10 Sep 2012

Principles and Practices of EU External Representation

Steven Blockmans

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With this CLEER working paper, co-editors Steven Blockmans and Ramses A. Wessel aim to offer insights into selected legal aspects concerning the European Union’s redefined diplomatic persona. In particular, the paper addresses issues pertaining to the Lisbon Treaty’s organising principles of EU external action, both under EU law and international law, and the growing practice of external representation of the European Union, especially in the context of other international organisations and bodies. Many questions remain unanswered in this respect, for instance: how can we best understand the relationship between the way the EU decides upon international positions and organises its external representation on the one hand, and its influence, performance and/or effectiveness on the other hand? Does the European Union’s formal status as a subject of international law justify an upgraded observer status within international organisations, a seat additional to that of the EU Member States, or should the EU replace them? Does it matter who speaks for the EU, and in what way? How should we square the emergence of the European External Action Service (EEAS), a hybrid organ consisting of EU civil servants and seconded diplomats from the Member States, with the traditionally state-centred body of international diplomatic law? And what can be expected from the High Representative, the EEAS and its vast network of diplomatic representations in third countries and multilateral settings in the pursuit of the Treaty’s external objectives?

The topics covered in the contributions cast a wide net over the new legal questions and challenges with which the European Union’s institutional framework and law is currently faced, and address ‘selected legal aspects’ of the principles and practice pertaining to the external representation of the European Union, so as to offer new insights into the rapidly developing field of EU external relations law.

Steven Blockmans is Senior Research Fellow and head of the EU foreign policy unit at CEPS, Special Visiting Professor at the University of Leuven and a member of the governing board of CLEER. Ramses A. Wessel is Professor of the Law of the European Union and other International Organizations, Centre for European Studies, University of Twente and a member of the governing board of CLEER.