Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Adam Lazowski and Steven Blockmans
Chapter 13: Five decades since Van Gend en Loos and Costa came to town: primacy, direct and indirect effect revisited
Because of its two ‘Old Masters’ – uniformly assessed in the academic literature as seminal, landmarking, underlying, revolutionary, fundamental, crucial, constitutive, and constitutional – which established a very significant feature of the EU law curriculum over the past decades, every law student in Europe and beyond frequently hears the stories of Van Gend en Loos and Costa v E.N.E.L. in their introductory courses to EU law. Hence, even if what the Court has pushed for is not always consistently applied in national courtrooms, at least it is in the classrooms. There have been a remarkable number of volumes written, arguing and commenting on the principle of primacy, the doctrines of direct and indirect effect, to a certain extent schizophrenically using the above mentioned ‘adjectivity’ to describe the legal meaning of the Court’s said rulings on the one hand, while alleging the shortcomings of their impact, on the other. After all that has been said, one observation remains, nevertheless, evident: what looked quite unconditional, clear and precise five decades ago, no longer looks that way today. It holds much more true that there is an open question, which could be, not entirely uncontroversially, phrased as follows: could the move indeed be called ‘a genuine revolution’, whilst it still does not work, in spite of appearances? It is commonly argued that the most significant achievement of the ‘motor of integration’ has been to integrate European (Community) law into the domestic legal orders of the Member States.
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