European Union law

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The idea of European union for the purpose of mutual development and peace can be traced through the Middle Ages.[1] Willem Blaeu's map shows Europe in 1644 as the Thirty Years' War ended, before the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

European Union law is a body of treaties and legislation, such as Regulations and Directives, which have direct effect or indirect effect on the laws of European Union member states. The three sources of European Union law are primary law, secondary law and supplementary law. The main sources of primary law are the Treaties establishing the European Union. Secondary sources include regulations and directives which are based on the Treaties. The legislature of the European Union is principally composed of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which under the Treaties may establish secondary law to pursue the objective set out in the Treaties.

European Union law is applied by the courts of member states and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Where the laws of member states provide for lesser rights European Union law can be enforced by the courts of member states. In case of European Union law which should have been transposed into the laws of member states, such as Directives, the European Commission can take proceedings against the member state under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The European Court of Justice (part of the Court of Justice of the European Union) is the highest court able to interpret European Union law. Supplementary sources of European Union law include case law by the Court of Justice, international law and general principles of European Union law.


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The idea of international, and European integration of national polities has a history as old as the creation of the modern idea of the nation state, which is generally held to be around the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. An English Quaker called William Penn, argued in 1693 that to prevent the wars that were rife throughout Europe, it was necessary to create a "European dyet, or parliament" [2]

The European Union is the modern version of organisations established after the Second World War. Because of the failure of the Treaty of Versailles' system of reparations and the collapse of the League of Nations after the First World War, it was decided that integration of national economies and political institutions was necessary to ensure that war would become unthinkable. Along with the framework of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods agreements, the original European Coal and Steel Community was created in 1950 to unify mining and manufacturing industries among France and Germany particularly. The first move to comprehensive economic integration was made in the Treaty of Rome.

As of July 2015, there are also five countries recognized as candidates for future membership: Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.[3]

Constitutional law[edit]

The European Parliament, elected by EU citizens, makes EU laws with the Commission and Council.[4] Because Parliament cannot yet initiate legislation, the Commission does not come from the elected Parliament, and laws cannot be changed by simple majority,[5] there is general agreement that the EU has a "democratic deficit".[6]

Although the European Union does not have a codified constitution,[7] like the United Kingdom,[8] and like every political body, it has laws which "constitute" its basic governance structure. The primary sources are the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which have been agreed among the governments of all 28 member states. The Treaties establish the EU's institutions, list their powers and responsibilities, and explain the areas in which the EU can legislate with Directives or Regulations. The European Commission has the initiative to propose legislation, while the Council (which are ministers from member state governments) and the European Parliament (elected by citizens) can make amendments and must give their consent. The Commission oversees departments and various agencies that execute or enforce EU law. The "European Council" (which differs from the Council) is composed of the Prime Ministers or executive Presidents of the member states, and appoints the Commissioners and the board of the European Central Bank. The European Court of Justice is the supreme judicial body which interprets EU law, and develops it through precedent. The Court can review the legality of the EU institutions' actions, in compliance with the Treaties, as well as the actions of member states and citizens in their compliance with EU law.


The primary law of the EU consists mainly of the founding treaties of the European Union, the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which are together named Treaties of the European Union. The Treaties contain formal and substantive provisions, which frame policies of the European Union institutions and determine the division of competences between the European Union and the 28 member states. The TEU establishes that European Union law applies to the metropolitan territories of the member states, as well as certain islands and overseas territories, including Madeira, the Canary Islands and the French overseas departments. European Union law also applies in territories where a member state is responsible for external relations, for example Gibraltar and the Åland islands. The TEU allows the European Council to make specific provisions for regions, as for example done for customs matters in Gibraltar and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. The TEU specifically excludes certain regions, for example the Faroe Islands, from the jurisdiction of European Union law. Treaties apply as soon as they enter into force, unless stated otherwise, and are generally concluded for an unlimited period. The TEU provides that commitments entered into by the member states between themselves before the treaty was signed no longer apply.[vague] All EU member states are regarded subject to the general obligation of the principle of cooperation, as stated in the TEU, whereby member states are obliged not take measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the TEU objectives. The Court of Justice of the European Union can interpret the Treaties, but it cannot rule on their validity which is subject to international law. Individuals may rely on primary law in the Court of Justice of the European Union if the Treaty provisions have a direct effect and they are sufficiently clear, precise and unconditional.[9]

The principal Treaties that form the European Union began with common rules for coal and steel, and then atomic energy, but more complete and formal institutions were established through the Treaty of Rome 1957 and the Maastricht Treaty 1992 (now: TFEU). Minor amendments were made during the 1960s and 1970s.[10] Major amending treaties were signed to complete the development of a single, internal market in the Single European Act 1986, to further the development of a more social Europe in the Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, and to make minor amendments to the relative power of member states in the EU institutions in the Treaty of Nice 2001 and the Treaty of Lisbon 2007. Since its establishment, more member states have joined through a series of accession treaties, from the UK, Ireland, Denmark and Norway in 1972 (though Norway did not end up joining), Greece in 1979, Spain and Portugal 1985, Austria, Finland, Norway and Sweden in 1994 (though again Norway failed to join, because of lack of support in the referendum), the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004, Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013. Greenland signed a Treaty in 1985 giving it a special status. Norway remains the only Scandinavian power not to have joined the European Union, having rejected membership in two referenda, in 1972 and 1994.

