EU Legal Personality in Foreign Policy?

48 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2007 Last revised: 10 Jan 2010

See all articles by Rafael Leal-Arcas

Rafael Leal-Arcas

Queen Mary University of London - School of Law


This article examines whether the European Union (EU) already had legal personality prior to the EU's Constitutional Convention's statement in the autumn of 2002 on the need to provide the EU with legal personality. Abolition of the distinction between the Union and the two surviving Communities is an essential aspect of simplifying the Treaties, and making the European constitutional order easier to understand for those subject to it. It follows that there has to be a single Union legal personality; but recognition of this would not, in itself, entail any extension of the Union's powers. However, one wonders whether, by giving the conferment of legal personality such a prominent place in the EU Constitutional Treaty, the draftsman may regard this as more than the purely technical matter, which it ought to be. Efforts go back to 1996, with a study presented in the form of a draft treaty for the European Parliament, and coordinated by scientists at the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute in Florence: "A Unified and Simplified Model of the European Communities Treaties and the Treaty on European Union in Just One Treaty." However, simplification of the treaties today means more than having just one treaty. Following a merger of legal personalities and of Treaties, if necessary, it would be anachronistic to retain the current pillar structure of the EU. Doing away with this pillar structure would help to simplify the architecture of the Union considerably.

Keywords: European Union, legal personality, European Community, foreign policy

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Leal-Arcas, Rafael, EU Legal Personality in Foreign Policy?. Boston University International Law Journal, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 165-212, 2006. Available at SSRN:

Rafael Leal-Arcas (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London - School of Law ( email )

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Holborn, London WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom


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