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Enter the European Union - or not? The EU''s Participation in International Organisations

Anne Pintsch
University of Agder
Anne Pintsch
University of Agder
Open Panel

Abstract

My paper deals with the pattern of European Union (EU) participation in international organisations. It starts from the assumption that the role that the EU can play internationally depends substantially on the willingness of the international community to deal with it. On the other hand, it depends on EU Member States’ willingness to grant the EU a role as a distinct international actor. One area where such an empowerment and acceptance is decisive is the EU’s participation in international organisations. In some cases, especially where the EU has an exclusive competence, participation in international organisations is highly desirable from an EU perspective. However, in the international legal system it is states that are the privileged actors and the EU has frequently been met with reluctance in international organisations and fora. For example, the EU has hardly been welcomed as an actor in the United Nations context. At the same time, its acceptance as a member to the Food and Agriculture Organisation is generally seen as a major breakthrough regarding EU membership in international organisations. On the other hand, the EU is a member of other international organisations or treaty bodies and even where it only has observer status its actual rights may go far beyond. Overall, the pattern of EU participation in international organisations is strikingly diverse. In my paper, I start from this puzzling observation and ask how we can explain these differences. The paper will offer a theoretical framework that takes into account both the factors that determine EU Member States'' willingness to let the EU participate an international organisation and the factors that determine the recognition of the EU as a participant of international organisations by other international actors.