The Principle of Subsidiarity in the European Union: A ‘Gobbledygook’ Entrapped between the Justiciability and Political Scrutiny

Davor Petrić


The principle of subsidiarity in the European Union limits policy and law-making competences of the Union authorities to situations in which the designated policy aims cannot be more effectively achieved at a lower (i.e. national, regional or local) level. There are several institutionalized avenues envisaged to safeguard EU institutions’ compliance with this principle. Besides the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in ruling on all legal questions arising from the application and interpretation of the Treaties, another important procedure is performed by the Member States’ parliaments. It consists of the political scrutinisation of the proposed EU laws on the compliance with the subsidiarity. This paper intends to juxtapose these two institutionalized avenues through an analysis of the principle of subsidiarity as it appears throughout the case law of the Court of Justice and within the subsidiarity monitoring procedure by the national parliaments. The aim is to assess whether the judicial or parliamentary procedure is better suited for ensuring the compliance with the subsidiarity, and whether the principle owing to its dual nature, i.e. both legal and political, can at all be efficiently complied with in the course of the EU regulatory practice, either as being judicially enforced or politically safeguarded. The main argument follows the lines of critical voices, which hold that present system is rather complex and ineffective. In the end, novel institutional arrangements, which would combine the features of both judicial and political system in safeguarding the principle of subsidiarity, are proposed.

Ključne riječi

subsidiarity; European Union; justiciability; political scrutiny; Court of Justice; national parliaments

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