Executive institutions[edit]

The Santer Commission, led by an ex-Luxembourg Prime Minister, was censured by the Parliament in 1999, and eventually resigned, after allegations of corruption and an independent committee found it had a culture of irresponsibility.[11]

The European Commission is the main executive body of the European Union, and has remained the most important institution to set the EU's agenda. Under Treaty on European Union article 17(1) states the Commission is meant to ‘promote the general interest of the Union’ while article 17(3) adds that Commissioners should be ‘completely independent’ and not ‘take instructions from any Government’. Its dominant role lies in the fact that, under article 17(2) ‘Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise.’ This means that the Commission has a monopoly on initiating legislation, while the Parliament or the Council can merely make suggestions for laws: the Commission can refuse those suggestions if it gives reasons.[12] The Commission's President (currently an ex-Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker) sets the agenda for the EU's work.[13] Decisions are taken by a simple majority vote,[14] usually through a "written procedure" of circulating the proposals and adopting if there are no objections.[citation needed] Since Ireland refused to consent to changes in the Treaty of Lisbon 2007, there remains one Commissioner for each of the 28 member states, including the President and the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy (currently Federica Mogherini).[15] The Commissioners (and most importantly, the portfolios they will hold) are bargained over intensively by the member states. The Commissioners, as a block, are then subject to a qualified majority vote of the Council to approve, and majority approval of the Parliament.[16] The proposal to make the Commissioners be drawn from the elected Parliament, was not adopted in the Treaty of Lisbon. This means Commissioners are, through the appointment process, the unelected subordinates of member state governments.

The European Central Bank, whose Frankfurt HQ opened in 2015, exercises executive control within its monetary policy powers.[17] It has been targeted by protests for its role in the Eurozone crisis.

Commissioners have various privileges, such as being exempt from member state taxes (but not EU taxes),[18] and having immunity from prosecution for doing official acts.[19] Commissioners have sometimes been found to have abused their offices, particularly since the Santer Commission was censured by Parliament in 1999, and it eventually resigned due to corruption allegations. This resulted in one main case, Commission v Edith Cresson[20] where the European Court of Justice held that a Commissioner giving her dentist a job, for which he was clearly unqualified, did in fact not break any law. By contrast to the ECJ's relaxed approach, a Committee of Independent Experts found that a culture had developed where few Commissioners had ‘even the slightest sense of responsibility’.[21] This led to the creation of the European Anti-fraud Office. In 2012 it investigated the Maltese Commissioner for Health, John Dalli, who quickly resigned after allegations that he received a €60m bribe in connection with a Tobacco Products Directive.[22] Beyond the Commission, the European Central Bank has relative executive autonomy in its conduct of monetary policy for the purpose of managing the euro.[23] It has a six person board appointed by the European Council, on the Council's recommendation. The President of the Council and a Commissioner can sit in on ECB meetings, but do not have voting rights.


The Parliament is elected each five years, but not on the "principle of equality of its citizens".[24] Its power is limited compared to the Commission and Council.

While the Commission has a monopoly on initiating legislation, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have powers of amendment and veto during the legislative process. According to the Treaty on European Union articles 9 and 10, the EU observes "the principle of equality of its citizens" and is meant to be founded on "representative democracy". In practice, equality and democracy are deficient because the elected representatives in the Parliament cannot initiate legislation against the Commission's wishes,[25] citizens of smallest countries have ten times the voting weight in Parliament as citizens of the largest countries,[26] and "qualified majorities" or consensus of the Council are required to legislate.[27] The justification for this "democratic deficit" under the Treaties is usually thought to be that completion integration of the European economy and political institutions required the technical coordination of experts, while popular understanding of the EU developed and nationalist sentiments declined post-war. Over time, this has meant the Parliament gradually assumed more voice: from being an unelected assembly, to its first direct elections in 1979, to having increasingly more rights in the legislative process.[28] Citizens' rights are therefore limited compared to the democratic polities within all European member states: under TEU article 11 citizens and associations have the rights such as publicising their views and submit an initiative that must be considered by the Commission with one million signatures. TFEU article 227 contains a further right for citizens to petition the Parliament on issues which affect them.[29] Parliament elections, take place every five years, and votes for Members of the European Parliament in member states must be organised by proportional representation or a single transferable vote.[30] There are 750 MEPs and their numbers are "degressively proportional" according to member state size.[31] This means - although the Council is meant to be the body representing member states - in the Parliament citizens of smaller member states have more voice than citizens in larger member states.[32] MEPs divide, as they do in national Parliaments, along political party lines: the conservative European People's Party is currently the largest, and the Party of European Socialists leads the opposition. Parties do not receive public funds from the EU, as the ECJ held in Parti écologiste “Les Verts” v Parliament that under TEU article 7(2) this was entirely an issue to be regulated by the member states.[33] The Parliament's powers include calling inquiries into maladministration or appoint an Ombudsman pending any court proceedings.[34] It can require the Commission respond to questions and by a two-thirds majority can censure the whole Commission (as happened to the Santer Commission in 1999).[35] In some cases, the Parliament has explicit consultation rights, which the Commission must genuinely follow.[36] However its role participation in the legislative process still remains limited because no member can actually or pass legislation without the Commission and Council, meaning power ("kratia") is not in the hands of directly elected representatives of the people ("demos"): in the EU it is not yet true that "the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few."[37]

Member states are represented by Ministers in the Council during the legislative procedures. In addition the "European Council", which is the heads of member state governments, is meant to guide the EU's general political direction.

