ASTK18296U Jean Monnet course: The Legalization of EU Politics and International Relations

Volume 2021/2022

Bachelor: 15 ECTS

Kandidat: 15 ECTS


This course is part of the activities organised by Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law & Politics and, hence, is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

EU and International legal, political science and international relations scholars have recently developed theories about the relevance of EU law for Member State compliance and the development of national legal systems, that has proved very fruitful in explaining some of the central European problems and crisis that are of interest to policy and law-makers (e.g. rule of law crisis in Hungary and Poland, the European economic crisis, or the migration and refugee crisis). This is in part due to the legalization of EU politics, which refers to the reality that legal and judicial actors are increasingly involved in defining and shaping European affairs. Legalization is generally then considered an aspect in which international/european and domestic actors conceive of their legal and policy options as bounded by what is legally allowed. Moreover, it refers to the process in which international law, in conjunction with the proliferation and role 

of International Organizations and Courts like the EU and the Court of Justice of the European Union, confers new rights and obligations to citizens and other domestic and transnational European actors.

The goal of this course is to provide students with an interdisciplinary perspective for understanding the impact of legal integration in EU politics, which will be also useful and appealing for students interested in exploring the role of international law in international affairs and relations. EU politics and international relations disciplines refer to the behaviour of European and international institutions, Member States and non-State actors in the European arena, but also to how European Union law, and international law more broadly, might affect the multi-level relations between the EU and domestic actors, and, between actors at the national legal arena. This course will offer an innovate approach to the topic by differentiating from the traditional study of international and European relationships taking place in the European and global arena, by focusing on the analysis of European Political interactions in multi-level and domestic context. The main reason for focusing on these levels of interactions is the increasing interest in the political science, international relations and law scholarships and disciplines to explain the role that international and regional legal regimes and courts play in shaping domestic society, politics and law.

This course enables political science and law students, but also students from other interrelated disciplines, such as History or Sociology, to critically discuss how EU and international politics shapes legal and judicial institutions, and vice versa. During the course students will discuss the limitations and opportunities provided by combining political and legal perspectives. Reflecting on this complementarity will give students an added value that will improve their career prospects as researchers, lawyers, policy-makers, judges, civil servants, etc. Moreover, it enhances their capacity to assess their political reality as citizens. All in all, by integrating knowledge and hands-on practice in EU law and politics, students will develop a deep understanding of the dynamics that rule the relations between these two disciplines, empowering them to become agents of legal change within the Danish and European societies. 

The course is divided into three parts/blocks covering several topics:

The first part introduces the students to the relevant approaches, concepts and methods for studying and understanding the interaction between EU law and 

  1. politics (topics 1 to 4). These three topics provide the students with the analytical tools to follow and develop discussions on legal issues in the framework of a broader political and legal context.
  2. The second part of the course reviews the main actors and institutional dynamics addressed by the literature in EU Law and Politics and international relations (topics 5 to 8), which special focus on judicial actors and judicial dynamics.
  3. In the third block of topics (topics 9 to 16), the course will provide analytical insights into the impact of law and politics dynamics on very up-to-date and topical EU policy domains. The analytical concepts and research tools presented in the first four sessions are deployed jointly by the students and course instructor in the following blocks of the course.

Each topic will be discussed in 1 or 2 lectures of 2 hours each. The lectures will be combined with other activities, like students’ presentations, exercises, case studies, etc. During the first sessions, students will be asked about their motivations and professional interest in order to identify topics of interest for their assignments.

Preliminary programme: each general section will consist on several sessions where these topics will be discussed. Sessions will also allocate time for exercises, debates and student presentations:

1. Introduction:

During the section, students will be asked about their motivations and professional interests in order to identify topics of interest for their final individual written assignments.

2. What is EU law? The EU legal system from the perspective of international and comparative law.

This section will settle the basic legal knowledge necessary for discussing the relationship between EU law & Politics during the whole course.

3. The Legalization of EU Politics and International Relations

This section will attend to the concept of Legalization of EU politics and International Relations and its relevance for explaining how international law shapes domestic legal and political systems. 

4. Why do States comply with international obligations?

This section will clarify why States obey international law. In addition, it will discuss whether and how international courts do effectively increase compliance with International commitments adopted by States. 

5. The European Union and Separation of Powers Theory

This section will discuss the theory of separation of powers and analyze its manifestation in the structure and practices of the European Union.

6. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as a political actor

This section will discuss the political and legal conditions that allowed the CJEU to accumulate power and influence.

7. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

This section will present the ECHR, a prolific and highly influential human rights court that has jurisdiction over the 47 countries forming the Council of Europe. The section will first present the main attributes of this court, then discuss some of its key judgments, and finally analyze explanations for the court's behavior.

