International Courts and the European Legal Order

12 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2011

See all articles by Matthew Parish

Matthew Parish

British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Date Written: August 30, 2011


The growth of a range of different areas of international law gives rise to the possibility of conflict between them. International courts and tribunals created by one branch of international law may be called upon to adjudicate other areas of the discipline. The risk of conflict presents a particularly acute problem to the EU legal order, because the Court of Justice of the European Union sees itself as the final, and exclusive, authority on questions of interpretation of EU law. On two occasions the Court has issued opinions prohibiting EU member states from signing agreements creating international courts, because those courts’ roles would necessitate construing EU law and their composition would mean they could not guarantee the “homogeneity” necessary to EU law. The more recent of these opinions, concerning the European Community and Patents Court, sets an unusual legal test for the consistency of international tribunals with the EU legal order that, taken to its logical conclusion, would preclude several well-established international courts and tribunals to which EU member states are parties. Ultimately this standard may fetter development of EU law, and the ECJ would do well to adopt a more flexible approach.

Keywords: International courts, European law, CJEU, Patents Court

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Parish, Matthew, International Courts and the European Legal Order (August 30, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Parish (Contact Author)

British Institute of International and Comparative Law ( email )

Charles Clore House
17 Russell Square
London WC1B 5JP
United Kingdom

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