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Unidentified Legal Object: Conceptualising the European Union in International Law

Odermatt, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-6073-3033 (2018). Unidentified Legal Object: Conceptualising the European Union in International Law. Connecticut journal of international law, 33(2), pp. 215-247.


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.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science > JX International law
K Law
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
The City Law School > Institute for the Study of European Laws
The City Law School > International Law and Affairs Group
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