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School of Law

Eleftheria Asimakopoulou


PhD Student



Thesis title

EU Member States as international actors after Lisbon: Legal challenges and implications concerning the balancing of climate change objectives under bilateral investment agreements with third countries


Summary of research

This thesis examines the role of Member States of the EU as international actors in foreign direct investment (FDI) and climate policy via their involvement in the conclusion of international investment agreements (IIAs). Focusing particularly on their bilateral investment agreements with third countries ('extra-EU BITs'), it asks the following: Do Member States balance climate and FDI under their extra-EU BITs differently from the EU and, if so, why and with what legal consequences? The research question is framed on two main assumptions: (i) Member States are unique subjects in international law as a result of their membership to the EU and (ii) the EU is a constitutional polity with distinct treaty-making powers from its Member States.

In regard to its research aims, the thesis seeks to explore in how far the balancing approach of the Member States is aligned with that of the EU in practice and, if not, why; how EU law constraints the capacity of Member States to include climate concerns in their extra-EU BITs at their own discretion; whether the extra-EU BITs serve as a vehicle for the transfer of Union values internationally and how this may affect the EU’s position as international legal actor. In terms of methodology, the study relies primarily upon doctrinal methods of inquiry coupled with case studies to exemplify how Member States balance their extra-EU BITs de jure and in practice. A law-in-context approach is also employed in order to demonstrate whether the balancing outcome depends on which EU institutions are involved in the negotiation and conclusion of extra-EU BITs as well as on the level of influence they exert as 'agenda setters'.


Eleftheria holds a Bachelor of Laws from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She obtained an LLM in Global Environment and Climate Change Law from the University of Edinburgh and an LLM in European Law from Maastricht University in the Netherlands (with distinction). Eleftheria is a qualified lawyer in Greece. In the past, she conducted research at the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance (SCELG) and at London-based organisations specialising in environmental law and policy, human rights, law of the sea and climate change issues. Prior to starting the PhD, she has worked in a law firm in Athens where she advised foreign investors and corporations on renewable energy, environmental compliance and public procurement. Since 2018, she is the author of the annual country report on Greek environmental law published at the Yearbook of International Environmental Law, Oxford University Press. Eleftheria joined the School of Law at Queen Mary University as a PhD candidate in 2020 and she was awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistantship.


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