Introduction to European Union law
This free course, Introduction to European Union Law, is an introduction to European Union (EU) law. Its focus is not on how EU law applies in one particular member state. Instead, it focusses on a European Union perspective and on the legal bases for EU competencies and on EU substantive law arising from those competences.
These competences, based on the Treaties, provide a legal foundation for all EU action, not politics. As a result, this OpenLearn course is not a study of the political issues surrounding the EU but focusses on the law. Nevertheless, a study of EU law cannot be separated entirely from aspects of its historical and current social, economic and political context. It is important that you recognise the political and policy impact in order to fully grasp the underlying concept of EU law.
This particular course seeks to rekindle knowledge and understanding you might already have of EU law and wants to add to that and help you be able to differentiate between opinion, political argument and legal fact. It takes a light touch in introducing you to legal themes underlying topics that you may have already come across in current public debates.
This course uses primary sources of law and views from a range of people talking about aspects of EU law. The hope is to attune you to EU terminology. Why listen to voices of different people? To give you a flavour of perspectives of the key movers in EU law. Why use primary sources? Because EU law resides in its legislation and case law, not in learned or academic commentary. Therefore, at various points the activities will ask you to derive your answers from your reading of the Treaties, EU legislation and the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). Directing you in this way will provide you with starting points for critical analysis of themes. To assist in this approach, this course will open a series of questions for you to reflect on and take into any further study.
You should note that, when referred to generically in this course, the expression Treaties is used. These are framework Treaties. The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community (the Treaty of Lisbon) spawned a new Consolidated Treaty of the EU, which includes both the Treaty on the EU (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). These Treaties constitute part of the EU’s primary legislation and provide a constitutional foundation for the EU. The Treaties provide the vires for other primary legislation in the form of Regulations and Directives, which will be explained later on. This is not to be confused with the Commission’s power to make secondary legislation – these are also called Regulations. They are akin to statutory instruments in the UK constitutional set-up.
As the focus of this Open Learn course is the law, the language can be quite technical at times. We aimed to limit technicalities but this was not always possible and a true introduction to any area of law cannot always protect the reader from such. You might find it helpful to look at the short.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course W330 European Union Law.