LLM Programme

The taught modules offered on the LLM programme vary from year to year. Please check the full list of taught modules list for details of modules running in specific academic years. We make every effort to ensure that every module will be offered, but modules are subject to change and cancellation. You are therefore advised to check this site regularly for further updates throughout the year preceding entry to the LLM programme.

Credit value: 30 credits (12 ECTS)
Module Convenor:
Professor Piet Eeckhout
Intercollegiate teaching: No
Teaching Method: 20 x two-hour lectures
Who may enrol: LLM students, SIL students, Other UCL Masters students
Prerequisites: None
Barred module combinations: None
Core module for specialism: European Union Law,
Practice Assessment: practice essay
Assessment method for Masters students: 3,000 word essay (50%) and 2-hour unseen written examination (50%)
Assessment method for SIL students: two-hour unseen written examination
Module Overview

Module summary

The EU is an ever more significant international actor. Its internal market constitutes the largest integrated economic area in the world, and access to that market is largely governed by unified trade, investment, and economic policies. The EU also claims to be a development cooperation champion, and is very active in global environmental policy-making. Beyond the economic field, the EU is further in the process of forging a common foreign and security policy.

All of these external policies are reflected and embodied in complex but fascinating legal instruments and institutions. The EU has developed an extensive practice of concluding international agreements, participating in the work of international organisations, and legislating on matters of external relations. This practice throws up many legal problems and questions, as evidenced by the growing case law in this area from the EU’s courts. These problems and questions are often of constitutional significance for the EU and its Member States, and determine the role which the EU plays in international lawmaking.

The first part of the course studies the EU’s international trade and investment policies. The EU’s competences in this field are exclusive. It is a full member of the WTO, operates a sophisticated trade policy (the ‘common commercial policy’), and concludes many trade agreements. It is in the process of articulating its own international investment policies. We will look at the foundations of these policies in the EU’s Treaties, including the scope of the EU’s competences; at the EU’s role in the WTO, including its participation in WTO dispute settlement; at the main instruments of the EU’s commercial policy, including anti-dumping and anti-subsidy; at the EU’s network of trade agreements; and at its fledgling policy on foreign direct investment.

The second part of the course examines other areas of the EU’s external relations, such as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (including counter-terrorism and economic and financial sanctions). It further looks at a number of horizontal issues. The main such issue concerns the interaction and interrelationship between EU law and international law. Other questions concern the EU’s treaty-making practice, which is often characterised by joint action by the EU and its Member States, leading to so-called mixed agreements. This joint action is governed by a strong duty of cooperation. The course will conclude by summing up the role which ‘the law’ plays in how the EU develops as an international actor

Module syllabus

The course will focus on the following topics, which may each be covered in one or more seminars:

  1. EU external competences: how do the EU’s founding Treaties conceive of the EU’s external competences?
  2. Competences in international trade matters – focusing on how the EU’s competence to conduct a ‘common commercial policy’ has evolved as a product of the interaction between the case law of the EU Court of Justice and the amendments to the EU’s founding Treaties.
  3. Instruments and institutions of the common commercial policy: what are the main instruments of the EU’s trade policy, and what are the respective roles of the EU’s institutions – with a particular focus on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy policies.
  4. The EU and the WTO: how is EU membership of the WTO organised, what role does the EU play in the WTO, and how does it participate in WTO dispute settlement?
  5. The EU’s practice of concluding free trade agreements with non-member countries: this practice, stimulated by the failing WTO Doha negotiations, continues to expand, and is a preferred method for exporting the EU’s internal norms on a range of economic policies.
  6. The EU’s fledgling policy on foreign direct investment: the Treaty of Lisbon conferred exclusive competence on the EU to develop an FDI policy, which will gradually need to replace existing bilateral investment treaties concluded by the Member States. That raises many policy and legal issues.
  7. Beyond trade: the EU's implied powers. The CJEU has, over time, developed the doctrine of implied powers, which creates treaty-making powers for the EU in all areas of EU internal policy-making; and exclusive competences wherever internal legislation is affected by an international treaty negotiation.
  8. The practice of "mixity". Notwithstanding the EU's broad external powers, the EU mostly acts together with its Member States, leading to joint membership of international organizations or joint participation in international agreements, treaties and conventions. Mixity triggers a range of complex legal issues. The overarching legal principle is a general duty of cooperation between the Member States and the EU institutions.
  9. The EU's treaty-making practice: how the EU concludes treaties and agreements; the involvement of the various institutions, in particular the growing role of the European Parliament.
  10. The effect of international agreements in EU law. There is a rich body of case law on the conditions for international agreements to have 'direct effect' in EU law. Many agreements have such effect, but multilateral agreements such as the WTO Agreement and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea do not. Even so, there are further mechanisms for applying those agreements, such as a principle of consistent interpretation.
  11. The effect of customary international law and UN law, in EU law. Again there is a rich body of case law, including the famous Kadi I decision on the relationship between UNSC Resolutions and EU fundamental rights protection.
  12. The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy: the Treaty of Lisbon has attempted to strengthen the institutional foundations for this policy, by creating the office of the High Representative, supported by the European External Action Service.
  13. The EU's sanctions policy constitutes by far the most effective and elaborate EU external policy. There is a range of sanctions instruments, ranging from general trade embargos to 'smart' sanctions against regime members and supporters of terrorism. The EU Courts have been faced with an avalanche of challenges to sanctions instruments, throwing up a series of important legal questions.
  14. The EU's human rights policy - as the EU also aims at promoting and protecting human rights, particularly in its external action, the course will examine the instruments and effectiveness of that policy.

Recommended materials

P. Eeckhout, EU External Relations Law (2nd ed, OUP 2011)

Preliminary reading

For students who have not studied EU law before: some basic textbook reading on the EU institutions; lawmaking; direct effect and primacy; judicial protection (for example Craig and de Burca, EU Law - Text Cases and Materials, 5th ed OUP 2011)

Other information: N/A
Prizes for this module: There are currently no prizes available for this module.


The application process for the 2015-16 academic session is now open.

Please note, for the 2015-16 intake, we are not accepting the TOEFL test. If you have an English condition to meet, you must take one of the alternative tests listed here instead.