EU External Relations, International Law and Questions of "Territory"

Paul James Cardwell, Prof Ramses Wessel

In December 2016, the Court of Justice set aside a judgment of the General Court in the Front Polisaro case. The General Court had annulled a Council Decision on an agreement with Morocco for reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, insofar as it applied to the territory of Western Sahara. The case illustrates what has become a growing problem for the EU as it concludes ever more agreements with third countries, and particularly the more complex, deep agreements with states close to its borders. The continued prevalence of disputed territories around the globe has resulted in a line of case-law before the Court (including, for example, the Brita case on products made in the West Bank). Questions on territorial scope are some of the most tricky in international law, and can emerge through seemingly mundane matters of trade. This paper explores how the Court, which was set-up to deal with matters of EU law and not to resolve 'general' international law quandaries, grapples with such inherently 'political' and thorny questions.

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