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Last update: 17-08-2004
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Legal order - International law

States are the subjects of international law

The sources of international law are treaties, conventions and agreements entered into by States or in certain cases international organisations.

The European Community itself can enter into treaties negotiated by the Commission. The power to do so is conferred explicitly by the treaties, in trade policy for instance, or by judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Communities. The Court has held that wherever Community law gives the Community institutions powers to work towards a specific objective internally, they have the power to enter into the international agreements needed to attain the objective.

International treaties are binding on States and international organisations, which are the real subjects of international law. But they can, also have effects on individuals and firms.

There are several answers to the question whether international law is a legal system in its own right and, if so, how it should be incorporated into national law to produce its effects.

Certain Member States have adopted the unitary theory, whereby international law is a direct part of the domestic legal system; others have preferred the dualist theory, whereby international law and domestic law are two separate and independent legal systems. In the latter case, international law has to be incorporated into the domestic legal system by statute.

You can find information on this by clicking on the flags of the Member States.

The main international organisations working on private international law are the Council of Europe and the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

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Last update: 17-08-2004

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