JJUA55318U Global Challenges, Europe’s crises, and EU law

Volume 2024/2025

The EU – and Europe as a continent - face challenges that not only reach beyond the capacity of each individual member state (big or small), but which also pose existential questions about the integration project. Liberal democracy, fundamental rights, and also peace and prosperity are no longer “givens” that people in Europe can take for granted (if they ever could). Authoritarians are now (or were) in the governments of several EU member states; the young generation of Europeans needs to find place in a society, which is exhausted by several crises: financial, migration, rule of law, or Covid-19. A war between two sovereign states – something that had been beyond imagination of all people in the West since 1945 - has reached the EU’s borders. What is sometimes called the “European way of life” seems to be fundamentally threatened.

In this course we discuss these challenges and examine whether the legal and political structure of the EU can give Europeans at least a hope that their “way of life” is something that can be preserved, even if in a different form and shared with those previously excluded.

The focus of the course is law and legal institutions. These, however, are put into their political and societal context so that future lawyers – those engaging in litigation, government legal advisors, civil society advocates, and those working in the private sector can better understand the stakes. The course will also be interesting for political science or international relations students and the teaching method will take into account different backgrounds of students taking it. One of the distinctive features of the course is a constant dialogue between various disciplines so that an enhanced understanding of EU law, politics and society is acquired, based on the years of experience with such teaching acquired at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Learning Outcome


  • Nuanced understanding of the EU’s fundamental principles and values (Article 2 TEU) in a historic, economic, and political context and especially as they relate to the current challenges that the EU faces and seeks to address through its legal system.
  • Deeper understanding of the conceptions of legitimacy of the EU and how they can inform the EU’s role in finding replies to the global challenges.
  • Profound understanding of horizontal / vertical division of powers in the EU and how these core concepts affect the EU’s responses to the challenges.
  • the basic understanding of the EU’s role in external relations – to the extent necessary to put the internal issues into the global context.
  • In-depth understanding of the law-making process in the EU, the interpretation of the Treaties and the role that the CJEU and the EU legislative process play in the formulation of the EU’s responses to the challenges.
  • Understand litigation in its societal context (legal profession, NGOs, legal mobilization).
  • Knowledge of the implementation and effect of EU law in national legal systems (e.g. in Danish law).
  • Understanding of the relationship between the EU and the European Citizens (and the understanding of national and European citizenship).
  • In-depth knowledge of the interaction between the national and the supra-national legal systems in their response to the economic and political and legal (rule of law) challenges).
  • Contextual knowledge of how the EU’s legal and political system address the key global challenges: the economic crisis, the rule of law crisis, the migration crisis, the Covid-19 crisis, the climate challenge, the challenge of the digital transformation of economy.


  • Identify relevant EU provisions in concrete situation and understand their political and societal context.
  • Identify and analyze the role of legal institutions at the national level and the EU level in relation to a specific challenge.
  • Discuss the types and the implications of legal interpretation (legal methodology).
  • Interpret EU legal sources in their political, historic, and economic context (also motive analysis).
  • Discuss the legality of EU measures and the correctness of the Court’s interpretation.
  • Actively use EURLEX and CURIA to search for sources of EU law (including case law and legislative proposals).


  • Identify and analyze global challenges that the EU faces.
  • Identify and evaluate the interplay of the legal and the political aspects of a concrete dispute before the Court of Justice or in the political process (rule of law case in Poland, defence of the “European” way of life).
  • Critical analysis of proposed policy / legal solutions in their economic, historic, and political context (e.g. the timing and the timeliness of the Green Deal).
  • Reflect on the EU’s legal response to concrete challenges (e.g. a common response of the European Union to the financial or COVID crisis … resort to intergovernmentalism etc.).
  • Independently and critically evaluate policy proposals and the conclusions of the Council.
  • Critically reflect on the principle of conferral, horizontal and vertical division of power.
  • Critically and independently read a judgment of the European Court of Justice.
  • Distill the role / informal power of the legal institutions from the existing legal source and documents (like reports for the hearing, conclusions of the Council).

