LLM Courses

The overall objective of the Master programme is to provide international students with a broad and advanced education in international and European law which prepares them for further (PhD) research, private employment/public sector positions at international legal and policy making levels. Below is the full description of all courses. 


1. Compulsory Courses

International and Comparative Law

Professors: S.SMIS and R. GOSALBO BONO

  • Hours: 13 (Comp. Law - Bono) +26 (Intl. - Franckx) Form: Lectures
  • Exam: Written Final
  • Semester: First
  • Credits: 6

This course consists of two parts: international law and comparative law.
The aim of the Part 1 (International law) is to:

  • Refresh students on the basic topics of international law, such as sources, international personality,       territory, treaty law.
  • Explore the basis of international law as a discipline
  • Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the rules and processes specific to IL
  • Set the foundation for incorporating aspects of both private and public international law

The aim of Part 2 (Comparative law) is to offer a general introduction to the national foundations of the law of the European Union, with particular emphasis on the identification of the common concepts, elements and principles which inform the civil law and the common law traditions as the basis of an emerging new European ius commune. It also provides a legal comparison between European law and the non-European legal traditions such as the religious legal systems (Islamic, Jewish), the socialist legal systems, and traditional laws (Hindu law, the Far East laws, and African customary laws).

For more details on this course, please click here.


Globalization, International Law & Sustainable Development

Professor: S. van THIEL

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lectures
  • Exam: Written Final + Team Paper
  • Semester: First
  • Credits: 3

The course starts from the emerging global consensus, since the end of the cold war, that existing and emerging international law and global governance structures can and should be used to steer the globalisation process towards the achievement of the economic, social and environmental objectives inherent in the concept sustainable development. A brief introductory part will discuss basic concepts (globalisation, global governance, emerging consensus on sustainable development) as well as preconditions for sustainable development (peace and security; respect for the rule of law and human rights; participatory decision-making).
Subsequently, the course will address the question how relevant international law and organisations deal with:

  • the main economic concerns of globalisation (Millennium Goals and the need for poverty   eradication, provision of basic needs, and economic development, assessment of IMF/World Bank policies and the Washingtonian consensus, assessment of the WTO body of trade law and the Doha Development Round, question of international investment and technology flows and the role of UNCTAD and of guidelines for TNC);
  • the main social concerns of globalisation (1995 Copenhagen World Summit, employment and labour standards and the ILO's decent work strategy, public health and the WHO, humanitarian relief to refugees and asylum and UNHCR/Red Cross, education and information society and ITU/WSIS);
  • the environmental concerns of globalisation (increasing awareness from 1972 Stockholm via 1992 Rio, 2002 Johannesburg and 2012 Rio to increased effectiveness of multilateral environmental agreements in particular those on Climate Change and Biodiversity; role of the Commission on sustainable development and UNEP,).

Towards the end, the course will seek to draw a number of overall conclusions on the effectiveness of existing global governance structures and to formulate concrete recommendations.

For more details on this course, please click here


EU Institutional Framework and Judicial Protection

Professors: Y. DEVUYST and D. ARTS

  • Hours: 39
  • Semester: First
  • Credits: 6

This course consists of two Parts:


Professor: Y. DEVUYST

      Hours: 26     Form: Lecture       Exam: Mid-term + Final (Written Exam with Oral Follow-up)

The focus of the course is on the following questions:

Why did the European Union emerge and how did it evolve into its current form? What is the division of competences between the European Union and its Member States? How does the European Union take its decisions and shape its policies? What legal format do European Union decisions take?
To provide an answer to these questions, the course is divided in four key sections. 

The first section focuses on the historical origins and development of European integration from 1945 to the present. It examines the creation of the OEEC/OECD and the Council of Europe, the origins of the European Communities in the 1950s and their evolution in membership (from 6 to 27 Member States) and in treaty-basis (from the European Coal and Steel Community to the Treaty of Lisbon).

