consular assistance, third countries, international law
In recent years, the European Union (‘eu’) has taken a number of initiatives with a view to co-ordinating consular assistance in third countries. Not only have EU citizens an entitlement to consular assistance by any EU Member State in the absence of a representation of their own, but EU Member States themselves are encouraged to co-operate by means of the Lead State Concept and other forms of co-operation. While this may seem relatively unproblematic from the perspective of the EU, it is very difficult to reconcile with general international law. The various EU agreements in this area have no application to third States: some do not have legally binding form and even those that do only apply to the parties to the treaties, ie EU Member States. This article will present the situation, analyse its complexities and offer some reflections on the global application and desirability of the regime created by the EU.