The second main legislative body is the Council, which is composed of different ministers of the member states. The heads of government of member states also convene a "European Council" (a distinct body) that the TEU article 15 defines as providing the 'necessary impetus for its development and shall define the general political directions and priorities'. It meets each six months and its President (currently former Poland Prime Minister Donald Tusk) is meant to 'drive forward its work',[38] but it does not itself 'legislative functions'.[39] The Council does this: in effect this is the governments of the member states, but there will be a different minister at each meeting, depending on the topic discussed (e.g. for environmental issues, the member states' environment ministers attend and vote; for foreign affairs, the foreign ministers, etc). The minister must have the authority to represent and bin the member states in decisions.[40] When voting takes place it is weighted inversely to member state size, so smaller member states are not dominated by larger member states.[41] In total there are 352 votes, but for most acts there must be a qualified majority vote, if not consensus. TEU article 16(4) and TFEU article 238(3) define this to mean at least 55 per cent of the Council members (not votes) representing 65 per cent of the population of the EU: currently this means around 74 per cent, or 260 of the 352 votes. This is critical during the legislative process.[42]

The Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament, which MEPs attend alongside the Brussels seats, has been criticised for its wasteful expense and duplicity. The French President has previously refused to let it be shut down.[43]

To make new legislation, TFEU article 294 defines the "ordinary legislative procedure" that applies for most EU acts.[44] The essence is there are three readings, starting with a Commission proposal, where the Parliament must vote by a majority of all MEPs (not just those present) to block or suggest changes, and the Council must vote by qualified majority to approve changes, but by unanimity to block Commission amendment.[45] Where the different institutions cannot agree at any stage, a "Conciliation Committee" is convened, representing MEPs, ministers and the Commission to try and get agreement on a joint text: if this works, it will be sent back to the Parliament and Council to approve by absolute and qualified majority. This means, legislation can be blocked by a majority in Parliament, a minority in the Council, and a majority in the Commission: it is harder to change EU law than stay the same. A different procedure exists for budgets.[46] For "enhanced cooperation" among a sub-set of at least member states, authorisation must be given by the Council.[47] Member state governments should be informed by the Commission at the outset before any proposals start the legislative procedure.[48] The EU as a whole can only act within its power set out in the Treaties. TEU articles 4 and 5 state that powers remain with the member states unless they have been conferred, although there is a debate about the Kompetenz-Kompetenz question: who ultimately has the "competence" to define the EU's "competence". Many member state courts believe they decide, other member state Parliaments believe they decide, while within the EU, the Court of Justice believes it has the final say.


The judicial branch of the EU has played an important role in the development of EU law, by assuming the task of interpreting the treaties, and accelerating economic and political integration. Today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the main judicial body, within which there is a higher European Court of Justice (commonly abbreviated as ECJ) that deals with cases that contain more public importance, and a General Court that deals with issues of detail but without general importance. There is also a Civil Service Tribunal to deal with EU staff issues, and then a separate Court of Auditors. Under the Treaty on European Union article 19(2) there is one judge from each member state, 28 at present,[49] who are supposed to "possess the qualifications required for appointment to the highest judicial offices" (or for the General Court, the "ability required for appointment to high judicial office"). A president is elected by the judges for three years. Under TEU article 19(3) is to be the ultimate court to interpret questions of EU law. In fact, most EU law is applied by member state courts (the English Court of Appeal, the German Bundesgerichtshof, the Belgian Cour du travail, etc) but they can refer questions to the EU court for a preliminary ruling. The CJEU's duty is to "ensure that in the interpretation and application of the Treaties the law is observed", although realistically it has the ability to expand and develop the law according to the principles it deems to be appropriate. Arguably this has been done through both seminal and controversial judgments, including Van Gend en Loos,[50] Mangold v Helm,[51] and Kadi v Commission.[52]

The Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg has purposively interpreted the Treaties to drive European integration.
  • Direct actions
  • Statute of the Court art 4, no conflicts
  • art 6, dismissal by unanimity
  • Judges are appointed for a renewable six-year term.
  • Division within work of courts
  • Rules of Procedure, art 10, GC sits in chambers of 3 or 5 judges, or a Grand Chamber of 13 judges.
  • Advocate Generals and Opinions

Conflict of laws[edit]