For each part there is a “fundamental reading”. These are two recently published textbooks (2022 and 2023) which cover most topics to be studied. These textbooks will be complemented by selected parts of further readings from academic articles, policy papers and contributions to the public debate in Europe.

For each topic decisions by the Court of Justice and in some instances also national constitutional courts and the European Court of Human Rights will be selected.

Further readings and cases will be identified in the autumn of 2024 (in case the course is approved) in order to reflect the newest developments.


I.  Legal and political structure: how societal issues can become political and legal problems

Fundamental reading: Mark Dawson and Floris de Witte, EU law and governance (CUP 2022) - selected chapters

1.  What is the EU (for)?
The legal nature of the EU; EU’s values; objectives and principles; legitimacy of the EU.
2.  Politics in the EU
Democracy in the EU; law and institutions of the political process in the EU; “technocracy” and comitology; key actors in the EU policy-making. 
3.  Judicial process in the EU
The relationship between the ECJ and national courts; preliminary reference procedure; infringement procedure and action in annulment; judicial legitimacy; access to justice in the EU.
4.  Citizens, civil society and populism:
EU citizenship; civil society East and West (dissidents’ legalism; NGO activism); populism; transparency; academic freedom and “scholactivism”.
5.  The EU and the state
The relationship between the EU and its member states; competences; structural changes to the state.
6.  External dimension
The EU in international law; the EU’s external powers; the EU and the WTO; the EU and the ECHR.
II.  Crises and challenges of the EU and in the EU

Fundamental reading: Mark Rhinard, Neill Nugent, William E. Paterson (eds), Crises and Challenges for the European Union (Bloomsbury Academic 2023) – selected chapters

7.  Economic crisis and the crisis of solidarity
European Economic Constitution; Eurocrisis of 2009-; Social Europe vs. “making the EU the most competitive economy in the world”; tensions: East vs. West, North vs. South; the EU in the globalized economy
8.  Migration crisis
Third-country nationals’ access to the EU; migration crisis of 2015-; the “Fortress Europe” and its legal infrastructure; the legal constitution of irregular migration.
9.  Rule of law crisis
Poland and Hungary; but also other member states; the failures of legality on the part of the EU (governing through emergency measures in the Eurocrisis; Frontex operations in the migration crisis; EU-Turkey statement of 2016; etc).
10.  Covid-19 crisis
The measures taken by the EU and its member states; the EU’s response to the ensuing economic and societal crisis; NextGenerationEU and the limits of the EU’s competences.
11.  Climate crisis and the Green Deal
The measures taken by the EU -and the limits of the EU’s competences; the EU in global negotiations.
12.  Regulating internet giants and surveillance capitalism
Protecting privacy in the digital world; regulating internet giants (Google, Facebook); Digital Services Act and Digital Market Act; “Brussels effect”.
13.  Conclusion: Defending the "European way of life"
What is “the European way of life”; (post-)colonialism in and of Europe; relationships to the contenders (the United States, China, Russia); identity and diversity (among states; peoples; cities; regions; …).


It is illegal to share digital textbooks with each other without permission from the copyright holder.

Basic knowledge of EU law.
Teaching will be based on a combination of lectures, that will introduce each topic, and intensive seminar work where the theoretical knowledge will be connected to practical issues and challenges that we will discuss. On the students’ part this will include particularly:
Preparation / written statement (1/2 page group reflecting on the main reading material / topic).
Group work / problem solving in groups reporting to the plenum.
The courses 'Global Challenges, Europe’s crises, and EU law' and 'Advanced EU Constitutional Law' are mutually exclusive. It is therefore only possible to follow and be examined in one of these two courses.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • Total
  • 412,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Oral exam on basis of previous submission, 20 minutes
Type of assessment details
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Exam registration requirements

In order to attend the oral examination, it is a prerequisite to hand in the synopsis before the specified deadline. The deadline will appear in Digital exam


Read about the descriptions of the individual exam forms, including formal requirements, scope and deadlines in the exam catalogue

Read about practical exam conditions at KUnet

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period