European Law: Revision Notes

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  • Topic: European Union, European Union law, Direct effect
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  • Published : December 6, 2012
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EUROPEAN LAW REVISION NOTES

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The UK joined the EU in 1973. Originally sent up following World War 2, the EU was an attempt by many western European countries to rebuild their economies by working closely together. The idea was that they would be more prosperous when working together. The countries then decided that they would share a common framework of laws in the areas of employment and the trading of goods and services between the countries. Now EU Laws cover other areas such as health and food safety and sex discrimination laws. Attempts to adopt a common criminal law have been strongly resisted by the UK.

The EU is currently made up of 27 Member States which include the UK, France & Germany.

What do I need to know?

• What are the institutions that make law in Europe?
• What types of law are passed by them?

The law making Institutions

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
• Based in Brussels & Strasbourg.
• There are 785 Members of European Parliament who are elected by the citizens of the member state every 5 years. • Main function is to discuss and comment on the proposals put forward by the Commission, but it has no direct law-making authority. • But assent of Parliament is required to any international agreements the Union wishes to enter in. (e.g. admitting new member states) • Has some power over the Union budget.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION
• 27 commissioners who act independently of national origin (1 commissioner per member state) • Initiates all new EU laws.
• Proposes and presents drafts of legislation to the Council. “The commission proposes and the council disposes”. • ‘Guardian of the treaties’ - Checks that the Member States are following the laws. Has a duty to intervene and refer to ECJ. • Responsible for the administration of the Union and has executive powers to implement the Union’s budget.

COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
• Made up of representatives from each national Government who will attend meetings related to their national responsibility. • Principal decision making body.
• The Council of Ministers is the ‘effective centre of power’. The Heads of State of the EU countries vote on the proposed laws. The Head of states have differing amounts of voting power depending on the size of their country (Qualified Majority Voting).

EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE
• Function set out in Art 220 of the Treaty of Rome ‘to ensure that in the interpretation and application of the Treaty the law is observed’ • Decides cases involving citizens of the member states. • Enforces EU law in the member states.

• Sits in Luxembourg and has 27 judges (one from each MS – those eligible for the highest judicial posts); appointed for 6 years and can be re-appointed. • Full court = 11 judges; also sits in chambers of 5 or 6 • Assisted by 9 Advocates. A-G under Art 223 will research all legal points involved and present the case publically. Key functions of the ECJ

• To ensure that the law is applied uniformly in all MS’s by carrying out 2 functions: a. Hears cases to decide whether MS have failed to fulfill obligations under the treaties (initiated by the commission) e.g. Re Tachographs where the UK failed to implement a regulation on the use of tachographs in road vehicles for the carriage of goods. b. Preliminary rulings Hears references from national courts for preliminary rulings on points of EU Law under Article 234.

Article 234
‘The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings concerning: a) the interpretation of treaties;
b) the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions of the Union c) The interpretation of the statutes of bodies established by an act of the Council, where those statutes so provide.

WHEN MUST A REFERAL BE MADE?

• Where there is no appeal from the national court within the national system i.e. the case must be...
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