The EU’s Participation in the Global Legal Order as a Postnational Democracy: Manifestations of Sovereignty

23 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2015

See all articles by Elaine Fahey

Elaine Fahey

City, University of London - City Law School

Date Written: February 23, 2015


Sovereignty is arguably neither popular nor conventional nor does it transpose itself into discourses of rule-making beyond the Nation State. For some, to speak of sovereignty in the context of global governance leads to bewildering identification of a ‘global sovereign’. The multi-directional nature of the global reach and effects of EU law has been shown in this account to comprise boundaries and competences extensions to various degrees. It is argued to constitute manifestations of sovereignty, with spatial, action and transboundary dimensions to it that require ‘unpacking’. This paper argues that postnational rule-making practices conducted by the EU may usefully be captured by sovereignty, as an over-arching framework beyond an analysis for power, influence and interactions between legal orders. Much scholarship on sovereignty and the EU has been developed prior to more recent invocations in the EU treaties to evolve as a postnational democracy. Participation by the EU in the global legal order is a multi-faceted construct but is argued here to be rooted in an understanding of the EU as an actor, i.e. what it is and what it does. Legal scholarship appears to place a high premium on the ability of the EU to participate externally as an actor, seamlessly, coherently and with consistency. Accordingly, as has been argued here, the enabling character of sovereignty at the postnational level appears insufficiently studied. The physical and metaphysical space of EU rules is argued here to require more nuancing, method and study as to its components. There are as many methodological as substantive challenges to such a thesis, which this text has sought to address as part of a research agenda. Legal texts providing for active participation in the global legal order can be most imperfect even in integrated spheres of action. What is more pressing to consider is the merger of sovereignty, territoriality and jurisdiction in a global world as an emerging matter for EU law.

Keywords: Sovereignty, Nation State, EU Law, governance, postnational, transboundary, territoriality, jurisdiction

Suggested Citation

Fahey, Elaine, The EU’s Participation in the Global Legal Order as a Postnational Democracy: Manifestations of Sovereignty (February 23, 2015). UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 04/2015. Available at SSRN: or

Elaine Fahey (Contact Author)

City, University of London - City Law School ( email )

Northampton Square
London, London EC1V OHB
United Kingdom

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