The process of creating the ESIL began in 2001. The impetus was a strongly felt need for a general European network to bring together and to develop deeper understanding among people working in the field of international law, be they government officials, diplomats, legal advisers in international organizations, academics, or practising lawyers. Despite the increasing importance of seeking to facilitate European-wide discussions of key issues in this field, there was previously no forum in which to pursue these goals on a Europe-wide basis. This was the case notwithstanding the large number of international lawyers in Europe and the significant number of international law associations at the national level.


The founding meeting was convened in Florence on 26-27 May 2001 on the initiative of the editors of the European Journal of International Law (Philip Alston, Antonio Cassese, Pierre-Marie Dupuy, Bruno Simma, and Joseph Weiler) in conjunction with Prof Hanspeter Neuhold of the University of Vienna. The meeting was held at the European University Institute, a venue which, as a European institution, underscored the initiative’s independence from any single national grouping. The activities of the Society have been generously funded by the Academy of European Law at the European University Institute, and strongly supported by the board and staff of the European Journal of International Law.


Those participating in the founding of the Society were: Philip Alston (EUI), Mariano Aznar Gomez (Spain), Andrea Bianchi (Italy), Geneviève Burdeau (France), Antonio Cassese (Italy), Luigi Condorelli (Switzerland), Wladyslaw Czaplinski (Poland), Pierre-Marie Dupuy (France), Bardo Fassbender (Germany), Dieter Fleck (Germany), Andrea Gattini (Italy), Vera-Gowlland-Debbas (Switzerland), Christine Gray (United Kingdom), Vaughan Lowe (United Kingdom), Boldizsár Nagy (Hungary), Hanspeter Neuhold (Austria), Alan Rosas (Finland), Hélène Ruiz Fabri (France), Daniel Thürer (Switzerland), Bruno Simma (Germany), and Joe Verhoeven (Belgium).The group unanimously agreed to establish a European Society of International Law as an independent entity, based at the European University Institute.


Relationship with National Societies and Other Groups

In many of the countries of the enlarged EU and elsewhere in Europe there is no national association of international lawyers (although in some cases there is a national branch of the International Law Association). In other countries, there are important national societies. The ESIL has been established in such a way as to enable it to complement the invaluable roles played by any existing or potential national societies. The ESIL is committed to avoiding competition and duplication and to making every effort to work with national societies to ensure a much greater degree of interaction among the different national groups.