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European Law

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), also known as the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), was founded by the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, signed in 1951. The CJEU is located in Luxembourg and encompasses three distinct courts, the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal.
 
The CJEU exercises the judicial functions of the European Union (EU), which aims to achieve greater political and economic integration among EU Member States by ensuring that European law is interpreted and applied in the same way in every member state.
To enable it properly to fulfil l its task, the CJEU has been given clearly defined jurisdiction, which it exercises on references for preliminary rulings and in various categories of proceedings such as:
  • Preliminary rulings - a  national  court  may refer  to  the  CJEU to  clarify  the  interpretation  of   European  Union  law,  so  that  they  may  ascertain,  for  example,  whether  their   national legislation complies with that law. A reference for a preliminary ruling may also concern the review of the validity of an act adopted by the European Union’s institutions. The CJEU’s reply is not merely an opinion, but takes the form of a judgment or reasoned order. The court which made the reference to the CJEU is,  in  deciding  the  dispute  before  it,  bound  by  the  interpretation given.  The  CJEU’s judgment  likewise  binds  other  national  courts  before which the same problem is raised.
     
  • Actions for failure to fulfil obligations - these actions enable the Court of Justice to determine whether Member States have fulfilled their obligations under European Union law. The action may be brought either by the Commission – as is usually the case – or by a Member State. If the Court of Justice finds that an obligation has not been fulfilled, the State in question must put an end to the infringement without delay. If, after a further action is brought by the Commission, the Court of Justice finds that the Member State concerned has not complied with its judgment, it may impose on it a fixed or periodic financial penalty.
     
  • Actions for annulment - by an action for annulment, the applicant seeks the annulment of a measure (in particular a regulation, directive or decision) adopted by an institution, body, office or agency of the European Union. The Court of Justice has exclusive jurisdiction over actions between the institutions and those brought by a Member State against the European Parliament and/or against the  Council  (apart  from  Council  measures  in  respect  of  State  aid,  dumping  and  implementing  powers).  The  General  Court  has  jurisdiction,  at  fi rst  instance,  in  all  other  actions  of  this  type and, particularly, in actions brought by individuals and those brought by Member States against acts of the Commission.
     
  • Actions for failure to act - these actions enable review of the lawfulness of failure to act by a European Union institution,  body,  office  or  agency.  However, such  an  action  may  be  brought  only after the institution concerned has been called on to act. Where the failure to act is held to be unlawful, it is for the institution, body, office or agency concerned to put an end to the failure by the adoption of appropriate measures.
     
Individual complaints are originally examined by the General Court. However under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) individual complaints may be reviewed on appeal by the CJEU.