Unidentified Legal Object: Conceptualising the European Union in International Law
iCourts Working Paper Series No. 129
38 Pages Posted: 9 May 2018
Date Written: April 23, 2018
What is the European Union? This seemingly simple question gives rise to a multitude of different answers from EU lawyers, international lawyers, political scientists, and the media. The debate is as old as European integration, and a satisfying answer still alludes us. Does the legal characterization of the EU and EU law matter from a legal standpoint? This article argues that such characterizations do matter. It first discusses four main ways in which the EU is perceived in the EU law and international law literature: (i) the EU as a ‘new legal order’; (ii) the EU as a ‘self-contained regime’ in international law; (iii) the EU as a ‘Regional Economic Integration Organization’ (REIO); and (iv) the EU as a ‘Classic intergovernmental organization’ (Classic IO). Using examples from recent legal practice, this article shows how such characterizations are the ‘starting points’ in debates which can shape legal outcomes. It is difficult to overcome such divergent views, however, since they represent much deeper disagreements and power relations. Developing a theory of EU legal character gives rise to new challenges.
Keywords: European Union, international law, identity, new legal order, self-contained regime, sui generis, Regional Economic Integration Organization, R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Opinion 2/13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation