A few months after, last January, the United Kingdom had refused to recognize the ambassador of the European Union the same legal status as the ambassadors of the States, today also the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has once again placed more conspicuous, the question of the nature of the EU, by granting a status – and a chair – to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and by granting a different status – and a different session – to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. When the sage points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger: and so many – little helped by the shyness of the jurists – classify these events as episodes of etiquette or protocol. This is not the case. In 2019, a similar question was raised by the United States of America, which had refused to equate the European Union with States, stressing that the European Union constitutes an international organization and not a state.
The ambiguity about the nature of the European Union has frequently emerged for years in the functioning of numerous international organizations. “The European Communities is not a state”; “The European Communities is not a country”: so they wrote in 2005 (see page 49 and following, judgment WT / DS / 174 of 15.3.2005) in their judgment on country of origin and geographical indications the judges of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The problem, it must be said, has always existed: it was detected immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, in 1957, and many, from the first years of the EEC’s life, were content to affirm that European construction constitutes a ” unicum “. The assertions of past decades seem today to have to submit to a new, unavoidable scrutiny, that of international law. It should be noted that international law and international organizations have always experienced the “European Community / European Union” entity with discomfort. The questions posed by the US, the United Kingdom and, ultimately, Turkey therefore re-propose a simple, powerful, objective, inescapable question: what is the European Union?
One cannot but hope, in the name of legal certainty and for the sake of democracy, that analysis and debate will rise in quality and that a correct and unambiguous answer will soon be provided to this question. It would finally be clear, for example, who, between the national government and the EU official, represents the Italian people at the World Trade Organization, at the World Health Organization and at all other international organizations. And it would also clarify whether the texts of the international treaties, in using the terms “country” (eg. country of origin) or “nation”, refer to the European Union or European nations.
The same language used by prof. Sabino Cassese in 2006 in his book Beyond the state leaves room for doubts and questions: “There are almost 200 states, 2,000 international organizations … In the last quarter of a century the global legal order has made great strides, for which law plays a decisive role in it … in this case, the ‘regional’ bodies, such as the European Union, which evolve into public powers comparable to the States, even if different from them, are excluded ”. The thesis according to which, with respect to the precise codifications provided for by international law, the European Union constitutes an international organization and not a state is, moreover, the thesis supported by the German Constitutional Court and by the Italian Constitutional Court itself. The latter, on the other hand, can only be based, in qualifying the European Union, on the text of art. 11 of the Constitution, which, unequivocally, speaks of “international organizations”.
An interesting online discussion (“The diplomatic spat between the Eu and the Uk regarding the Union Delegation in London”) was dedicated on 11 February to the issue of the status of the European Union and saw the participation of the Italian Mauro Gatti , researcher at the University of Bologna; the day after the meeting (informal panel), Gatti posted on the blog of European Journal of International Law an article entitled “Diplomats or civil servants? The Contested Status of the EU’s ‘Embassy’ in the UK “, proposing a refined legal examination of the issue.
(The author was a member of the Diplomatic Representation of Italy to the international organizations of Geneva)
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