Mauro Gatti is a PhD candidate in EU law at the University of Bologna and the University of Strasbourg. His article, “‘External representation of the European Union in the conclusion of international agreement” (with Pietro Manzini) recently appeared in (2012) 49 Common Market Law Review, Issue 5, pp. 1703–1734.
The awarding of the Noble Peace Prize to the European Union is a welcome event, especially in the context of the economic, social and political crisis facing the EU. The choice of the Nobel Committee also raises an interesting legal question: who should physically go to Oslo on December 10th and deliver a speech on behalf of the Union? This is a variation of the eternally unanswered question, attributed to H. Kissinger, “who do I call if I want to call Europe?”
This sort of question is often derided as exceedingly technical or formal. In international relations, however, forms may coincide with substance. The external representation of the Union grants elevated visibility and it ensures some discretion as to the content of the message to be delivered or, at least, in respect of the way the message is provided. Since institutional power games and personal struggles for visibility render external representation extremely contentious, this issue has been the object of turf wars for decades.
The Lisbon Treaty modified some specific arrangements, but it did not simplify the general representation framework. On the contrary, it introduced some novel uncertainties, which have already led to legal confrontation (see e.g. case C-28/12) and are likely to raise new issues in the case of the Peace Nobel Prize. The numerous declarations of EU leaders, issued subsequently to the announcement of the Nobel Committee, provide for a glimpse of the insterinstitutional battles that will be fought in the next few weeks: a statement came from the Cyprus Rotating Presidency, another from the European Parliament, a third from the High Representative, a fourth from the President of the European Council, a fifth from the President of the Commission, and a sixth from…the two Presidents together. It is likely that all these leaders strongly desire to deliver a speech in Oslo and be associated with this prestigious Prize. Therefore, the identification of the EU speaker will probably be laboriously performed through a legal battle concerning the interpretation of their respective competences.