International agreement

International agreements are legally binding agreements between the European Union and third countries or international intergouvernmental organisations.


International agreement in detail

Area of application

Member states are party to each international agreement the European Union enters into with third countries. Member states are thus obligated to adhere to the provisions of international agreements.

The European Union is legally entitled to enter into international agreements on all the policy areas it has competence, insofar as it necessary to achieve results set out in EU policies. In selected policy areas the EU boasts a specific type of international agreement:

  • association agreements i: aimed at fostering close relations on a wide variety of policy areas, foremost of which is economic cooperation
  • partnership and cooperation i agreements: aimed at establishing long term relationships predominantly geared towards economic cooperation and the development of democratic institutions
  • trade agreements i: may cover every aspect related to trade. These agreements are decided upon by a special decision-making procedure

Adopting international agreements

The EU has a special agreement procedure i with which to adopt international agreements.

To ensure the objectives laid down in an agreement are met as well as to facilitate cooperation a council with representatives from both the EU and the third party is set up. Such council might be supported by comittees and council working groups.

Exceptions: international agreements in the common foreign and security policy

The EU may enter into international agreements on issues related to the common foreign and security policy. In such cases, the Council of Ministers decides by unanimity i instead of the usual qualified majority vote i.


Legal framework

Internationaal agreements are based on the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TfEU).

  • instrument (general): part five TfEU title V
  • specific policy areas: TEU title V chapter 2 section 1 art. 37 (common foreign and security), part five TfEU title III chapter 1 art. 209 (development cooperation), part five TfEU title III chapter 3 art. 214 (humanitarian aid)


Further information