Tracing the Origins of an Emerging Narrative: The EU as a Contributor to the Development of International Law

Research Project

Narratives perform an important function in rendering visible the prevalent discourses and the institutions and persons that shape them. Narratives (legal or otherwise) are not, however, static realities – counternarratives or counter-stories often emerge. This project, specifically, addresses the emergence of a narrative whereby the EU is not only ontologically distinct from international law but also contributes to its development.

While this idea has by now legal expression in article 3(5) of the Treaty on European Union, this project traces its origins back to the 1970s and 1980s, to the birth of EU external relations law. As such, this project is centred on a legal history of EU external relations law.

The project examines the emergence of this narrative from a three-prong and three-actor perspective:

  1. A constitutional perspective: centred on the role of individual Member State delegations in the negotiation of the EU Treaties,
  2. a judicial perspective: centred on the role of individual judges in selected cases of EU external relations law, and
  3. an international perspective: focused on the role of EU lawyers delivering statements on the EU’s behalf at international organisations.

The project’s contribution is twofold. First, it explores the origins of an EU objective to shape international law largely absent from the constitutional traditions of the Member States and its significance for EU integration. Second, it examines how the narrative whereby the EU contributes to the development of international law has been woven together both at the internal level of the EU – through constitutional change and judicial action – and at the external level – through the participation of EU actors in international organisations.

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