A Short History of REALaw, by Kars de Graaf, Sacha Prechal and Rob Widdershoven

The Birth of a Journal

REALaw started as a spin-off of the book Europeanisation of Public Law (1st edition, 2007). The book, authored by Jan Jans, Sacha Prechal, Roel de Lange and Rob Widdershoven, focussed on the consequences of the then European Community law for national public law, particularly for national administrative law. By using varied examples of the impact of European law on the Member States, the book made it unmistakably clear that, in order to achieve proper articulations between European law and national administrative law, a common effort was needed by both EU law and national administrative law scholars and practitioners.

In order to feed and stimulate the encounter of the European and national administrative law disciplines, three of the book’s authors (Jans, Prechal and Widdershoven, Board of Editors), together with Kars de Graaf (Managing Editor), started the Review of European Administrative Law (REALaw) in 2007. It was launched at the International Conference ‘Europeanisation of Public Law’ in Utrecht, which took place on 11 and 12 October 2007. The first issue was published in December of the same year. At that time, the journal was published by Europa Law Publishing (Groningen). In 2010, REALaw was transferred to Paris Legal Publishers, which has remained our publisher to this day.


The basic idea of REALaw was to encourage a two-pronged approach of EU law and national administrative law: top-down and bottom-up. On the one hand, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, it has become clear that EU law influences not only some limited and technical areas, such as agriculture, fisheries, and customs; it also makes important inroads in many other areas, in particular general administrative law and its basic principles within the Member States. On the other hand, various important tenets of Union law did not come from nowhere. Subjects such as general principles of Union law and state liability have indeed been inspired by the legal systems of the Member States. Although perhaps not immediately visible, inspiration from national administrative law is essential in both the legislative and the jurisdictional work of the Union institutions.

A second, more discrete ambition of REALaw was to contribute to the idea of ius commune within Europe, in particular by focussing on the question of how the legal systems of the Member States themselves influence one another through Union law. In 2018, comparative law gained an even stronger and more independent place in our mission. Since then, the journal has warmly welcomed comparative law articles which are not directly connected to EU law, but may yet contribute to legal development within Europe.

The mission of REALaw has gradually and slightly shifted – as did the developments in European administrative law. New problems like shared administration or composite procedures emerged, at the same time as, more pronouncedly, administrative law of the EU institutions themselves. In this respect, the Model Rules of the Research Network of European Administrative Law (ReNEUAL) should be mentioned. Although their scope is limited to the EU institutions, they undoubtedly also constitute a good practice for national administrative law. Furthermore, the coming into force of the Charter of Fundamental Rights has vividly influenced national administrative law when applied in the EU law context. Obviously, all those new developments merit the attention of REALaw.


REALaw aims – and has always aimed – at fuelling the debate on how EU law is influencing national administrative law, on how national legal orders shape the EU legal order, and on what national legal orders can learn from each other. Each issue of REALaw thereby contains several articles, case note analyses, and book reviews contributing to this ambition. As of 2014, in order to increase the impact of the journal even more, REALaw has published special issues containing a coherent set of contributions on a specific topic of European administrative law. These have been engaged with discussion on the ReNEUAL Model Rules(2014-2), Proceduralisation of EU Law (2015-1), Accountability and Control of European Multilevel Administration (2019-1), Effective Judicial Protection and the Regulatory EU influence in specific areas of law (2019-2), and the Principle of Mutual Recognition in European Administrative Law (2020-3). One recent innovation has been REALaw actively stimulating the writing of contributions with a specific focus area, to be published in different issues of the journal. A fine example are the articles in the Focus Covid series.

An important aspiration of REALaw has always been to stimulate young researchers in the area of European administrative law. That has been – and still is – done, inter alia, by organizing the REALaw Research Fora every three years. In the past decennium, REALaw organised inspiring research fora on topics very much connected to the REALaw mission, such as European Administrative Law – Top Down and Bottom Up (Groningen 2009), Pluralism in European Administrative Law (Groningen 2012), Judicial Coherence in the European Union (Utrecht 2015), General Principles of European Administrative Law (Leyden 2019) and The European Multi-level and Administrative Space: Regulation and Protection (Maastricht 2021).

Many of the contributions to the fora were subsequently published as peer-reviewed articles in REALaw. The proceedings of the first three REALaw Research Fora have been published as separate books as well.

Rich history, bright future

Next year, in 2022, REALaw celebrates its fifteenth anniversary. During these years, the journal has seen several editorial changes. Jan Jans, one of the founders, said farewell to the journal in 2017. In 2018, we welcomed in the Board of Editors Kars de Graaf, Mariolina Eliantonio (University Maastricht) and Willemien den Ouden (University of Leyden). Kars was succeeded as managing editor by Sofia Ranchordás (University of Groningen).

At the end of 2020, the journal’s organisation underwent a complete make-over. Since then, the daily management of REALaw has been in the hands of Annalisa Volpato (Managing Editor, University of Maastricht), Mariolina Eliantonio and Sofia Ranchordás (both General Editors). The Board of Editors currently consists of, besides the veterans Kars de Graaf, Sacha Prechal and Rob Widdershoven, Luis Arroyo Jiménez (University of Castilla de la Mancha), Luca de Lucia (University of Salerno), Yseult Marique (University of Essex), Jud Mathews (Penn State Law School, US) and Stefanie de Somer (University of Antwerp).

It has always been the aim of REALaw to establish a vibrant, passionate, and broad community of European and, nowadays, also comparative administrative lawyers. In this respect, we already have a rich history. Our future is even more bright.

Kars de Graaf

Sacha Prechal

Rob Widdershoven

Groningen, Luxembourg, Utrecht, April 2021.

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