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European Union law: overview

A sui generis legal system, intermediate between
a developed legal system instituted by a treaty
and a federal State.


By Franck BEAUDOIN, avocat

Published on droit.co on 28 October 2021


European Union law is based on international treaties. European integration has led to a sui generis legal system that lies between an international organisation and a federal state.

European Union (EU) law is incorporated into French law. The national courts are the ordinary courts applying EU law: they shall apply it in any case.

Fundamental principles of EU law:

  • Principle of conferral (the EU has only the competences conferred on it by the Treaties);
  • Direct application of EU law;
  • Primacy of EU law over national law;
  • Liability of Member States for breach of EU law;
  • European citizens may bring an action for damages against a State which infringes a EU rule.

+ Read: Division of competences within the European Union (official website eur-lex.europa.eu).

Fundamental rules of EU law:

  • Fundamental rights;
  • European citizenship;
  • Equal treatment and social rights;
  • Freedom of movement of persons;
  • Free movement of goods;
  • Freedom to provide services.

Normative pyramid:

  • Regulations
  • Directives
  • Decisions
  • Recommendations
  • Opinions

+ Read: Regulations, Directives and other acts (official website europa.eu)

Courts of the European Union:

  • Court of Justice
  • General court

The EU Courts are based in Luxembourg.

National courts or tribunals dealing with litigations involving EU law may, and sometimes must, submit questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. The Court of Justice gives its interpretation or reviews the legality of rules of EU law.

+ Read: Court of Justice (official website curia.euopa.eu)

Applicable law in the European Union

A regulation applicable in the European Union defines the governing law for contractual obligations: Regulation (EC) no 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I).

Competent courts in the European Union

A regulation applicable in the European Union defines the competent courts in the EU: Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.

© FB Juris / droit.co

Par Franck BEAUDOIN, Avocat

Avocat, président et fondateur de la société d’avocats FB JURIS, directeur de la publication des sites juridiques droit.co et idroit.co.

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