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The Import of International Customary Law into the EU Legal Order: The Adequacy of a Direct Effect Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 October 2017

Abstract

The EU case law, embodied by the Racke judgment, constituted a normative compromise between the judicial treatment of international customary law and that of international treaties. Indeed, the lack of precision of an international customary norm would not prevent it from being assessed by the EU Courts on the merits of the case, albeit to a lesser degree of judicial review. The lack of precision of an international treaty provision would in contrast make it unenforceable on the facts of the case (subject to two exceptions and the doctrine of consistent interpretation), whereas when sufficiently precise, the treaty provision would be assessed in full by the EU Courts. In Air Transport Association of America, the Court of Justice projected onto the challenged EU secondary act a hybrid and alternative direct effect analysis, borrowed in part from the classical approach to direct effect and in part from the first branch of the direct concern standing requirement whilst also adopting an absolute manifest violation test due to an imprecision bias targeted at all international customary norms. The Court of Justice thereby disrupted this normative compromise: any international customary norm, provided that it or the challenged EU secondary act passes the hybrid direct effect test, would also trigger a marginal form of judicial review in validity review actions before the EU Courts, regardless of its nature and inherent qualities. This chapter aims to argue that the direct effect requirements, which emerge from the case law on the import of international treaties into the EU legal order, remain adequate to assess the judicial enforceability of ordinary international customary law in the EU legal system minus the requirement revolving around the broad logic and nature of the international customary norm. International customary norms should, accordingly, be assessed on the basis of the same direct effect criteria as those applicable to the Constitutive Treaties and EU secondary acts when assessing their relation to Member States’ national legal orders. However, the precision and unconditionality criteria ought to be appreciated with more flexibility with regard to the import of international customary norms in order to account for their unique normative character. The ‘express reference’ ‘implementation’ exceptions specific to the international treaty judicial context may also be transposed to the assessment of international customary law in validity review actions. The application of the doctrine of consistent interpretation to international customary norms and their use as interpretative tools before the EU Courts constitute judicial implications of the principle of primacy of international customary law binding upon the Union over inconsistent EU secondary acts.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Centre for European Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge 2013

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References

1 Case C-366/10 Air Transport Association of America et al v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (CJ, 21 December 2011).

2 Case C-162/96 Racke v Hauptzollamt Mainz [1998] ECR I-3655.

3 Terminology borrowed from Prechal, S, ‘Direct Effect, Indirect Effect, Supremacy and the Evolving Constitution of the European Union’ in Barnard, C (ed), The Fundamentals of EU Law Revisited: Assessing the Impact of the Constitutional Debate (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007) 35, 37Google Scholar; Craig, P and de Búrca, G, EU Law, 5th edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 180 Google Scholar; Dashwood, A et al, Wyatt and Dashwood’s European Union Law, 6th edn (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2011) 244–45Google Scholar.

4 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [109]–[110].

5 The expression ‘direct applicability’ is sometimes referred to in legal scholarship to convey the absence of requisite act of incorporation: Dashwood et al (n 3) 244; Pescatore, P, ‘The Doctrine of “Direct Effect”: An Infant Disease of Community Law’ (1983) 2 European Law Review 155, 164Google Scholar.

6 This definition of ‘import’ is based on an extrapolation from Jan Wouters’ and Dries Van Eeckhoutte’s threefold reasoning tailored to international treaties: Wouters, J and Van Eeckhoutte, D, ‘Giving Effect to Customary International Law through European Community Law’ (2002) KU Leuven’s Institute for International Law, Working Paper No 25, 32Google Scholar.

7 Jurisdiction of the Courts of Danzig [1928] PCIJ Ser B, No 15, 17–18; Interlocutory Decision on the Applicable Law: Terrorism, Conspiracy, Homicide, Perpetration, Cumulative Charging, STL-11-01/I, 16 February 2011, [74].

8 Weiler, J, The Constitution of Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999) 1920 Google Scholar; Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 47.

9 Klabbers, J, ‘International Law in Community Law: The Law and Politics of Direct Effect’ in Eeckhout, P and Tridimas, T (eds), Yearbook of European Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001–02) 263, 272–73Google Scholar; Lenaerts, K and Corthaut, T, ‘Of Birds and Hedges: The Role of Primacy in Invoking Norms of EU Law’ (2006) 31 EL Rev 287, 297Google Scholar.

