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Advanced Introduction to European Union Law

European Union Law

Jacques Ziller

This book explains how member states of the EU confer powers to the Union through the founding treaties and the legal frame applicable to the Union’s institutions, and the rules that apply to their functioning and the legal review of their action. It reviews the main fields of action of the EU – the internal market, area of freedom, security and justice, external action – and how law is shaping them. The interaction between the EU and its member states is also explained.
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Acts of EU law and hierarchy of norms

Jacques Ziller


The ultimate hierarchy of norms in EU law, as in the law of international organisations, is between primary law and secondary law. The treaties, CFR, protocols and annexes are all on the same level in legal terms whatever their symbolical or political value; they are the constitution of the Union.

In municipal law, the constitution is usually only one part of binding public law, which includes statutes, delegated legislation and administrative decisions as well as international treaties. Statutes have to be in conformity with the constitutions, delegated legislation with statutes etc.; furthermore, in most systems of public law, individual decisions have to comply with acts of general application, such as decrees etc. The hierarchy of norms depends not only on a formal definition of the relevant position of legal instruments, but also on the rules that permit the amendment of legal instruments and the power given to institutions with respect to one another, as will be explained below for general principles of EU law. In municipal law there is usually a clear definition of the hierarchy of norms, with the exception of UK public law, where the absence of a written constitution blurs the lines of positive law.

In EU law the hierarchy of norms is far more complex than is usually the case in municipal law or in the law of most international organisations. A prominent symptom of that complexity is the fact that member states are bound by treaty rules in a stricter way...

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