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Great Judgments of the European Court of Justice presents a new approach to understanding the landmark decisions of the European Court of Justice in the 1960s and 1970s. By comparing the Court's doctrines to the enforcement and escape mechanisms employed by more common forms of trade treaty, it demonstrates how the individual rights created by the doctrine of direct effect were connected to the practical challenges of trade politics among the European states and, in particular, to the suppression of unilateral safeguard mechanisms and inter-state retaliation. Drawing on the writings and speeches of French Judge and President of the Court, Robert Lecourt, it demonstrates that one of the Court's most influential judges shared this understanding of the logic of direct effect. This book offers a distinctive interpretation of the Court of Justice's early years, as well as of the purpose of the fundamental principles of European law.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1978 judgment, Simmenthal, where the Court declared that all national courts – including ‘lower’ national courts – were under an obligation to apply European law in place of contrary national legal obligations, even if national constitutional rules restricted such powers to the national constitutional court. This judgment is often understood as an important one in the ‘politics of judges’ within the European legal order, reflecting the Court of Justice’s efforts to develop more active cooperation with ‘lower’ national courts than with national constitutional courts. This chapter demonstrates that the logic of Simmenthal is also derived from the use of national courts to enforce treaty obligations as a substitute for inter-state retaliation, as demonstrated by similar aspects of the enforcement provisions of the Side Agreements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The introduction sets out the book’s approach to the great judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) between 1961 and 1979. Each of the Court’s landmark cases will be analyzed in comparative context, in particular by contrast to the enforcement and escape mechanisms commonly employed in international trade treaties including the postwar General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and today’s World Trade Organization (WTO). The book will also discuss the explanations for these judgments put forward by some of the most influential lawyers then working at the Court, above all French ECJ judge and later President of the Court Robert Lecourt. The introduction sets out the argument that the greatest innovations of the European legal order, including the new role for private individuals and national courts provided for by the doctrines of direct effect and supremacy, were directly linked to addressing the practical problem of how to effectively enforce trade treaty obligations while prohibiting unilateral safeguards and inter-state retaliation.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1970 judgment, Internationale Handelsgesellschaft, where the Court declared that the Court of Justice itself would take on the role of reviewing whether European legal obligations were in conflict with the fundamental rights of individuals. This judgment is often understood as derived from the sensitive relationship between the Court of Justice and national constitutional courts that wished to protect the fundamental rights set out in their national constitutions. This chapter demonstrates, however, that in Germany and Italy the national constitutional courts had already developed an accommodating approach to potential conflicts between treaty obligations and national constitutional law fundamental rights, and therefore that the possibility of clashes between European law and national constitutional law fundamental rights in the early years of European legal integration was less of a practical challenge than is often understood.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1964 judgment, Costa v. ENEL, where the Court declared the supremacy of European law, thus requiring national courts to resolve conflicts between European law and national law in favour of the domestic application of European law. The supremacy of European law is often understood as the partner of the direct-effect doctrine and the result of the Court’s ‘functionalist’ approach to the development of the European legal order. This chapter demonstrates that the supremacy doctrine of European law was also motivated by the Treaty of Rome’s prohibition on the unilateral adoption of safeguard measures by the member states, as shown both by the text of the Court’s judgment and by the writings of judge Lecourt.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1961 judgment, Pork Products, where the Court insisted that the member states had no right to unilaterally adopt safeguard measures within the European Economic Community. Unlike many other trade treaties, the Treaty of Rome required that its member states request prior authorization from the European Commission before any safeguard or escape measures could be adopted. The Pork Products judgment, however, also revealed the inadequacy of the mechanisms explicitly provided for by the Treaty to ensure the effectiveness of this system. Making the Treaty of Rome’s prohibition on unilateral safeguard mechanisms effective would therefore require the direct effect of European law before national courts within the member states.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1964 judgment, Dairy Products, where the Court declared that self-help mechanisms of reciprocity and retaliation, so important in many trade treaty systems, were comprehensively prohibited within the European legal order. This judgment is often rightly understood as marking an essential difference between European law and general international law. This chapter demonstrates that the principle announced in Dairy Products was also directly connected to the direct effect and supremacy doctrines of European law, again as shown by national court enforcement of treaty obligations in other treaty systems, and by the writings of judge Lecourt.
This chapter builds on the detailed discussions of particular ECJ judgments earlier in the book to put forward a new way of understanding the founding of the European legal order. It includes both the doctrines establishing rights for individual litigants before national courts and the doctrines specifying new and demanding relationships between the European states, and demonstrates how each is related to the other. It concludes with a discussion of judge Robert Lecourt’s role in the early decades of the European Court of Justice.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1972 judgment, International Fruit, where the Court denied that provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) should be granted direct effect within the European legal order. This judgment is often understood as the first of many instances in which the Court denied the direct effect of GATT, and later World Trade Organization (WTO), obligations. This chapter uses the Court’s rejection of direct effect in International Fruit to offer an improved understanding of the Court’s declaration of direct effect in Van Gend en Loos, highlighting its connections to the prohibition of inter-state retaliation and unilateral safeguard mechanisms within the European legal order.
This chapter discusses the Court’s 1979 judgment, Sheep Meat, where the Court insisted on its longstanding prohibitions of both unilateral safeguards and inter-state retaliation during a difficult agricultural dispute between France and the United Kingdom. This chapter uses the Sheep Meat dispute to elaborate on the strengths and limitations of the system of direct effect as a solution to international collective action problems within the European legal order.