In the current decentralised system of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) law enforcement, national courts play a pivotal role in securing the effectiveness and application of the law. A great deal of legal research has been expounded over the years concerning how and to what extent the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Court have sought to determine the more precise scope and content of one of the key mechanisms for doing so – namely the principle of consistent interpretation. Much less attention has been paid to how national courts charged with the duty of applying these principles in practice actually do so when faced with such issues in cases before them.
This is in many ways surprising, since the remit and limits to this EU/EEA principle can only be fully appreciated and understood if one looks beyond the decisions of the ECJ and EFTA Court, and to the final outcome of the cases at national level. Yet for obvious reasons connected to our (lack of) linguistic abilities, attempting to delve into decisions of national courts of other countries, and academic literature which might broach such issues from a national perspective, will oft en prove a rather daunting – if not impossible – task. Language barriers therefore pose one of the key challenges to increased knowledge in this field. And, even if one is able to read such judgments in other languages, a lack of contextual understanding (legal, cultural, political, etc.) may pose further barriers to increased knowledge on such issues. This book aims to take a step towards diminishing that knowledge gap, by asking how and to what extent domestic courts make use of the EU and EEA principles of consistent interpretation. Uniformity and homogeneity are keystones of the EU and EEA projects. Given the expectation that the principles are to have a uniform and homogenous understanding and application throughout the EEA, the practice of domestic courts is considerably more diverse. As we shall see, the findings set out in the individual contributions identify a considerable tension between the goals of uniform and homogenous application of the principle of consistent interpretation and a plurality of different approaches at national level.