The (extra)territoriality of EU law

Prof Régis Bismuth and Dr Antonio Marzal


We are delighted to invite you to our next GCILS seminar.

Location: Room 207, 10 Professors’ Square

Time: 9.30am, Wednesday 6th March 2024

Registration: In-person attendance only. To attend, please register via Bookitbee.

Presentations will be followed by a discussion. Tea and coffee will be provided.


Prof Régis Bismuth (Professor of Public Law, Sciences Po) will present his chapter titled “The European Union experience of extraterritoriality: When a (willing) victim has become a (soft) perpetrator”.  


When it had to deal with the extraterritoriality of others or to circumscribe or justify the jurisdictional limits of its laws, the European Union has often cloaked itself in the flag of international legality and has underlined the duty to comply with principles of State jurisdiction under international law. A closer analysis of the EU experience of extraterritoriality nonetheless shows a hiatus between the EU legal discourse and its practice. Indeed, the EU has tended to accommodate the extraterritorial pretensions of other states and has also tended to justify its own extraterritorial practices, mostly on the basis of an extensive understanding of the territorial principle. More broadly, this chapter also highlights not only the blurring distinction between extraterritoriality and territoriality but also the more liberal stance the EU has adopted over the last years as regards connecting factors justifying the application of its laws.


Dr Antonio Marzal (Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Glasgow) will present the article “The territorial reach of the European Union Law: a private international law enquiry into the European Union’s spatial identity”.


This article offers a reconstruction of how the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) justifies the territorial scope of application of EU law. Scholarship on this issue tends to advocate for an expansive projection of EU norms in the pursuit of global values, subject to the external limits of public international law. This article will develop a critique of this approach by pointing to its underlying assumptions as to the territorial dimension of the EU’s rule, the insoluble practical issues that it leads to, and the need to consider differently the EU’s spatial identity and relation to the wider world. It will also be argued that, in fact, other case law sometimes already reflects an alternative vision, by imagining the EU implicitly, not as a ‘global actor’ promoting universal values, but as a concretely situated and spatially bounded community. This will ultimately allow for a more sophisticated understanding of the EU’s territory to emerge—irreducible to the physical coordinates of its acts of intervention, or the mere sum of the physical spaces under Member State sovereignty, but as a distinct space of social relations, informed and delineated by the particular axiology and structure of the EU legal system.