LL4BH      Half Unit
Contemporary Issues of European Union Law

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jan Komarek COW 1.04


This course is available on the Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSEforYou.

For the LLM (Specialisms: European Law, Public Law, Human Rights Law)


Basic knowledge (at an undergraduate level) of EU law is required. 

Course content

“If the euro fails, Europe fails”, warned the German chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 at the (first) apex of the sovereign debt crisis. Since then the European Union has faced many more potential failures – and crises.

The course has two aims: first, to analyse the crises and challenges Europe is facing and prospects of the Union to stand up to them. Second, in order to understand the many crises in Europe, we need to understand Europe and European integration. We will therefore study some of its foundational values and concepts that form its legal and political vocabulary.

What kind of crises and challenges? Which values and concepts?

Financial crisis, of course – but that has given way in public discourse to another crisis: the “refugee crisis”. So far the European states – and their Union – were not capable to deal with it and the Union is more and more seen as a source, and not the solution to it. But there is a deeper issue here as well, going to the very heart of what Europe stands (or wants to stand) for: irregular migrants “are treated as both security threats to Europe and as lives that are threatened and in need of saving”. How this tension is (not) being solved suggests something about the importance of borders and security for the legitimacy of the government, “governmentality” and technologies of power in today’s Europe.

With the border crisis another boundary re-emerged in the political discourse: that between West and East, or liberal-democratic Europe and Europe at the “end of post-communism”. Easterners are yet again being told to learn the terms of their membership in the EU, which contain also “solidarity”: with the refugees (“the lives to be saved”) and the states that bear a disproportionate burden (“lives as liabilities”). What does solidarity mean in today’s Europe and which place it does it have in the whole integration project?

There are other problems in the East: after the Union failed to prevent the rise of an illiberal (and increasingly authoritarian) regime in Hungary, it wants to do better this time: on 13 January of this year the Commission decided to start “the structured dialogue under the Rule of Law Framework” with Poland – a first step which may eventually end with imposing sanctions on Poland for the violation of the Union’s foundational values prescribed by Article 7 TEU.

Is this Europe’s role, however, given its own problems with democracy and political legitimacy? Isn’t this yet another sign of the German dominance in Europe, something the integration project had been succeeding in preventing, but today seems rather to contribute to? Do we have German Europe today rather than European Germany?

Is not the Union best understood as a cooperative enterprise among the member states aimed principally at securing economic prosperity through free trade promotion, as many people in the UK seem to believe? The debate around Brexit, as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently negotiated between the Union and the United States both provide a focal point for such debate.

We will therefore discuss the challenge of Europe’s purpose, identity and its relationship to the people of Europe too – all related to the issues mentioned above.


22 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course.  The formative essay serves as a basis for the assessed essay.

Indicative reading

G de Búrca and JHH Weiler (eds), The Worlds of European Constitutionalism (CUP 2012),


P Lindseth, Power and Legitimacy: Reconciling Europe and the Nation-State (OUP 2010);


F Scharpf, Governing in Europe (OUP 1999);


K and K Tuori, The Eurozone Crisis (CUP 2014)


JHH Weiler, The Constitution of Europe : “Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?” And Other Essays on European Integration (CUP 1999).


Essay (100%, 8000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2015/16: 6

Average class size 2015/16: 6

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information