European Commonwealth ?

Comparative public law in Europe


This project aims to develop a research community including academics undertaking comparative research in public law in Europe and non-academic actors (judges, law-makers, lawyers, civil servants in national and European administration and agencies).

This project seeks to engage  with the intellectual questions underpinning the make-up of Europe today and the frameworks available to comparative lawyers for mapping diversity and yet unity within Europe. One of such framework has been developed by late Professor MacCormick. Suggestions about how his framework may be useful today have been made here.

At a concrete and practical level, three main themes offer a prism to use comparison as a means for understanding better the specificity and similarities emerging over time and across European countries when it comes to providing for citizens’ welfare.


Six types of key actors can be identified in the development of ideas and principles related to the common good and general well-being within a given social group:

  1. The Parliament
  2. The Executive and the administration – among which the central government, regions as well as local authorities
  3. Courts
  4. Intermediary institutions (such as those involved in collective bargaining)
  5. Private economic actors
  6. Private non-economic actors
  7. Individuals, in their capacity of citizens, service users and/or taxpayers.
  1. Competition and regulation
  2. Participation
  3. Pluralism
  4. Solidarity (e.g.: in social policies)
  5. Subsidiarity

Throughout history, the development of a (legal) identity is not linear. It goes through cycles of sharpening and fading away, through periods of conflicts and crises and periods of cooperation and increased commitment. Social, economic, institutional, political factors all contribute at some point to some extend to these processes of stronger and weaker distinctiveness, stronger and weaker sharing of social norms and/or values. In assessing these processes, the time period considered matters greatly as it can give different answers. Even if the mapping of these processes would be an extraordinary task to undertake, here are some tiny fragments shedding light on some of these dynamics and tensions.

  • from law
  • from historians (such as Pr Simms’ Britains’ Europe)
  • from government studies
  • from economics
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