Using International Law in the Euro Crisis: Causes and Consequences

During the sovereign debt crisis some EU member states 'stepped outside' the EU legal order and institutional framework and instead resorted to public international law when concluding international agreements. This paper examines the reasons behind such moves, as well as their legal and institutional consequences.

ARENA Working Paper 4/2013 (pdf)

Bruno De Witte

At several moments during the sovereign debt crisis of 2010-2012, Member State governments of the European Union concluded international agreements between themselves: the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the Fiscal Compact were all agreed in this manner. In each of those cases, a group of EU member states ‘stepped outside’ the EU legal order and the Union’s institutional framework, and instead resorted to instruments of public international law for organising their cooperation. This paper examines the reasons why this turn to international law occurred, and also the legal and institutional consequences of these moves away from EU law. The paper argues that we are not witnessing, at least not for now, an ‘intergovernmental plot’ designed to exclude the supranational institutions of the EU, but rather argues that contingent and plausible reasons explain the use of international law in each case, and that the damage to the constitutional integrity of the European Union is rather limited.

Published June 24, 2013 4:07 PM - Last modified Apr. 25, 2016 10:40 AM