Two Conceptions of Justice in EU Constitutionalism

VU University Amsterdam publication, Inaugural Lecture, October 2014

Posted: 5 Dec 2014 Last revised: 17 Jan 2016

Date Written: October 29, 2014


This essay looks at two conceptions of justice in EU constitutionalism: one administrative notion and one constitutional and discusses its implications for EU security regulation. Thereafter it applies "justice" as a conceptual tool for understanding the European "Area of Freedom, Security and Justice" legal domain as representing a particularly intriguing testing field of justice in contemporary EU constitutional law.

Imagine you were to ask the following question: how can the EU become a justice space while ensuring a high level of security? What justification in legal terms could Member States and the citizens of the EU rightly demand as the EU project expands? In this paper, I explore the question of how to understand the conditions of constitutional legitimacy by arguing for a meaning of justice which forms part of the EU’s constitutional structure and helps ensuring a sufficiently high human rights standard that would foster European culture and a sense of fairness. I argue that this is particularly needed for the construction of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice to a successful "justice" space.

Note: The essay was originally delivered as my inaugural lecture as University Research Chair and Professor of EU Constitutional Law and Justice at VU University Amsterdam on 29th October 2014. The paper has retained the character of a public lecture.

Suggested Citation

Herlin-Karnell, Ester, Two Conceptions of Justice in EU Constitutionalism (October 29, 2014). VU University Amsterdam publication, Inaugural Lecture, October 2014. Available at SSRN:

Ester Herlin-Karnell (Contact Author)

Uppsala University ( email )

Box 513
Uppsala, 751 20

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