In Van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen (1963),[53] the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the provisions of the then EEC treaty were capable of having direct effect before the national courts of EEC member states. The result was to create an alternative manner of enforcing the obligations undertook by member states in the treaties, to the more traditional method of state enforcement in the form of enforcement actions taken by the European Commission at a supranational level. Individuals could now use national courts to invoke EU treaty provisions against member state governments. The pre-conditions for direct effect are that the provisions on which an individual wishes to rely are sufficiently clear and unconditional, and that there is no scope for member states to exercise discretion in implementation. Thus, a regulation that allows member states to privatise roads would not have direct effect and could not be enforced in the courts, because it provides that states may privatise roads, not must privatise roads. While direct effect was first developed in relation to treaty articles, the ECJ subsequently ruled that regulations and decisions could also have direct effect as well.[54] In Marshall v Southampton and South West Area Health Authority (Teaching) (No 1),[55] the ECJ ruled that while directives could also have direct effect, they could only do so in respect of public bodies. However, the ECJ has taken a broad view of what constitutes a public body and has found that a state-owned gas company was a public body subject to direct effect.[56] In contrast treaty articles, regulations and decisions can have direct effect against private entities.[57] Recommendations and opinions were held to not have direct effect, as they were not intended to be binding, though they should be taken into consideration when interpreting the European Union law they supplement or the national law they implement.[58]

Indirect effect describes a situation where the courts in member states use European Union law to interpret national laws, as oppose to direct effect where European Union law is applied directly. Treaty articles, Regulations and Decisions can all have direct effect except where they are unclear or conditional. In such cases they may have indirect effect, but are unlikely to be of much use for interpreting national laws. Recommendations and Opinions cannot have direct effect, but may have indirect effect, when interpreting the European Union law they supplement or national laws, as established in Grimaldi v Fonds des Maladies Professionnelles [1989] ECR 4407 Case C-322/88. Von Colson and Kamann v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen [1984] ECR 1891 Case 14/83 established that Directives can have indirect effect in where an individual takes action in a national court against another individual, where a Directive can never have direct effect, or where the provision of the directive is not sufficiently clear and unconditional to have direct effect.[59]

Francovich v Italy (1990)[60] requires that the state pays compensation to individuals if it fails to properly implement a Directive.

In Costa v ENEL [1964] ECR 585 the European Court of Justice held that in situations where there is a conflict between the laws of member states and European Union law, European Union law prevails, because "a subsequent unilateral act incompatible with the concept of the Community cannot prevail". However, according to the 1993 Maastricht Accord the European Union does not prevent member states from maintaining or introducing more stringent laws on working conditions, social policy, consumer protection and the environment, so long as these laws are compliant with the Treaty of Rome, which has relevant provisions in these areas. Some courts in member states have resented the supremacy doctrine though it is not commonly challenged and the European Court of Justice has encouraged legal interpretation in light of European Union law by courts in member states as alternative to repealing or amending laws of member states which conflict with European Union law. A source of tension has historically been the relationship between the constitutions of member states and European Union law. Unlike the UK, most continental European member states have written constitutions and some have constitutional courts with the exclusive power to interpret the national constitution. The European Court of Justice has rules that such courts must apply European Union law in its entirety, to avoid any conflicting provisions of national law. Until recently the French constitutional court has regarded itself not empowered to review administrative measures, as it did not recognise the review power and duty provided to it by European Union law. The German and Italian constitutional courts initially refused to strike down national laws which conflicted with European Union law. The legal system of the European Union depends heavily on the courts in member states to acknowledge and uphold European Union law, and to follow the interpretation of the European Court of Justice if there is one. The supremacy doctrine has found widespread acceptance, though the direct and indirect application of European Union law still needs to fully establish itself.[61]

Simon Hix argues that direct effect and the supremacy doctrine has transformed the EU from an international organisation to a "quasifederal polity".[62] According to J.H.H. Weiler, parallels to the architecture of the European Union can be found only in the internal constitutional order of federal states.[63] Sergio Fabbrini argues that the European Union developed after the two world wars as Europe moved towards supernationalism with a multi-level system of governance. Vertical federalisation is mixed with horizontal separation of powers between the European Community institutions and therefore the EU does not conform to the structures of a conventional federal system.[64]

  • International law
  • Jus cogens norms
  • European Convention on Human Rights

Administrative law[edit]

Judicial review[edit]

Main article: Judicial review
  • Preliminary rulings
  • Standing to claim judicial review
  • Grounds of review

General principles[edit]

The principles of European Union law are rules of law which have been developed by the European Court of Justice that constitute unwritten rules which are not expressly provided for in the treaties but which affect how European Union law is interpreted and applies. In formulating these principles, the courts have drawn on a variety of sources, including: public international law and legal doctrines and principles present in the legal systems of European Union member states and in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Accepted general principles of European Union Law include fundamental rights (see human rights), proportionality, legal certainty,[65] equality before the law and subsidiarity.[66]

Proportionality is recognised one of the general principles of European Union law by the European Court of Justice since the 1950s.[67] According to the general principle of proportionality the lawfulness of an action depends on whether it was appropriate and necessary to achieve the objectives legitimately pursued. When there is a choice between several appropriate measures the least onerous must be adopted, and any disadvantage caused must not be disproportionate to the aims pursued.[67] The principle of proportionality is also recognised in Article 5 of the EC Treaty, stating that "any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this Treaty".[68]

