National Courts as Gatekeepers in European Integration: Examining the Choices National Courts Make in the Preliminary Ruling Procedure

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Brusewitzsalen, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Gamla Torget 6, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Leijon, Karin
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Leijon, Karin
  • Disputation


The national courts’ placement in the intersection between the EU and member state legal systems makes them important gatekeepers in the process of European legal integration. In the scholarly debate, national courts are characterized as either supporters of legal integration or as defenders of national sovereignty. The aim of this thesis is to improve our understanding of the national courts’ role as gatekeepers in EU legal integration by shedding new light on the national courts’ behavioral patterns and the reasoning of individual judges in the preliminary ruling procedure. Empirically the thesis provides a detailed examination of the national courts’ two key choices in the preliminary ruling procedure, both of which have important implications for the scope and pace of integration: (1) whether national courts are allowing the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to decide politically sensitive cases in which national policies are at stake; and (2) whether national courts frame cases by expressing support for an integration-friendly interpretation of the EU law or whether they instead voice an opinion in defense of challenged national law. Theoretically, the thesis contributes to redefining the main theoretical controversy on what role national courts play in EU legal integration by identifying previously un-theorized behavior patterns. The analysis demonstrates that national court behavior is not limited to either supporting legal integration or defending national sovereignty. On the contrary, national courts frequently make choices that may alleviate parts of the inherent tension between national concerns and the EU legal obligations that member states must accept in order for the EU to function efficiently. Moreover, a case study of the Swedish judiciary shows that Swedish judges are not reasoning as expected by the dominant theoretical outlook in the judicial politics literature, meaning that they are not primarily guided by the logic of consequentialism and self-regarding considerations when making decisions in the preliminary ruling procedure. Instead, the judges’ mode of reasoning centers on what constitutes the appropriate course of action given their professional obligations and how their choices may impact the functioning of the preliminary ruling procedure.