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Statesmen of Independence: The International Fabric of Europe's Way of Political Legitimacy



Scholars generally agree that ‘independent’ institutions such as the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and European Central Bank have created a space and role for themselves that has no equivalent in national political settings. However, we still lack a better understanding of the importance of this independent branch in the EU polity. This article contends that the central relevance of independence is connected to the historically rooted connection between ‘independence’ and ‘international government’ – a relationship the history of which can be traced back to the League of Nations’ foundational period as the inaugural scene for the nexus between power and knowledge in international politics. Ultimately, this article questions the extent to which this specific grammar of international government has been constitutive of the EC polity in terms of valued modes of legitimacy and types of authority.



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1 See Majone, Giandomenico, Regulating Europe (Abingdone: Routledge, 1996); Mair, Peter, Ruling the Void. The Hollowing of Western Democracies (London: Verso, 2013); Vauchez, Antoine, Democratizing Europe (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

2 In a very rich literature, see, for example, Dyson, Kenneth and Marcussen, Martin, eds., Central Banks in the Age of the Euro: Europeanization, Convergence and Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Thatcher, Mark, ‘The Third Force? Independent Regulatory Agencies and Elected Politicians in Europe’, Governance, 18, 3 (2005), 347–73; Alter, Karen, Establishing the Supremacy of European Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001).

3 With a view to overcome the scholarly fragmentation on the object, I suggest here a broad understanding of the notion of ‘government’, much broader than just the set of ‘political’ institutions but encompassing also judicial, executive and regulatory institutions and their distinct set of elites and specific forms of knowledge.

4 Gerber, David, ‘Constitutionalizing the Economy: German Neo-Liberalism, Competition Law and the “New” Europe’, American Journal of Comparative Law, 42 (1994), 2584.

5 Rivero, Jean, ‘Le problème de l'influence des droits internes sur la Cour de Justice de la CECA’, Annuaire Français de Droit International, 4 (1958), 295308.

6 But see Patel, Kiran, ed., Fertile Ground for Europe? The History of European Integration and the Common Agricultural Policy since 1945 (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlag, 2009)

7 Preda, Daniela, ‘Hallstein e l'amministrazione pubblica europea’, Storia Amministrazione Costituzione, Annale dell'Istituto per la Scienza dell'Amministrazione Pubblica, 8 (2000), 79104; Mangenot, Michel, ‘D'où vient la fonction publique européenne. Les origines d'un modèle (1962–1958)’, in Heyen, E.V., ed., Les débuts de l'administration de la Communauté européenne (Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag, 1992); Mangenot, Michel, ‘La revendication d'une paternité: Les hauts fonctionnaires français et le “style” administratif de la Commission européenne (1958–1988)’, Pôle Sud, 15 (2001), 3346; and, most importantly, Georgakakis, Didier, European Civil Service (in Times) of Crisis (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

8 Pedersen, Susan, ‘Review Essay. Back to the League of Nations’, American Historical Review, 112, 4 (2007), 1091–117.

9 Iriye, Akira, Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Mazower, Mark, Governing the World: The Rise and Fall of an Idea (London: Allen Lane, 2012); Kott, Sandrine, ed., ‘Une autre approche de la globalisation. Socio-histoire des organisations internationales’, Critique internationale, 52 (2011).

10 On how in EU law major doctrinal innovations draw from international law precedents, see de Witte, Bruno, ‘Retour du Costa. La primauté du droit européen à la lumière du droit international’, Revue trimestrielle de droit européen, 3 (1984), 425–54.

11 On how specific post-Second World War conceptions of the economic reconstruction of Europe are connected to the of the Economic and Financial Organization of the League of Nation, see Clavin, Patricia, ‘“Old ideas in new bodies”. The Economic Reconstruction of Europe in 1945’, in Lund, Joachim and Ohrgaard, Per, eds., Return to Normalcy. Concepts and Expectations for a Postwar Europe around 1945 (Copenhagen : Copenhagen Business School Press, 2008), 2132; and Clavin, Patricia, ‘Reparations in the Long Run’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, 16, 3 (2005), 515–30.

12 To put it differently, the purpose of the article is not to explain why or how independent institutions such as international courts or secretariate may have proved influential or not. It is rather a genealogical inquiry into the framing of a specific grammar for political legitimacy at the international level. On independence as a political grammar for EU government, see Antoine Vauchez, Democratizing Europe.

13 The admittedly broad notion of ‘international statesman’ proves useful for our purposes since it allows to think about the various figures embodying an international public authority collectively, be they judges, regulators, top civil servants, secretary generals, central bankers, regulators, etc.

14 While there are possible intersections with our present concern for connections between independence and international government, the role of engineers, technological experts and the management of European infrastructures will not be tackled directly in this article. On this see the different volumes of Schot, Johan and Scranto, Phil, eds., Making Europe (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

15 Duchêne, François, Jean Monnet, the First Statesman of Interdependence (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994).

16 As we write these lines, first elements of the promising research project led by Karen Gram-Skoldager at the University of Aarhus on the history of international bureaucracy are been published: see Karen Gram-Skjoldager and Haakon A. Ikonomou, ‘The Construction of the League of Nations Secretariat. Formative Practices of Autonomy and Legitimacy in International Organizations’, International History Review (2017).

17 See, in particular, Sacriste, Guillaume and Vauchez, Antoine, ‘The Force of International Law. Lawyers’ Diplomacy on the International Scene in the 1920s’, Law and Social Inquiry, 32, 1 (2007), 83107; Vauchez, Antoine, Brokering Europe: Euro-lawyers and the Making of a Transnational Polity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

18 The emphasis put in the article on the definition of international/European judicial positions and the related legal debates may be considered as a limitation to the broader scope of the article on the genealogy of the international way of political legitimacy. It should be said however, as historians and sociologists of law have repeatedly shown, that legal expertise and institutions have historically been the laboratory from which modern professions and public institutions have emerged. In particular, the model of the knowledge-based professional crafted in Europe by legal professions in the late twentieth century have contributed to shape the other fields of expertise (economic, medical, etc.). See Malatesta, Maria, Professional Men, Professional Women. The European Professions from the 19th Century until Today (Sage, London, 2011). Interestingly, the creation of the Advisory Committee of Jurists charged with the drafting of the World Court has been one of the very first decisions taken by the Council of the League of Nations in February 1920.

19 While they are certainly a critical element in the definition of this grammar of political legitimacy, the many gendered, ethnic and social dimensions of international statesmanhip (and the overwhelmingly male, European, upper-class individuals that populated the nascent international organisations) are not discussed here. For further reflections in this direction, see Megret, Frederic, ‘The Rise and Fall of the “International Man”’, in Singh, Prabhakar and Kanwar, Vik, eds., Critical International Law: Post-Realism, Post-Colonialism and Transnational Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 223–33.

20 Anne Rasmussen, ‘L'Internationale scientifique 1890–1914’, Ph.D. thesis, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales de Paris, 1995.

21 Wallace, Michael and Singer, David, ‘Intergovernmental Organization in the Global System (1815–1914). A Quantitative Description’, International Organization, 24 (1970), 239–67.

22 On this, see Megret, ‘The Rise and Fall’.

23 Sacriste, Guillaume and Vauchez, Antoine, ‘The Force of International Law. Lawyers’ Diplomacy on the International Scene in the 1920s’, Law and Social Inquiry, 32, 1 (2007), 83107.

24 Geouffre de Lapradelle, in Proceedings, Permanent Court of International Justice, Advisory committee of jurists, Procès-Verbaux of the Proceedings of the Committee, June 16th–July 24th, with Annexes (The Hague: Van Langenhuysen Bros., 1920), 48.

25 The application of the numerous post-First World War bilateral peace treaties, for instance, rested on the so-called ‘mixed arbitration tribunals’ (MAT), some twenty in all (Franco–German, Franco–Greek, Greco–German, Franco–Turkish MATs, etc.) whose presidents would have to be chosen outside of the contending parties, amongst independent, impartial and disinterested statesmen.

26 To this day the most complete account remains Spiermann, Ole, International Legal Argument in the Permanent Court of International Justice: The Rise of the International Judiciary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

27 ‘The Permanent Court of International Justice shall be composed of a body of independent judges, elected regardless of their nationality from amongst persons of high moral character, who possess the qualifications required in their respective countries for appointment to the highest judicial offices, or are jurisconsults of recognized competence in international law’.

28 Basdevant, Suzanne, La condition juridique des fonctionnaires internationaux (Paris: Sirey, 1930).

29 See Best, Heinrich and Cotta, Maurizio, eds., Parliamentary Representatives in Europe 1848–2000: Legislative Recruitment and Careers in Eleven European Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

30 On the rise of the scientific paradigm in law schools, see Sacriste, Guillaume, La République des constitutionnalistes (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2011).

31 de Lapradelle, Geouffre, in Proceedings; Permanent Court of International Justice, Advisory Committee of Jurists, Procès-Verbaux of the Proceedings of the Committee, June 16th–July 24th, with Annexes (The Hague: Van Langenhuysen Bros., 1920), 104.

32 Quoted in Antonio de Bustamente, Sanchez, The World Court (New York: Carnegie Endowement for International Peace, 1918), 363.

34 Ibid., 48.

35 Geouffre de Lapradelle, in Proceedings, op. cit., 192.

36 Cour permanente de justice internationale, ‘Décisions administratives’, in Premier rapport annuel (1er janvier 1922-15 juin 1925) (Leyden: Sijthoff, 1925), 239.

37 Loder, Bernard, ‘Troisième séance du 4 février 1922’, in Cour Permanente de Justice Internationale, Actes et documents relatifs à l'organisation de la Cour. Préparation du Règlement de la Cour. Procès verbaux des séances de la session préliminaire de la Cour (30 janvier–24 mars 1922), Coll. Publications de la CPIJ, Série D (Leyden: Sijthoff, 1922), 11.

38 On this, see Sacriste and Vauchez, ‘The Force of International Law’; Martti Koskienniemi, ‘Between Commitment and Cynicism: Outline for a Theory of International Law as Practice’, in Office of Legal Affairs, Collection of Essays by Legal Advisers of States, Legal Advisers of International Organizations and Praticiennes in the Field of International Law (New York: UN Offices of Legal Affairs, 1999), 495–523.

39 Koskenniemi, Martti, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

40 Julia Eichenberg, ‘The London Moment: European Governments-in-Exile during the Second World War and Beyond’, paper presented at the ‘Hidden Continuities. From Interwar to Postwar Forms of Cooperation and Integration in Europe’ conference held at the KFG ‘The Transformative Power of Europe’, Free University, Berlin, Oct. 2014.

41 Finch, George, ‘Preface’, in Ranshofen-Wertheimer, Egon, The International Secretariat: A Great Experiment in International Administration (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), vii.

42 See, for example, Ranshofen-Wertheimer, International Secretariat; Hudson, Manley, International Tribunal: Past and Future (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Brookings Institution, 1944); and Hill, Martin, Immunities and Privileges of International Officials: The Experience of the League of Nations (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1945).

43 Klaus Patel, Kiran, ‘Provincialising European Union: Co-operation and Integration in Europe in a Historical Perspective’, Contemporary European History, 22, 4 (2013), 649–73.

44 Among other moments: the ECJ Règlement intérieur of 7 Mar. 1953 (and revisions in Apr. and June 1954), the 1 July 1956 Statut du personnel of the High Authority defining the first ‘supranational civil servant’ (and the earlier provisory Statute of 22 Mar. 1954), the drafting of the 1962 Statut unique des fonctionnaires européens and of the 1965 Protocole sur les privilèges et les immunités des Communautés européennes.

45 Egon Ranshofen-Wertheimer, former ‘Chef de section’ at the LoN Secretariat, see Ranshofen-Wertheimer, The International Secretariat, 431.

46 Ranshofen, Egon, ‘Formation des fonctionnaires européens’, in des Saarlandes, Universität, La fonction publique européenne (Luxembourg: Librairie Encyclopédique, 1956), 128–43. Own translation from French.

47 Basdevant, Suzanne, La condition juridique des fonctionnaires internationaux (Paris: Sirey, 1930).

48 Paul-Marie Gaudemet, ‘Le fonctionnaire européen. Notion, rôle, situation juridique’, in Universität des Saarlandes, La fonction publique européenne, 26. Own translation.

49 Ibid., 33. Along the same lines, see Bloch, Roger, La fonction publique internationale et européenne (Paris: LGDJ, 1963).

50 Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer.

51 On this departing from international law, see Bailleux, Julie, Penser l'Europe par le droit (Paris: Dalloz, 2014).

52 See Lassale, Claude, ‘Contribution à une théorie de la fonction publique supranationale’, Revue du droit public de la science politique en France et à l'étrange (Paris, 1957), 474512. However, the notion of ‘fonctionnaire supranational’ will be abandoned in the 1962 Staff regulation and substituted by that of ‘fonctionnaire des Communautés’. Generally speaking, on the genesis of the EU civil service, see Didier Georgakakis, European Civil Service (in Times) of Crisis.

53 Reuter, Paul, La Communauté européenne du charbon et de l'acier (Paris: Lgdj, 1953), 139.

54 Madsen, Mikael and Vauchez, Antoine, ‘European Constitutionalism at the Cradle: Law and Lawyers in the Construction of a European Political Order (1920–1960)’, in Jettinghoff, Alex and Schepel, Harm, eds., In Lawyers’ Circles: Lawyers and European Legal Integration (The Hague: Elzevir reed, 2005), 1534.

55 These figures are drawn from Condorelli-Braun, Nicole, Commissaires et juges dans les Communautés européennes (Paris: Lgdj, 1972), 107.

56 See also Vera Fritz, ‘Contribution à l'histoire de la CJUE à travers des biographies historiques de ses premiers membres (1952–1972)’, Ph.D. thesis, University Aix Marseille, 2014; Carbonell, Mauve, Des hommes à l'origine de l'Europe. Biographies des membres de la Haute Autorité de la CECA (Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l'Université de Provence, 2008).

57 Cohen, Antonin and Madsen, Mikael, ‘Cold War Law: Legal Entrepreneurs and the Emergence of a European Legal Field (1945–1965)’, in Gessner, Volkmar and Nelken, David, eds., European Ways of Law: Towards a European Sociology of Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2007), 175201.

58 Pescatore, Pierre, ‘Les travaux du ‘groupe juridique’ dans la négociation des traités de Rome’, Studia diplomatica, 24 (1981), 159–78. See also Boerger, Anne, ‘La Cour de justice dans les négociations du traité de Paris instituant la CECA’, Journal of European Integration History, 14 (2), 2008, 733.

59 Fritz, Contribution à l'histoire de la CJUE.

60 See, for example, the 1952 ‘Avis’ of three international law and government's legal advisers, Reuter (France), Ophüls (Germany) and Rossi (Italy) to the common parliamentary assembly which indicated the ad hoc nature of European law, halfway between international law and national law.

61 Pescatore, ‘Les travaux’, 164–5.

62 To state one international law professor, Malenovski, Jiri, ‘la CJCE, la CIJ, la CEDH ou le tribunal international du droit de la mer se sont largement inspirés, voire laissés guider, par le Statut de la Cour permanente de justice internationale et, plus particulièrement, par les règles relatives au statut de ses juges’, in ‘L'indépendance des juges internationaux’, Recueil des cours de La Haye, 349 (2010), 9276, here 36.

63 Reuter, Paul, La Communauté économique du Charbon et de l'Acier (Paris: Lgdj, 1953), 47.

64 Ibid., 51.

65 Margaretha A. M. Klompé, Nature, caractéristiques et structure des Autorités Spécialisées et leurs liaisons avec le Conseil de l'Europe, doc. 13, 5 May 1951, Commission des questions politiques et de la démocratie, Assemblée Parlementaire, available at (last visited 10 June 2016).

66 Cohen, Antonin, ‘Ten Majestic Figures in Long Amaranth Robes: The Formation of the Court of Justice of the European Communities’, Revue française de science politique, 60 (2010), 2341.

67 For an overview of the literature of this point, see Robert, Cécile and Vauchez, Antoine, ‘L'Académie européenne. Savoirs, savants et experts dans le gouvernement de l'Europe’, Politix, 89 (2010), 934.

68 See Greve, Wilhelm, ‘The Lawyer as Diplomat’, Society of International Law Proceedings, 54 (1960), 232–6.

69 Mudge, Stephanie and Vauchez, Antoine, ‘Building Europe on a Weak Field: Law, Economics and Scholarly Avatars in Transnational Politics’, American Journal of Sociology, 118, 2 (2012), 449–92.

70 For a classic example of these theoretical formalisations of the European Communities, see the highly influential doctrinal piece by ECJ judge Pierre Pescatore on the ‘quadripartisme institutionnel’. In this seminal article he claimed that the specific rationale of the European political order could not be boiled down to the ternary principle of the ‘separation of powers.’ Instead, he argued that the four main institutions of the EC (the Commission, the Court, the Council and the Parliament) actually derived their legitimacy from the representation of four types of interests. While the Court and the Commission embodied supranational interests independent from Member States as they represented ‘l'intérêt communautaire’ and the interest of ‘the treaties’, the Council was in charge the interests of the governments and the European Parliament with that . . . ‘the popular forces’: Pierre Pescatore, ‘L'exécutif communautaire. Justification du quadripartisme institué par les traités de Paris et de Rome’, Cahiers de droit européen, 14, 4 (1978), 387–406.

71 On the ‘Rueff case’, see also Cohen, Antonin, ‘Juge et expert. L'affaire Rueff et la codification des règles de la circulation internationale’, Critique internationale, 59 (2013), 6988.

72 See Chélini, Michel-Pierre, ‘Le plan de stabilisation Pinay-Rueff 1958’, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, 48 (2001), 102–23.

73 Written question no. 27 of 23 June 1959, series of the Council of ministers, CM2/1959/442, Historical Archives of the European Communities in Florence.

74 Reply of 25 July 1959 to question no. 27 submitted to the Council by Marinus Van der Goes van Naters of the European Parliamentary Assembly, AHCE, CM2/1959/442.

75 ‘Funeral oration in honour of Mr. Jacques Rueff given by judge A. M. Donner in 11 May 1978’, in Formal sittings of the CJEC. 1978 and 1979 (Luxembourg: Curia, 1979).

76 See Condorelli-Braun, Commissaires et juges.

77 ‘Address delivered by the President of the Court of Justice, H. Kutscher, at the formal sitting of the Court on 29 Mar. 1979 on the occasion of the retirement of Judge Donner, Andreas M.’, Formal Sittings of the Court of Justice 1978 and 1979 (Luxembourg: Official Journal of the EC, 1979), 18.

78 Egon Ranshofen-Wertheimer, ‘The International Secretariat: A Great Experiment in International Administration’.

79 On this broad historical process of transformation of the European Communities, see Vauchez, Antoine, Brokering Europe: Euro-lawyers and the Making of a Transnational Polity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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