Every year, the College of Europe Law Department welcomes a number of students from all over Europe. Some of them have already acquired an extensive knowledge of various areas of substantive EU law. Others arrive with very little knowledge of EU law. Invariably, however, all previous EU law studies were carried out as a part of a national law curriculum, in which EU law is, intentionally or not, approached with the mind-set of the respective national legal order. The methods tend to be analogical to those prevailing within the given national legal tradition.
This may cause some initial problems. Continental lawyers, used to think of EU law in terms of neatly-packaged and already academically digested system of principles and legislation, which they are often just asked to memorize, encounter difficulties in finding their own way around masses of often contradictory case law of the Court of Justice in the field of for instance internal market law or judicial remedies. Conversely, common lawyers looking at EU legislation find it hopelessly abstract, too general, and impossible to apply in any meaningful way to a concrete case. Finally, students coming from the New Europe and beyond may arrive with strikingly different methodological background, if any at all.
The aim of this Legal Methodology course is to provide an introduction to, and above-all hands-on experience with, a “European legal method”, and particularly the methodology of the European Legal Studies Department, which is characterized by the independent study and interpretation of primary sources.
The first part of the course, taught in the first semester, focuses on the understanding of the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU, as well as other primary sources. It is aimed at students from legal systems in which direct and extensive work with case law is not part of the national mainstream curriculum. However, peculiarities of interpreting EU legislation are also discussed, for the benefit of students coming from the more case law oriented legal traditions, often neglecting statutory interpretation. Through practical exercises, students are asked to independently process, analyze and interpret primary sources. It will also be an occasion for them to receive feedback on their written work.