles and values in the reality of implementing policies in the EU. It also studies executive rule making and single case decisions by executive cooperation in the EU.

Research conducted in this field by the Research Network on EU Administrative Law (ReNEUAL) addresses the potential and the substantial need for simplification of EU administrative law, as the body of rules and principles governing the implementation of EU policies by EU institutions and Member States.

EU administrative law has evolved on a policy-by-policy basis in an unsystematic and non-transparent manner. Simplification can be achieved by rationalisation and improvement of structures and methodology used throughout EU policy areas. This project suggests a path in that direction. It will establish a series of draft proposals for best practice guidelines of a general European administrative procedure law. These may serve as template or frame of reference for future case-law and general or policy-specific legislation.

Law of Information in the EU

The multi-level cooperation in the EU requires network approaches and de-centralised enforcement and implementation of EU law. This results in an ever stronger cooperation between executives in the EU and third countries and organisations in the form of composite procedures. These are generated predominantly through exchange of information in information networks, joint planning procedures, informal exchanges, and informal rulemaking structures.

Judicial review, one of the key aspects of accountability structures in the EU, is facing formidable challenges due to jurisdictionally separate Courts but integrated action by executives. This project reviews how this can be overcome in the future.

Research in this novel and highly relevant field requires interdisciplinary understandings of the technical and the political realities underlying the mushrooming of information networks for the implementation of EU law. For this reason, research pursued in single policy areas is also necessary and fruitful. This part of the research has strong links with the project on information systems which is conducted by other members within the Research Unit in Law (RUL).

State Aids and Subsidies in a Multi-level Legal, Political and Economic Approach

The diverse influences which have an impact on judicial review in the EU are most visible in areas of economic regulation. The field of state aid and subsidy control on the international (World Trade Organization), supranational (EU) and national levels is an excellent case study for analysing the complexity of the interaction of different systematic logics in the field of litigation and enforcement of EU policies.

Aspects of Criminal Law and Criminal Litigation

Multi-level cooperation in the EU and the enforcement of various EU policies also strongly affect the criminal justice system. It leads to a reformation of the powers of the traditional actors of the criminal justice system and to a redefinition of the relationship between individuals and state powers and between individuals and supranational actors. This affects the principles of criminal law: their meaning, content and mutual relation must be reassessed.

The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg as well as the emerging system of international criminal justice are excellent fields to analyse the impact of these phenomena, and how they influence the relations of authority within the criminal justice system.

The research is thus deeply imbedded in the questions of multi-level protection of fundamental rights, the nature of the EU as a Union under the rule of law and the interdisciplinary research in criminology and sociology of crime prevention in the EU.

External Dimension of EU Law: The EU as an International Global Actor

Impact on Member States and Individuals and the Implications of the Variable Geometry of EU Law

This topic deals with the development of the EU legal order through the Union’s external action.

It will specifically focus on:

  • the role of the Court of Justice as a constitutional adjudicator of external competences and the evolution of the case law related to the legal basis for external action;
  • the global approach of external action and the ultimate objective to be a global actor;
  • the impact on the Member States’ role in the international scene;
  • the legitimacy of external action and export of the acquis and values of the Union.

Also, the variable geometry of EU law through the integration of international law raises several questions in relation to fundamental rights, the interaction of legal orders and the autonomy of the EU legal order.

This project will deal with the status of international law (including international economic law) in the EU legal order, the relationship between international agreements and internal policies, the effective judicial protection in the implementation of international agreements, and the variable status of third country nationals.

Research into these questions is also undertaken from the perspective of external economic relations, not only through multiple-level policies and the relations between EU law and the World Trade Organization, but also through the relationship between the protection of economic rights/interests under EU law and the protection under international investment agreements (intra-EU BITs and the ECT, in particular), as well as court jurisdiction as opposed to investment arbitration tribunals. Also their inclusion into the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the means of accountability therein is relevant.