Court of Justice of the European Union

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Court of Justice of the European Union
Emblem of the Court of Justice of the European Union.svg
State level European UnionEuropean Union European Union
position Supranational judicial body (and part of the EU's political system )
founding 1952
Headquarters Luxembourg , LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg 
Chair BelgiumBelgium Koen Lenaerts (ECJ) Marc Jaeger (ECJ)
Seat of the Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union (EUGH; CVRIA, also CURIA , Latin for official building) with its seat in Luxembourg is one of the seven organs of the European Union ( Art. 19 EU Treaty ). Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty , the entire judicial system of the EU has been referred to as the Court of Justice of the European Union .

The judicial system of the European Union consists of the following independent courts :

Development and structure

The European Court of Justice was introduced in the Coal and Steel Community in 1952 with initially very limited competences and began operations in 1953. It was originally made up of one judge from each member state, so in the EU28 it had 28 judges. You have eleven advocates general who prepare the decisions. In 1989 the Court of First Instance was set up, which is now called the Court of the European Union . It also had one judge per member state, but no advocates general. In 2019 the number was increased to two judges per member state.

In 2005, the court for the civil service of the European Union was established as the first specialized court , which only deals with civil service proceedings between employees of the European Union and the Union. It has seven members and thus requires a rotation principle between the member states, which occasionally leads to problems. As of October 2014, two positions remained vacant because the states could not agree (as of June 2015). In 2015, it was decided to transfer the competences of the Civil Service Tribunal to the General Court. The Civil Service Tribunal was dissolved on September 1, 2016.

All instances and courts together have decided around 28,000 proceedings since it was founded (as of the end of 2014).


The main task of the Court of Justice of the European Union (i.e. the entire judicial system) is, according to Article 19 of the EU Treaty, to “protect the law in the interpretation and application of the treaties”. The EU member states are also involved in this task , as they have to create the necessary legal remedies within the framework of their competences so that citizens can assert their rights arising from EU law before the national courts.

Infringement Procedure

The infringement procedure is regulated in Articles 258 to 260 TFEU . According to this procedure, both the EU Commission (so-called supervisory action , Art. 258 ) and one of the member states (so-called state action , Art. 259 ) can assert violations of EU law by a member state .

The infringement procedures launched by the Commission play a major role in maintaining the Union legal order (or earlier the Community legal order). As guardian of the Treaties , the Commission is fundamentally obliged to take action against objective violations of EU law by the Member States. In the event of an impending or already existing breach of contract , the Commission does not have to initiate the procedure immediately, but can first try to reach an amicable agreement through negotiation . The procedure itself is divided into a preliminary procedure and a judicial procedure:

  • In the preliminary proceedings , the Commission can send a warning letter and a subsequent reasoned opinion to the respective Member State as part of the supervisory action . Against this, the Member State can in turn defend itself or remedy the breach of contract. According to Art. 259 TFEU , the filing Member State must refer the matter to the Commission in the case of a state action. Before issuing its reasoned opinion, the latter gives the member states involved the opportunity to express their views in an adversarial procedure. If the Commission does not deliver an opinion within three months of the date on which a request was made, an action may be taken before the Court of Justice regardless of the lack of an opinion.
  • The judicial process is initiated by a lawsuit . This can be brought in if the Member State does not comply with the Commission's reasoned opinion . The ECJ then decides on the question of whether the member state is in breach of the EU treaties and what measures it must take to remedy the breach of treaty ( Art. 260 (1) TFEU).

The out-of-court preliminary proceedings are therefore fundamentally a precondition for admissibility for bringing an action at the European Court of Justice . It serves to further clarify the facts and the formal hearing of the member state. Pre-litigation and judicial proceedings must have the same subject matter in dispute, so that the warning letter already defines the subject matter of any future proceedings.

