Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Gráinne de Búrca

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition features Gráinne de Búrca, currently co-president of the International Society of Public Law. Her full bio follows below:

Gráinne de Búrca joined the NYU Law faculty in 2011. Before joining NYU, she held tenured posts as professor at Harvard Law School, Fordham Law School, and at the European University Institute in Florence. Before that, she was Fellow of Somerville College and lecturer in law at Oxford University from 1990 to 1998. She was deputy director of the Center for European and Comparative law at Oxford University, and co-director of the Academy of European Law at the EUI in Florence. She has also been a visiting professor at Columbia Law School, a member of NYU’s Global Law faculty and Straus Inaugural Fellow at NYU.

Her main field of research and expertise is European Union law, and she has written widely on questions of European constitutional law and governance, human rights and discrimination, and international relations. She studied law at University College Dublin and the University of Michigan and was admitted to the bar at Kings Inns, Dublin. She is co-editor of the Oxford University Press series Oxford Studies in European Law, and co-author of the leading OUP textbook EU Law, currently in its sixth edition. She is co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Constitutional Law (I•CON) and serves on the editorial board of the European Law Journal and the Journal of Common Market Studies, and on the advisory board of numerous other journals.

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

I have been working for a while on a project concerning the uneven use of European Union anti-discrimination legislation in national courts.  I am trying to find an explanation (or explanations) for the paucity of cases being referred to the European Court of justice dealing with issues of racial and religious discrimination, despite the existence of robust EU anti-discrimination legislation in these fields for over 14 years, and despite there being no shortage of conflicts arising on these issues.

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

Oddly, I find that I write best whenever I am busiest with other issues (teaching, administration, conference travel etc).  Pressure helps me to write.  In theory I would like to think I am most productive while on sabbatical leave or during the vacations between semesters, but the reality is that I write most effectively when I have real deadlines.  And I need to be disconnected from the internet when I write!  Otherwise, no particular routine.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

There are quite a number of authors whose work I always value reading, but it seems invidious or arbitrary (and maybe ill-advised!) to single out any one.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

Robert Keohane’s book After Hegemony was an important work for me, and Joseph Weiler’s article “The Dual Character of Supranationalism” first led me to become really interested in issues of European integration.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

The turbulent state of the European Union today (indeed, the turbulent state of many democracies and of the global order more generally) has – despite the anxiety to which it gives rise – given rise to many important questions for scholars to address.  Apart from the obvious and compelling questions concerning the challenges to constitutional values and institutions across many jurisdictions created by the rise of illiberal populism and the election of leaders who seek to consolidate power and to remove constitutional checks and balances, there is also a series of important questions to be asked about the apparent decline in support for transnational cooperation and integration. These include questions about the conditions for successful forms of transnational integration, and the conditions under which support for such organizations weakens and declines.  The EU represents a dense and highly developed form of transnational cooperation, but a similar decline in support is evident also in the withdrawal from – or challenges mounted by  – various states and governments to a range of other international institutions and organizations.  The question of what kinds of reform to international institutions and organizations (including the EU) may be necessary for their continuation and in order for them to successfully address global and transnational problems seem both intellectually as well as practically urgent, as does the question what kind of innovative institutions or organizations might be imagined to deal with the specific challenges presented today.


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