According to Parliament, only the EU Court of Justice can interpret EU law and set its scope.
The principle of primacy of EU law is not explicitly enshrined in EU Treaties, but is included in the annex to the Lisbon Treaty. According to MEPs, it constitutes not just a legal doctrine but also a reflection of the political and economic integration of the EU and contributes to the creation of an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. It also guarantees equal protection of the rights under the EU law to all EU citizens.
With 430 votes against 172 and 29 abstentions the European Parliament approved an own-initiative report on the principle of primacy of the EU law submitted by the Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO).
The principle of primacy to be included into EU Treaties
Although there is no hierarchy between EU and national laws, in case of conflict, member states should stop applying conflicting provisions and interpret national law in conformity with EU law. In order to mitigate possible conflicts, MEPs recommend to enshrine the principle of the primacy of EU law explicitly into the EU Treaties and regret this was not the case under the Lisbon Treaty. The principle of primacy has developed through the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and constitutes a cornerstone of the EU’s legal order, which is essential for the EU’s functioning. They point out that although most national courts respect it, decisions of those constitutional or supreme courts that challenge or fail to apply the principle pose a risk to the effectiveness and uniformity of EU law. MEPs emphasize that it is the Court of Justice that has the exclusive competence to interpret EU law and set its limitations.
Commission to monitor national rulings and act
The Parliament asks the Commission as the guardian of the Treaties to closely monitor the rulings of national courts with regard to the primacy of EU law and to initiate infringement procedures in response to judgments challenging it. The Commission should prepare an annual report on application of EU law, including a scoreboard of compliance with CJEU judgements in EU countries.
MEPs suggest that national courts engage in a constructive judicial dialogue with CJEU though the preliminary reference procedure and encourage the establishment of a forum for regular informal dialogue between the courts. Its aim will be to strengthen mutual cooperation and encourage harmonisation of the interpretation of EU law across all judicial systems. They also emphasize the importance of adequate capacity building and call for the use of EU training programmes in member states’ judicial systems to encourage a better understanding of the primacy of EU law.
“I am extremely happy to see the plenary adopt our report. We not only reaffirm the importance of the principle of primacy of EU law, but we also suggest solutions for avoiding conflicts like the few we saw in the past. This Parliament remains committed to ensuring equality of Europeans before the law,” rapporteur for Legal Affairs Committee Yana Toom (Renew, EE).
Rapporteur for Constitutional Affairs Committee Cyrus Engerer (S&D, MT) noted: “Preserving the functionality, cohesion, and consistency of our Union is non-negotiable. We’ve initiated recommendations to strengthen the Union’s legal order, and our Parliament is unwavering in its commitment to uphold the rule of law and ensure a uniform legal framework across all Member States.”