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Law Notes European Law Notes

National Remedies For Breach Notes

Updated National Remedies For Breach Notes

European Law Notes

European Law

Approximately 1161 pages

European Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the LLB EU law cases and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London).

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The Commission may bring a breach of EU law by an MS before the ECJ and the Commission has some powers to investigate breaches by private parties (e.g. competition rules). National courts are empowered by direct effect and supremacy to become EU courts engaged in policing EU law.

Dougan narrative: suggests a ‘core’ narrative of the ECJ’s jurisprudence: (i) early period (until mid 80s) —characterised by an emphasis on national procedural autonomy; (ii) middle period (until 1993) —the most ambitious, interventionist, period; (iii) late period (from 1993) —ECJ seems to encounter a crisis of confidence, backing down from its interventionist stance.


Starting point: where no relevant EU law exists, national law determines procedure and remedies, subject to the principles of effectiveness and equivalence.

  • Rewe [1976]: C claimed a refund for import duties paid to Germany in violation of the Treaty, but was time-barred under national law. ECJ: the reasonable time bar did not violate EU law.

  • Principle of national procedural autonomy based on Art. 4(3) (sincere cooperation); in absence of EU rules, it is for the domestic legal system … to determine the procedural conditions governing actions at law intended to protect EU law rights of individuals.

  • Principle of equivalence: national remedies / procedures for breach of EU law cannot, however, “be less favourable than those relating to similar actions of a domestic nature”

  • Principle of effectiveness: national remedies must not make it “impossible in practice to exercise the [EU] law rights which the national courts are obliged to protect.”

  • Comet [1976]: C claimed for export costs paid to D, under a contract of sale, which were incompatible with a directly effective Treaty provision. D argued C was time-barred. ECJ: Dutch limitation period was valid; rejected C’s argument that the limitation period undermined the impact of the direct effect of treaty provisions in MS.

Thus, directly effective EU law will be enforced according to national procedures / remedies; there is no requirement for national courts to create new remedies for the protection of EU law rights.


Since Rewe and Comet the ECJ has developed effective judicial protection as a general principle of EU law (now confirmed in Art. 47 Charter); this has led to limits on the principle of national procedural autonomy and the strengthening of the effectiveness / equivalence requirements.

Interventionism illustrated by:

  • San Giorgio [1983]: principle of effectiveness was altered to require that national procedural rules should not make it “virtually impossible or excessively difficult” to exercise/protect EU law rights and seemed to require a new remedy be available in national law by ruling that the right to repayment of charges levied in breach of EU law must be available in principle.

These developments were based on Art. 4(3): “pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation… MS shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.”

Tightening of Requirements I: Remedies

No new remedies rule rejected and emphasis placed on full effectiveness of EU law:

  • Factortame I [1990]: Spanish fishermen were prevented from registering their vessels by UK law. Cs argued that the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 breached EU law and sought interim relief before UK courts. HL interim relief was prevented by a CL rule that an injection could not be granted against the crown. CJEU: interim relief must be available as a matter of EU law, but left it to HL to determine conditions in which relief would be available. They restated the principle of national procedural autonomy, but stated the “full effectiveness of Community law would be impaired if a rule of national law could prevent a court… from granting interim relief.”

Emphasis on effectiveness / judicial protection I Factortame contrasts emphasis on national procedural autonomy in Comet and Rewe.

Zuckerfabrik [1991] and Atlanta [1995] (see preliminary ref. notes) establish that national courts may suspend EU acts / implementing national legislation while the validity of the act is being determined under the preliminary ref. procedure.

  • The issue: in these cases, the ECJ laid down criteria for the availability of such relief and, in Zuckerfabrik, emphasised that interim protection must be governed by the same rules regardless of whether an individual contests EU law (Zuckerfabrik) or national law (as in Factortame)—thus, in laying down conditions for the grant of interim relief, the ECJ further eroded national procedural autonomy in favour of the uniformity / effectiveness of EU law.

  • The ECJ retreated from this position in Unibet [2007]: distinguished two cases:

    • Case concerns compatibility of a national law with EU law: the national court must be able to grant interim relief (as in Factortame), but the conditions for the grant of such relief are to be determined by national law, not EU law (as long as compliant with equivalence/effectiveness).

    • Case concerns validity of EU secondary legislation: here interim relief is an EU law right, the substantive conditions of which are exhaustively determined by EU law (as in Z and A).

Arnull: drawback to U is that it will lead to disparities in the law between MS, doesn’t fit well with the emphasis in Z on the uniform application of EU law as a fundamental requirement of the EU legal order.

Tightening of the Requirements II: Equivalence

Equivalence asks what causes of action in domestic / EU law are sufficiently similar to require equivalent treatment in terms of remedies / procedure.

Levez [1998] C wanted to assert her EU law right to equal pay before a tribunal, but under UK law was time barred from doing so. ECJ: was for national courts to decide whether the...

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