The EU’s aspirations as a global actor have become particularly salient since the Treaty of Lisbon, which codified the EU’s aim to “contribute to … the strict observance and the development of international law”. Scholarly attention, until recently focused on the EU’s reception of international law, is now questioning how the EU might operate not only as a recipient of but also a contributor to the development of international law. In this context, this paper analyses the evolving relationship between the EU and the International Law Commission (ILC), the UN’s body entrusted with promoting “the progressive development of international law and its codification”, and how the EU has made use of the ILC to operationalize its aim to shape international norms. It argues that, notwithstanding the ILC’s State-centric fixation and international law’s continued perplexity with the EU, the EU’s observations and comments to the Commission’s work have left a small but not negligible mark. The EU should build on this precedent and develop a more consistent policy of strategic engagement with this body, putting in a little more effort for a tough crowd.
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