European public law refers to the legal relationships between public authorities and individual citizens. Public authorities are generally empowered based on their specific competence; although the modern regulatory state also assigns these tasks to a range of semi-independent and private bodies.
Public authorities are expected to protect the interests of a society as a whole, referred to as the ‘public interest’, rather than private interests. Public law, therefore, operates in the domain of distributive justice where its main concern is the fair allocation of goods to all members of society. This type of law has a range of techniques at its disposal to achieve these aims including the licensing of certain business activities, inspections of types of activity, punitive fines and imprisonment (in particularly egregious circumstances). These enforcement methods, however, are intended to provide compliance after a breach and do not provide remedies to aggrieved parties.