LAW4683 - EU external relations: Law and policy - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Unit guides



  • Term 3 2017 (Day)


The European Union's presence in the world is continuously evolving and expanding. Today, there is virtually no area of international law making where the Union cannot participate - either as an independent international actor or in cooperation with its member states. The EU external actions and the external dimension of its competences have, however, become increasingly complex and contentious. To name but a few of the present challenges: The refugee crisis and the accession negotiations with Turkey; the Dutch veto to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement; the negotiation, signature and ratification of CETA and TTIP trade agreements, the incompatibility of intra-EU bilateral investment treaties with EU law; the relations of the EU with the UK post-Brexit or the rejection of the EU's accession treaty to the ECHR by the CJEU. Against this background, the unit will give an overview over the development of the EU's external dimension and its competences in various policy fields. Moreover, it aims to identify future challenges in EU foreign policy making and consider potential solutions.

The first part of the unit will provide an overview of the development, law and politics of the European Union as an international organisation. The students will be introduced to the character, role and function of an international organisation from an international relations perspective. This part will also explain the foundation of the EU's legal order and the relationship between EU and international law.

The second part of the unit will deal with the Union's current role and reach in the international sphere. More specifically, it will consider the (international) legal personality of the Union, the division and nature of the Union's external competences, and its relationship in this sphere vis--vis its member states and third parties. Moreover, the role of the Union's institutions, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Services, and the institutional procedures for EU external policy and treaty-making will be discussed and evaluated.

The third part of the unit focuses on the development of the Union's international law making competences in various policy fields, such as trade and investment, Brexit or the Common Foreign and Security Policy) and with various international actors (international and regional organisations as well as third states). The Union's external (trade) relations with Asia and Australia will be discussed in some detail.

The fourth part of the unit will discuss and critically assess some of the aforementioned developments and challenges in the EU's foreign relations law and policy.


On completion of this unit, students will

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and evaluation of the legal foundations of the EU's international relations and foreign policy making in a system of multi-level governance (member state, EU and international level) ;
  2. Describe and assess the development of the Union's external policy and treaty-making competences in selected fields, such as trade and investment or anti-terrorism;
  3. Research, synthesise and interpret a) the case law of the CJEU; b) the practice of the EU institutions c) relevant academic literature and apply the results of the research to the specific issues under reflection;
  4. Critically assess, and communicate both orally and in writing, developments and challenges of the EU's external relations law and policy-making in the current social, political and economic climate;
  5. Reflect on their own capabilities and performance, and make use of feedback on their classroom performance to support personal and professional development.


Attendance requirement: Students who fail to attend at least 80% of the classes in this unit (ie who miss 3 or more classes) will receive a result of 0 N for the unit. Students who are unable to meet this requirement due to severe illness or other exceptional circumstances must make an application for in-semester special consideration with supporting documentation.

Class participation: 10%

Group presentation in class: 20%

Written submission of 1,000 words: 20%

Take Home Examination (2,000 words): 50%

Workload requirements

Students will be required to attend 36 hours of classes, and undertake approximately an additional 108 hours of private study, including reading, class preparation, assignment preparation and revision time over the duration of the course.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)


  1. For students who commenced their LLB course prior to 2015: LAW1101 Introduction to legal reasoning

    LAW1104 Research and writing

  2. For students enrolled in the LLB (Honours) course from 2015:

    LAW1111 Foundations of law

    LAW1112 Public law and statutory interpretation

    LAW1113 Torts

    LAW1114 Criminal law 1

    LAW2101 Contract A

    LAW2102 Contract B

    LAW2111 Constitutional law

    LAW2112 Property A

  3. For other students:

    Equivalent introductory units from another university.