Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 August 2015
The Court of Justice of the European Union has historically rejected references to preparatory work in the interpretation of EU Treaties. However, the preparatory work for the EURATOM, Maastricht, and Constitutional Treaties have played a role in recent judgments. The ‘explanations’ to the Charter of Fundamental Rights are expressly approved in the current Treaties. We examine the emerging case law on preparatory work. Reference to the drafters’ intent does not necessarily support dynamic interpretation, and may potentially even ossify historical interpretations. Even if the consequence of their introduction is a conservative interpretation, their use raises questions of transparency and democracy, and complicates the already difficult task of interpreting the EU constitution.
We are grateful to Professor Kenneth Armstrong, the participants of the 2015 European Union Studies Association conference at which an earlier draft of this paper was presented, our anonymous reviewers, and our colleague Amalia Verdu for their insightful questions and comments.
1 Pepper v Hart  AC 593. The judgment has been criticised in the literature on the basis that it breaches the doctrine of separation of powers and that the judgment represents ‘intentionalism’, that it wrongly emphasises the will of the legislator at the expense of the discretion of those applying the law. The courts seem hesitant to fully endorse these criticisms but nevertheless the use of the Parliamentary debates remains restricted to some extent. See, Vogenauer, S, ‘A Retreat from Pepper v Hart? A Reply to Lord Steyn’ (2005) 25 (4) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 629, especially pp 638–654 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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4 Opinion of Advocate General Mayras in Reyners, C-2/74, EU:C:1974:68, p 666.
5 UN Treaty Series vol 1155, concluded at Vienna on 23 May 1969, entered into force on 27 January 1980.
6 Article 31. General rule of interpretation:
1. A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.
2. The context for the purpose of the interpretation of a treaty shall comprise, in addition to the text, including its preamble and annexes:
(a) Any agreement relating to the treaty which was made between all the parties in connection with the conclusion of the treaty;
(b) Any instrument which was made by one or more parties in connection with the conclusion of the treaty and accepted by the other parties as an instrument related to the treaty.
3. There shall be taken into account, together with the context:
(a) Any subsequent agreement between the parties regarding the interpretation of the treaty or the application of its provisions;
(b) Any subsequent practice in the application of the treaty which establishes the agreement of the parties regarding its interpretation;
(c) Any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties.
4. A special meaning shall be given to a term if it is established that the parties so intended.
7 Article 32. Supplementary means of interpretation:
Recourse may be had to supplementary means of interpretation, including the preparatory work of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion, in order to confirm the meaning resulting from the application of article 31, or to determine the meaning when the interpretation according to Article 31:
(a) Leaves the meaning ambiguous or obscure; or
(b) Leads to a result which is manifestly absurd or unreasonable.
8 Mortenson, JD, ‘The Travaux of Travaux: Is the Vienna Convention Hostile to Drafting History?’ (2013) 107 (4) The American Journal of International Law, 780, especially pp 785–787 Google Scholar.
9 Gennaro Currà and Others v Bundesrepublik Deutschland, C-466/11, EU:C:2012:465, para 22. For a more general discussion of the approach of the EU courts to the VCLT see J Odermatt, ‘The Use of International Treaty Law by the Court of Justice of the EU’ Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies, doi:10.1017/cel.2015.5 [first published online August 2015].
10 Opinion 1/91 EEA Agreement, EU:C:1991:490. In this respect the distinction between ‘Community’ law in the pre-2009 judgments and our term Union law is purely cosmetic.
11 Ibid, paras 16–20. See also eg Costa v ENEL, C-6/64, EU:C:1964:66, postulating primacy from the transfer of sovereign powers.
12 Van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen, C-26/62, EU:C:1963:1. See also Maduro, MP, ‘Interpreting European Law: Judicial Adjudication in a Context of Constitutional Pluralism’ (2007) 1 (2) European Journal of Legal Studies, 4 Google Scholar; Arnull, A, The European Union and its Court of Justice, 2nd ed (Oxford University Press, 2006)Google Scholar; Paunio, E and Lindroos-Hovinheimo, S, ‘Taking Language Seriously: An Analysis of Linguistic Reasoning in EU Law’, (2010) 16 (4) European Law Journal, 396 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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14 CILFIT C-283/81, EU:C:1982:335, para 20.
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17 See A Arnull, note 12 above, pp 614–615, also at p 615: ‘It is likely that this [historical] approach will in future be modified.’
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20 Opinion of Advocate General Mayras in Reyners v Belgian State, C-2/74, EU:C:1974:68, p 666.
