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Dr. William Phelan

Associate Professor (Political Science)

  European Community Law   European Political Development   European Union, WTO, and NAFTA   International Organisation   International Political Economy   International Relations Theory
  Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics and Law
 Europe's Constitution: Encompassing Institutions and International Public Goods

Details Date
External Reviewer, Czech Science Foundation, Basic Research Grants Projects 2023 2022
Elected Member of the Executive Committee, Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) 2017
Coordinator, European Union Legal Historians Network 2020 onwards
Details Date From Date To
American Political Science Association 2006 Present
European Union Studies Association 2006 Present
Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT) 2017 Present
International Society of Public Law (ICON-S) 2019 Present
Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) 2017 Present
'Robert Lecourt (1908-2004): The Political Activist of the 1930s' in, editor(s)S. Vogenauer P. Bajon , Key Biographies in the Legal History of European Union, 1950-1993, UK, 2024, [W. Phelan], Book Chapter, ACCEPTED
The Promise of Judicial Biography for the Study of the European Court of Justice in, editor(s)Rossana Deplano, Giulia Gentile, Luigi Lonardo, Tobias Nowak , Interdisciplinary Research Methods in EU Law: A Handbook, Edward Elgar, 2024, [William Phelan], Notes: [], Book Chapter, IN_PRESS
William Phelan, The Role of the German and Italian Constitutional Courts in the Rise of EU Human Rights Jurisprudence: A Response to Delledonne & Fabbrini, European Law Review, 46, (2), 2021, p175 - 193, Notes: [Delledonne and Fabbrini have recently criticised widely held understandings of the rise of EU human rights jurisprudence, claiming both that the conventional account is chronologically inaccurate-the European Court's famous fundamental rights decisions came before those of the German and Italian courts-and that it relies on an understanding of post-war human rights leadership by these national constitutional courts which a closer look at their actual record does not support. This article demonstrates however that the European Court of Justice ( ECJ)'s famous fundamental rights decisions did indeed come after this issue had been first highlighted in judgments of the German and Italian constitutional courts; the threat to the uniform application of European law posed by the fundamental rights aspect of these judgments was noted in the writings of ECJ judges; and the caution shown by the German and Italian constitutional courts in reviewing post-war domestic legislation on human rights grounds is not in conflict with an active role in promoting the ECJ's new human rights jurisprudence.], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice: Rethinking the Landmark Decisions of the Foundational Period, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2019, 1-258pp, Notes: [Published in Paperback 2021. Reviewed in European Journal of International Law, EU Law Live, Common Market Law Review, Revue trimestrielle de droit europeen, Nordic Journal of European Law (10 page review essay), Diritto Comunitario e degli Scambi Internazionali, LSE Review of Books, Pecs Journal of International and European Law, H- Soz-Kult, Bratislava Law Review, Revista General de Derecho Europeo, Revista romana de drept european, Lakimies, Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht (7 page review essay), European Constitutional Law Review (13 page review essay), JuristenZeitung, Europarecht.], Book, PUBLISHED  URL
William Phelan, European Legal Integration: Towards a More Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approach., Journal of Common Market Studies, 56, (7), 2018, p1562 - 1577, Notes: [JCMS Special Issue "Liberal Intergovernmentalism and its Critics"], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
Goodbye to All That: Commission v. Luxembourg & Belgium and Community Law's Break with the Enforcement Mechanisms of General International Law in, editor(s)Davies, Bill Fernanda, Nicola , EU Law Stories: Contextual and Critical Histories of European Jurisprudence, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp121-133 , [William Phelan], Book Chapter, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, The revolutionary doctrines of European law and the legal philosophy of Robert Lecourt, European Journal of International Law, 28, (3), 2017, p935 - 957, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, Supremacy, Direct Effect, and 'Dairy Products' in the Early History of European law, International Journal of Constitutional Law, 14, (1), 2016, p6 - 25, Journal Article, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, The revolutionary doctrines of European law and the legal philosophy of Robert Lecourt, 2016, Notes: [The creation of today's European legal order is usually traced back to a set of remarkable decisions made by the European Court of Justice in 1963 and 1964. Where, however, did the content of those judgments come from? After all, the doctrines advanced by the Court in its Van Gend en Loos, Costa v. ENEL, and Dairy Products decisions were not set out in the Treaty of Rome itself. This paper uses writings by French judge Robert Lecourt to show how the legal philosophy that Lecourt had developed before his appointment to the Court, in his scholarship on French property law, can be directly related to the fundamental doctrines that the Court created after his appointment, indicating that one of the major objectives of the dominant faction on the Court in 1963 and 1964 was a comprehensive rejection of any form of reciprocal or retaliatory self-help between the European states.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED  URL
William Phelan, Diagonal enforcement in international trade politics, 2016, Notes: [Scholarship on the enforcement of international legal obligations often makes a fundamental division between "horizontal" (inter-state retaliation) and "vertical" (national court) enforcement mechanisms. This paper argues that such a division of treaty enforcement mechanisms fails to capture how "horizontal" and "vertical" enforcement relationships can be combined in one important scenario, where a state's acceptance of an obligation on their domestic courts to automatically enforce trade-based treaty obligations is matched by an abandonment by the state's trading partners of more common forms of retaliation-based enforcement mechanism. On the one hand, therefore, states allow their trade treaty obligations to be automatically enforced by domestic courts, while on the other, the beneficiaries of such a commitment in other states forego any rights to threaten trade sanctions to enforce treaty obligations. Such a "diagonal" enforcement mechanism is illustrated with examples drawn from the World Trade Organization, European Union, Andean Community, and NAFTA Side Agreements.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED  URL

