The International Dimension of the EU Agencies: Charting a Legal-Institutional ‘Twilight Zone’

Research output: Working paperAcademic


International cooperation has become a salient feature of EU agencies, triggering important legal questions regarding the scope and limits of agencies’ international dimension, the nature and effects of their international cooperation instruments, and their status within the EU and on the global level. This paper examines the international dimension of EU agencies by advancing a legal-analytical blueprint linking EU law to international public law. The principle of institutional balance and the Meroni doctrine are used as EU law parameters for evaluating agencies’ international cooperation mandate, powers, and actions, whilst the concepts of ‘international agreement’ and ‘international legal personality’ serve as standards for assessing the legal nature of EU agencies’ international cooperation instruments and their legal status as global actors. Case studies on the European Aviation Safety Agency, Frontex, and Europol ‘test’ the legal-analytical framework, and offer fresh empirical insights into the EU agencies’ international cooperation practice.

First, the institutional balance in EU external relations does not prohibit entrusting certain international cooperation tasks to EU agencies, though the application of the Meroni requirements suggests a limited role for the EU agencies as global actors. Second, the international cooperation instruments concluded by EU agencies can be legally binding agreements which, as a specific category of technical-administrative agreements, could be accommodated within the EU legal framework. Third, while the possibility for EU agencies to acquire a derived and functionally limited international legal personality should not be excluded per se, none of the three agencies examined has such a legal status, entailing that their international cooperation actions are in principle attributable to the Union.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


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