Research event

The emerging EU law on corporate sustainable responsibility: Competences, complementarity, conflicts

A presentation by Markus Krajewski, Professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. This event is part of the Fundamental Rights Research Colloquium under the cluster “Fundamental Rights in the Global Political Economy" hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights.

The European Union prides itself as “global leader on Responsible Business Conduct and a frontrunner in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”. In fact, the EU adopted a number of legislative measures aimed at establishing corporate responsibility concerning human rights and environmental protection such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, the EU Timber Regulation and the Conflict Minerals Regulation. In 2022, the EU Commission also proposed a draft of a comprehensive Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive which may enter into force in 2024. Furthermore, the EU pursues a number of policy initiatives to pursue the goals of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights laid down in its 2020-2024 Action Plan Human Rights and Democracy.

The wide range of internal and unilateral activities of the EU in this regard stand in stark contrast to the relevance of the business and human rights agenda in EU external relations, in particular concerning international agreements. This can be seen inter alia with regards to the Common Commercial Policy. While some of the more recent EU Free Trade Agreements contain provisions addressing corporate responsibility, the respective articles only contain vague and non-binding language. In addition, the EU has not yet played in active role in the negotiations on a Legally Binding Instrument in Geneva. The lack of international law instruments in the EU’s “smart mix of voluntary and mandatory measures on business and human rights and responsible business conduct” seems to have several reasons, some political, but some also legal.

Against this background, Prof. Krajewski's paper will assess the legal framework for external measures of the EU with regards to business and human rights. This will include three foundational elements: Constitutional principles of the EU’s external actions, the EU’s external competence and the coherence of EU agreements in the fields of trade and human rights. The paper will then discuss the current contents of the EU’s international agreements with regards to business and human rights and the proposals for the new Legally Binding Instrument to assess which elements the EU could pursue on the basis of the legal framework of the EU’s external policy.

Markus Krajewski is a Professor at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg and holds the Chair in Public Law and Public International Law. Professor Krajewski teaches German constitutional and administrative law, European law, public international law and human rights. His research focuses on international economic law, human rights, European external relations and the law of public services. He wrote four books and authored numerous contributions in scholarly journals and edited volumes. He is co-editor of the European Yearbook of International Economic Law (EYIEL). 

Prior registration is required. Registered attendees will receive the dial-in details as well as a draft paper, on which the presentation is based, via e-mail prior to the event.