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The EU’s foreign policy commitment to contribute to the development of international law, now codified in article 3(5) TEU, is one fraught with ambiguity, both in terms of its legal content and its operationalization. Unlike most foreign policy objectives included in the EU treaties, the EU’s aspiration to develop international law is not only a singular to the constitutive instrument of an international organisation, it is also amiss from the foreign policy constitutions of the majority of its member states. The European Court of Justice’s case law, in turn, offers little guidance as to its content.

While a growing body of research has looked at the different ways in which the EU has contributed to the development of international rules in fields such as trade, the environment or migration, this dissertation looks at the operationalisation of this foreign policy objective in an underexplored venue: the EU’s interactions with the UN General Assembly body entrusted with the codification and progressive development of general rules of public international law, the UN International Law Commission. It analyses the EU/EEC statements concerning this body’s work since 1975 to flesh out how the EU has engaged in legal discussions on the formation and development of rules of public international law and contextualises these against its wider ambition to ‘not only preserve but also transform’ the existing international legal order.