European Foreign Policy
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European Foreign Policy

Legal and Political Perspectives

Edited by Panos Koutrakos

Written by leading experts, this book focuses on central issues of the foreign policy of the European Union. The issues explored include: • how the EU’s judges understand its relationship with the international order; • the coherence of the Union’s external action; • the EU’s approach to its neighbours; • the Common Security and Defence Policy; and, • the EU’s participation in international organisations.
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Chapter 3: Volkerrechtsfreundlich? International law and the Union legal order

Jan Klabbers


3. Völkerrechtsfreundlich? International law and the Union legal order Jan Klabbers INTRODUCTION The relationship between the European Union and public international law is often depicted as one of friendliness and openness. The EU, so the story goes, is völkerrechtsfreundlich, as the Germans put it, for the obvious reason that it is itself a creature of international law.1 After all, why bite the hand that feeds you, or commit patricide? At worst, so the standard narrative continues, the EU may need some shielding for a while, until such time as it has grown up and can hold its own. International law is the parent, the EU is its offspring, and they can and do co-exist and cooperate in great harmony. They truly form a happy family.2 The story of the EU and international law as a happy family is a seductive story, but it does have a few holes in its plot.3 For one thing, it carries the implied promise that sooner or later the EU will be mature and grown up enough, resilient enough, or immune enough to stand on its own two feet – it will have survived its infant diseases and no longer need special protection. That is a seductive promise, but so far it has failed to materialize. The EU is now (whether one starts counting in 1952 or 1958) more than half a century old. Quite a few institutions have never reached that age: the EU, to make an obvious point, is twice as old...

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