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EU Powers under External Pressure

Funded by the NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, this research project (2012 - 2015) aimed to identify and discuss the implication of the Union's external actions for its devised internal constitutional structures.


This research project identifies a broad range of constitutional implications and changes in entrenched practices that result from the EU’s external actions. Detailed studies of EU constitutional and external relations law and practice demonstrate specific shifts in power. Overall, the EU gains powers when it acts externally. It strengthens its grip on Member States and competes with national actors for the attention and trust of individuals.


The power shifts can be divided in five different categories:

Furthermore, the research highlights some of the broader and deeper implications of these changes for the EU and its Member States. Besides the specific changes resulting from external influences, such as the interpretation of organizing principles and of the institutional balance within the EU legal order, EU external relations also have implications for the CJEU’s claim that the EU legal order is an autonomous legal order, separate from both international and national law; the relationship between national, international and EU law; the role and position of Member States on the international plane; and the legitimate expectation of EU citizens that the EU takes action on their behalf.


Organization and funding

This project was carried out by Dr Christina Eckes, ACELG researcher and associate professor in European law, who received a personal research grant (VENI) by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research within its prestigious VENI research scheme. According to the NWO-report, the referees and the selection committee were not only very convinced by her personal track record, but also found her approach 'very original and promising'.