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Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context - Annual Seminar Series

CLSGC’s 2014-15 Seminar Series is on the theme of 'Beyond Pluralism? Co-Implication, Embeddedness and Interdependency between Public International Law and EU Law'. It is co-convened by two members of the Centre, Dr Paul Gragl and Dr Violeta Moreno-Lax.

Seminar Series Theme

Ever since Van Gend en Loos, the Union’s system has been characterised as ‘a new legal order’, growing independently of other branches of international law (PIL), and maintaining a complex relationship with it. Although international lawyers tend to presume the direct applicability of general international norms to the EU, particularly taking into account its treaty origins and distinct legal personality, there are complex ramifications originating in its sui generis nature as a (constitutionalising) system of ‘supranational’ law.

On the other hand, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has repeated its commitment to PIL in constant jurisprudence, reiterating that the Union ‘must respect international law in the exercise of its powers’ and that provisions in agreements signed by the EU ‘form an integral part of [EU] law’ from the moment in which they come into force. However, this recognition has resulted in varying strategies of integration of PIL into EU law, ranging from unswerving compliance to instrumentalisation.

There is, in fact, nothing in the EU Treaties determining the place of PIL rules within the hierarchy of sources of EU law, nor in relation to its particular effects. The limits of dichotomous accounts to describe the impact of PIL in the EU system – relying on concepts such as ‘monism’ and ‘dualism’, from the international/domestic discourse – have been exposed by several commentators, who focus instead on the asymmetric and constantly adjusting nature of this relationship.

In the absence of specific provisions, the systematisation of this relationship has been articulated ad hoc by the ECJ. The case law in this matter has been nuanced, allocating different ranking and effects to PIL, depending on the type of instrument and the function it may perform in the particular circumstances. The ECJ has distinguished several degrees of intensity in the effects of international law, differentiating several methods of incorporation, each of them subject to different conditions. Ziegler discerns, at least, three distinct mechanisms: direct effect; indirect effect or conform interpretation; and substantive borrowing.

At the same time, since the Lisbon Treaty came into force it is an explicit objective of the Union to ‘uphold and promote’ its values in the relations established with the wider world, thereby contributing not only to ‘the strict observance’ but also to ‘the development of international law’. The EU, therefore, according to the literal tenor of Article 3(5) TEU, should emerge not only as a passive norm-recipient, but also as a shaper and generator of international norms, which it has already done in a number of areas.

Against this background, the objective of this seminar series and subsequent one-day workshop is to examine the interplay between EU law and PIL, and – most importantly – their impact, interlockedness and formative influence on one another, respectively, from the perspective of the EU and the international legal system. Building on the research already undertaken in this particular field, this project focuses on the methods, processes, and mechanisms of cross-fertilisation, mutual supportiveness, and conflict between the international system and EU law. By examining the means, dynamics and underlying rationales of reception (and rejection) between these two legal orders, the project intends to fill a gap in the existing literature, improving our understanding of law in the post-modern, globalised world, and opening new directions to future research on (and beyond) legal pluralism.

After an introductory roundtable discussion on the general aspects of the relationship between EU Law and PIL to set the scene, the project will immediately open in medias res and analyse specific legal areas from the viewpoint of both the EU and PIL in a series of ‘thematic dialogues’. This inductive approach will eventually allow the contributors to draw conclusions on the actual processes of reception, compliance and/or contestation between the EU and international legal orders. A final one-day workshop will put findings into perspective, reflect upon them and consider how best to articulate the link between the two regimes.

Venue and registration

All seminars will be held in Room 313, Law Building, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS. For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.

These events are free to attend, but prior registration is required. Please see the event pages below for registration information for each seminar. Registration information for the 17 June workshop is forthcoming. 

For more information, please contact our events team or the series co-convenors, Dr Paul Gragl and Dr Violeta Moreno-Lax








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