Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law
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Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law

Edited by Gareth Davies and Matej Avbelj

The Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law explores the diversity of phenomenon of overlapping legal systems within the European Union, the nature of their interactions, and how they deal with the difficult question of the legal hierarchy between them. The contributors reflect on the history, sociology and legal scholarship on constitutional and legal pluralism, and develop this further in the light of the challenges currently facing the EU.
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Chapter 16: Is there room for legal pluralism in EU relations with third states? A study of Nordic approaches to European integration

Päivi Leino and Liisa Leppävirta


The multiple legal systems existing in the Nordic region flow from, in addition to the states’ national legal systems, their varying approaches to the EU, which have been juxtaposed with the need and willingness to preserve Nordic unity. With the development of EU membership obligations, the traditional objective of finding distinct Nordic solutions to common challenges has given way to the legal necessities flowing from EU law. The chapter explores the different ways Nordic and EU cooperation has been reconciled in the Nordic agreements and in EU legislation, and offers an analysis of how the obligations relating to EU membership and EU competence have affected these arrangements and how these hurdles have in practice been dealt with, increasingly by extending the implementation of EU legislation to those Nordic States or their regions that would not otherwise be covered by it. Instead of engaging the EU as a whole in negotiations, the Nordic States have made these arrangements through their own international agreements. The extremely varied approaches adopted by the Nordic countries with regard to the EU have therefore contributed to the coexistence of various legal orders within the Nordic region. However, these arrangements’ compatibility with the Union’s exclusive competence to conclude international agreements has become increasingly questionable. This jurisprudence has broadened the scope of what is understood as falling under EU exclusive competence, and affects ambitions for legal pluralism as far as cooperation with States outside the EU are concerned. This is also representative of EU external relations more broadly, where the space for legal pluralism is effectively diminished through CJEU jurisprudence. In short, EU Member States are to conduct their affairs with third states through the EU, following a uniform EU approach, even in areas that do not fall entirely under EU exclusive competence or where the effect of these arrangements might be seen as distant.

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