Working Papers / Global Economics: Trade Investment and Development
Reading opinion 2/15: standards of analysis, the Court’s discretion, and the legal view of the Advocate General
In Opinion 2/15, the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council, and the Member States litigate whether the Union is exclusively competent to conclude the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) alone, or whether the EU ought to involve the Member States as independent parties to a ‘mixed’ agreement. The delineation of of the scope of EU Common Commercial Policy following the Lisbon Treaty reform of 2009 is central to this proceeding. The Court’s opinion, which stands in the tradition of seminal EU external competence cases such as Opinion 1/78 and Opinion 1/94, will further clarify the Union’s constitutional identity in the area of EU external economic relations and is likely to have vast implications for EU external economic governance. This note, first, reviews the evolution of the Union’s Common Commercial Policy in context of the Court’s past jurisprudence and, secondly, scrutinizes the relevant methodological approaches and standards of analysis, which the Court employs in its competence enquiry. It is argued that the Court retains ample space for discretionary judicial decision-making. The clarification and further refinement of the Court’s analytical standards in its judgment as well as their transparent and consistent application have the potential to substantially reduce incentives for future litigation and inter-institutional political combat. The recent quarrels over the signing, provisional application, and conclusion of CETA provide sufficient emphasis to this point. Using the legal view of Advocate General as a benchmark, this paper, third, discusses the practical implications of the Court’s judgment for EU international trade and investment treaty-making. The article, fourth, proposes a number of institutional alternatives that may serve to ‘save’ EU external economic treaty-making from ‘mixity’ and the pitfalls of the associated treaty-making procedures in the EU and the member states.