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External relations law of the European Union


This course is about what the European Union does in the world. It examines the EU as an international actor in different areas of activity: trade, development, foreign policy, security and defence. It explores the legal routes and procedures on the basis of which the EU relates to the rest of the world. The European Union makes its presence felt on the international scene in various ways, it has trade agreements with dozens of countries, it participates in international organisations and it has security operations and missions in various areas of the world. This course will help you understand the law which determines how the EU is carrying out these external relations.

Module A: Constitutional foundations


  • European Union and European Community legal order
  • International legal personality
  • Express competence
  • Implied competence

Module B: International law and European Community law


  • Negotiation, conclusion and implementation of international agreements
  • Mixed agreements
  • Effects of international law in European Community legal order
  • Relationship between World Trade Organisation and European Community law

Module C: External economic relations


  • Autonomous measures - Common Commercial policy
  • International Agreements: European Economic Area, Partnership and Cooperation agreements, Stabilisation and Association agreements, Euro-Mediterranean agreements
  • European neighbourhood policy

Module D: External political relations


  • Common Foreign and Security Policy, including Common Security and Defence Policy
  • Relationship between European Union and Common Foreign and Security Policy (sanctions, exports of dual-use goods)


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


It is strongly recommended that you attempt Module A first.

How to apply

You can apply to study a module individually as a standalone unit or as part of a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Master of Laws qualification. (In either scenario, they must be studied in order.)

These modules also contribute towards the following specialist pathways for Laws:

  • European Law
  • Public International Law
  • Public Law

Apply via Postgraduate Laws.

Academic Co-ordinator

Professor Panos Koutrakos

Professor Panos Koutrakos

Professor Panos Koutrakos joined City University London in January 2013 as Professor of European Union Law.

He has taught at the Universities of Bristol (Professor of EU Law: 2006-2012), Durham (Professor of Law: 2004-2006; Lecturer in Law: 1999-2002) and Birmingham (Reader in EU law: 2002-2004). In September 2007, he was awarded a Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law by the European Commission. He has held visiting posts at the Universities of Melbourne (2009, 2013), Sydney (2008, 2010), New South Wales (2013), Iowa (2000, 2002), Michigan (2005), and Antwerp (since 2008).

Professor Koutrakos has written extensively on the law of the external relations of the European Union, covering trade, economic and political relations as well as the Union's security and defence policy. He also writes on the law of the single market, with emphasis on the free movement of goods and services.

Professor Koutrakos is the joint editor of European Law Review. He has also contributed to training programmes for judges and civil servants from central and eastern Europe.