European Union and the Accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2012

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
Christoph Herrmann, Bruno Simma and Rudolf Streinz (eds.)Trade Policy between Law, Diplomacy and ScholarshipEuropean Yearbook of International Economic Law10.1007/978-3-319-15690-3_19

The European Union and the Accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2012

Meinhard Hilf 

Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany



Meinhard Hilf

It was the main interest and fascination of Horst Krenzler to handle and shape the foreign economic relations of the European Union (EU). He served the EU Commission as the responsible Director-General for foreign relations from 1986 to 1996. This is a long period as this central function is very much aspired to by other leading Member States who are always interested in a regular rotation amongst them.

Ten years in this context is rather exceptional and testifies the extraordinary talents of Krenzler to handle conflicting interests with honesty and fairness on the basis of a deeply rooted interest and knowledge of international law relating to international trade relations. Though he started his studies in literature and political science he finally found his specific interest in public international law. He graduated at the University of Heidelberg in 1964 with a doctoral thesis on the “Provisional Application of Treaties under Public International Law”. This thesis had been written under the supervision of Günther Jaenicke and Hermann Mosler, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Public International Law in Heidelberg. This subject shows Krenzler’s deep affection for combining practical and theoretical elements in the resolution of conflicts. This early dissertation is still cited and has served as a reliable and important reference in the area of treaty drafting and handling. It is in this area where he found his satisfaction in the services of the EU Commission when drafting and handling innumerous international agreements and treaties as for example in the field of trade in textiles. Thus his numerous outstanding personal and professional talents qualified him to steer the newly founded and constantly developing European Union through the never calm waters of international trade relations.

Just before the end of his professional position with the European Commission he helped to realise the acceptance of the “European Communities” (EC) as an original member of the World Trade Organization which was created in 1994. His diplomatic skills were needed to convince all EC Member States as well as all other contracting parties of the GATT 1947 to recognise that all respective competences and powers in the field of international trade had finally been transferred to the EC. This has been confirmed by the European Court of Justice in its Opinion 1/94 of 15 November 1994 (OR 1994, I-5267) ruling that the powers concerning international trade in goods had been exclusively transferred to the EC.

One can only assume that Krenzler was likewise involved in clarifying the position of the EC regarding the proposed accession of China (1995) and of Russia (2012), becoming now the 156th member of the WTO. It is astonishing that these two events did not stir any significant attention. China’s accession was discussed for 8 years after the formal application. The accession of Russia was initiated in 1993 and was decided after a period of 18 years, a period in which the dissolution of the USSR had taken place. The official documents of the EU do not reflect the importance of these events especially as there was no formal consent or any other formal involvement of the European Parliament. Only within the Working Party which had been established amongst the members of the WTO very intensive discussions took place as to the conditions Russia would have to fulfil in order to join the WTO. This Working Party had been established with 60 members participating thus having been the largest Working Party ever established.1 It is obvious that the respective governmental institutions were regularly involved in the negotiations of the Working Party without, however, any general public attention as one would have expected.

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