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Accession to the European Union between the political and legal processes
Policy Paper by Young Researcher WP II/III Theories: Team 4 (D11b)
July 2007
Michael Roetting, LL.M. Eur.


As European Union law originates in international law, the accession of a new Member State to the European Union takes place by means of a contract governed by international law and concluded between the Member States of the Union and the applicant State. According to Art. 49 II TEU, “[t]he conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. In general, the procedures leading to the conclusion of an international treaty leave plenty of negotiating room, ultimately deriving from the international law principle of freedom of contract. This freedom may be exercised according to political priorities. Thus, it is a manifest hypothesis that the accession treaty between the Member States and an applicant State to the European Union is negotiated within the scope of a political process. Nevertheless, accession might also take place through the means of a legal process. This article will discuss the differences arising from the distinction between the two.

  • Abstract
  • 1. The applicable notion of process
  • 2. Accession negotiations: uniquely a political process?
  • 3. Relevance of the existence of a legal process
  • 4. Conclusion
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