JJUA55253U EU Foreign Relations Law - NOTE: the course is cancelled in the autumn semester 2019

Volume 2019/2020

This course is about the EU in the world. The EU is nowadays a global legal actor. Foreign relations is no longer just a national matter. The EU has become an international actor, which is separate and distinctive from its Member States. The EU’s foreign relations cover many important fields such as:

  • Common Commercial Policy
  • EU Development Policy
  • Common Foreign and Security Policy
  • Common Security and Defence Policy
  • The Energy Market
  • Freedom, Security and Justice
  • Neighborhood Policy


The aim of this course is to provide students interested in EU law, international law and international politics a deeper insight into the growing body of ‘EU Foreign Relations Law’. In doing so the course will seek to provide the student with a strong sense of why European integration has developed as it has over the past six decades. In doing so the goal is to understand and debate the legal and political interests that have shaped the present state of the Union in the world: the historical impact of the Court of Justice, the influence of pro Integration members such as Belgium and the Netherlands, or the role of more sceptical Member such as the UK; the influence of the Commission, Council and Parliament. The goal is thus to not simply know internal rules governing EU foreign relations as well as EU law as against international law, but also to look beyond law – to understand the economic and political interests which these rules reflect, and to comprehend their impact on socio-economic and political processes these rules intend to organize. One key question we will investigate throughout the semester is then this: Is the internal fragmentation of the EU and its Member States damaging Europe’s ability to reflect its interests on the international scene in an effective and coherent fashion? 


This course will guide the student through the internal and external aspects of EU foreign relations law. Internally, the course examines the legal organization of the European Union as an international actor: its development towards having a distinct legal personality; its exclusive policy competences and those its shares with the Member States, the legal nature of mixed international agreements – treaties concluded by both the EU and its Member States and the challenges they entail. The role of the European Court of Justice, and the institutional framework of EU foreign relations. Prominent in this course will be the Lisbon Treaty changes, notably the European Union External Action Service, the new diplomatic service of the Union. Externally, the course examines the participation of the EU in international organizations, and the relationship between international law and EU law. The latter includes the relationship between WTO and EU law, as well as recent debates on human rights protection at EU and UN level in the context of combating terrorism. In keeping with the law-in-context approach of this course, a number of substantive policy areas will be discussed: international trade (goods, services and investment); development; aviation and energy policy; common foreign and security policy (defence and peacekeeping); justice and home affairs (migration).

Over the past six decades of European Integration, the role of the European Union has become increasingly important, to the point where the EU has become a distinctive international actor. First developed the Common Commercial Policy, through which the Union now possesses a wide competence to act before the World Trade Organization, a competence which is to the exclusion of the EU Member States. As political integration followed and economic integration widened, the Union became a distinct international actor in many more fields: With the Lisbon Treaty, foreign direct investment has become an exclusive competence of the Union; EU military actions to combat piracy in the gulf of Aden are run through Operation ATALANTA, a mission part of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy; international aviation is increasingly organized through EU agreements alone; extradition with the US is organized on the basis of a mixed EU-Member State agreement negotiated by the Commission, the list is long. Long gone are the days where Member States of the European Union conducted their individual foreign policies independently of each other.  

Learning Outcome

During the course, students will be able to become competent in acquiring new knowledge on the EU’s international relations from a legal perspective. With such new skillsets, that will be gained, student’s competencies will allow them to identify the complex legal problems concerning the rules that govern the relationship between the Member States and the EU and between the EU institutions. It will allow the students to formulate and argue in a clear and 
concise fashion a legal argument on the constitutional and institutional rules that will be outlined, discussed and debated during the classes. Upon completion of the course, it will allow the students to demonstrate analytical capacity to separate legal reasoning from political arguments, and possess the ability to argue how they interrelate in the context of EU external 
relations law.

Furthermore, they will be able to argue why law has such an important role in the EU as an international actor, more so than in domestic legal systems. All of this new knowledge, skills, and competences will be predicated on the basis of having the ability to contextualise the EU and international rules against the broader context of European integration and international politics.

Max. 750 pages from the text book Bart Van Vooren and Ramses Wessel: EU External Relations Law. Text, Cases and Materials, Cambridge University Press, 2014, and selected articles and relevant case law.

• A basic knowledge of EU Law and International Public Law.
• If you have never done EU law before, you may find the need to sign up for an additional course ‘Introduction to EU Law’
Students are expected to participate actively in the teaching activities. To support the students’ preparation, in most of the sessions, questions have been prepared in relation to the reading materials. These questions will be posed and debated in class.
Note: the course title changed from 'EU International relations Law'.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • Total
  • 412,5
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Exam registration requirements

In order to attend the oral examination, it is a prerequisite to hand in the synopsis before the specified deadline.
The deadline is agreed upon with the course lecturer.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

The course is cancelled in the autumn semester 2019


The course is cancelled in the autumn semester 2019