10 Prechal (n 3); Craig and de Búrca (n 3) 180; Dashwood et al (n 3) 244–45.

11 Prechal (n 3) 37.

12 Klabbers (n 9) 272. See also Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 6; Mendez, M, ‘The Legal Effect of Community Agreements: Maximalist Treaty Enforcement and Judicial Avoidance Techniques’ (2010) 21(1) European Journal of International Law 83, 98CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Craig and de Búrca (n 3) 180; Prechal (n 3) 37–38; Lenaerts and Corthaut (n 9) 310; Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 6.

14 Mendez (n 12) 98. Bruno de Witte defines direct effect by reference to ‘the capacity of a norm of Union law to be applied in domestic court proceedings’: de Witte, B, ‘Direct Effect, Primacy, and the Nature of the Legal Order’ in Craig, P and de Búrca, G (eds), The Evolution of EU Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011) 323 Google Scholar; Becker, F and Campbell, A, ‘The Direct Effect of European Directives: Towards the Final Act?’ (2007) 13 Columbia Journal of European Law 401, 405Google Scholar.

15 Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [2008] OJ C115/47, art 216(2). This provision replaces art 300(7) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC), which stipulated that: ‘Agreements concluded under the conditions set out in this Article shall be binding on the institutions of the Community and on Member States’: Treaty Establishing the European Community [2002] OJ C325/33.

16 Case C-386/08 Brita [2010] ECR I-1289 [39].

17 De Witte (n 14) 336.

18 Case C-228/06 Soysal and Savatli v Bundesrepublik Deutschland [2009] ECR I-1031 [59]; Case C-308/06 Intertanko v Secretary of State for Transport [2008] ECR I-4057 [42]; Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [50].

19 Case 181/73 Haegemann v Belgian State [1974] ECR 449 [4].

20 Case C-149/96 Portugal v Council [1999] ECR I-8395 [34]. For a similar ruling, see also Case 104/81 Hauptzollamt Mainz v Kupferberg & Cie [1982] ECR 3641 [17].

21 Case T-338/08 Stichting Natuur en Milieu v Commission (GC, 14 June 2012) [53]; Case T-396/09 Vereniging Milieudefensie and Stichting Stop Luchtverontreiniging Utrecht v Commission (GC, 14 June 2012) [53]; Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [49]–[56]; Case C-18/90 Office national de l’emploi v Kziber [1987] ECR 3719 [15]; Intertanko (n 18) [45]; Case T-115/94 Opel Austria v Council [1997] ECR II-39 [101].

22 Mendez (n 12) 100.

23 Joined Cases 21–24/72 International Fruit Company et al [1972] ECR 1219 [21] and [27].

24 Racke (n 2) [34].

25 Ibid [30].

26 Intertanko (n 18) [1] and [54].

27 Ibid [59] and [64]–[65].

28 Air Transport Association of America et al (n 1) Opinion of AG Kokott, [74]–[75].

29 TFEU, art 263.

30 Case T-441/08 ICO Services Ltd v Parliament and Council (Order) [2010] ECR II-100 [55]; Case T-18/10 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami et al v Parliament and Council (Order) (GC, 6 September 2011) [71]; Case T-125/96 Boehringer v Council and Commission [1999] ECR II3427 [170].

31 Case C-377/98 Netherlands v Parliament and Council [2001] ECR I-7079 [54].

32 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [84].

33 Ibid [73]–[78].

34 Stichting Natuur en Milieu (n 21) [53]; Vereniging Milieudefensie (n 21) [53]; Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [49]–[56]; Kziber (n 21) [15]; Intertanko (n 18) [45]; Opel Austria (n 21) [101].

35 Case 41/74 Van Duyn v Home Office [1974] ECR 1337 [12]–[13].

36 Joined Cases 267–69/81 Amministrazione delle finanze dello Stato v SPI and SAMI [1983] ECR 801 [24] and [26].

37 Case C-280/93 Germany v Council [1994] ECR I-4973 [106].

38 Opel Austria (n 21) [102].

39 Ibid.

40 Racke (n 2) [33].

41 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [100].

42 Ibid [75]–[76].

43 International Fruit Company (n 23) [21]–[26]; Germany v Council (n 37) [106]; Portugal v Council (n 20) [36]–[39].

44 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [83].

