Part II European Law: Enforcement

7. National Actions  


1.    National Remedies: Equivalence and Effectiveness
2.    State Liability: The Francovich Doctrine
3.    Preliminary Rulings I: General Aspects
4.    Preliminary Rulings II: Special Aspects



National courts are the principal judicial enforcers of European law. “Ever since Van Gend en Loos the Court has maintained that it is the task of the national courts to protect the rights of individuals under [Union] law and to give full effect to [Union] law provisions.” Indeed, whenever European law is directly effective, national courts must apply it; and wherever a Union norm comes into conflict with national law, each national court must disapply the latter. The Union legal order thereby insists that nothing within the national judicial system must prevent national courts from exercising their functions as “guardians” of the European judicial order. In Simmenthal, the Court thus held that each national court must be able to disapply national law – even where the national judicial system traditionally reserves that power to a central constitutional court:

[E]very national court must, in a case within its jurisdiction, apply [Union] law in its entirety and protect rights which the latter confers on individuals and must accordingly set aside any provision of national law which may conflict with it, whether prior or subsequent to the [Union] rule. Accordingly any provision of a national legal system and any legislative, administrative or judicial practice which might impair the effectiveness of [European] law by withholding from the national court having jurisdiction to apply such law the power to do everything necessary at the moment of its application to set aside national legislative provisions which might prevent [Union] rules from having full force and effect are incompatible with those requirements which are the very essence of [Union] law.

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