European Union legislators, CJEU judges and EU law scholars have produced streams of texts which determine both what EU law is and how it is perceived. We explore what these distinct voices tell us about the EU's legal and policy priorities using a mega corpus compiling more than 200,000 legislative acts, 55,000 court rulings and opinions, and 4,000 articles from a leading EU law journal. Applying an unsupervised machine learning technique known as probabilistic topic modelling, we find that economic integration remains the focus of EU law, but that scholars tend to emphasize rights issues more and ignore certain topics, such as farming regulations, almost entirely. The relationship among these partly interdependent, partly autonomous voices, we suggest, can be conceptualized in terms of co-evolution. Legislation influences issue attention on the CJEU, which, in turn, influences what law professors choose to write about.
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Formally speaking, the European Commission has a general monopoly over legislative initiatives. Politically though, national governments play a key role in defining the broad contours of the legislative agenda announced in European Council meetings. Together, the Commission and the European Council effectively act as the main legislative agenda-setters. Yet, thanks to the extension of its co-decision powers, the European Parliament has become a powerful veto-player able to block the passage of legislative proposals supported by the other institutions. At the high level of generality assumed in this Article, MEPs, Commissioners, and national governments can be viewed as the main authors of EU legislation—although their respective influence over the legislative has fluctuated as a result of shifts in the prevailing balance of powers under the successive treaty regimes.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the German Law Journal.