The EU Court in Deep Waters—the Relationship to ITLOS

PluriCourts seminar with Professor Erik Røsæg.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) includes some conflict resolution mechanisms, and it established the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).  The European Union is a party to the UNCLOS and has made it part of EU law. The EU has its own court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), with exclusive jurisdiction over EU matters. Røsæg's project aims to clarify and discuss the relationship between the ITOLOS and the EU Court.

In the MOX case (C-459/03), the ECJ found that Ireland could not bring and action before ITLOS against the UK to challenge UK’s right to run an industrial activity in Ireland considered dangerous. It should have been brought before the ECJ, where, incidentally, Ireland has almost no right to bring action in such disputes. In the Intertanko case (C-308/06), the ECJ held that the ECJ could not consider whether an EU directive violated the UNCLOS. Apparently, the impact of the UNCLOS is effectively curbed in EU law by restricting litigation.

This raises issues of the legitimacy of the non-intervention policy of the ECJ. The policy will be discussed in light of the jurisdictional rules of the involved courts, the rules on the competence of the European Community in relation to its member states, and the relationship between the rules of public international law as opposed to domestic law (dualism/monism).


PluriCourt Seminars are a forum for pluridisciplinary discussion of core issues relating to international courts and tribunals. PluriCourts scholars or invited speakers present new and ongoing research or comment on current questions. The seminars are open to everyone.

Tags: Legitimacy, CJEU
Published Oct. 27, 2017 9:16 AM - Last modified Feb. 11, 2021 2:39 PM