45 Case 70/87 Fediol v Commission [1989] ECR 1781 [19]–[22]; Case C-69/89 Nakajima v Council [1991] ECR I-2069 [31]; Germany v Council (n 37) [111]; Case C-352/96 Italy v Council [1998] ECR I-6937 [19]; Case C-76/00 Petrotub v Council [2003] ECR I-79 [54]; Case C-313/04 Franz Egenberger [2006] ECR I-6331 [24]; Case C-93/02 P Biret International SA v Council [2003] I-10497 [63]; Case C-94/02 P Etablissements Biret et Cie SA v Council [2003] ECR I-10565 [73].

46 Fediol (n 45) [19]–[22]; Nakajima (n 45) [31]; Petrotub (n 45) [54].

47 Vereniging Milieudefensie (n 21) [55]–[59].

48 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 34; Case C-313/04 Franz Egenberger [2006] ECR I-6331, Opinion of AG Geelhoed [64].

49 Ibid.

50 Case C-286/02 Bellio v Prefettura di Treviso [2004] ECR I-3465 [33]; Joined Cases C-447/05 and C-448/05 Thomson Multimedia Sales Europe v Vestel France [2007] ECR I-2049 [30]; Case C-311/04 Algemene Scheeps Agentuur Dordrecht BV v Inspecteur der Belastingdienst [2006] ECR I-609 [25].

51 By analogy with the principle of consistent interpretation of national law with non-transposed directives: Lenaerts and Corthaut (n 9) 295. See also Wenneras, P, The Enforcement of EC Environmental Law (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007) 57 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

52 Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2010] OJ C83/13.

53 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union [2010] OJ C83/389.

54 TEU, art 3(5).

55 Ibid arts 21(1), 21(2)(b).

56 TFEU, arts 77(4) and 214(2).

57 TEU, arts 49(1). Article 49(1) of the EU Charter indeed provides that: ‘No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national law or international law at the time when it was committed.’ See EU Charter (n 53).

58 TEU, art 53.

59 Case C-286/90 Anklagemindigheden v Poulsen and Diva Navigation [1992] ECR I-6019 [9]; Racke (n 2) [45]; Intertanko (n 18) [51]; Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [101].

60 United Nations, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, UNTS 1155, 331; United Nations, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organisations or between International Organisations, 21 March 1986, not yet in force.

61 International Fruit Company (n 23) 7–8.

62 Ibid [3].

63 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 6.

64 Case 48/69 Imperial Chemical Industries v Commission [1972] ECR 619, 624–25.

65 Ibid 125–42.

66 Opel Austria (n 21) [92]–[93].

67 Ibid [92].

68 Case T-315/01 Kadi v Council and Commission [2005] ECR II-3649; Case T-306/01 Yusuf and Al Barakaat International Foundation v Council and Commission [2005] ECR II3533.

69 Case C-402/05 Kadi v Council [2008] ECR I-6351 [286]–[287].

70 Ibid [282]–[284], [286]–[288] and [330].

71 Ibid [288].

72 Ibid [307]–[309].

73 Ibid [327].

74 Case T-253/02 Ayadi v Council [2006] ECR II-2139; Case T-49/04 Hassan v Council and Commission [2006] ECR II-52.

75 Joined Cases C-399/06 P and C-403/06 P Hassan and Ayadi v Council and Commission [2009] ECR I-11393 [69]–[71].

76 Case T-85/09 Kadi v Commission [2010] ECR II-5177 [151].

77 Ibid [120]–[121].

78 Joined Cases C-584/10 P, C-593/10 P and C-595/10 P Commission, Council and UK v Kadi (CJ, 18 July 2013) Opinion of AG Bot, [44]–[47].

79 Joined Cases C-584/10 P, C-593/10 P and C-595/10 P Commission, Council and UK v Kadi (CJ, 18 July 2013) [66].

80 Ibid [67].

81 De Witte (n 14) 338.

82 Lenaerts, K and Van Nuffel, P, European Union Law, 3rd edn (London, Sweet & Maxwell, 2011) 853 Google Scholar.

83 Case 89/85 Ahlström Osakeyhtiö et al v Commission [1988] ECR 5193 [11]–[23].

84 Ibid [16].

85 Ibid [18].

86 Ibid [19]–[21].

87 Van Duyn (n 35).

88 Ibid 1339–40.

89 Ibid [22]–[23].

90 Poulsen (n 59) [7].

91 Ibid [10].

92 Ibid [11].

93 See, for instance, the EC-Israel Association Agreement; the EEC-Morocco Cooperation Agreement; the Association Agreement between the Communities and the Czech Republic and the Association Agreement between the Communities and Poland; the Agreement between the European Economic Community and Portugal; Montreal Convention; the WTO Agreements and the Aarhus Convention.

