European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 287–311 | Cite as

Analyzing preliminary references as the powerbase of the European Court of Justice

  • Lars HornufEmail author
  • Stefan Voigt


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is a very powerful court compared to other international courts and even national courts of last resort. Observers almost unanimously agree that it is the preliminary references procedure that made the ECJ the powerful court it is today. In this article, we analyze the factors that lead national courts to use the procedure. We add to previous studies by constructing a comprehensive panel dataset (1982–2008) and identify the economic structure, familiarity with EU law, and tenure of democracy as new determinants.


European Court of Justice Court behavior Preliminary reference procedure 

JEL Classification

H77 K33 



The authors thank Andreas Engert, Christoph Engel, Paulo Guimarães, Mariusz Goleckifor, Gerhard Wagner, Daniel Zimmer, two anonymous referees as well as the editors of this journal for helpful comments and suggestions. We would like to thank the European Association of Law & Economics (Hamburg 2011), the German Association of Law & Economics (Bonn 2011) and the American Law and Economic Association (Stanford 2012) participants.


  1. Allison, P. D., & Waterman, R. P. (2002). Fixed effects negative binomial regression models. In M. Stoltenberg (Ed.), Sociological methodology (pp. 247–265). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Alter, K. (1996). The European Court’s political power. West European Politics, 19, 458–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carrubba, C., & Murrah, L. (2005). Legal integration and the use of the preliminary ruling process in the European Union. International Organization, 59, 399–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. CEPEJ (European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice). (2010). European judicial systems: Efficiency and quality of justice.
  5. Elkins, Z., Ginsburg, T., & Melton, J. (2009). The endurance of national constitutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. EuGH. (2009). Jahresbericht.
  7. Fiorina, M. (1982). Legislative choice of regulatory forms: Legal process or administrative process. Public Choice, 38, 33–66.Google Scholar
  8. Guimarães, P. (2008). The fixed effects negative binomial model revisited. Economics Letters, 99, 63–66.Google Scholar
  9. Harutyanyan, G., & Mavcic, A. (1999). Constitutional review and its development in the modern world. Ljbubljana: Yerevan.Google Scholar
  10. Hausman, J., Hall, B. H., & Griliches, Z. (1984). Econometric models for count data with an application to the patent-R&D relationship. Econometrica, 52, 909–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hofstede, G. (1997). Cultures and organizations—Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  12. La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2008). The economic consequences of legal origins. Journal of Economic Literature, 46, 285–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. (1997). Legal determinants of external finance. Journal of Finance, 52, 1131–1150.Google Scholar
  14. Mattli, W., & Slaughter, A.-M. (1998). Revisiting the European Court of Justice. International Organization, 52, 177–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Nugent, N. (1999). The government and politics of the European Union. Houndsmills: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Paxton, P. (2002). Social capital and democracy: An interdependent relationship. American Sociological Review, 67, 254–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pitarakis, J.-Y., & Tridimas, G. (2003). Joint dynamics of legal and economic integration in the European Union. European Journal of Law and Economics, 16, 357–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Putnam, R. (1993). Making democracy work. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Shapiro, M. (1992). The European Court of Justice. In A. Sbragia (Ed.), Europolitics—Institutions and policymaking in the “New” European community (pp. 123–156). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  20. Stone Sweet, A., & Brunell, T. (1998a). The European court and the national courts: A statistical analysis of preliminary references, 1961–1995. Journal of European Public Policy, 5, 66–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Stone Sweet, A., & Brunell, T. (1998b). Constructing a supranational constitution: Dispute resolution and governance in the European community. American Political Science Review, 92, 63–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tridimas, G., & Tridimas, T. (2004). National courts and the European Court of Justice: A public choice analysis of the preliminary reference procedure. International Review of Law and Economics, 24, 125–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vink, M., Claes, M., & Arnold, C. (2009). Explaining the use of preliminary references by domestic courts in EU member states: A mixed-method comparative analysis. Paper presented at the 11th Biennial Conference of the European Union Studies Association.Google Scholar
  24. Voigt, S. (1999). Implicit constitutional change—Changing the meaning of the constitution without changing the text of the document. European Journal of Law and Economics, 7, 197–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Voigt, S. (2010). The interplay between National and International LawIts economic effects drawing on four new indicators.
  26. Voigt, S. (2012). On the optimal number of courts. International Review of Law and Economics, 32(1), 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Zweigert, K., & Kötz, H. (1998). An introduction to comparative law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Law & Economics and CESifoUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations