3.4 How does the EU operate?

The EU operates through institutions created in the treaties. These institutions can have decision-making powers, law-making powers or may act as part of a checking and consultation procedure.

The institutions include:

  1. The European Parliament (represents the people of the EU).

  2. The Council of the European Union (represents the member states of the EU).

  3. The European Commission (represents the interests of the EU).
    Author(s): No creator set

    License information
    Related content

    Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

Why create the EU?

All the member states of the EU have declared a belief in certain fundamental values and aims. Those fundamental values include the securing of lasting peace, unity, equality, freedom, security, solidarity, democracy and the rule of law (Article 6 [1] TEU). Remember that the creation and growth of the EU, like the European Convention on Human Rights, was achieved through the efforts of individuals and states that experienced the horrors and economic aftermath of the Second World War. Since it
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

3.2 The evolution of the EU

The EU has grown out of a series of intergovernmental political initiatives which have been expressed in a number of treaties. These treaties form the building blocks that give authority and power to the institutions and law-making bodies of the EU. The process is evolutionary, as treaties are reviewed and amended to reflect both the changing membership and the vision of the EU.

The EU is founded on several treaties:

  1. The treaty that established
    Author(s): No creator set

    License information
    Related content

    Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

3.1 Background

Like the Council of Europe, the European Union (EU) also arose as the result of the desire to heal political and social scars left by the Second World War. The complete collapse of Europe had led to the creation of ideas, not just for the prevention of such horrors occurring again but also for a new European order. The initial focus for the evolution of what we now call the EU was economic growth.

There are many European organisations and it is important to be able to identify correctly
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.6 Summary of Part A

The European Convention on Human Rights emerged after the Second World War. Its aim was the protection of certain individual rights. Some of these rights are absolute and there can be no exceptions (derogations), while others are qualified rights. If a right is qualified, a member state may impose legal and proportionate restrictions. The European Court of Human Rights has ultimate responsibility for the interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.5 The ECHR and UK law

OpenLearn unit W100_5 Human rights and the law will explore the Human Rights Act 1998 and its effect and relationship with the ECHR. It is important to remember that both states and individuals can bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights (although some countries have tried to bring restrictions on an individual's right to do so). An individual must have first exhausted all remedies in their own domestic legal system. Both the court and the application procedure differs from that i
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.4 The European Court of Human Rights

Common law and the court hierarchy, statutory interpretation and judicial precedent are all peculiar to the domestic English law. The European Court of Human Rights operates in a different way. The rights in the European Convention on Human Rights are stated in general terms and are interpreted according to international legal principles. For example, Article 31(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states:

<
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.3 Application of the ECHR

The ECHR places an important emphasis on individual rights whilst trying to strike a balance between individual and collective rights.

Activity 1 Drafting a charter of rights

0 hours 15 minutes
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.2 The Convention itself

The ECHR is essentially a charter of rights. Any charter of rights represents a consensus, a negotiated agreement between the drafters. Every state intending to adopt a charter will have its own vision and aims, and the drafters have to find a way of accommodating these visions and aims. This often results in the creation of provisions that are a compromise and are drafted in the widest possible terms. The ECHR is drafted in such a way. It is a vaguely worded aspirational charter inten
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

2.1 History

The Council of Europe was set up in 1949. It is an intergovernmental organisation (based in Strasbourg, France) set up to protect human rights, promote cultural diversity and to combat social problems such as intolerance. Its creation was seen as a way of achieving a European approach to the protection of certain individual rights. Although presented now as historical events, the horrors of what had taken place in the Second World War were then fresh in the minds of the governments and
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

1 Unit overview

Apart from the English Parliament and common law, there are other major sources of legal rule-making that impact on English domestic law. These are the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and European Union (EU) law.

In comparison with parliamentary legislation and common law, these sources are a recent development. In fact, both the ECHR and EU are just over 50 years old, having emerged as sources of legal rule making in the mid-twentieth century. This makes them relatively dev
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

10 Review of the learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

Part A

  • explain what the common law is and how it developed:

    • In 1154 Henry II institutionalised common law. Judges travelled throughout the country bringing consistent justice to every citizen, and the practice developed where past decisions would be cited in argument before the courts and would be regarded as being of persuasive authority.


    • Author(s): No creator set

      License information
      Related content

      Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

9 Part H Consolidation

The purpose of this part is to bring together your knowledge of law making in the English legal system. Through a series of activities you will be provided with the opportunity to review and consolidate your knowledge of the English legal system gained so far.

Activity 18 Common law


Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

8.2 Summary of Part G

In Part G you have explored the difference between common law and civil law systems.


Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

8.1 The differences between common law and civil law systems

Having explored the origins and development of the common law and its characteristics, the final part of this unit will compare and contrast the common law with civil legal systems.

The terms common law system and civil law system are used to distinguish two distinct legal systems and approaches to law. The use of the term ‘common law’ in this context refers to all those legal systems which have adopted the historic English legal system. Foremost amongst these is, of course, th
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

7.3 Summary of Part F

In Part F, we have compared and contrasted:

  • common law and equity

  • common law and statute law.

7.2 Statute law and common law

The ‘common law’ means the substantive law and procedural rules that have been created by the judges through the decisions in the cases they have heard. I have here lumped together two types of common law: substantive law and procedural law. Let me explain the difference between them.

A substantive rule is a rule about our behaviour, for example, that we cannot commit murder or that we will be forming a contract if we do such-and-such on an email exchange. These substantive rul
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

7.1 Equity

This term refers to a particular division within the English legal system. As the common law progressed, there developed a formality among judges, typified by a reluctance to deal with matters that were not or could not be processed in the proper form of action. Such a refusal to deal with injustices because they did not fall within the particular procedural and formal constraints, led to much dissatisfaction with the legal system. A modern analogy would be with a company or Government depart
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University

6.9 Summary of Part E

Rule, approach or aid Comment Cases
The literal rule Uses plain ordinary grammatical meaning of words and avoids judicial law making, but can lead to absurd decisions and injustices and assumes unattainable perfection in draftsmanship Fisher v Bell (1960)
The golden rule This start
Author(s): No creator set

License information
Related content

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence - see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ - Original copyright The Open University