The second section is devoted to the complex division of competences between the EU and its Member States (exclusive powers; shared powers; supporting, coordinating and complementary powers).

The third section discusses the EU’s institutional framework. Attention goes to the composition, powers, decision-making and functioning of the EU’s main political institutions and bodies (European Council; European Commission; Council of Ministers; European Parliament). 

The fourth section concerns the outcome of the decision-making process. It involves an analysis of the EU’s legal acts (regulations, directives, decisions, delegated acts and implementing acts). 

The course is approached in an interdisciplinary manner: insights from history, politics and economics are essential for the understanding of European legal/institutional integration. The comparison between the intergovernmental and supranational features of the European integration process is a central theme running through the course. Since this course is designed to lay the foundations for more specialized teaching, the lectures are held at the start of the academic year. 


Professor: D. ARTS

   Hours: 13       Form: Lecture        Exam: Written Exam with Oral Follow-up

This part of the course comprises four parts:

The first part will explore the structure of the judicial machinery in the European Union (Union courts, the primary role played national courts). It will also dress an overall picture of the collaboration between the national courts and the EU Court of Justice, by defining the basic features of the reference for a preliminary ruling (article 267 TFEU) and by reviewing the influence of Union law on national procedural rules.

The second part will review how Union law is enforced against Member States. It will deal with the action for infringement of Union law (article 258 TFEU) and discuss the reference for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Union law in view of the fact that the national courts use that procedure to test the compatibility of national legal provisions with Union law.

The third part will deal with the judicial protection against unlawful action by the European Union institutions. It will discuss the action for annulment (article 263 TFEU), the action for failure to act (article 265 TFEU) and the claim for damages (articles 268 and 340 TFEU), and will discuss the reference for a preliminary ruling on the validity of acts of the EU institutions where the applicant can not bring a direct action (article 267 TFEU).

The final part will briefly deal with some special procedures (proceedings for intern measures (article 278 TFEU) and appeal (article 256 TFEU) and explore the specific procedural requirements of lodging and pleading an action before the General Court and the EU Court of Justice.

For more details on this course, please click here

EU Economic Law

Professor: T. JORIS

    Hours: 26      Form: Lecture     Exam: Written Exam    Semester: First     Credits: 3

This course analyses several aspects of EU economic law.
It consists, on the one hand, of lectures on the Internal Market (taught by Prof. P. Mathijsen (13h)), and on the other hand, of a series of guest lectures, dealing with several current European economic law issues (13h).
During the academic year 2012-2013, the guest lectures dealt with the following topics: "New economic governance of the European Union", "State aid compliance in the financial sector" and "Private competition litigation".

For more details on this course, please click here


International and European Protection of Human Rights


  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture & Seminar
  • Exam: Written    Semester: First
  • Credits: 3

The course aims at providing a broad overview of international and European human rights law, case law, policy and practice. The course is divided into 3 parts.

The first part focuses on the history and development of human rights; identifies the particular position of human rights law in international law (the human as a “subject” of international law); discusses and compares the different categories (or “generations”) of rights in their historical and political contexts; endeavors to distinguish and articulate the political, ethical and legal modes of existing of human rights; and presents an overview of the law and institutional structures for international/universal and regional protection and promotion of human rights.

The second part looks closer at the different institutional and procedural systems of protection and promotion of human rights: the universal UN-system, and the regional systems at European (both CoE and EU), Inter-American and African level. It compares their principles and implementation mechanisms.

The third part is devoted to the analysis and discussion of more substantial issues in human rights, such as, for example:
- collective rights and the right to self-determination of peoples;
- privacy and personal data protection;
- the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, and imprisonment;
- the right to food and the fight against hunger;
- freedom of expression (on the internet);
- cultural diversity and universal human rights;
- freedom of religion in secular states;
- …

For the third part, guest professors, specialised in a certain field, will be invited.

The course is structured around lectures and seminars that demand active participation of students.