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W. Phelan, Review of The Ghostwriters: Lawyers and the Politics behind the Judicial Construction of Europe by T. Pavone, European Law Review, 47, (5), 2022, p723-727 , Journal Article, PUBLISHED
W. Phelan, Book Review of Vera Fritz, «Juges et avocats généraux de la Cour de Justice», Irish Journal of European Law, 23, 2021, p289-293 , Notes: [Available via Westlaw or HeinOnline.], Review, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, Safety Valves and Complete Exits in European Treaty Politics, German Law Journal, 17, (July Brexit Supplmt), 2016, p93 - 94, Notes: [], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, The European Union's Next Nobel Peace Prize, E-International Relations, 2013, Notes: [This is a revised version of a talk given as part of a roundtable panel "Thinking about the European Union as it receives the Nobel Peace Prize" at Trinity College Dublin in November 2012. ], Journal Article, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, The Troika: The Interlocking Roles of Commission v Luxembourg & Belgium, Van Gend en Loos, and Costa v Enel in the Creation of the European Legal Order, 2013, Notes: [Through a comparison with dispute resolution procedures in NAFTA's Side Agreements, this paper demonstrates that three of the ECJ's most important decisions - Van Gend en Loos, Costa v. Enel, and Commission v. Luxembourg & Belgium - should be understood as combining to reorganize general international law's relationship between the EU member states and thus providing the foundations for the EU's distinctive legal order.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, State Reputation as a Public Good, 2009, Notes: [A state's concern for its reputation is widely considered the most powerful mechanism for inducing rational egoist states to comply with costly commitments. A state with a diversity of interests will accept costs on organised groups in the expectation of future benefits derived from a reputation for meeting its international commitments. Although the scope of the effectiveness of this argument has been qualified by subsequent scholarship, reputational incentives remain a central causal mechanism in institutionalist approaches to international relations. This paper introduces a new, more fundamental criticism: a state's reputation for complying with international obligations is a public good so far as diverse politically influential domestic constituents are concerned: each constituent has an incentive not to accept costs towards the maintenance of a states' overall reputation for fulfilling its obligations. We should therefore expect that states will not, in general, fulfil costly obligations out of respect for their reputation, unless gains from reputation can be reliably internalised in the form of private goods or where domestic politics provides reliable solutions to the relevant domestic collective action problems. ], Working Paper, PUBLISHED
W. Phelan, Open International Markets without Exclusion: Encompassing Domestic Institutions, Excludable Goods, and International Public Goods, 2008, Notes: [This paper uses the concept of the 'encompassing group' to set out a collective action theory based explanation for the maintenance of open international markets to add to existing explanations for stable international market regimes, hegemonic stability and tit-for-tat specific reciprocity. While groups representing small constituencies have incentives to seek inefficient redistributions of income while imposing costs on wider society, cohesive groups representing large cross-issue constituencies - encompassing groups - have incentives to accept costs in return for the provision of public goods. States whose domestic political institutions are encompassing - inclusive of large numbers of diverse interests and centralized to provide coordination across issue-areas - have similar incentives to accept costs on constituents in order to support the provision of public goods for their constituents as a whole - such as welfare gains from trade or avoiding damage to reliable international markets - even without the application of external sanctions.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED
William Phelan, Why do EU Member States Offer a 'Constitutional' Obedience to EU Obligations? Encompassing Domestic Institutions and Costly International Obligations, 2008, Notes: [The member states of the European Union obey the obligations of the European treaties in a manner resembling states or provinces under a federal constitution. Existing explanations for this extraordinary obedience to international law should be rejected because they assume, incorrectly, that national legislatures cannot unilaterally legislate contrary to European Community law, or contain unexplained assumptions that relevant public goods will be reliably provided. This paper proposes a new explanation: the EU member states obey the European 'constitution' because domestic political institutions in the EU member states are 'encompassing': centralised and orientated towards large constituencies that benefit from the provision of public goods. The paper therefore offers a new answer to a long standing puzzle about the European Union as well as applying concepts from collective action theory to explaining the effectiveness of a prominent international regime.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED
W. Phelan, Can Ireland Legislate Contrary to European Community Law?, 2007, Notes: [This paper considers whether Ireland can unilaterally legislate contrary to European Community law, and achieve the application of that legislation in Irish courts not withstanding the European Community law doctrines of supremacy and direct effect. It argues that the scholarship on the relationship between Irish law and European Community law, together with decisions of Irish courts, indicate that Ireland could legislate contrary to European Community law by amending the European Communities Act. More broadly, for member states of the European Union which - like Ireland - derive the application of European law in the national legal order from national legislation, it is not so much the 'constitutional' claims of European Community law that prevent the member states from legislating contrary to European Community law but rather the fact that the member states persistently refrain from legislating to limit the effect of Community law in the national jurisdictions which gives European Community law its 'constitutional' character.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED
W. Phelan, Does the European Union Strengthen the State? Democracy, Executive Power and International Cooperation, 2002, Notes: [Many observers have suggested that the strengthening of executives vis-à-vis other political actors, in particular national parliaments, has been one of the principal effects of European integration (and perhaps international cooperation more generally) on national democracies, with democracy being "perverted" and parliaments becoming "rubber stamps." Moravcsik (1994) has argued that there were four theoretical ways in which international cooperation could "strengthen the state," by redistributing institutional power, initiative (agenda-setting), information and ideas in favor of the executive in Europe. However, consideration of domestic politics in Europe shows that elites are already - for exogenous reasons - dominant in institutions, initiative and information. In Europe, therefore, the "strong" executive is not a product of European integration, and the reverse may even be true: that the dominance of the executive in national political systems has been a prerequisite for the success of European integration - that European openness has been built on national political closure. More generally, assessments of the impact of international cooperation on democracy should measure the effect of international cooperation at the margin on the existing characteristics of particular national democratic systems.], Working Paper, PUBLISHED


Award Date
"Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice" included in "Legal Books of the Year" 2021 [Juristische Bücher des Jahres] selected by the leading German law journal, JuristenZeitung, 76 (2021), 991-997. 2021
"Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice" included in EJIL Editor-in-Chief JHH Weiler's "10 Good Reads" for 2020 (in distinguished and diverse company) in European Journal of International Law 31 (2020), 1201, also at 2020
"Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice" included in Long List for the Inner Temple Book Prize 2022 2022
Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for EU Law, Politics & Constitutional Governance, Director 2020-2023
Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics and Law (award from European Commission) 2017-2020
Book "In Place of Inter-State Retaliation" Honorable Mention for European Union Studies Association Best Book Award 2015-16 May, 2017
Book "In Place of Inter-State Retaliation" Winner of 2016 "Brian Farrell Book Prize" of the Political Studies Association of Ireland for the best book published in 2015 October 2016
IRCHSS Research Grant, €38,000, for "Europe's Constitution: Encompassing Institutions and International Public Goods" 2008-2010