The New, New Sovereigntism (Or, How the Europe Union Became Disenchanted with International Law and Defiantly Protective of Its Domestic Legal Order)
Chiara Giorgetti and Guglielmo Verdirame, eds., Concepts on International Law in Europe and the United States (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming)
45 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017 Last revised: 1 May 2017
Date Written: April 21, 2017
Over the past several decades, it has become commonplace in both scholarly and political circles to contrast the positions of the US and the European Union EU toward the rule of international law. Critics have argued that the US had abandoned its post-war role as the champion of the international legal order, being instead characterized by a “new sovereigntism” that seeks to protect the US from unwelcome intrusions of international law into the domestic legal order. By contrast, the EU has been seen as inherently committed to the rule of law and a strong international legal order. The aim of this paper is not to attack, much less to debunk, the conventional dichotomy between a scofflaw America one the one hand and an international law-loving Europe on the other. The more limited aim of this paper, rather, is to suggest that European attitudes towards international law may be changing, and that the EU is developing a European variant of the American new sovereigntism, in which a growing number of critics – concentrated primarily, though not only, among the pro-European left and center-left – have raised fundamental procedural and substantive objections to international rules and norms, which they depict as hostile to European laws and values, and against which they champion a defiant resistance. In a growing number of areas of international law, including international trade, economic regulation, food safety, data privacy, and national security, the European center-left has moved towards a sharply critical view of international law, alternatively resisting consent to unwelcome agreements, compliance with unwelcome international judicial decisions, and internalization of international laws perceived to be in tension with domestic EU rules and rights. These changing attitudes towards international law, in turn, have been magnified and translated into policy outcomes through the EU’s “hyper-consensus” political institutions, which have created multiple veto points empowering European critics to defy and deflect the intrusion of unwelcome international legal norms, rules, and agreements.
Keywords: European Union, international law, European Parliament, European Court of Justice, sovereigtism, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, World Trade Organization
JEL Classification: K33, N44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation