Elaine Fahey

The new book, Framing Convergence with the Global Order: The EU and the World, edited by Professor Elaine Fahey, Jean Monnet Chair in Law and Transatlantic Relations at the University of London’s City Law School, explores EU convergence in the global order, drawing on a range of disciplines to illuminate the themes of global convergence and the EU’s role in a turbulent international environment.  The contributors find that, although the EU remains a driving force behind a rules-based international order, the methodology of depicting complex case studies remains contestable.  

Professor Fahey’s volume is published by Hart Publishing –Framing Convergence with the Global order: The EU and the World.

Scholarship, from international economic law, international investment law, international human rights law to sources of Public International Law (PIL), increasingly frames new shifts in sources, practice and jurisprudence as an explicit narrative of ‘convergence’. The previously dominant narrative of fragmentation had been conducted within PIL often in a highly court-centric sense, focussing upon sources, their implementation and interpretation thereof. Convergence means many things to many people but appears to generally capture the direction of the relationship between organisational practices and law-making.

The EU’s place in the global legal order can be understood as a form of convergence ethic but is not usually studied in the context of law, EU studies or political science, which this book tackles.  This book project uses three themes to explore the methodology of describing convergence: I. Framing the EU as a Global Convergence actor, II. The Global legal order against convergence and III. Framing External Effects: The EU’s ‘inside-out’.

“The book project is unashamedly a methodology project, which seeks to zoom in on the complexity of dynamism and action and also never-ending competence expansions. The breadth of disciplines in the book – lawyers, political scientists, political economy scholars to practitioners – lends depth to the efforts.”

Framing the EU as a Global Convergence Actor

The EU increasingly sets new international agendas, standards and rules and is referred to in a vast literature as a ‘norm promoter’  The EU also appears as a distinctively consistent internationalist in a world shifting towards populism, and localism, both within and beyond the EU. It even has an express mission to be a ‘good’ global governance actor, differing from many other international organisations and states. It has done this, in particular, through consistently advocating the creation of new international institutions (Fahey, 2018). It is of significance because it shows its highly orchestrated alignment with the international legal order in law-making but usually through divergence and unilateralism.

A Global Legal Order against Convergence?

Despite the wording of Art. 21 TEU mandating to the EU an entitlement to participate in the global legal order, in general, the external environment has been less welcoming to its ambitions. Convergence is arguably not an accurate description of the current international political economy. There has never been a more contentious moment in time for the study of EU convergence in global trade.

Framing External Effects: Is EU law more ‘Inside-out’ than ‘outside-in’?

Contributors to this volume pin down the complexity of external effects and EU law as a methodological challenge. Chapter authors have been asked to isolate the phenomena of convergence by self-selecting their method (historical, empirical, qualitative, quantitative etc.).

Dr. Jed Odermatt’s chapter ‘Convergence through EU Unilateralism’ focuses on how the EU has sought to promote convergence with its norms through certain ‘unilateral’ practices. This, in turn, has led to criticism that European Union policies are ‘extra-territorial’ and may violate international law. In areas such as climate change mitigation, financial market regulation, data protection, and human rights, the EU’s unilateral approach often stems, not from a disengagement with multilateralism, but from an inability to make progress through multilateral institutions.  The chapter discusses fields of law where the EU has been challenged and criticized for pursuing a unilateral approach, focusing on climate change policy, data protection and the use of autonomous restrictive measures. The chapter argues that ‘EU unilateralism’ can be understood in terms of divergence and convergence: on the one hand, the EU is seeking to push forward the law and promote greater convergence around its norms, yet by pursuing this policy in a unilateral manner this also lead to greater fragmentation of the very multilateral order it seeks to promote.

Isabella Mancini in their chapter ‘A Deep Trade Agenda’ : The Convergence of Trade and Fundamental Rights probes the usefulness of ‘convergence’ as a methodological device to study the EU as a global actor in external trade and fundamental rights. Isabella finds that ‘convergence’ is useful for the researcher to target and select analytical elements to study phenomena underpinned by a narrative of convergence, yet it is arguably less so for the development of a normative perspective.

The book project is unashamedly a methodology project, which seeks to zoom in on the complexity of dynamism and action and also never-ending competence expansions. The breadth of disciplines in the book – lawyers, political scientists, political economy scholars to practitioners – lends depth to the efforts. To the extent that the development of these themes is at the heart of the European trajectory right now, it also constitutes a vibrant future agenda.

For more information about research related to the European Union, visit the Institute for the Study of European Law, the H2020 funded EUTIP project and the Jean Monnet Chair in Law and Transatlantic Relations.

Prof. Elaine Fahey
Professor of Law, Jean Monnet Chair in Law & Transatlantic Relations
The City Law School

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