The concept of legal certainty is recognised one of the general principles of European Union law by the European Court of Justice since the 1960s.[69] It is an important general principle of international law and public law, which predates European Union law. As a general principle in European Union law it means that the law must be certain, in that it is clear and precise, and its legal implications foreseeable, specially when applied to financial obligations. The adoption of laws which will have legal effect in the European Union must have a proper legal basis. Legislation in member states which implements European Union law must be worded so that it is clearly understandable by those who are subject to the law.[70] In European Union law the general principle of legal certainty prohibits Ex post facto laws, i.e. laws should not take effect before they are published.[69] The doctrine of legitimate expectation, which has its roots in the principles of legal certainty and good faith, is also a central element of the general principle of legal certainty in European Union law.[71] The legitimate expectation doctrine holds that and that "those who act in good faith on the basis of law as it is or seems to be should not be frustrated in their expectations".[70]

Human rights[edit]

Fundamental rights, as in human rights, were first recognised by the European Court of Justice in the late 60s and fundamental rights are now regarded as integral part of the general principles of European Union law. As such the European Court of Justice is bound to draw inspiration from the constitutional traditions common to the member states. Therefore, the European Court of Justice cannot uphold measures which are incompatible with fundamental rights recognised and protected in the constitutions of member states. The European Court of Justice also found that "international treaties for the protection of human rights on which the member states have collaborated or of which they are signatories, can supply guidelines which should be followed within the framework of Community law."[72]

None of the original treaties establishing the European Union mention protection for fundamental rights. It was not envisaged for European Union measures, that is legislative and administrative actions by European Union institutions, to be subject to human rights. At the time the only concern was that member states should be prevented from violating human rights, hence the establishment of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Justice recognised fundamental rights as general principle of European Union law as the need to ensure that European Union measures are compatible with the human rights enshrined in member states' constitution became ever more apparent.[73] In 1999 the European Council set up a body tasked with drafting a European Charter of Human Rights, which could form the constitutional basis for the European Union and as such tailored specifically to apply to the European Union and its institutions. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union draws a list of fundamental rights from the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Declaration on Fundamental Rights produced by the European Parliament in 1989 and European Union Treaties.[74]

The 2007 Lisbon Treaty explicitly recognised fundamental rights by providing in Article 6(1) that "The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adopted at Strasbourg on 12 December 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties." Therefore, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union has become an integral part of European Union law, codifying the fundamental rights which were previously considered general principles of European Union law.[75] In effect, after the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter and the Convention now co-exist under European Union law, though the former is enforced by the European Court of Justice in relation to European Union measures, and the latter by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to measures by member states.[76]

Remedies for breach[edit]

Social and market regulations[edit]

Consumer protection[edit]

Small business protection

Labour law[edit]

Demonstration for parental leave in the European Parliament.

The Social Chapter is a chapter of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam covering social policy issues in European Union law.[77] The basis for the Social Chapter was developed in 1989 by the "social partners" representatives, namely UNICE, the employers' confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and CEEP, the European Centre of Public Enterprises. A toned down version was adopted as the Social Charter at the 1989 Strasbourg European Council. The Social Charter declares 30 general principles, including on fair remuneration of employment, health and safety at work, rights of disabled and elderly, the rights of workers, on vocational training and improvements of living conditions. The Social Charter became the basis for European Community legislation on these issues in 40 pieces of legislation.[77]

The Social Charter was subsequently adopted in 1989 by 11 of the then 12 member states. The UK refused to sign the Social Charter and was exempt from the legislation covering Social Charter issues unless it agreed to be bound by the legislation. The UK subsequently was the only member state to veto the Social Charter being included as the "Social Chapter" of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty - instead, an Agreement on Social Policy was added as a protocol. Again, the UK was exempt from legislation arising from the protocol, unless it agreed to be bound by it. The protocol was to become known as "Social Chapter", despite not actually being a chapter of the Maastricht Treaty. To achieve aims of the Agreement on Social Policy the European Union was to "support and complement" the policies of member states. The aims of the Agreement on Social Policy are:[77]

"promotion of employment, improving living and working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion"[77]

Following the election of the UK Labour Party to government in 1997, the UK formally subscribed to the Agreement on Social Policy, which allowed it to be included with minor amendments as the Social Chapter of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam. The UK subsequently adopted the main legislation previously agreed under the Agreement on Social Policy, the 1994 Works Council Directive, which required workforce consultation in businesses, and the 1996 Parental Leave Directive.[77] In the 10 years following the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam and adoption of the Social Chapter the European Union has undertaken policy initiatives in various social policy areas, including labour and industry relations, equal opportunity, health and safety, public health, protection of children, the disabled and elderly, poverty, migrant workers, education, training and youth.[78]

Public services[edit]

  • Principle of non-interference in public services
  • EU health law
  • EU education policy
  • Regulated sectors and liberalisation

Company law[edit]

Main article: European company law

Competition law[edit]