For more details on this course, please click here.

International Economic Law and Organizations


  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Written     Semester: First
  • Credits: 3

The course first provides an overview of the main international economic organizations, with particular attention for the structure and functioning of the "Bretton Woods" institutions (International Monetary Fund, World Bank). It also includes the basics of international investment law and protection offered by the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The course then concentrates on the main contemporary international economic organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO). After a brief introduction outlining the main theories and facts of international trade, the main trade obstacles, and a short history of trade law, the institutional aspects (structure and functioning) of the WTO are analyzed, with special focus on the dispute settlement system. Subsequently the course will deal with the main substantive provisions of the WTO system (with focus on most-favoured-nation treatment, national treatment, removal of trade barriers), in particular those concerning trade in goods (GATT, TBT, Dumping, Safeguards), agriculture (AA), services (GATS), and intellectual property (TRIPS). Some time will also be spent on horizontal issues such as trade and environment and development. Attention will be given to the dynamic development of the law in these areas, by reference, where appropriate, to selected dispute settlement cases or to ongoing multilateral trade negotiations.

The course will thus provide knowledge about a wide range of fields in international economic law and provide for a better understanding of the main actors, procedures and institutions.

For more details on this course, please click here.


International and EU Competition Law

Professor: B. SMULDERS 

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Oral     Semester: Second
  • Credits: 3

The purpose of the course is to develop a thorough understanding, both from a theoretical and practical perspective, of a subject matter that is key to any person professionally engaged in a modern economy facing the challenges of globalization: the law and economics of international competition policy. The primary (but not exclusive) focus is on the main principles of the European Union's competition policy, not only given the size of the EU's economy and its population but also since it increasingly serves as a model for the competition law of many countries outside the EU. Within the area of competition law, in particular restrictive practices, abuses of dominant position, mergers and public undertakings with special or exclusive rights are considered. For that purpose, reference is made to legislation and policy documents, important judgments of the EU Court of Justice, decisions of the European Commission and doctrine. Both substantive and procedural questions are examined, as well as international aspects. Attention is also given to the political and economic rationale of competition rules, with a special emphasis on the role of economic analysis in the enforcement of competition law as well as the legality and acceptability of enforcement in light of the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular the right to a fair trial and the freedom of commerce.

For more details on this course, please click here.


EU External Relations

Professor: B. MARTENCZUK

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Written    Semester: Second
  • Credits: 3

The course examines, from a legal point of view, the external relations of the European Union. The first part of the course analyses the EU as an international actor. It traces the historical development of the EU as an international actor, examines the legal personality of the EU, the institutional framework of EU external relations, and the external competences of the EU. The second part of the course is devoted to the instruments and procedures of EU external relations, including the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements, the relationship of EU law and international law, mixed agreements, the EU's participation in international organizations, and the relationship of Member States' agreements and EU law. The third part of the course is devoted to the major policy areas of EU external relations, in particular the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the common commercial policy, development cooperation, and other cooperation policies. Throughout the course, the innovations to EU external relations brought by the Lisbon Treaty are considered and critically assessed.

For more details on this course, please click here.


2. Optional Courses

Public Law Option

Case Study on Public International/EU Law

Professors: S. OBERTHÜR and H. KALIMO

  • Hours: 39
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Written and Oral   Semester: Second
  • Credits: 6

