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Supranational law is a form of international law, based on the limitation of the rights of sovereign nations between one another. It is distinguished from public international law, which involves the United Nations, the Geneva conventions, or the Law of the Sea, because in supranational law, nations explicitly submit their right to make judicial decisions to a set of common institutions.

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Supranational theory

Supranationalism can be contrasted to intergovernmentalism as a form of decision making, and is worthy of study. Speaking in relation to Europe, Joseph H. H. Weiler, in his seminal work "The Dual Character of Supranationalism" states that there are two main concerns to European supranationalism. These are:

  • Normative Supranationalism: The Relationships and hierarchy which exist between Community policies and legal measures on one hand and the competing policies and legal measures of the Member states on the other. (The Executive Dimension)
  • Decisional Supranationalism: The institutional framework and decision making by which such measures are initiated, debated, formulated, promulgated and finally executed. (The Legislative-Judicial Dimension)

In many ways the split sees the separation of powers confined to merely two branches.

European Union law

European Community law' is the first and only example of a supranational legal framework. In the EC, sovereign nations have pooled their authority through a system of courts and political institutions. They have the ability to enforce legal norms against and for member states and citizens, in a way that public international law does not. According to the European Court of Justice in the early case, 26/62, of NW Algemene Transporten Expeditie Onderneming van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Admniistratie der Belastingen [1963] ECR 1, (often known as just Van Gend en Loos) it constitutes "a new legal order of international law":

"The Community constitutes a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and the subjects of which comprise not only member states but also their nationals. Independently of the legislation of member states, community law therefore not only imposes obligations on individuals but is also intended to confer upon them rights which become part of their legal heritage. These rights arise not only where they are expressly granted by the treaty, but also by reason of obligations which the treaty imposes in a clearly defined way upon individuals as well as upon the member states and upon the institutions of the community."[1]

Union of South American Nations

The Union of South American Nations is an organisation on the South American continent. It declared in 2004 its intention to establish a framework akin to the European Union by the end of 2007. It is envisaged to have its own passport and currency, and limit barriers to trade.

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