• In the case of Case 6/64 Costa v ENEL [1964] ECR 585, the European Court of Justice ruled that this case was admissible based on the doctrine of supremacy.
  • This case concerned EU law supremacy, national legislation and sovereignty.

Facts of the Case

  • C claimed that Edisonvolta should not be nationalised in Italy because it violates the Treaty of Rome 1957.
  • D contended in this appeal that the European Court of Justice could not intervene because this was a matter for the national courts.


  • Does EU legislation triumph over national legislation?
  • Does the preliminary ruling procedure apply?

Held by European Court of Justice

  • D’s claim allowed – C has no standing to contest the ruling.

Judge-Rapporteur Robert Lecourt

Member States and the Treaty

  • The provision does not have direct effect. Even though EU law compels national courts to act, this does not directly mean that rights are conferred onto individuals.
  • “By creating a Community of unlimited duration, having its own institutions, its own personality, its own legal capacity and capacity of representation on the international plane and, more particularly, real powers stemming from a limitation of sovereignty or a transfer of powers from the states to the Community, the Member States have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves.”


  • “The integration into the laws of each Member State of provisions which derive from the Community, and more generally the terms and the spirit of the Treaty, make it impossible for the states, as a corollary, to accord precedence to a unilateral and subsequent measure over a legal system accepted by them on a basis of reciprocity. Such a measure cannot therefore be inconsistent with that legal system.”
  • “It follows from all these observations that the law stemming from the Treaty, an independent source of law, could not, because of its special and original nature, be overridden by domestic legal provisions, however framed, without being deprived of its character as Community law and without the legal basis of the Community itself being called into question.”

Advocate General Maurice Lagrange


  • “Compliance with Article 53 therefore requires that no new rule should subject the establishment of nationals of other member-States to a more severe regulation than that which is prescribed for nationals of the country of establishment, whatever may be the laws relating to such enterprises.”
  • “Article 37 (2) contains an unconditional prohibition which results not only in an obligation to do something but in an obligation to do nothing. This obligation is not subject to any reservation that might subject its coming into operation to a positive act of national law. On the contrary, by its very nature, it is capable of producing immediate effects as regards the legal relationship between member-States and those within their jurisdiction.”