Introduction: The New Frontiers of EU Administrative Law and the Scope of Our Inquiry

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Table of Contents: I. The EU as a global administrative actor. – II. Development of EU administrative law and external relations: setting the scene. – III. Administrative action as instrumental action in external relations. – IV. Accountability: actors, fora and different types of act. – V. Mapping administrative action in EU external relations. – VI. Discretion.

Abstract: This Article introduces our study into the operation of administrative law in EU external relations by introducing its general themes and fields of study. It starts by characterising the EU as a global actor and by illustrating how EU administrative law has developed in general, and in the area of external relations in particular. It then moves to examine the instrumental role that administrative law plays in advancing the EU’s external policy objectives, and the difficulties involved, following from the general way in which many of these objectives have been defined. Building on Bovens’ definition of accountability, we lay down a main framework for studying accountability in this context, and its different dimensions studied in the individual Articles: legal, political, financial, administrative and social. This Article then provides a general comparison of administrative action in the area of external action, building on general typologies of EU administrative action, with a view to laying the ground for an examination of the extent to which external relations is special. Finally, it closes with a brief introduction to one of the key themes in this Special Section: the scope of institutional discretion, and its link to the overall accountability of EU action in this area.

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

European Papers, Vol. 2, 2017, No 2, pp. 467-488
2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/165

* Professor Emeritus, 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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