Understanding EU law making in its international context continues to grow in importance. Various life-long career paths in the public sector, but also in the private sector due to the increasing deliberative approach to law-making, deal with these issues. This is particularly well illustrated in the area chosen as a case study, EU environmental law, because the policy and law-making take place in an intricate context of multi-level governance.
The course capacities students to understand and gain practical experience on this process through a practical role-play exercise that emulates the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure. The students need to engage in various activities in different phases of the legislative procedure, playing the roles of the Commission, the Council, the Parliament and the civil society stakeholders.
The role-play exercise thus completes the theoretical knowledge of postgraduate law students on (environmental) decision-making in the EU with a practical, hands-on case study. Each student will gain an in-depth understanding of the application of the decision-making rules in the EU, and get the opportunity to “live” the procedures for themselves. This complements the students’ theoretical knowledge in the area, and will link substantive legal issues to the intricacies of the decision-making procedures and interest representation in the EU. The case study will develop the students' analytical and presentation skills. Civil servants and/or representatives of the civil society (companies, NGOs, law firms), who work in Brussels and deal with European environmental law, will assist the students as tutors in the game.

For more details on this course, please click here.

EU Environmental Law in an International Context

Professors: S. OBERTHÜR and H. KALIMO

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Written    Semester: Second
  • Credits: 6

EU environmental law in its international context continues to grow in importance, including for various life-long career paths. Because of the close inter-linkages of both levels, looking at EU environmental law in its relationship with relevant international law holds much merit. The course capacitates students to better address matters of international and EU environmental law during their subsequent professional careers. Students acquire a thorough knowledge of the most important features of EU and international environmental law in general (objectives, principles, institutional frameworks) and of core substantive areas of this vast field of law, e.g. climate change, biodiversity, waste and product-related environmental regulation. Subjects covered include:

  • Foundations of International and European Environmental Law
  • Principles of International and European Environmental Law
  • Fragmentation and Growth of International Environmental Law
  • Common features of multilateral environmental agreements and instrumentalist perspective on EU   environmental law
  • Instrumentalist perspective on EU environmental law: classic regulation and the new modes of governance
  • Making and implementing EU environmental law
  • Biological Diversity and Biotechnology
  • International and European Climate Policy
  • European Air, Water and Chemicals Law

For more details on this course, please click here.


International and European Criminal Law

Professor: P. DE HERT

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Oral      Semester: Second
  • Credits: 3

The course provides an insight into the trans-border aspects of criminal law and criminal procedure. Ever growing international integration has influenced co-operation in criminal matters. The seminar considers the techniques used by states to combat criminality : assistance in the administration of criminal justice (extraterritorial competence of criminal courts, extradition, execution of foreign judgments, transmission of prosecutors, minor international legal assistance); the development of international criminal law (international conventional or customary law regulating the criminal conduct of the individual: drugs, slavery, piracy, currency, etc.); the problems of universal criminal law (war crimes, humanitarian law); the growing trend towards European criminal law (Schengen, Europol, etc.) and the study of the institutional techniques designed to administer these rules (international criminal court, ombudsman, etc.).

For more details on this course, please click here.


Private Law Option

Case Study on European Competitive Law

Professor: T. JORIS

  • Hours: 39
  • Form: Case Study   Exam: Written and Oral    Semester: Second
  • Credits: 6

The purpose of this case study is to provide some field experience to the students (how do things work in practice?; developing analytical and presentation skills; …). For this purpose, lawyers (tutors), all practising EU competition law in Brussels, will assist the students in clearing a European competition case. The idea is to draw up a hypothetical case; similar to ones the tutors are familiar with in their law firm activity.

1. The case study.
Each tutor will assist a group of 5 or 6 students, each student representing a party involved in the case. Example of parties in a European competition case: (i) Directorate-general for Competition of the European Commission, (ii) a national competition authority, (iii) company a, involved in a price cartel, (iv) company b, involved in the same price cartel, (v) company c, involved in the same price cartel, and (vi) company d, competitor of companies a, b and c.

Introduction meeting (VUB):
The case study will be distributed, together with supporting materials. All groups will receive the same case study. Prof. T. Joris and Prof. J. Faull will introduce the case to all the students. Immediately after this introduction, the groups will meet their tutor to discuss the case and to hear what is expected.

Progress meeting (office of the tutor):
The students will prepare an individual draft memorandum, summarising the issues relevant to their role. Each group will meet its tutor during a progress meeting. At this meeting the tutor will hear the students and see if they are on the right track.

