European Union: Power and Policy-Making

By Jeremy J. Richardson | Go to book overview
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9

The Court of Justice and the European policyprocess

Daniel Wincott

INTRODUCTION

Somewhat belatedly the Court of Justice is now being subjected to sustained political analysis and taken into account in the general political science literature on European integration (Burley and Mattli 1993; Volcansek 1992; Weiler 1993; Weiler 1994; Alter and Meunier-Aitsahalia 1994; Garrett 1992; Garrett and Weingast 1993). According to some of these analyses the Court has played a role, perhaps even the crucial one in the integration process, acting as 'the principal motor for the integration of Europe' (Mancini, cited in Volcansek 1992:109). Some studies have suggested that the Court is 'an unsung hero' of the 'unexpected twist' by which, in the face of the scepticism of most political science and international relations theory, the EC became 'something far more than an international organisation of independent sovereigns' (Burley and Mattli 1993:41). Other political analysts have argued that the Court simply reflects the interests of dominant member states, having little independent influence (Garrett 1992), and certainly incapable of 'imposing' a policy which was not within the set of relatively well-defined member state preferences (Garrett and Weingast 1993).

Adopting a policy perspective, the argument presented here takes up a position somewhere between these extremes. I argue that the Court should not be viewed as an imposing and wholly independent institution which is 'forcing' (as Volcansek claims of economic integration 1992:109) or has 'engineered' (Burley and Mattli 1993:44 on 'legal integration') integration. But neither should the role of the Court be minimised. Instead, an image is sketched of the Court as one actor among many in the European policy process.

The language of policy analysis, describing policy-making as a process of negotiation and mutual adjustment, is particularly appropriate for analysing European integration. In addition, policy and the policy process in Europe have been subject to continual mutation; thus, an analysis which attributes a rational and synoptic control of integration to a single institution or group is likely to be misleading. Instead, emphasis on the contingencies of the construction of policy 'problems' and 'solutions' and how they are brought together, and on the influence of ideas and knowledge is more likely to provide a fruitful prospectus for research. The contribution of the Court of Justice to the integration process should be seen in this light.

This chapter will be divided into three further sections. In the first of these sections the role of the Court in the process of 'constitutionalising' the Treaty of Rome, and also in the general development of Community law, will be examined. The second section will consider

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