Is There an Accountability Gap in EU External Relations? Some Initial Conclusions

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Abstract: This short Article draws together some conclusions based on the contributions to the Special Section “The New Frontiers of EU Administrative Law: Is there a Gap in EU External Relations?”. It concludes first that external action is a rich field in the application of EU administrative law. External policies are implemented and given effect through legal instruments and legally-prescribed procedures (including financial procedures) developed and controlled by administrative law and the Court of Justice. Second, as a result of mapping the types of administrative action in external policy fields we conclude that while the pattern of administrative action is shared with EU action more generally some distinctive types of external executive action can be identified, and external action demonstrates some distinctive qualities resulting in part from the multiplicity of actors and fora (including external) involved. Third, we conclude that despite very broad discretion in the implementation of policies the EU institutions are subject to administrative and legal constraints, including through the development of procedures in legislation, non-binding instruments and administrative practice. The Court has proved willing both to enforce procedural rules laid down in legislation and to require compliance with procedural principles such as the duty of care.

Keywords: European Union – administrative law – external relations – accountability – discretion – EU institutions. 

European Papers, Vol. 2, 2017, No 2, pp. 699-708
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/174

* Professor of European Law, European University Institute,

** Professor of International and EU law, UEF Law School; Academy of Finland Research Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the EUI Law Department,


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