After a claim is filed decides European Court by judgment , whether the Member State against the EU law has failed. If the Court of Justice answers this question in the affirmative, the Member State concerned must take the measures which result from the judgment of the Court of Justice. If, in the opinion of the Commission, the Member State has not taken the measures required by the ECJ ruling, it will ask it to submit an opinion. If, in the opinion of the Commission, the Member State still does not follow the judgment, it will again issue a reasoned opinion to the latter, in which it lists the points on which the Member State does not comply with the judgment of the ECJ and sets a deadline for implementing the required measures. If the member state does not comply with this request within the set deadline, the Commission can refer the case again to the ECJ, which can impose a penalty in the form of a fine and / or penalty that it considers appropriate in the individual case ( Art. 260 TFEU , so-called second infringement proceedings ).

Preliminary ruling procedure

A preliminary ruling procedure under Art. 267 TFEU ​​is intended to ensure the uniform application and validity of EU law . National courts can submit preliminary questions about the interpretation of EU law or the validity of secondary law to the European Court of Justice. If the national court decides in the last instance, it is obliged to make a reference. The question must be of crucial importance to the decision, i.e. it must have an impact on the tenor . The obligation to submit a submission can be omitted if the question within the meaning of the acte clair theory has already received a certain jurisprudence by the ECJ. If a national court violates the submission obligation, this can constitute a denial of rights. In the Federal Republic of Germany, a violation of the right to justice ( fundamental right to justice ) according to Article 101, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2 of the Basic Law can be asserted in the context of a constitutional complaint to the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG).

In case 2 BvR 424/17, the BVerfG ruled on December 19, 2017 that questions of doubt about the application and interpretation of Union law must be submitted to the ECJ by the courts of last instance in order to avoid the right to the legal judge from Article 101 para. 1 sentence 2 GG as well as their submission obligation under Article 267 para. 3 TFEU in an unjustifiable manner. The basis of this case was a decision by the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court (OLG), which was ultimately responsible, on the extradition of a Romanian citizen to his home country on the basis of a European arrest warrant . In its reasoning, the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court based itself on existing ECJ case law, according to which the EU member states are fundamentally obliged to execute the arrest warrant and are only allowed to refuse execution under exceptional circumstances. The OLG did not consider this to be the case in the present case. However, the BVerfG found that the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court had independently developed Union law with its interpretation and thus exceeded the discretion of the specialist courts. Contrary to the legal opinion of the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court, the ECJ had not yet finally clarified the questions relevant to the decision with regard to the minimum requirements and EU fundamental law assessment of the conditions of detention from Art. 4 GRC . In addition, the risk of inhuman or degrading treatment of the complainant was not excluded from the outset.

Action for annulment

The annulment action according to Art. 263 and Art. 264 TFEU ​​serves the legal control of the activities of the organs and other bodies (e.g. agencies ) of the European Union. Its purpose is to review an act of an EU body, such as the adoption of a directive.


The action for annulment can be brought by member states, organs of the European Union and other natural and legal persons.

Any act of a Union body that has an external effect comes into question as the subject of the action. According to Art. 275 (1) TFEU, however, the common foreign and security policy is in principle exempt from judicial control.

The admissibility of the action for annulment also requires that the plaintiff is entitled to bring an action. With regard to this requirement, Art. 263 TFEU distinguishes between the different plaintiffs. Privileged claimants, which include Member States, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, are always entitled to bring an action under Art. 263 (2) TFEU. They are subject to the irrefutable presumption that they occur in the interests of safeguarding the law. Partially privileged plaintiffs, including the Court of Auditors, the European Central Bank and the Committee of the Regions, have the right to sue if they claim that the challenged measure violates their own right. There are stricter requirements for natural and legal persons who are not organs of the European Union. They have the right to take legal action if the attacked act is directed at the plaintiff as the addressee. This is the case, for example, with an individual decision. If the plaintiff attacks a measure with the character of a regulation, he has the right to bring an action if he is directly affected by the measure. This applies if it can affect his rights without a further enforcement act. In other cases, the plaintiff must also be individually affected by the measure. According to the Plaumann formula of the ECJ, this applies if the plaintiff is individualized by the challenged measure similar to an addressee. With this strict interpretation, the case law wants to avoid popular lawsuits and prevent overloading with too large a number of lawsuits.

