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Warum Mitgliedsstaaten Unionsrecht befolgen (müssen)

Donnerstag, 21.10.2021

Haben Polinnen und Polen das gleiche Recht wie die Bürger anderer EU Staaten, eine unabhängige Gerichtsbarkeit zu haben?*

Supremacy, effectiveness, and two standards of equality in EU law

For many years, supremacy has been rationalized with arguments relying on the effectiveness of EU law. In light of the most recent supremacy-related decisions by constitutional courts in Poland and Germany, these rationalizations seem to have lost their persuasive power. In a press release by the ECJ following the ultra vires-decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court in the PSPP/Weiss case it was stated that authorities of the Member States including national courts were required to ensure that EU law takes full effect, which would be the only way of ensuring the equality of Member States under the first sentence of Article 4(2) TEU. Instead of relying on effectiveness or the equality of Member States, Klamert argues that supremacy should be seen as being mainly grounded in the individual-centred non-discrimination standard anchored in Article 18 TFEU.

The rationale for supremacy in the literature: The weakness of effectiveness

The point has been made that Union law can have direct effect in national law and can, therefore, conflict with national law in specific situations. However, this only explains why there must be some sort of conflict resolution mechanism, but not why this must necessarily be supremacy. An argument based on the effectiveness of Union law may be tempting but is not compelling. Effectiveness has emerged from loyalty as a means to ensure that Union law takes full effect in national law. Claiming that EU law must be effective and therefore has precedence over national law which in turn was the reason for state liability and indirect effect seems at odds with years of case law linking effectiveness with Article 4(3) TEU but not with supremacy. More importantly, it confuses cause and effect: Does EU law have precedence in order to be effective or is it effective because of supremacy?

Rationalizing supremacy based on equality

In Costa/ENEL, the Court argued that “[t]he executive force of Community law cannot vary from one State to another […], without jeopardizing the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty set out in Article 5(2) [now Article 4(3) TEU on sincere cooperation/loyalty] and giving rise to the discrimination prohibited by Article 7 [now Article 18 TFEU]”. The Court thus found that the denial of supremacy by a Member State would jeopardize the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty and give rise to discrimination based on nationality. The reference to (what is now) Article 18 TFEU by the Court makes perfect sense. While this might not be covered under a conventional reading of Article 18 TFEU, the prohibition of discrimination based on nationality could be understood as also including a comparison between the situation of a person subject to Union law in one Member State with the situation of a person subject to Union law in (an)other Member State(s). Relying on Article 4(2) TEU to rationalize supremacy as the Court has done, in contrast, places too much argumentative burden on this provision, which is neither supported by its wording nor by the case law.


In light of recent developments in the European Union, a stronger rationalization of supremacy is needed. Instead of the permutation of equality governing the relations between the Member States one should look at non-discrimination on the basis of nationality as guaranteeing individuals in the EU a right not to be treated unequally before EU law.

* Der Beitrag stellt eine gekürzte Version des folgenden Blogposts dar: Klamert, Rationalizing Supremacy: Supremacy, effectiveness, and two standards of equality in EU law, VerfBlog, 18.10.2021, https://verfassungsblog.de/rationalizing-supremacy.

Marcus Klamert ist seit September 2020 Praxisprofessor für Europarecht. Er ist im Verfassungsdienst des Bundeskanzleramts tätig und hat die Republik Österreich in mehreren Verfahren vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof vertreten. Vor seiner Tätigkeit im öffentlichen Dienst war er u.a. als Legal Officer für die Europäische Kommission, in einer Rechtsanwaltskanzlei sowie als Universitätsassistent tätig. 2013 habilitierte er sich an der WU Wien mit der Arbeit „The Principle of Loyalty in EU Law“ für die Fächer Europarecht und Völkerrecht. Er ist außerdem Mitglied des Herausgeberbeirats der Europäischen Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht.

Zu seinen Forschungsschwerpunkten zählen das europäische Verfassungsrecht, das Recht der europäischen Außenbeziehungen, das Verhältnis des Unionsrechts zu innerstaatlichem Recht sowie das Binnenmarktrecht.

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