Balancing EU Integration and National Interests in the Case-Law of the Court of Justice

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Abstract

Striking an appropriate balance between the requirements of EU integration and due consideration of the Member States’ legitimate interests is a challenge well known to the Court of Justice of the European Union. This article aims to give a rather general answer to the question as to what extent the ECJ has managed to reconcile the promotion of the Union’s interests with due regard for the Member States’ interests on the basis of an assessment of three different categories of judgments. While on the one hand numerous cases in which the ECJ managed to balance well EU integration against Member States’ interests can be identified, there are on the other hand some examples of less well balanced decisions of the Court as well as judgments remaining somewhat ambivalent. The analysis of selected rulings of exemplary character carried out in this article reveals that the Court of Justice has altogether successfully managed to duly take into consideration the respective interests, using a diversity of judicial techniques. Doubts persist however in regard to a general line of the case-law that concerns a particular reasoning in the established practice of the ECJ, according to which the Member States shall be obliged to adhere to the general rules of EU law even in fields which are not subject to competences of the Union. It seems desirable that the Court of Justice accurately justifies its reasoning and clearly defines the limits of this interpretation technique in order to avoid its extensive application. As the struggle for an appropriate balance to be struck between the aims of the Union and the interests of the Member States is today and will be in the future one of the core tasks of the Court of Justice, the article concludes by recommending certain interpretation principles that might be helpful in reconciling EU integration with Member States’ interests.