Furthermore, the plaintiff must assert a plea in law. According to the French model, Art. 263 (2) TFEU finally states grounds for invalidity (“cas d'ouverture”): lack of jurisdiction, violation of essential formal requirements, violation of a legal source of the Union and abuse of discretion. Although the plaintiff does not have to explicitly invoke one of these grounds of complaint, his application must substantiate the alleged deficiency with facts and at least "reveal" the ground for objection.

According to Art. 263 (6) TFEU, the action must be brought within two months of the notification of the measure or of the plaintiff becoming aware of it.

According to Art. 256 TFEU in conjunction with Art. 51 ECJ Statute decides typically European Court in the first and the European Court of Justice on appeal on the action.

For annulment actions directed against a body of the European Union that is not one of the institutions, a preliminary procedure can be provided for in the statute of the institution (such as the obligation to refer the matter to the European Commission before bringing an action ).


The action is well-founded if there is a reason for invalidity.

Legal consequences

If the action for annulment is well founded, the ECJ declares the contested act to be null and void in accordance with Art. 264 (1) TFEU through a drafting judgment. This can be limited to a part of the act, as long as it can be sensibly divided and the ground for nullity relates only to part of the act.

Subsidiarity action

The subsidiarity action is a special form of annulment action. It is levied by a member state which claims the violation of the principle of subsidiarity through a legislative act.

Action for failure to act

An action for failure to act according to Art. 265 TFEU ​​can establish that the European Council , Council , Commission , Parliament , European Central Bank or a body of the European Union (e.g. agencies ) that is not part of the institutions has failed to implement a specific legal act to enact. In legal practice, action for failure to act is used comparatively rarely.


The member states, the organs of the European Union and private individuals are entitled to take legal action. According to Art. 256 TFEU in conjunction with Art. 51 EUGH Statute, the European Court of Justice generally decides in the first instance and the European Court of Justice in the second instance.

If the action is directed against the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the Commission or the European Central Bank, the subject of the action under Art. 265 (1) sentence 1 TFEU is the failure to take a measure if this could constitute a breach of contract. The same applies in accordance with Art. 265 (1) sentence 2 TFEU if the action is directed against another body in the Union. According to Art. 265 Paragraph 3 TFEU, there are special features if a private person takes legal action. This can only be directed against the fact that a Union body has failed to adopt a legally binding measure against it.

If a private person sues, they must have the right to sue. This applies if it is directly and individually affected by the omission. The requirements for this correspond to those of the individual nullity action . So far, they have not been met by any actions for failure to act, which is why they have been dismissed as inadmissible.

In accordance with Art. 265 (2) TFEU, an unsuccessful preliminary procedure must have been carried out before an action can be brought. To do this, the later plaintiff asks the later defendant to take the action. The preliminary proceedings are intended to give the respondent the opportunity to correct his behavior that may be in breach of the contract. The court should also be exonerated. If the Union body does not take a position within two months, the plaintiff can file an action within two months.


The action is well founded if the defendant has acted in breach of duty through the omission.

Legal consequences

If the action is well founded, the court will determine that the defendant has acted contrary to the contract through the omission. According to Art. 266 (1) TFEU, the latter is therefore obliged to take the necessary action.

Action for damages

An action for damages under Art. 268 TFEU ​​can be sued for damages that result from illegal action by the European Union or one of its organs. According to Art. 340 Paragraph 2–3 TFEU, the competent courts of the European Union decide “according to the general legal principles that are common to the legal systems of the member states”. The action is only admissible in the area of tortious liability .

