International agreements of the EU Members with the third countries in the CJEU jurisprudence

Available in Russian

Author: Ilya Lifshits

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-3-84-101

Keywords: Achmea case; disconnection clauses; EU law; fragmentation of international law; Kadi case; lex specialis; lex superior; self-contained regime


The existence of the general and the special regimes in international law constitutes the essence of the phenomenon of fragmentation and requires that a definition be made of the rules according to which an international law norm is selected to be applied in certain case. This issue is particularly relevant in the European Union, as the European Court of Justice seeks to establish the autonomy of the EU legal system and in some cases to set barriers to the application of the general international law norms. The claim of the Court of Justice to be the exclusive interpreter of all and any effective rules in the EU legal order has been especially evident after the Kadi and Achmea cases as well as the Opinion 2/13 on the ECHR accession. This ambition can also be detected in the CJEU’s judgements on the interpretation of the international agreements of the EU Member States with the third countries. In several instances the Court contraposes the international obligations of the Member States in the external agreements and in the Founding Treaties and gives priority to the latter. In doing so, the Court uses the rhetoric of autonomy and relies upon the Treaty provisions which provide for the sincere cooperation of the Members States. Earlier such an attitude was observable only in the jurisprudence of the high and constitutional courts of the states and it proves that the Court increasingly tends to attribute state-like qualities to the EU. At the same time the EU itself was established and has been functioning on the basis of a treaty and has several times confirmed its adherence to the international law. In several cases the CJEU held that the EU has to respect the international law and its legal norms shall be interpreted in the light of the latter. Even in Kadi case the exception was made for the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution only under the protection of the foundations and fundamental rights of the EU and in the circumstances of the blatant deficiencies of the UN sanctions lists inclusion. The Court has again asserted in this case that the Community (the EU) is bound by the UN Charter. Consequently, it should be acknowledged that although the CJEU set forth certain barriers in the EU legal order for the legal effect of the international law, it still confirmed the principle of respect for it by the EU.

About the author: Ilya Lifshits – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Russian Foreign Trade Academy, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Lifshits I. (2019) Mezhdunarodnye dogovory gosudarstv – chlenov Evropeyskogo soyuza s tret'imi stranami v praktike Suda ES [International agreements of the EU Members with the third countries in the CJEU jurisprudence]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.3, pp.84–101. (In Russian).


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