21 Preambular text has of course been used by the court − and this may reflect intent of the drafters − but the preambles do not refer to specific articles but rather the overall teleology of the Treaty system.
22 See Opinion 2/13 on the draft agreement to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, para 167.
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24 A Arnull, see note 12 above, p 612.
25 Foto-Frost v Hauptzollamt Lübeck-Ost, C-314/85, EU:C:1987:452, paras 16–17; A Arnull, see note 12 above, p 613.
26 Commission v Belgium, C-149/79, EU:C:1980:297, p 3890; and Aristrain v Commission, T-156/94, EU:T:2004:261, para 40.
27 Aristrain v Commission, T-156/94, EU:T:2004:261, para 40.
28 Commission v Belgium, C-149/79 EU:C:1980:297, p. 3890; and Sison v Council, T-47/03, EU:T:2007:207, para 97, where Secretariat of the European Convention, (2003) CONV 850/03, states at Article III-282(2) that the Council may adopt restrictive measures against natural or legal persons and non-State groups or bodies is recalled as part of the Dutch arguments.
29 See eg SpA Savna v Commission, C-264/81, EU:C:1984:359, p 3926.
30 The travaux had no influence in cases: Lithuania v Commission, T-262/07, EU:T:2012:171, para 42; Czech Republic v Commission, T-248/07, EU:T:2012:170, para 42; Slovakia v Commission, T-247/07, EU:T:2012:169, para 42; Poland v Commission, T-243/07, EU:T:2012:168, para 42; Estonia v Commission, T-324/05, EU:T:2009:381, para 109. The travaux did have impact in cases: Poland v Council, C-273/04, EU:C:2007:622, para 57; Hansa-Fisch GmbH v Commission, T-493/93, EU:T:1995:47, paras 35–37.
31 Jacqué, JP, ‘The Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union’ in S Peers et al (eds) The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: A Commentary (Hart Publishing, 2014), p 1715 Google Scholar.
32 Ibid, p 1717, citing Charter 4422/00 Convention 45.
33 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2012/C 326/02: ‘… with due regard to the explanations prepared under the authority of the Praesidium of the Convention which drafted the Charter and updated under the responsibility of the Praesidium of the European Convention’.
34 Article II-112: ‘The Explanations written as an aid to interpreting the Charter of Fundamental Rights are duly taken into consideration by the courts of the Union and the Member States’.
35 Declaration 12 to the Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (2004) OJ C/310/1.
36 See note 31 above, p 1718: the declaration referred to the explanations having been ‘prepared under the authority of the Prasesidium … and updated under the responsibility of the Praesidium’.
37 Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (2007) OJ C/303/17.
38 That is not, however, a complete description of the changes. See for example the explanations to Article 53 CFR: The 2007 version omits ‘The level of protection afforded by the Charter may not, in any instance, be lower than that guaranteed by the ECHR, with the result that the arrangements for limitations may not fall below the level provided for in the ECHR’.
39 See note 29 above, p 1719 refers to Articles 14, 17, 33, 47 and 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).
40 See Åkerberg Fransson, C-617/10, EU:C:2013:105, paras 20–21, where the Article 51 CFR reference to the applicability of the Charter ‘only when implementing Union law’ is transformed to the much broader Member States acting ‘in the scope of Union law’.
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42 Commission v the UK, C-61/03, EU:C:2005:210, para 25.
43 Ibid, paras 27–28.
44 Ibid, para 29.
45 Ibid, para 44.
46 Pringle, C-370/12, EU:C:2012:756, para 135.
47 Ibid, para 137.
48 Ibid, paras 130–136, 146–147.
49 Case C-62/14 Gauweiler and Others, Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 16 June 2015, paras 93–102; See also the Opinion of Advocate General Villalon 14 January 2015, paras 107 and 217, referring to the preparatory work to the Treaty of Maastricht.
50 Gauweiler and Others, ibid, para 100.
51 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, C-583/11 P, EU:C:2013:625, para 59, considering the Secretariat of the European Convention: Final report of the discussion circle on the Court of Justice (2003) CONV 636, para 22; and Praesidium of the European Convention, (2003) CONV 743/03, p 20.
52 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, ibid, para 50.
53 Ibid, paras 70–71.
54 Eg A Arnull, see note 12 and the discussion above.
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59 In the Opinion of Advocate General Colomer in Beuttenmüller, C-102/02, EU:C:2003:464, para 12, fn 10 referring modestly to the drafting of the new freedom of movement objectives in the Draft Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe (2004) OJ C/310/1, Article 8(2), first indent; Secretariat of the European Convention: Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (2003) CONV 820/03; Praesidium of the European Convention (2003) CONV 797/1/03, REV 1 COR 1 Vol 1.
