In this article, we explore the theme of sovereignty in the context of fragmented international law. We observe that the sovereignty of States may become relativized, not only by the political power of other States, but by its exposure to multiple, functionally separate fields of law. We analyze this theme by asking whether trade agreements as instruments of economic law offer a venue for discussing the sovereignty of sub-statal entities that lack standing on the more traditional international forums. Our analysis focuses first on a recent decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which concerned the status of Western Sahara in the framework of the EU-Morocco trade agreement. We then consider the implications of that case, if any, on the situation in the region of Abkhazia within Georgia in the context of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. We show how trade agreements in some cases may (EU-Morocco), and in other cases may not (EU-Georgia), affect the integrity of States in a novel way, depending on the intricacies of the facts and the strictures of the terms of the applicable Agreement. Reflecting the fragmentation of law, trade agreements thus have the potential to grant an avenue for sub-statal entities to establish standing before a regional court (in our case, the Court of Justice of the EU), or an international tribunal. That, in turn, may allow these entities to reinforce their claims for self-determination under international law. Beyond the possible theoretical implications on the (relativity of) sovereignty, the findings seem worth considering carefully in the context of concluding and formulating regional and international agreements in different fields of law.
Harri Kalimo & Shorena Nikoleishvili, Sovereignty in the Era of Fragmentation – EU Trade Agreements and the Notion of Statehood in International Law, 32 Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law 353-407 (2022)
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/djcil/vol32/iss2/3