94 Brita (n 16) [40]–[44]; Case C-416/96 El-Yassini [1999] ECR I-1209 [47]; Case C-268/99 Jany et al [2001] ECR I-8615 [35]; Kupferberg (n 20) [18]; Case C-344/04 IATA and ELFAA [2006] ECR I-403 [40]; Portugal v Council (n 20) [35]; Vereniging Milieudefensie (n 21) [61]; Case C-118/07 Commission v Finland [2009] ECR I-10889 [39].

95 Case C-154/11 Mahamdia v Algeria (CJ, 19 July 2012).

96 Article 18(2) of the Brussels I Regulation provides that: ‘Where an employee enters into an individual contract of employment with an employer who is not domiciled in a Member State but has a branch, agency or other establishment in one of the Member States, the employer shall, in disputes arising out of the operations of the branch, agency or establishment, be deemed to be domiciled in that Member State’: Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters [2001] OJ L12/1.

97 Mahamdia (n 95) [55]–[56].

98 Ibid [50].

99 Case C-364/10 Hungary v Slovak Republic (CJ, 16 October 2012) [44].

100 Ibid [44]–[52].

101 Ibid [70].

102 Case C-405/92 Etablissements Armand Mondiet SA v Armement Islais SARL [1993] ECR I-6133 [12].

103 Ibid [13]–[14].

104 Intertanko (n 18) [51].

105 Ibid.

106 Ibid. Contrast [51] with [45] of the judgment.

107 Racke (n 2) [52].

108 Ibid [47]; Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 21; Klabbers (n 9) 290.

109 This is also the view of the General Court, which held in a subsequent case, when summarising the context of the Racke judgment, that ‘the Court examined the validity of a regulation in the light of customary international law’: Vereniging Milieudefensie (n 21) [56].

110 Racke (n 2) Opinion of AG Jacobs, [84] and [85].

111 Ibid [84] and [85].

112 Ibid [84].

113 Ibid [89].

114 Racke (n 2) [34].

115 Ibid [45].

116 Ibid [46].

117 Ibid [52].

118 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) Opinion of AG Kokott, [113].

119 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [110].

120 Ibid [1]–[2] and [42]–[45].

121 Ibid.

122 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) Opinion of AG Kokott [113].

123 Ibid [113].

124 Ibid.

125 Ibid [118]–[137].

126 Ibid [134]–[137].

127 Ibid [134].

128 Ibid [145]–[160].

129 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [103]–[106].

130 Ibid [110].

131 Ibid [107]–[109].

132 ICO Services (n 30); Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (n 30); Boehringer (n 30).

133 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) [110].

134 TFEU, art 263.

135 Racke (n 2) [49], [50] and [53].

136 Air Transport Association of America (n 1) (written observations of the claimants) [97].

137 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 44–45.

138 Ibid.

139 Joined Cases C-46 and 48/93 Brasserie du Pêcheur SA v Germany [1996] ECR I-1029 [51] and [55]; Case C-352/98 P Bergaderm and Goupil v Commission [2000] ECR I-5291 [41]–[43]; Case T-16/04 Arcelor v Parliament and Council [2010] ECR II-211 [139]–[141].

140 Brasserie du Pêcheur (n 139) [56]; Bergaderm (n 139) [44]; Arcelor (n 139) [143].

141 Klabbers (n 9) 288.

142 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 46.

143 Wenneras (n 51) 15.

144 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 35; implicit in Lenaerts and Corthaut (n 9) 298–99.

145 Wouters and Van Eeckhoutte (n 6) 45–46.

146 Case 26/62 Van Gend en Loos v Administratie der Belastingen [1963] ECR 1, 11–13; Case C-403/98 Monte Arcosu et al [2001] ECR I-103 [25]–[29]; Van Duyn (n 35) [6]; Case 9/70 Grad v Finanzamt Traunstein [1970] ECR 825 [9].

147 Crawford, J, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law, 8th edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012) 2330 and 33–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cassese, A, International Law, 2nd edn (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005) 157, 167–69Google Scholar; Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v United States of America), Merits, Judgment of 26 November 1984 [1986] ICJ Reports 14 [186].

148 Crawford (n 147) 21–23.

149 Jans, JH et al, Europeanisation of Public Law (Groningen, Europa Law Publishing, 2007) 63 Google Scholar.

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