Main article: EU competition law

EU Competition law has its origins in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) agreement between France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany in 1951 following the second World War. The agreement aimed to prevent Germany from re-establishing dominance in the production of coal and steel as members felt that its dominance had contributed to the outbreak of the war. Article 65 of the agreement banned cartels and article 66 made provisions for concentrations, or mergers, and the abuse of a dominant position by companies.[79] This was the first time that competition law principles were included in a plurilateral regional agreement and established the trans-European model of competition law. In 1957 competition rules were included in the Treaty of Rome, also known as the EC Treaty, which established the European Economic Community (EEC). The Treaty of Rome established the enactment of competition law as one of the main aims of the EEC through the "institution of a system ensuring that competition in the common market is not distorted". The two central provisions on EU competition law on companies were established in article 85, which prohibited anti-competitive agreements, subject to some exemptions, and article 86 prohibiting the abuse of dominant position. The treaty also established principles on competition law for member states, with article 90 covering public undertakings, and article 92 making provisions on state aid. Regulations on mergers were not included as member states could not establish consensus on the issue at the time.[80]

Today, the Treaty of Lisbon prohibits anti-competitive agreements in Article 101(1), including price fixing. According to Article 101(2) any such agreements are automatically void. Article 101(3) establishes exemptions, if the collusion is for distributional or technological innovation, gives consumers a "fair share" of the benefit and does not include unreasonable restraints that risk eliminating competition anywhere (or compliant with the general principle of European Union law of proportionality). Article 102 prohibits the abuse of dominant position, such as price discrimination and exclusive dealing. Article 102 allows the European Council to regulations to govern mergers between firms (the current regulation is the Regulation 139/2004/EC).[81] The general test is whether a concentration (i.e. merger or acquisition) with a community dimension (i.e. affects a number of EU member states) might significantly impede effective competition. Articles 106 and 107 provide that member state's right to deliver public services may not be obstructed, but that otherwise public enterprises must adhere to the same competition principles as companies. Article 107 lays down a general rule that the state may not aid or subsidise private parties in distortion of free competition and provides exemptions for charities, regional development objectives and in the event of a natural disaster.

Financial market regulation[edit]

Obligations and property[edit]

Generally, there is no EU regulation of private law, rather than a collection of various initiatives. The main exception is in intellectual property rights.

Free movement and trade[edit]

The core of European Union economic and social policy is summed up under the idea of the four freedoms - free movement of goods, capital, services and persons. Sometimes, they are also counted up as five freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, workers and the freedom of establishment, but the difference is merely in denomination, they both refer to the same areas of substantive law.


As a customs union and a single market, the EU aims at the elimination of customs duties and measures having an equivalent effect to customs duties between its members. Thus, to ensure this fundamental aim of the EU, the ECJ interprets the relevant TFEU articles, 28-30, rather strictly. For example, the ECJ emphasized that the Treaty provisions can be applicable even if the state measure was not intended to be protectionist by design.[82]

Workers and citizens[edit]

Free movement of economically active workers is guaranteed under TFEU article 45.

  • Case C-281/98 Roman Angonese [2000] ECR I-4139
  • Case 41/74 Van Duyn v Home Office [1974] ECR 1337
  • Case C‑333/13 Dano (11 November 2014)
  • Regulation 492/11 on freedom of movement for workers within the Union

Services and establishment[edit]


Main article: EU company law

Public regulation[edit]

Fiscal and monetary policy[edit]


Environmental law[edit]

Main article: Environmental law

Natural resource management[edit]

Data and information[edit]

Foreign policy[edit]

Criminal law[edit]

