European Union law


European law is law made in Europe and applies to member states of the European Union. The European Union is founded on treaties which set down the aims and objectives of the community and provide a framework for legislation.

European law can have the effect of overruling national law in certain circumstances.

How is EU law made?

In EU law, cases decided at the European Court of Justice ensure that European Community law is observed across all member states.
Failure of a member state to comply with a decision of the European Court of Justice can result in a fine being imposed on the relevant state.

In EU law, cases tend to be decided in the spirit of EC objectives, which is necessary, as the EC Treaty provides only an outline framework of legislation and does not provide detailed analysis of how cases should be decided.

When deciding EU law cases, judges must bear in mind the fundamental freedoms on which the Community is based – in particular Article 12 of the EC Treaty which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

The system of precedence

In EU law cases need not be decided in accordance with previously decided cases as they must in English law, as there is no system of precedence. This means that a decision by the European Court at an earlier date will not be binding on judges who make a decision on a case at a later date.

Although the court is not bound by its decisions, it has developed a body of consistent case law and will discuss and consider previous judgements with relevance to later cases. This allows for some consistency in decisions by the European Court.

Cases can be heard at the European Court if:


  • A national court has referred a case
  • The European Commission has brought an action against a state
  • One member state has brought an action against another

European law is very complicated. Certain principles of European law can affect the whole member state, none of the member states, or certain members of the member state. Working out who the law applies to can be a difficult task and an EU solicitor can help you identify this.

For specific information on property issues in the EU, see our EU property laws page.

Are you having difficulty finding a solicitor specialising in EU Law? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist solicitor qualified for the jurisdiction of your case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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