Does Anything Hang on the Autonomy of EU Law?

Printer-friendly version

Abstract: Jurisprudential accounts of the autonomy of EU law have struggled to offer a compelling account of its unique features. Nevertheless, I argue that Ronald Dworkin’s court-centric methodological approach is better-suited than Hartian positivism to shed light on the notion that EU law is autonomous. This is because most questions about the autonomy of EU law, when asked from a positivist perspective, are of little or no practical significance and philosophical inquiry will inevitably be inconclusive. By contrast, the autonomy of EU law is routinely employed as a normative principle helping EU courts to decide the issue of which party should win the case at hand. It is better understood as a shorthand reference to a political requirement, namely that EU courts ought to identify the main values behind European integration and to build – as opposed to find in the extant legal materials – a coherent body of principles.

Keywords: Hart – Dworkin – interpretivism – legal positivism – legal systems – adjudication.

European Papers, Vol. 8, 2023, No 3, pp. 1293-1299
ISSN 2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/719

* Professor of the Philosophy of Law, University College London (UCL),


European Forum


Forum Européen


Forum europeo


Foro Europeo