In 2006, a toxic waste spill off the coast of Côte d'Ivoire, from a European ship, prompted the Commission to look into legislation against toxic waste. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas stated that "Such highly toxic waste should never have left the European Union". With countries such as Spain not even having a crime against shipping toxic waste, Franco Frattini, the Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner, proposed with Dimas to create criminal sentences for “ecological crimes”. The competence for the Union to do this was contested in 2005 at the Court of Justice resulting in a victory for the Commission.[83] That ruling set a precedent that the Commission, on a supranational basis, may legislate in criminal law – something never done before. So far, the only other proposal has been the draft intellectual property rights directive.[84] Motions were tabled in the European Parliament against that legislation on the basis that criminal law should not be an EU competence, but was rejected at vote.[85] However, in October 2007, the Court of Justice ruled that the Commission could not propose what the criminal sanctions could be, only that there must be some.[86]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Distinct from the idea of conquest or empire, examples include Pierre Dubois proposing a standing committee of princes in 1306, Quaker William Penn proposing a Parliament in 1693, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham and Henri Saint-Simon.
  2. ^ W Penn, An ESSAY towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe by the Establishment of an European Dyet, Parliament, or Estates (1693) in AR Murphy, The Political Writings of William Penn (2002) See D Urwin, The Community of Europe: A History of European Integration (1995)
  3. ^
  4. ^ TEU arts and TFEU arts 293-294
  5. ^ See HLA Hart, The Concept of Law (1961) ch 4, on the danger of a static system and "rules of change"
  6. ^ e.g. J Weiler, The Constitution of Europe (1999), C Hoskyns and M Newman, Democratizing the European Union (2000), A Moravcsik, 'In Defence of the "Democratic Deficit": Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union' (2002) 40 JCMS 603, P Craig and G de Burca, The Evolution of EU Law (2nd edn 2011) ch 2.
  7. ^ In 2005, a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was rejected by referenda in France and the Netherlands.
  8. ^ See AW Bradley and KD Ewing, Constitutional and Administrative Law (2012) ch 1 and W Bagehot, The English Constitution (1867)
  9. ^ "Primary law". Europa. 12 August 2010. 
  10. ^ Additional Treaties amending the founding treaties are the Merger Treaty on the merger of the executive institutions 196, the Budgetary Treaty amending certain budgetary provisions of the Community treaties 1970, the Treaty of Brussels amending certain financial provisions of the Community treaties and establishing a Court of Auditors 1975, and the Act on the election of members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage in 1976.
  11. ^ Committee of Independent Experts, First Report on Allegations of Fraud, Mismanagement and Nepotism in the European Commission (15 March 1999)
  12. ^ TFEU art 225(2)
  13. ^ TEU art 17(6)
  14. ^ TFEU art 250
  15. ^ TEU art 17(5) allows this figure to be reduced to two-thirds of the number of member states, if all are unanimous. It is unclear whether this will happen.
  16. ^ TEU art 17(7). The Parliament can only reject the whole Commission, not individual Commissioners. TFEU art 248 says the President may reshuffle Commissioners, though this is uncommon without member state approval.
  17. ^ TFEU art 282-287
  18. ^ Humblet v Belgium (1960) Case 6/60
  19. ^ Sayag v Leduc (No 1) (1968) Case 5/68, [1968] ECR 395 and Weddel & Co BV v Commission (1992) C-54/90, [1992] ECR I-871, on immunity waivers.
  20. ^ (2006) C-432/04, [2006] ECR I-6387
  21. ^ Committee of Independent Experts, First Report on Allegations of Fraud, Mismanagement and Nepotism in the European Commission (15 March 1999)
  22. ^ Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU
  23. ^ TFEU art 282-287
  24. ^ c.f. TEU art 9
  25. ^ TFEU art 225(2) and 294(2)
  26. ^ TEU art 14(2) and Council Decision 2002/772
  27. ^ TEU art 16(3) and TFEU art 238(3)
  28. ^ See P Craig and G de Burca, EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials (2015) ch 2(6) 50-51. See the EP Resolution of 30 March 1962. Recognised in SEA art 3(1). TEEC art 190(4) required proposals for elections
  29. ^ See Marias, ‘The Right to Petition the European Parliament after Maastricht’ (1994) 19 ELR 169
  30. ^ TEU art 14(3) and Decision 2002/772. TFEU art 223(1) requires the Parliament to eventually propose a uniform voting system, adopted by the Council, but it is unclear when this may happen.
  31. ^ TEU art 14(2) reduced from 765 in 2013.
  32. ^ Germany 96. France 74. UK and Italy 73. Spain 54. Poland 51. Romania 31. Netherlands 26. Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal 21. Sweden 20. Austria 18. Bulgaria 17. Denmark, Slovakia, Finland 13. Ireland, Croatia, Lithuania 11. Latvia, Slovenia 8. Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta 6
  33. ^ (1986) Case 294/83, [1986] ECR 1339. The Greens challenged funding, contending its distribution was unfair against smaller parties, and it was held all funding was ultra vires. See Joliet and Keeling, ‘The Reimbursement of Election Expenses: A Forgotten Dispute’ (1994) 19 ELR 243
  34. ^ TFEU art 226 and 228
  35. ^ TFEU art 230 and 234
  36. ^ See Roquette v Council (1980) Case 138/79, [1980] ECR 3333 and European Parliament v Council (1995) C-65/93, [1995] ECR I-643, Parliament held not to have done everything it could have done within a sufficient time to give an opinion, so it could not complain the Council had gone ahead. See Boyron, ‘The Consultation Procedure: Has the Court of Justice Turned against the European Parliament?’ (1996) 21 ELR 145
  37. ^ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (ca 411 BC) Book 2, para 37, where Pericles said, ‘Our government does not copy our neighbors, but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few.’
  38. ^ TEU art 15(3) and (6)
  39. ^ TEU art 15(1)
  40. ^ TEU art 16(2)
  41. ^ The numbers are currently Germany, France, Italy, and UK: 29 votes each. Spain and Poland: 27. Romania: 14. Netherlands: 13. Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal: 12. Bulgaria, Austria, Sweden: 10. Denmark, Ireland, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Finland: 7. Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia: 4. Malta: 3. This was set by the 2014 Protocol No 36 on Transitional Provisions, art 3(3) amended by art 20 for Croatia Accession Treaty 2011.
