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The EU and the development of international law

Module by Jan Wouters, University of Leuven

According to Article 3(5) of the Treaty on European Union, the Union shall contribute “to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter”. In this module we will take a closer look at how the EU turns this commitment into practice by analysing the EU’s contribution to: (1) treaty law, (2) customary international law, (3) the international law of jurisdiction, (4) the settlement of international disputes, and (5) international organizations. We will see that the EU plays an important role in all of these areas – be it as a prolific treaty-maker, as an active party in international trade and investment disputes, or as a member and observer in a large variety of international organizations, ranging from formal intergovernmental organizations such as the WTO and the United Nations, to informal global governance clubs, such as the G7 and the G20.

Keywords: treaty law – customary international law – jurisdiction – dispute settlement – international organizations

Video lecture by Jan Wouters




Jan Wouters (*1964) is Jean Monnet Chair ad personam EU and Global Governance, Full Professor of International Law and International Organizations, and founding Director of the Institute for International Law and of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, an interdisciplinary centre of excellence, at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven). The Centre was recognized in 2016 as a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence.  In Leuven, he teaches public international law, law of international organizations, the law of the World Trade Organization, space law and international humanitarian law. As Visiting Professor at Sciences Po (Paris), Luiss University (Rome) and the College of Europe (Bruges) he teaches EU external relations law. As Adjunct Professor at Columbia University he teaches comparative EU-US perspectives on international human rights law. He is a Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Arts, is President of the United Nations Association Flanders Belgium, and practises law as Of Counsel at Linklaters, Brussels. He is Editor of the International Encyclopedia of Intergovernmental Organizations, Deputy Director of the Revue belge de droit international, and an editorial board member in ten other international journals. He has published widely on international and EU law, international organizations and global governance. His recent books include The European Union and Multilateral Governance (2012), International Prosecutors (2012), Informal International Lawmaking (2012), Private Standards and Global Governance  (2012), China, the European Union and Global Governance  (2012), The EU’s Role in Global Governance (2013), National Human Rights Institutions in Europe (2013), The Law of EU External Relations (2nd ed. 2015), China, the EU and the Developing World (2015), Global Governance of Labour Rights (2015), Global Governance Through Trade: EU Policies and Approaches (2015), The Contribution of International and Supranational Courts to the Rule of Law (2015), Global Governance and Democracy: A Multidisciplinary Analysis (2015) and Armed Conflicts and the Law (2016). Apart from his participation in international scientific panels and networks, he advises various international organizations and governments, trains international officials and is often asked to comment international events in the media. He is coordinator of a large-scale FP7 Programme FRAME, (Fostering Human Rights Among European (External and Internal) Policies), and of the Baillet Latour EU China Chair at KU Leuven.

More info: https://ghum.kuleuven.be/ggs/people/00010135
10 Easy questions
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10 Advanced questions
10 Advanced questions
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Further readings