8. Non-Governmental Organization and the role of Civil Society

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are taking a greater role in collaborating with international courts. They help to initiate cases or amicus curiae briefs and to enforce judgments. In this section, empirical and theoretical research about NGOs will be discussed.

9. How to Write an Individual Research Assignment

In order to prepare students to writing their research assignment, this section will teach techniques of research that are relevant for producing the best paper. These techniques are also useful for writing an MA, or PhD thesis or for publishing research papers.

10. Public Deliberation Initiated by the CJEU

A common criticism of international courts is that they take issues away from elected institutions into non-elected and international bodies. Some may fear that this would weaken

public deliberation. This section examines the impact of international courts, with special focus on the CJEU, on public deliberation and suggests this impact is often positive.

11. Subsidiarity and Margin of Appreciation

Many international courts are committed to some form of subsidiarity, leaving as many decisions as possible to the local level. The ECHR in particular has a well-formed doctrine of Margin of Appreciation determining the deference that should be given to states. This section will examine theoretically the proper boundaries of the margin of appreciation doctrine.

12. Emerging Consensus

The ECHR uses a doctrine called emerging consensus to force states in Europe to conform to the standards of human rights required by the majority of states. This section investigates a theoretical justification for this unique doctrine.

13. Between Diffuse and Concentrated Interests in Europe

The political science literature has been struggling to determine who will have the upper hand in politics, diffuse interest or concentrated interest. This section will investigate under what conditions diffuse interests can win in Europe.

14. The Populist Challenge to Europe

This section will discuss the challenge that populist leaders pose to the European Union.

15. Student Presentations

Students will be given the possibility to present their ideas for their research assignment and get detailed feedback from the instructor and from their peers.

16. Wrap-up discussion and questions about the examination

In this session, we will revisit the core questions of the course and summarize the insights we have learned. Final instructions will be given about how to write an excellent research paper.

Learning Outcome


This course will contribute to the students’ competence profile in the following terms.

A) In terms of knowledge, they will be familiar with the fundamental principles of international law and its interaction with international affairs/politics.

Moreover, they will demonstrate working knowledge of international and domestic institutions and actors.



In terms of skills, the students will be able:

(1) To apply this knowledge and analyse conceptual frameworks to account for the relationship between EU politics and the law and apply this framework to other international contexts;

(2) To identify the central issues in the field. 

(3) To articulate and develop coherent debates and arguments on the topic;

(4) To work independently with different forms of academic reasoning and collaborate with other peers from law and other disciplines in the development of capabilities and skills in the framework of group presentations, essays and discussions.


Finally, based upon this knowledge and skills, the student will analyse, contrast and evaluate political-legal approaches in EU 

law and, by extension, to other international legal systems. As a result, the student will be able:

(1) To critically reflect upon the concept of law as a political phenomenon and to evaluate the role and impact of EU and international institutions in its formation.

(2) To develop students’ competences to analyse legal issues from a political-legal perspective. 

(3) To enable the student to carry out independent research on these topics.

(4) To improve students’ understanding of the EU political-legal system and political processes affecting:

   - Their skills to communicate with political actors or within political work environments (e.g. government, NGOs, European Union institutions and international organizations).

   - Their skills to discuss and work with students from other disciplines like law and political science.

   - Their reasoning as policy and law-makers helping them to solve legal issues with a high political profile.

Much of the course will be guided by these two monographs:

  1. Shai Dothan, Reputation and Judicial Tactics: A Theory of National and International Courts, Cambridge University Press (2015).
  2. Shai Dothan, International Judicial Review: When Should International Courts Intervene? Cambridge University Press (2020).


Additional reading materials will be distributed to suit the various sections of the course. 

Students are encouraged to read the texts and participate actively in class. To improve the learning process, the course uses a mixture of social sciences and legal pedagogical techniques. The following instructional strategies combine theoretical discussion with analysis of empirical cases, such as:

a) ‘Case-based’ learning: by discussing examples of cases where EU law and institutions, like the Court of Justice of the European Union, had an impact on domestic legal systems, society and politics. This exercise will also assist, under the guidance of the lecturer, to construct possible explanations of how international law shapes international relations at the domestic level.

b) Theory-building learning with presentations and written papers: where the students theorize and reflect on causal relationships that may explain international legal realities.

Students will be asked to investigate a topic and provide answers grounded in EU politics and law theories. In this regard, the student/s will be asked to undertake a research exercise, under the supervision of the lecturer/coordinator, where the student/s have to find an answer to a problem and present it to a broader audience. The theme for discussions will be agreed in advance with the professor. The feedback collected by the student during the presentation day will be used for developing new ideas connected to the final research assignment.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

-In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment
-In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner