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The Law of the European Union: An Introduction

The EU is the most successful supranational legal order to which 27 Member States have transferred sovereign rights. This course explores the functioning of the unique creature that is the EU, the impact of its laws on states, citizens and companies, and the current challenges it faces.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for its decades-long contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. War has become virtually unthinkable in the EU. When the first steps towards supranational cooperation - primarily targeted at preventing the rearmament of Germany - were made in the aftermath of World War Two, the Founding Fathers of the European integration construct could never have imagined this outcome in their wildest dreams. Over the years, the supranational cooperation would widen - from the original European Communities consisting of 6 Member States to the current Union of 27 Members – and deepen – from the originally almost purely economically inspired Communities to the current Union with a say in almost all areas of national competence. At the same time, problems with the Euro have plunged the EU in one of the biggest crises since its inception. This challenges lawmakers to tackle difficult questions about the continued existence of the Euro and the future direction of the European integration project.

This course will give the students an insight into the law of the EU, a vast and fascinating area of law which forms an integral part of the legal systems of its 27 Member States. The course is divided into three parts. In the first part, we will pay attention to the creation and the development of the EU, its institutional structure and functioning, and the specific nature and sources of EU law. In the second part, we will examine how EU law impacts on the lives of EU citizens as well as on companies that are established or provide services in the EU. In the final part, we will tackle Europe’s common currency crisis, investigating causes, effects and possible routes out of this existential crisis of the Union.

If you are a student, lawyer, entrepreneur or simply interested in the EU, its development and legal system, this course will provide you with the foundations. The course is of interest to people both inside and outside the European Union: EU citizens may learn how to benefit from the rights contained in EU life; people from other parts of the world may learn from the EU’s specific set-up, its functioning and the legal solutions being applied in the European context.


1. Will I get a certificate or Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor. 

2. Do I earn Leiden University credits upon completion of this class?
No. The certificate of completion is not part of a formal qualification from  Leiden University. 

3. What resources will I need for this class?
For participants of the MOOC, all reading materials are free to use for the duration of the course.  

4. What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?
At the end of this course, you will have a basic understanding of: 
  • the development from a Community of 6 to a Union of 27 EU Member States;
  • the functional interplay between the European Commission, the Councils, the Parliament and the Court of Justice of the EU;
  • the special features of EU law, such as its supremacy over national law and its direct effect;
  • how products can be lawfully marketed in several Member States;
  • what your rights as an individual are in the EU; 
  • which anticompetitive practices are prohibited within the EU;   
  • the current crisis in the Eurozone.   

5. Why do you offer this course for free?
Leiden University is grounded in a long standing tradition in providing students the space for obtaining a thorough and multifaceted education in law. This MOOC offers us the possibility to share our knowledge globally. Creating this MOOC is a collaboration between the Europa Institute at Leiden Law School and Centre for Innovation The Hague at the university's Campus The Hague.