  42. ^ TFEU art 288 outlines the main legislative acts as Directives, Regulations, and Decisions. Commission v Council (1971) Case 22/70, [1971] ECR 263 acknowledged that the list was not exhaustive, relating to a Council ‘resolution’ on the European Road Transport Agreement. Atypical act include communications and recommendations, and white and green papers.
  43. ^ e.g. M Banks, 'Sarkozy slated over Strasbourg seat' (24 May 2007) EU Politix
  44. ^ This does not extend to foreign and security policy, where there must be consensus.
  45. ^ TFEU art 294
  46. ^ TFEU art 313-319
  47. ^ TEU art 20 and TFEU arts 326 and 334
  48. ^ Protocol No 1 to the Treaty of Lisbon
  49. ^ Statute of the Court art 48
  50. ^ (1963) Case 26/62
  51. ^ (2005) C-144/04
  52. ^ (2008) C-402
  53. ^ [1963] Case 26/62 ECR 1
  54. ^ Berry, Elspeth; Hargreaves, Sylvia (2007). European Union law (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-19-928244-9. 
  55. ^ [1986] Case 152/84 ECR 723
  56. ^ Case-188/89, Foster v British Gas [1990] ECR I-3313.
  57. ^ Berry, Elspeth; Hargreaves, Sylvia (2007). European Union law (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-928244-9. 
  58. ^ "The national courts are bound to take recommendations into consideration in order to decide disputes submitted to them, in particular where they cast light on the interpretation of national measures adopted in order to implement them or where they are designed to supplement binding Community provisions". — Case C-322/88, Grimaldi v Fonds des Maladies Professionnelles [1989] ECR 4407 at para 18.
  59. ^ Berry, Elspeth; Hargreaves, Sylvia (2007). European Union law (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-0-19-928244-9. 
  60. ^ (1990) C-6/90
  61. ^ Haughwout Folsom, Ralph; Lake, Ralph B.; Nada, Ved P. (1996). European Union law after Maastricht: a practical guide for lawyers outside the Common Market (2nd ed.). Kluwer Law International. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-90-411-0971-2. 
  62. ^ Hix, Simon. The Political System of the European Union (2nd ed.). p. 123. ISBN 0-333-96182-X. 
  63. ^ J. H. H. Weiler (June 1991). "The Transformation of Europe". The Yale Law Journal 100 (8): 2403. JSTOR 796898. 
  64. ^ Fabbrini, Sergio (2005). Democracy and federalism in the European Union and the United States:exploring post-national governance. Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-415-33392-4. 
  65. ^ Kent, Penelope (2001). Law of the European Union (3rd ed.). Pearson Education. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-582-42367-1. 
  66. ^ Davies, Karen (2003). Understanding European Union law. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-85941-848-2. 
  67. ^ a b Chalmers, Damian (2006). European Union law: text and materials. Cambridge University Press. p. 448. ISBN 978-0-521-52741-5. 
  68. ^ Kaczorowsky, Alina (2008). European Union law. Taylor & Francis. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-415-44797-3. 
  69. ^ a b Chalmers, Damian (2006). European Union law: text and materials. Cambridge University Press. p. 454. ISBN 978-0-521-52741-5. 
  70. ^ a b Kaczorowsky, Alina (2008). European Union law. Taylor & Francis. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-415-44797-3. 
  71. ^ Chalmers, Damian (2006). European Union law: text and materials. Cambridge University Press. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-521-52741-5. 
  72. ^ Kent, Penelope (2001). Law of the European Union (3rd ed.). Pearson Education. pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-0-582-42367-1. 
  73. ^ Giacomo, Di Federico (2011). The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: From Declaration to Binding Instrument. Volume 8 of Ius Gentium Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice. Springer. p. 147. ISBN 978-94-007-0155-7. 
  74. ^ Horspool, Margot (2006). European Union law. Butterworths core text series (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-19-928763-5. 
  75. ^ Giacomo, Di Federico (2011). The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: From Declaration to Binding Instrument. Volume 8 of Ius Gentium Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice. Springer. p. 38. ISBN 978-94-007-0155-7. 
  76. ^ G Di Federico, The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: From Declaration to Binding Instrument (Springer 2011) Volume 8 of Ius Gentium Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice, 41–42
  77. ^ a b c d e Archer, Clive (2008). The European Union. Volume 21 of Global institutions series. Taylor & Francis. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-415-37012-7. 
  78. ^ Archer, Clive (2008). The European Union. Volume 21 of Global institutions series. Taylor & Francis. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-415-37012-7. 
  79. ^ Papadopoulos, Anestis S (2010). The International Dimension of EU Competition Law and Policy. Cambridge University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-521-19646-8. 
  80. ^ Papadopoulos, Anestis S (2010). The International Dimension of EU Competition Law and Policy. Cambridge University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-521-19646-8. 
  81. ^ Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004 of 20 January 2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (the EC Merger Regulation)
  82. ^ Craig, Paul; Búrca, Gráinne de (2011-08-18). EU Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. OUP Oxford. p. 611-614. ISBN 9780199576999.
  83. ^ Case C-176/03 Commission v Council
  84. ^ Gargani, Giuseppe (2007). "Intellectual property rights: criminal sanctions to fight piracy and counterfeiting". European Parliament. Retrieved 30 June 2007. 
  85. ^ Mahony, Honor (23 October 2007). "EU court delivers blow on environment sanctions". EU Observer. Retrieved 23 October 2007. ; Case C-440/05 Commission v Council


  • A O'Neill, EU Law for UK Lawyers (Hart 2011)
  • P Craig and G de Búrca, EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials (5th edn OUP 2011)
  • G Beck, The Legal Reasoning of the Court of Justice of the EU (Hart 2013)
  • C Barnard, The Substantive Law of the EU: The Four Freedoms (2nd edn OUP 2007)
  • C Tobler / J Beglinger, Essential EU Law in Charts (3rd edn HVG-Orac 2014)

External links[edit]