New case note on EU External Relations Law by Graham Butler – University of Copenhagen

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06 July 2015

New case note on EU External Relations Law by Graham Butler

In a case note (‘Pinpointing the Appropriate Legal Basis for External Action’) just published in the European Journal of Risk Regulation, Graham Butler from the Centre of Comparative and European Constitutional Studies at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen discusses the outcome of Case C-658/11, European Parliament v Council of the European Union [2014].

The judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union dealt with the issue of international agreements that the Union enters into since the Treaty of Lisbon, therefore having wide-ranging ramifications for that of EU external relations. The EU and the state of Mauritius concluded and signed an agreement in 2011 arising out of the piracy acts taking place in the Gulf of Aden off the eastern coast of Africa. There were two pleas to be made by the Parliament in the case for annulling the agreement. Firstly, it contested the appropriate legal basis for the agreement based upon the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) which the Council used to conclude the agreement. Secondly on a more procedural point of law, the Parliament contested that they were not fully informed of the EU-Mauritius transfer agreement which on their reading of the Treaties, stated that they must be for proper democratic oversight to occur.

The scenario demonstrated that the institutions of the Union continue to clash over the appropriate legal basis for particular forms of external action, and are not hesitant to contest differing interpretations before the Court of Justice. Whilst the technical intricacies of the case may seem trivial in the grander scheme of litigation, the mere case of the Council failing to duly inform the Parliament led the Parliament to a partial victory, culminating in the annulment of the agreement. Given that an annulment of an internal Union CFSP act poses substantial external risks in the form of security in the region, an onus lay upon the Court to uphold the effects on the annulled agreement until such a time arose when the internal legal procedure could be replaced.

The case note, ‘Pinpointing the Appropriate Legal Basis for External Action’, can be accessed here.