The European Courts

Authored by: Robert Harmsen , Karen McAuliffe

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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The ‘judicialization’ of politics has been one of the most important structural shifts on the European political landscape in the decades since the end of the Second World War (Conant 2007; Kühn 2006). Courts have overcome a historically subordinate role to become important political actors. This has most obviously taken the shape of direct judicial interventions in policy-making processes, with courts generally assuming the role of ‘veto players’, variably influencing both the form and the substance of policy decisions. The effects of this ‘judicialization’, however, also manifest themselves in more subtle or indirect ways, rebalancing the relationship between law and politics. Litigation may thus emerge as a central instrument in the making of public policy, displacing more traditional modes of regulation and governance (Keleman 2011; see also Chapter 8). More generally, political actors may themselves adapt to this shifting balance between law and politics, internalizing a more legally attuned mode of decision-making as an anticipatory strategy to minimize the possibility of subsequent negative judicial intervention. As Alec Stone Sweet (2000: 204) appositely concludes his widely cited survey of the judicialization phenomenon, ‘[i]n the end, governing with judges also means governing like judges’.

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