Private Parties in European Community Law: Challenging Community Measures

By Albertina Albors-Llorens | Go to book overview

5

Preliminary Rulings on Validity

5.1 GENERAL FEATURES

As well as fulfilling the purpose of preserving the uniformity of Community law throughout the Community and of ensuring co-operation between the national courts and the European Court of Justice, the system of preliminary rulings offers an alternative route for the challenge of illegal action by the Community institutions.1

All three Community Treaties contemplate the possibility of obtaining a review of the validity of Community acts by means of preliminary rulings delivered by the European Court.2 Thus, once a Community measure (e.g. an agricultural regulation) has been implemented by the national authorities, a private party may challenge the national measure before the national court, which may, in turn, refer a question about the validity of the Community measure to the European Court.

Under Article 177(1)(b) of the EC Treaty,3 the European Court of Justice of the European Communities has jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings relating to 'the validity and interpretation of acts of the Institutions of the Community and of the European Central Bank'.4 Article 41 ECSC Treaty gives jurisdiction to the European Court to deliver preliminary rulings on the validity of acts of the Commission and the Council 'where such validity is in issue in proceedings brought before a national court or tribunal'.

Preliminary rulings on the validity of Community measures constitute an indirect method of judicial review of the legality of Community action. Given that the greatest number of actions brought before the national courts are lodged by private parties, the system of preliminary rulings opens up a useful additional channel that allows private parties to obtain the review of potentially illegal Community acts.5 Furthermore, given the

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1
Thus see Case 294/83 Parti Ecologiste 'Les Verts' v. European Parliament [1986] ECR 1339, at point 23, and Case 314/85 Foto-Frost v. Haulptzollamt Lübeck-Ost [1987] ECR 4199, at points 18-19.
2
Art. 177(1)(b) EC Treaty, Art. 41 ECSC Treaty, and Art. 150(1)(b) Euratom Treaty.
3
Art. 150(1)(b) Euratom Treaty reads in very similar terms.
4
The italicized words represent the Maastricht Treaty amendments.
5
Thus see T. L. Early, "'The Scope of Preliminary Rulings on the Validity of Community Law'" ( 1980) 15 The Irish Jurist 237 at 239; G. Bebr, Development of Judicial Control in the European Communities ( The Hague, 1981), 494; C. Harding, "'The Impact of Article 177 on the Review of Community Action'" ( 1981) 1 YEL 93 at 112-13; H. G. Schermers and D. Waelbroeck, Judicial Protection in the European Communities ( 5th edn., Deventer, 1992),

-177-

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