BOOK REVIEW: Charles H. Koch, Jr., Administrative Law of the European Union: Introduction

15 Colum. J. Eur. L. 561 (2009)

reviewed by Brendon Fleming. Executive Editor, Columbia Journal of European Law.


As the European Union grows in Member States, its importance as an entity unto itself on the world stage will also continue to grow. And as the global financial crisis strains the internal partnerships of the European Union, it is ever more important for American lawyers to understand it. This six-volume set, Administrative Law of the European Union, written and edited by some of the world’s foremost experts on EU and administrative law, facilitates that understanding. American lawyers whose practices require a working knowledge of the European Union and students with an eye toward EU-U.S. comparative scholarship will find it a first-rate primer and reference. It will help them understand not only the growing list of EU agencies and their acronyms but also the basic workings of the Union beyond the administrative context.

This work fills an important gap. The collection is, effectively, “European Union Law for Yankees.” It offers readers—who the editors themselves expect will primarily be U.S. lawyers whose practices intersect with Europe on a semi-regular basis—a crash course in EU law and institutions. The collection offers that crash course through the lens of EU administrative law. Because the European Union’s administrative and regulatory functions have such an effect on U.S. business and individual interests, and because administrative law is so critical to the Union, this work effectively serves as a primer on the European Union as a whole, rather than merely landing a glancing blow on its institutional and structural underpinnings while explaining its administrative law.

The understanding readers will get from this work’s treatment of the European Union and its administrative law is critical because, as the introductory volume notes, “A U.S. lawyer who does not have some familiarity with the EU government and law may fail to appreciate opportunities and responsibilities. In short, U.S. lawyers may not represent their clients to the full extent required of modern practice.”

The material will likely be familiar to EU specialists or scholars of comparative law, but it is an important, accessible work for practitioners who expect, want, or need to engage with the EU’s administrative functions. This review closely examines the introductory volume, with an eye toward its efforts to put in context the other volumes and set the scene for readers. The introduction knits together the collection’s five other volumes into a comprehensive whole with the common purpose of explaining EU administrative law in terms readily understandable to American lawyer. The remaining volumes tease out the concepts in much greater detail, continuing the comparisons between EU and U.S. administrative structures, substance, and operation.

The collection’s biggest drawback—that it is in some ways already outdated—is not a failure on the authors’ or editors’ parts, but it is rather a function of theunpredictable nature of the European Union and its complex, treaty-based governance structure. Most notably, the fate of the Lisbon Treaty, which was expected to be the next step in the “constitutionalization” of Europe and was to have already been ratified by all member states, remains uncertain. As Ingolf Pernice notes in this issue, “The European Union is facing political difficulties again. After the Irish rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon, it now finds itself attempting to salvage a treaty that is deemed to be itself a salvaging of the reform promised by the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe.” The uncertainty about the Treaty of Lisbon, and more broadly, the prospects for further “constitutionalization” of the European Union, puts any author in a precarious position when writing about how a pending treaty may affect the Union’s functions, and this collection is no exception.