60 Opinion of Advocate General Villalon in Commission v Parliament and Council, C-427/12 EU:C:2013:871, para 38, fn 16.
61 Secretariat of the European Convention: Final report of Working Group IX on Simplification (2002) CONV 424/02, WG IX 13.
62 See note 60 above, para 38: ‘However sui generis the system of Union acts may ultimately have become, as a result of its very nature and its history, (15) in cases where the European Union has sought inspiration from the normative categories of the Member States, (16) as was no doubt the case here, it is almost natural that they should be looked into, even though there is no guarantee as to the result.’’
63 Opinion of Advocate General Bot in Spain and Italy v Council (enhanced cooperation), C-274/1, EU:C:2012:782, para 43, fn 8.
64 Praesidium of the European Convention, Delimitation of Competence Between the European Union and the Member States – Existing System, Problems and Avenues to be Explored (2002) CONV 47/02.
65 See note 63 above, para 43.
66 Opinion of Advocate General Wahl in Commission v Germany (second infringement case concerning the German worker representation law), C-95/12, EU:C:2013:333.
67 Ibid, para 84, fn 60 referring to Secretariat of the European Convention (2003) CONV 636/03, para 28
68 Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, see note 51 above, para 49.
69 Opinion of Advocate General Geelhoed in EURATOM, C-61/03, EU:C:2004:765, paras 80–82, referring to the travaux of the EURATOM treaty in a similar fashion as the CJEU in its judgment.
70 Opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, C-583/11 P, EU:C:2013:21, para 40, using several documents in the drafting history to define ‘regulatory act’; para 46, noting the complete absence of counterevidence.
71 Opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Pringle, C-370/12, EU:C:2012:675, paras 128–131.
72 Gauweiler and Others, see note 49 above, para 100.
73 Opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Telefónica SA v European Commission, C-274/12 P, EU:C:2013:204.
74 Ibid, paras 30–57.
75 Secretariat of the European Convention (2003) CONV 636/03, para 21.
76 Telefónica SA v European Commission, C-274/12 P, EU:C:2013:852, para 38, fn 17, referring to the Secretariat of the European Convention CONV 636/03.
78 Opinion of Advocate General Jääskinen in United Kingdom v Parliament and Council (ESMA), C-270/12, EU:C:2013:562, para 75, fn 95.
79 Secretariat of the European Convention (2002) CONV 424/02, WG IX 13, pp 10–12.
80 Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in Commission v Council, C-114/12, EU:C:2014:224, para 96, fn 55.
81 Secretariat of the European Convention, Final Report of Working Group VII on External Action (2002) CONV 459/02, WG VII 17 and European Council, IGC 2007 Mandate (2007) POLGEN 74, 11218/07, para 18, fn 10 to determine whether Article 3(2) TFEU meant to depart from the ERTA ruling principle.
82 Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in Commission v Council, C-114/12, EU:C:2014:224, para 96.
83 Opinion of Advocate General Jääskinen in Opinion 1/13, EU:C:2014:2292, para 70, fn 100, citing Secretariat of the European Union, Final Report on Working Group V (2002) CONV 375/1/02, WG V 14, REV 1 and Secretariat of the European Convention (2002) CONV 459/02, WG VII 17, paras 4 and 18; and also referring to Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in Commission v Council, C-114/12, EU:C:2014:224.
84 Opinion of Advocate General Jääskinen in Las, C-202/11, EU:C:2012:456, para 59, fn 39.
85 Secretariat of the European Convention, Final Report on Working Group V (2002) CONV 375/1/02, p 12.
86 Runevič-Vardyn and Wardyn, C-391/09, EU:C:2011:291, para 86.
87 Opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Opinion 2/13, EU:C:2014:2475, para 90, fn 51.
88 Secretariat of the European Convention, Supplementary Report on the Question of Judicial Control Relating to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (2003) CONV 689/1/93, paras 5 and 7(c); Praedisium of the European Convention (2003) CONV 734/03.
89 Opinion of Advocate General Sharpton in Joined Cases C-103/12 and C-65/13, EU:C:2014:334, para 102, fn 61.
90 Secretariat of the European Convention, Final Report of Working Group III on Legal Personality (2002) CONV 305/02, WG III 16.
91 Ibid, p 6.
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