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This paper considers the Area of Freedom, Security and Ju¬stice (AFSJ) in the broader context of European integration and links it to two trends in the development of the European Union: firstly, the expanding scope of European law and secondly the increasingly fra¬gmented nature of the integration process. The paper provides a histo¬ric and thematic description of the AFSJ and argues that it represents, amongst other things, a movement of the EU into areas of ‘high poli¬tics’ and the development of a nascent ‘European public order’, linking territory, the state and citizens. In a parallel development, European integration has developed into a system of organising difference and accommodating national preferences. This is epitomised in the AFSJ where the system of integration, analysed under various parameters, appears to emphasise national autonomy and to facilitate variation.