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Structure and Functioning of the EU


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Sovereignty & Statehood


This course offers an introduction to the structure and functioning of the European Union (EU) through the lens of European Union law. European Union law is a vast and fascinating area of law, forming an integral part of the legal systems of the EU’s Member States. Almost seventy percent of all rules and regulations in force in the EU Member States have their origin in Brussels. Although one may doubt the exact figure, it is beyond doubt that EU law continues to grow, both in terms of its importance and the range of topics it covers.

Most of you will have little or no prior knowledge of EU law. The course therefore starts off as an introductory course, giving you the basics of European integration and the EU legal order. While it is not possible to cover all areas of EU law, the course aims at giving a thorough basis of the nature of the EU legal order, the EU institutional framework, and the general principles of EU law.

How did it all start more than 60 years ago? How has the EU developed from a six member European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) towards the Union of 27 we know today, covering a very broad range of areas? What does the future of the EU look like, especially now that the UK has left the European Union? What is the role of the European Commission and other EU institutions? How do national and EU courts cooperate? What are the sources of EU law and how is EU law made? How does the European legal order interact with the domestic orders of its Member States? Why is the EU legal order unique in its kind? And how can individuals rely on EU law against their own state? What can individuals do to challenge EU legislation? And last but not least: what are the current challenges faced by the European Union? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed throughout this course.

The weekly lectures and discussions focus on institutional questions, helping students to critically assess the EU in its legal context. They zoom in on particular topics, such as the institutional framework of the EU and its functioning in practice, decision making in law and in practice, guiding students through the application of general rules to specific case studies. More specifically, the course starts off with an introduction to the rationale of European integration and continues with decision making in the EU and sources and forms of EU law. Afterwards, characteristics of EU law will be discussed, whereas the following weeks will be dedicated to the enforcement of EU law before national courts of the Member States and before the Court of Justice of the EU. Through assignments and class discussions, students will get a practical grasp of EU law and will learn to work with EU legislation. Students will learn to read and analyze cases from the European Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and study some of its most important judgments.
This course may serve as a potential replacement for the course ‘Inleiding tot Europees Recht’ at Leiden Law School.

Course Objectives


  • Ability to apply the acquired knowledge to case studies.

  • Ability to recognize and analyse situations in which EU law is applicable and can be used to solve legal problems.

  • Ability to read and examine decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU, together with other sources of law, in order to build and support a legal argument.

  • Ability to work with and solve a case study through the assignment.

  • Ability to legally and critically assess current topics, using knowledge about EU law and policy, so as to form a well-substantiated opinion in debates about the EU and its future.


  • Basic knowledge of EU law and policy, especially focusing on the constitutional development of the EU, its institutions, division of competences and decision making, characteristics of EU law (direct effect, primacy), remedies for individuals, enforcement mechanisms of EU law, and recent challenges to the EU.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course consists of interactive lectures, a moot court, a written assignment, and a final exam. Seminars will be interactive: students are expected to do the readings before class and to actively participate in the discussion with the lecturer and their peers. Research skills will be put in practice in the context of the moot court on an actual EU law case and through the formative essay and final exam.

Assessment Method

  • Participation in class discussions – 11%

  • Participation in moot court – 19%

  • Formative essay – 25%

  • Final exam – 45%

Reading list

The links to the relevant readings for each of the sessions will be provided on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Nicole Stybnarova, email TBC
Dr. Otto Spijkers,