The European Union: A Polity of States and Peoples

The European Union: A Polity of States and Peoples

The European Union: A Polity of States and Peoples

The European Union: A Polity of States and Peoples


This book provides a general introduction to the European Union (EU) as an ever closer union of states and peoples. It describes how, from its origin in 1958 as an economic community of six states, the EU has grown into a political entity of 25 states with a population of more than 450 million. It also explains the constitution-making process that is currently taking place- with a draft constitution now being submitted for ratification by the 25 member states. The book shows how the distinctive features of a democratic polity that characterize the separate EU member states are gradually replicated in the European Union and how the Union is on its way to becoming a democratic polity of its own kind.

Van Gerven writes from a legal perspective, with an eye to political theory and recent American and European history, and with a diverse readership from both sides of the Atlantic in mind.


In May 1940, when I was five years old, I watched the first of the German soldiers arrive in my hometown of Sint-Niklaas, near Antwerp in Belgium. In September 1944, I saw the last German soldier, pistol in hand and hatred on his face, leave Sint-Niklaas the day before British, Canadian, and Polish troops liberated it. These events deeply affected the men and women of my generation, and motivated them to change history.

In July 1957, I took my law degree at the University of Leuven. This was five years after the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. This Community united six countries: France, Germany, Italy, and the three Benelux countries, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, in an effort to overcome the past and to build a new future. On March 25, 1957, just before I completed my law studies, the same six countries signed the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community in Rome. The Community came into existence on January 1, 1958. Since then, I have witnessed one of the most remarkable historic events of the last few centuries: the emergence of a steadily enlarging European Union of states and peoples. This Union currently has twenty-five Member States and will soon expand to twenty-eight.

In the years since the Community was established I have had the privilege of working with American colleagues, starting as a young associate in the newly created Brussels office of Clearly Gottlieb and serving as a teaching assistant for Max Rheinstein at the University of Chicago from 1959 to 1960, and then as his successor for one year in 1968–69. Max Rheinstein was one of the great comparative lawyers who escaped the European continent to begin a new life in the United States. He devoted his career to familiarizing American students with European law, and European students with American law.

The development of a united Europe has shaped my professional life, both as an academic and as a practicing lawyer in different positions—as a barrister . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.