Empire and the European Union

Signe Larsen (Oxford)

This paper seeks to remedy a fundamental flaw in the debate about European integration and EU law: the almost complete absence of a reckoning with the legacy of empire and imperialism. The paper shows that the significance of EU law can only be understood against the background of the historical transformation of the European public law order with the decline of European empires. European integration is an integral part of a new European public law order that finally replaced the public law order of the European empires in which the European states held a privileged place as the only ‘civilized’, and hence, sovereign states in the world. The post-WWII European public law order entailed a new vision for domestic public law, but also constituted intra-European relations anew, and established a new set of external relations between Europe and its former colonies.