Association Policy

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Under Association policy is understood as the instrument of foreign policy , with some countries to enter into or groups of States closer relations. International law has so far not known any generally defined content of the association. The term association therefore generally only refers to the special position of states, regions or international organizations that have (particularly) close relationships with another international organization.


A distinction is made between association as a preparation for membership and association as a means of development policy . Association agreements go beyond trade and cooperation agreements , they are below accession.

The EU has with establishing the EEC on 1 January 1958, the non-European countries and territories, with Denmark , France , the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have special relations, associated (see. Art. 198 para. 1 TFEU). Annex II to the treaties (i.e. EU and AEU treaties) lists the twenty-six "Overseas Countries and Territories" (so-called OCTs, to which the fourth part of the treaty applies [Art. 198-204 TFEU]), so-called constitutional association . This concerns an area "from Greenland to New Caledonia" with almost a million inhabitants. However, after the independence of most of the colonies around 1960, its scope has shrunk considerably. For this reason, development partnerships between the EU and the ACP countries were concluded from the mid-1960s . In this way an independent regime was concluded that respected the independence of the states, but at the same time emphasized their need for development. Most recently, the list in Annex II TFEU was added with effect from January 1, 2012, as the island of Saint-Barthélemy no longer belongs to the outermost regions of the EU, but is now one of the OCTs .

Furthermore, Art. 217 TFEU (ex Art. 310 EC) provides for the possibility of concluding association agreements with one or more third countries or one or more international organizations that create an association with mutual rights and obligations, joint procedures and special procedures. (so-called contract association ).

Different forms of association are distinguished according to their political purpose:

  • Accession association (preparation for later accession)
  • Free trade association (establishment of particularly close economic relationships)
  • Development association (development funding)

The term association is deliberately avoided in the more recent agreements based on Art. 217 TFEU, in order not to give the third country the impression of being a minority state or of dependence.


  • Establishing privileged economic relationships to increase competitiveness in world trade , for example via tariff preferences to promote economic / social development
  • Promotion of democratic structures based on the rule of law
  • Preparation for membership


See also

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