European Union International Relations Law - LW916

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 20 (10) DR L Puccio


None, although a general background in either law, political science, sociology or another discipline relating to European Union studies is desirable.





This module explores the external relations law of the European Union with third countries and international organisations. This is an increasingly important area given that the EU has evolved into the largest regional trading and political bloc on the world stage. Having focused initially on developing a common trading policy with the international community, since the early 1990s the EU has steadily broadened the range of its powers to be able to engage in political as well as military issues on the international scene. A significant milestone was the formal establishment of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. More recently, the Lisbon Treaty 2007 further enhanced the EU's role in foreign affairs through a series of institutional changes and innovations, notably including the introduction of the 'External Action Service’, which is the EU counterpart to national diplomatic services, and the Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The module will critically explore the following aspects in particular:

1. The institutional and core legal framework of EU external relations law, including the division of competences between the EU and the Member States, the impact of human rights in EU external relations and the expansion of the EU powers over time;

2. Selected specific policy areas, such as the Common Commercial Policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and the external dimension to EU environmental policy, along with their different (and sometimes conflicting) objectives and underlying political perspectives.

The module will also foster a contextual, interdisciplinary and critical approach to studying the subject, with reference to political science literature on the effects of EU external policies.


Contact hours

2 hours a week combined lecture/seminar excluding reading and writing weeks (18 hours). The remaining 182 hours are dedicated to private study time. There are 200 study hours for the module.


Autumn Term

Method of assessment

100% coursework comprising of a 5,000 word essay (maximum) worth 80% plus a participation element worth 20%.

Indicative reading

P Eeckhout, External Relations of the European Union – Legal and Constitutional Foundations (OUP, 2011)
B Van Vooren & R Wessel, EU External Relations Law – Cases and Materials (CUP, 2014)
P Koutrakos, EU International Relations Law (Hart 2015)
K Smith, EU Foreign Policy in a Changing World, 3rd ed (Polity, 2014)
C Hill & M Smith (eds), International Relations and the EU, 2nd ed (OUP, 2011)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes
- Students will acquire the knowledge and understanding of the key concepts, principles, and rules relating to the institutional and legal framework of the external policy of the European Union, and how these have evolved.
- Students will be able to show the knowledge and understanding of the different policy models, international agreements and legal instruments employed in relations with countries or groups of countries, and assess how these reflect the different political perspectives underlying the EU's Common Commercial Policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy and development policy.
- Students will acquire the knowledge and understanding of the rules underpinning the membership of the EU in international organizations and especially the complexity of the membership of the EU in the World Trade Organisation.
- Students will gain an understanding of how to access the main sources relating to the law governing the EU's external relations, including relevant treaty sources, other foreign policy instruments and case-law, as well as literature in the field, for the purpose of preparing module assessments in both written and oral form.
- Students will be able to understand and critically evaluate the theoretical perspectives and academic debates which underlie the EU external relations law.
- Students will be able to research and critically analyse how the EU external relations law influences the foreign policy of the EU Member States as well as how the EU's international agreements and policy instruments impact on the domestic legislation as well as treaty negotiations of third countries.

The intended generic learning outcomes
- Students will acquire the ability to find relevant material from various sources including literature, international treaties, protocols, declarations, court judgments, in hard copy and through electronic sources on the internet and the specialist databases available to Kent Law School postgraduate students;
- Students will be able to assimilate and analyse complex material in the context of its conceptual and theoretical underpinnings, and present relevant knowledge and understanding in the form of reasoned and supported argument through seminar discussion and coursework;
- Students will develop their ability to express themselves to a high standard in a coherent written form, with appropriate use of citation, and by the use of computer word processing;
- Students will have an enhanced confidence in oral communication skills by virtue of experience in delivering an oral presentation in front of a class, and participation in group seminar discussions.
- Students will develop their skills in tackling practical problems.


Stage 1

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