Research Handbook on the Politics of EU Law
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Research Handbook on the Politics of EU Law

Edited by Paul James Cardwell and Marie-Pierre Granger

Offering a wealth of thought-provoking insights, this topical Research Handbook analyses the interplay between the law and politics of the EU and examines the role of law and legal actors in European integration.
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Chapter 10: Free movement of EU citizens: between law and politics

Anita Heindlmaier and Michael Blauberger


This chapter outlines a general research agenda for the study of interactions between judicial and political integration in the EU. In contrast to most EU legislative and transposition studies, we propose a comprehensive view which also takes into account judicial interpretation as well as administrative implementation of European rules. We illustrate key aspects of this research agenda with empirical evidence from the field of free movement of EU citizens and their cross-border access to social benefits. We show how the Court of Justice has shaped political decision-making at the European and national levels and how, in turn, these political decisions often sought to limit the Court’s broader impact. On the one hand, the Court has extended free movement and transnational social rights of EU citizens even against continued Member State opposition. On the other hand, Member States were able to limit the impact of the Court’s jurisprudence at the stage of domestic implementation and to restrict the cross-border access to social benefits again. In the end, politics prevailed, albeit not necessarily through national legislation, but via informal signalling by political and administrative superiors to street-level bureaucrats. Finally, also the Court pursued a more restrictive line of reasoning, which is closer to Member State preferences and corresponds to changes in the broader political context.

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