Submission of memorandum:
The students will submit (electronically) their final individual memorandum, summarising the issues relevant to their role.

Oral hearing (office of the tutor):
Finally, an oral hearing will be organised. Each student will present (ten minutes) and defend (by answering questions, also from other students) his/her memorandum.

2. Student duties.

Each student will be present at the three meetings (introduction meeting / progress meeting / oral hearing). He/she participates actively during the introductory and progress meetings, writes an individual memorandum and presents his/her memorandum during the oral hearing.
3. Tutor duties.

The tutors will (re)direct the students during the introduction meeting and the progress meeting. They will raise questions during the oral hearing. They will give a first appreciation after the oral hearing.

For more details on this couse, please click here.

European and International Private Law

Professor: A. NUYTS

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Written    Semester: Second
  • Credits: 3

This course aims at developing critical awareness of major issues in Private International Law, from a European and International perspective. Thus, the focus of the course is somewhat different from a traditional course of private international law, in that the issues are not approached from a national point of view but on a comparative basis. The course takes as a starting point the new instruments of private international law which have been adopted by the European institutions, and analyses how they are applied in practice in various Member States with different litigation cultures, taking also into account as a comparison the practice in non-EU legal systems such as the United States (especially to show the influence of constitutional principles on the development of private international law rules). Without neglecting the theoretical foundations of private international law, the course deals mainly with practical issues that arise in civil and commercial disputes. The analysis stresses the development of the practitioner's skills in conflict of law methodologies. Particular attention is given to issues of jurisdiction, new techniques of international litigation such as anti-suit injunctions, worldwide freezing orders and disclosure orders, forum shopping, the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Another part of the course deals with the impact of the internet on the application of traditional conflict rules. Certain issues of cross-border judicial cooperation, such as the service of process, the taking of evidence abroad, and the proof of foreign law are also addressed in the context of international litigation.

For more details on this course, please click here.


International and European Taxation

Professor: M. LAMENSCH

  • Hours: 26
  • Form: Lecture
  • Exam: Assignments + Written   Semester: Second
  • Credits: 3

Following a general terminological introduction, the course concentrates on tax obstacles to the cross border movement of products and production factors and discusses the relevant legal frameworks developed at international and regional level to eliminate these obstacles or mitigate their adverse effects.
It first illustrates, on the basis of cases, the main indirect tax obstacles to international trade (including customs duties, origin and destination type taxes, cumulative sales taxes) and compares the legal remedies formulated in the framework of the World Trade Organisation and the European Union. Secondly, also on the basis of cases, it focuses on the main direct tax obstacles to the international movement of production factors (including economic and juridical double taxation) and compares the legal remedies formulated in the framework of the OECD and the European Union. In doing so all basic international (corporate) income tax issues will be discussed including the extraterritorial definition of tax jurisdiction in respect of the various cross border income flows mentioned in the OECD Model Convention (including business profits, dividends, interest, royalties and service fees), the different methods to avoid double taxation (including the exemption and credits methods) and private sector techniques of tax planning, tax avoidance and tax evasion (including decisions on the location, legal form and financing of foreign investments, the use of base and conduit companies for treaty shopping and the possibilities and limits to using intra group transfer prices for tax planning purposes). In addition special attention will be given to the income tax case law of the European Court of Justice.

For more details on this course, please click here.


3. Master's Thesis

  • Independent Study
  • Form: Written Paper
  • Exam: Presentation and Oral Defence
  • Semester: First & Second
  • Credits: 18

All students are required to submit an original Master's Thesis (paper) in the field of International and/or European Law. The precise topic is chosen by the student in consultation with the supervisor (one of the Professors teaching in the programme). The thesis aims at the level of an article publishable in a legal journal. Each thesis is assessed by a committee composed of three faculty members and other experts and is orally defended at the end of the academic year.