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The Legal Foundations of the European Union


This intensive course is intended to give the students a thorough knowledge and understanding of the constitutional, institutional and administrative law of the European Union (EU), as well as of the relationship of this law with the national law of the EU Member States. The following subjects are considered: the development of the EU into its present form as a very special international organisation, the nature of EU law, its core constitutional principles, the EU institutions, the making of secondary law and judicial protection of rights.
One of the main aims of the course is to thoroughly familiarize the students with the primary materials of European Union Law (texts of Treaties, secondary legislation and case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, CJEU), in order to prepare them for the specialized courses of the second semester.
Integrated into the course are aspects of the European Law Moot Court (ELMC) competition in which students simulate a case before the CJEU. All students must deal with selected aspects of the ELMC case for the purposes of the Legal Foundations course. At the same time, it is open to students to opt for full participation in the international ELMC competition. With its combination of intense research, written and oral submissions, the ELMC in many ways resembles a Privatissimum, i.e. a class characterized by its particularly intensive teaching method. In past years, this very prestigious international competition has proven to be a particularly important tool for postgraduate instruction.


Europa Institute
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
Phone: 071-527 7760
Sheena Bruce,
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 7821

** Lecturer(s): **
Prof. Christa Tobler, Asst. Prof. Jorrit Rijpma, Mr. D. Carter (PhD Researcher)

Course Objectives:

Objectives of the course:
The objective of this course is to provide students with sufficient knowledge to be able to appreciate, from a legal point of view, the special nature of the EU as an international organisation and to understand its manner of working.

Achievement levels:
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
Knowledge and comprehension: At the end of this course, students will be able to outline the development of the European Union as an international organisation; discuss the special nature of EU law as compared to more traditional international law; identify the constitutional principles and rules of the EU, including those relating to the procedures for making of secondary EU law and the protection of individual rights under EU law.
Application: At the end of this course, students will be able to explain the legal foundations of the European Union; present CJEU decisions on constitutional and procedural matters and critically discuss them; argue practical cases relating to such matters.
Analysis: At the end of this course, students will be motivated to place day-to-day political developments relating to the EU in a legal context and to reflect critically on such developments.
Presentation: At the end of this course, the students will be able to make oral presentations and write papers on the issues covered.

Mode of Instruction:
Seminars based on the Socratic method, i.e. question and answer model, with active participation of the students.
Assessment Method(s):
25 % written paper (including selected aspects of the European Law Moot Court competition) or, alternatively, full participation in the ELCM competition;
75 % written examination.
Oral participation, including the presentation of CJEU case law in class, is taken into account in order to round a grade where appropriate.

Reading List:

  • The EU Treaty (TEU), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and selected secondary legislation. It is recommended that students buy the following student text, which includes the text not only of the Treaties but also of the most important secondary EU legislation, much of which we shall be considering in some detail: Nigel G. FOSTER (ed.), Blackstone's EU Treaties & Legislation, edition 2017- 2018.

  • A textbook on EU law. Students may find various textbooks in the Law School library. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend that students buy the following textbook, which is excellent: Paul CRAIG & Grainne DE BURCA: EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials, 6th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015. There is an interesting companion website at

  • In addition, the following book will be used in class during teaching: Christa Tobler & Jacques Beglinger, Essential EU Law in Charts, 3rd edition, Budapest: HVG-Orac 2014.

We recommend that students buy the book together with the text companion to the charts, namely: Christa Tobler & Jacques Beglinger, Essential EU Law in Text, 3rd edition, reprint, Budapest: HVG-Orac 2017 (note that students should get the updated 2017 reprint). The text companion to the Charts book may serve as very simple background reading, especially for students who are not yet very familiar with EU internal market law.

Additional reading (CJEU case law etc.) will be indicated in the course reader and in the electronic learning environment, Blackboard.

Course requirements

Master degree


Sheena Bruce,
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 7821