In the area of contractual liability , according to Art. 340 Paragraph 1 TFEU, the national legal provisions applicable to the contract apply. The courts of the European Union only decide in these matters in accordance with Art. 272 TFEU ​​if this is provided for in an arbitration clause. If such an arbitration clause has not been concluded, the courts of the member states decide in accordance with Art. 274 TFEU.

According to Art. 256 TFEU, the European Court of Justice generally decides in the first instance and the European Court of Justice in the second instance.

Public service proceedings

According to Art. 270 TFEU, the courts decide on legal disputes between the European Union and its institutions on the one hand and its officials and other servants on the other. The more detailed provisions are made in the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment of the European Union. According to Art. 256 TFEU, the Court for the Civil Service of the European Union ruled in the first instance and the European Court in the second instance until August 2016 . With the abolition of the EU Civil Service Tribunal in 2016, the General Court of the European Union (EGC) has once again decided in the first instance on legal disputes between the EU and its employees since September 2016 . On the basis of a request from the first Advocate General of the European Court of Justice , the European Court of Justice can review the judgment of the European General Court .


There are or were some peculiarities in the performance of the tasks of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Common foreign and security policy

In the field of common foreign and security policy, the courts of the European Union have hardly any competences, something that the Lisbon Treaty did not change either. Only against restrictive measures imposed by the Council of the European Union can data subjects take legal action.

Area of ​​Security, Freedom and Justice

The competences of the courts of the European Union were also limited in the area of ​​the 3rd pillar (justice and home affairs or police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters ). In principle, the general provisions on the jurisdiction of the courts have been applicable since the Treaty of Lisbon . But there are still some special features:

  • According to Art. 276 TFEU, the courts of the European Union are not entitled to rule on the validity or proportionality of police measures (including the maintenance of public order and protection of internal security) or other criminal prosecution measures .
  • For legal acts that were adopted before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty under the 3rd pillar, the provisions on jurisdiction of the courts of the European Union that were in force before the Lisbon Treaty will continue to apply for a transitional period of five years.

See also


  • Martin Borowski: The action for annulment according to Art. 230 Para. 4 EGV. In: European law (EuR). 39th Jg. (2004), 2nd half vol., H. 6, pp. 879-910.
  • Matthias Pechstein : EU / EC procedural law . With the collaboration of Matthias Köngeter and Philipp Kubicki. 3rd edition Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2007. ISBN 978-3-16-149269-3
  • Hans-Werner Rengeling / Andreas Middeke / Martin Gellermann (eds.): Manual of legal protection in the European Union. 2nd edition Munich: CH Beck 2003. ISBN 3-406-47838-7

Web links

Commons : Court of Justice of the European Union  - collection of images and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Anonymous: Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ). Retrieved June 5, 2018 .
  3. ^ Alberto Alemanno, Laurent Pech: Reform of the EU's Court System: Why a more accountable - not a larger - Court is the way forward , VerfBlog, June 17, 2015
  4. ^ Entry of infringement proceedings on the website of the Center for European Politics .
  5. Walter Frenz, Vera Götzkes: The community law state liability . In: Juristische Arbeitsblätter 2009, p. 759 (763).
  6. ECJ , judgment of October 3, 2013, C-583/11 P = Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht 2014, p. 53.
  7. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , marginal number 1296-1297.
  8. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1305.
  9. ECJ, judgment of June 15, 1963, 25/62 = Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 1963, p. 2243.
  10. a b Cathrin Mächtle: Individual legal protection in the European Union . In: Juristische Schulung 2015, p. 28 (30).
  11. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1300.
  12. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1325.
  13. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1329.
  14. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1347-1348.
  15. ^ Waltraud Hakenberg: European law . 7th edition. Vahlen, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8006-4943-3 , Rn. 298.
  16. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1349.
  17. ^ Walter Frenz: European law . 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-47183-8 , Rn. 1359.
  18. ^ Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union. (PDF; 81.4 KB) Consolidated version. September 2016, p. 16, Art. 50a , accessed on June 9, 2017 .