Drone Operations and the European Legal Order

Johan Munk Wolfhagen

Student thesis: Termpaper


In this paper I investigate possible constraints in the European legal order on the use of drone operations in extraterritorial situations. This includes an analysis of the EU law on competences in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The analysis of EU law is focused on the competences of the European Parliament to constrain the actions of the EU under the CFSP as well as the role of the CFSP as a decisive factor in security and capability developments. The second part of the analysis focus on the case law of the ECtHR on extraterritorial applicability of the European Convention on Human Rights. I investigate whether there exist a legal basis in the jurisprudence of the Court to argue that the application of drone technology will itself trigger a jurisdictional link, thereby constraining what constitutes legal operations with drones in extraterritorial situations. I conclude that the intergovernmental paradigm of the Common Foreign and Security Policy denies the European Parliament a decisive role in the development of a constraining policy on the use of drones, but that the area of the CFSP plays a role in conflict prevention and -solution, and that drone capabilities will likely become a factor in the coming decades. In the second part of the analysis I argue that there exist no basis in the case law of the ECtHR that drone operations will trigger extraterritorial obligations of States, in and by itself. This emanates mainly from the ECtHR’s restrictive interpretation of jurisdiction as primarily territorial and exercised extraterritorially only in exceptional cases.

EducationsEU-studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Basic
Publication date23 Jun 2014
SupervisorsLisbet Christoffersen


  • bankovic
  • drones
  • echr
  • jurisdiction
  • uav
  • ecthr
  • cfsp
  • extraterritorial