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

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  • Alter, Karen J.
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    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.

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    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

    Volume (Year): 54 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 03 (June)
    Pages: 489-518

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:54:y:2000:i:03:p:489-518_44
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    Cambridge University Press, UPH, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BS UK

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