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The European Union's Legal System and Domestic Policy: Spillover or Backlash?

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  • Alter, Karen J.

Abstract

Under what conditions do domestic actors use international legal mechanisms to influence domestic policy? Drawing on the European case, where legalization has progressed the furthest, I develop a generalizable framework for explaining variation in the use of the European Union's legal system by domestic actors to influence national policy. Four steps are involved in using the European legal process to pressure for policy change: (1) there must be a point of European law that creates legal standing and promotes the litigant's objectives; (2) litigants must embrace this law, adopting a litigation strategy; (3) a national court must refer the case to the European Court of Justice or apply ECJ jurisprudence; and (4) domestic actors must follow through on the legal victory to pressure national governments. Different factors influence each step, creating cross-national and cross-issue variation in the influence of EU law on national policy. Raising a significant challenge to neofunctionalist theory, I argue that negative interactive effects across the four steps and backlash created by the success of integration can stop or even reverse the expansionary dynamic of the legal process. I conclude by exploring the generalizability of this framework to other international contexts.

Suggested Citation

  • Alter, Karen J., 2000. "The European Union's Legal System and Domestic Policy: Spillover or Backlash?," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 489-518, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:54:y:2000:i:03:p:489-518_44
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Perkins & Eric Neumayer, 2007. "Implementing Multilateral Environmental Agreements: An Analysis of EU Directives," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 7(3), pages 13-41, August.
    2. Mondré Aletta & Neubauer Gerald & Helmedach Achim & Zangl Bernhard, 2010. "Uneven Judicialization: Comparing International Dispute Settlement in Security, Trade, and the Environment," New Global Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-34, August.
    3. Stefan Voigt, "undated". "Iudex Calculat: The ECJ's Quest for Power," German Working Papers in Law and Economics 2003-1-1066, Berkeley Electronic Press.
    4. Grimmel, Andreas, 2011. "Politics in robes? The European Court of Justice and the myth of judicial activism," Discussion Papers 2/11, Europa-Kolleg Hamburg, Institute for European Integration.
    5. George Tridimas, 2004. "A Political Economy Perspective of Judicial Review in the European Union: Judicial Appointments Rule, Accessibility and Jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 99-116, July.
    6. Marlene Wind, 2010. "The Nordics, the EU and the Reluctance Towards Supranational Judicial Review," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 1039-1063, September.
    7. Andreas Grimmel, 2011. "Integration and the Context of Law: Why the European Court of Justice is not a Political Actor," Les Cahiers européens de Sciences Po 3, Centre d'études européennes (CEE) at Sciences Po, Paris.
    8. Perkins, Richard & Neumayer, Eric, 2007. "Do membership benefits buy regulatory compliance?: an empirical analysis of EU directives 1978-1999," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3057, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Tridimas, George & Tridimas, Takis, 2004. "National courts and the European Court of Justice: a public choice analysis of the preliminary reference procedure," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 125-145, June.

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