Eu Legal Order

Eu Legal Order in Europe

Autonomy of the EU Legal Order

Content about Eu Legal Order from the publication “The ABC of European Union law” (2010, European Union) by Klaus-Dieter Borchardt.

By establishing the Union, the Member States have limited their legislative sovereignty and in so doing have created a self-sufficient body of law that is binding on them, their citizens and their courts.

Context of Eu Legal Order in the European Union

One of the best-known cases heard in the Court of Justice was Costa v ENEL in 1964, in which Mr Costa filed an action against the nationalisation of electricity generation and distribution, and the consequent vesting of the business of the former electricity companies in ENEL, the new public corporation.

More about Eu Legal Order in the European Union

The autonomy of the EU legal order is of fundamental significance for the nature of the EU, for it is the only guarantee that Union law will not be watered down by interaction with national law, and that it will apply uniformly throughout the Union. This is why the concepts of Union law are interpreted in the light of the aims of the EU legal order and of the Union in general. This Union-specific interpretation is indispensable, since particular rights are secured by Union law and without it they would be endangered, for each Member State could then, by interpreting provisions in different ways, decide individually on the substance of the freedoms that Union law is supposed to guarantee. An example is the concept of a ‘worker’, on which the scope of the concept of freedom of movement is based. The specific Union concept of the worker is quite capable of deviating from the concepts that are known and applied in the legal orders of the Member States. Furthermore, the only standard by which Union legal instruments are measured is Union law itself, and not national legislation or constitutional law.

Other Aspects

Against the backdrop of this concept of the autonomy of the EU legal order, what is the relationship between Union law and national law?


Even if Union law constitutes a legal order that is self-sufficient in relation to the legal orders of the Member States, this situation must not be regarded as one in which the EU legal order and the legal systems of the Member States are superimposed on one another like layers of bedrock. The fact that they are applicable to the same people, who thus simultaneously become citizens of a national State and of the EU, negates such a rigid demarcation of these legal orders. Secondly, such an approach disregards the fact that Union law can become operational only if it forms part of the legal orders of the Member States. The truth is that the EU legal order and the national legal orders are interlocked and interdependent.







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