Topic 1 The principle of supremacy of EU Law: Theory and Practice

What is the principle of supremacy of EU law?

  • Not ‘hierarchical’ supremacy in the sense that validity of national law depends on its compliance with EU law

  • Obligation to refrain adopting laws that are inconsistent with EU law
  • duty to modify laws that are so inconsistent
  • set aside conflicting national measures ► inapplicable
  • Costa v ENEL

○Italian citizen claimed that he did not need pay a higher price for electricity as a result of the nationalisation of the Italian electricity sector, because it was in violation of the EEC law

○Was nationalisation of energy provider compatible with EU law?

○Italian legislation passed after Italian Accession to EEC

  • Does EU law or national law take priority?
  • Guidance to the Italian Constitutional Court

Judgment in Costa v ENEL: Rationale?

  • “By contrast with ordinary international treaties, the EEC Treaty has created its own legal system which[..] became an integral part of the legal systems of the Member States and which their courts are bound to apply. […] the Member States have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves.
  • The integration into the laws of each Member State of provisions which derive from the [EU], and more generally the terms and the spirit of the Treaty, make it impossible for the States, as a corollary, to accord precedence to a unilateral and subsequent measure over a legal system accepted by them on a basis of reciprocity.”
  • “[T]he law stemming from the Treaty, an independent source of law, could not, because of its special and original nature, be overridden by domestic legal provisions, however framed, without being deprived of its character as Community law and without the legal basis of the Community itself being called into question”