The presentation explores the language of early European Law: The negotiators of the ECSC Treaty imagined inventing a new legal form of international cooperation. The word they came up with was ‘supranationality’. This neologism served as the starting signal for a fierce competition for semantics, and the semantic field connected with the recently established European law was an invitation to experiment with different language games. Which name for a political entity that was only one step away from being a federal state? Many of them were barely analytic and highly temporalized. In any case, talk of supranationality soon fell into disrepute: too sensational, too controversial. In an attempt to find a common ground, the first Advocate General Maurice Lagrange considered the specificity of European law’s own legal order (ordre juridique propre) to represent a minimum consensus. In the 1960s, the ECJ’s key decisions only vaguely made reference to the ‘new legal order’ (nouvel ordre juridique) or Europe’s ‘own legal system’. The President of the European Commission Walter Hallstein conceptualised the Community in terms of a ‘community of law’ (Rechtsgemeinschaft). However, the term of ‘supranationality’ was more transparent than many believed. Like few other words, ‘supranational’ made it possible to discuss European legal language.

Thorben Klünder holds a degree in law from the University of Göttingen and currently is a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt. Website

Interested to participate? Get in touch with Jan Komárek.