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European Union Legal Materials

Introduction to case law

Created by the Treaty of Rome, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) interprets and applies European Union law as found in the EU treaties and legislation. It offers various means of redress, as laid down in Article 19 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), Articles 251-281 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), Article 136 Euratom, and Protocol No 3 annexed to the Treaties on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The court sits in Luxembourg and the working language of the court is French. A case may be brought in any of the official languages of the EU and one language will be designated the language of the case (generally the language of the national court referring the case). English did not become an official EU language until the United Kingdom joined the EU in 1973. The Court of Justice of the European Union is separate and distinct from the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

The CJEU has broad jurisdiction in EU matters and its decisions have the force of law in the Member States of the EU. Decisions of the CJEU can override national legislation and decisions of national courts that are deemed contrary to the provisions of EU treaties and legislation.

The CJEU consists of two courts: The Court of Justice and the General Court.

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.

The General Court , created in 1989 to relieve the case load of the ECJ, (and which was known as the Court of First Instance prior to 2010), has jurisdiction, at first instance, in all other actions of this type, particularly in actions brought by individuals and those brought by a Member State against the Commission.

Read more about the competencies of the court here.

Official Publications

Finding aids for EU case law by subject

The European Court of Justice makes available the following sources on its website

Electronic Databases for Case Law