Polycephalous Anatomy of the EC in the WTO: An Analysis of Law and Practice


This article analyzes the unique legal position of the European Community (EC) in the world trading system. Its polycephalous anatomy derives from the fact that all 25 Member States of the EC are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) along with the EC itself. This means that when referring to the EC, the whole as well as its parts are independent Members of the WTO. This has legal and political consequences related to the allocation of powers between the national and supranational levels that will be analyzed. The article explains what is meant by a “mixed agreement” and analyzes the various existing types of mixed agreements in the field of the European Community’s external relations. The effects of the EC’s international agreements vis-à-vis third parties are examined. EC Treaty practice has become increasingly dominated by mixed agreements for they reflect the legal and political reality that the EC is not a single State for the purposes of international law. Problems raised by mixed agreements do not exist within the context of exclusive EC competence, but instead relate to the EC’s functioning. Within the EC treaty-making, there is a tendency to sign mixed agreements rather than pure Community agreements in areas dealing with the EC external relations. This shows their importance for the European Community and for its position in the world. The article concludes with some suggestions on what might be the optimal way to move forward in the complex field of external relations law of the EC and the European Union (EU).


Antitrust and Trade Regulation | Commercial Law | Comparative and Foreign Law | Constitutional Law | International Law | International Trade Law

Date of this Version

September 2006