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The action for damages

The action for damages

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The action for damages

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

The action for damages

The action for damages is an action brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It may be brought by Member States or individuals.

The action for damages enables compensation to be obtained for damage for which the Union is responsible. There are two types of action:

  • actions implicating the contractual liability of the Union where the latter is party to a contract;
  • actions implicating the non-contractual liability of the Union due to damage caused by Union bodies or servants in the performance of their duties.

Contractual liability of the Union

Union bodies and agents are able to conclude contracts which give rise to liability on the part of the Union. However, the CJEU does not always have jurisdiction in disputes arising from these contracts.

An action for damages can be brought before the CJEU only if an arbitration clause so provides. In other words, the contract to which the Union is party must contain a clause providing for the jurisdiction of the CJEU in the event of a dispute. In the absence of such a clause, the national courts will have jurisdiction in disputes arising from the contract.

Non-contractual liability of the Union

The Union must compensate for damage for which it is responsible. Such damage may, for example, be caused by a servant of the EU in the performance of their duties. It may also result from the legislative activities of the European institutions, such as the adoption of a regulation.

The non-contractual liability of the Union complies with uniform rules which have been developed by the case-law of the CJEU. Actions may be brought by individuals or Member States who have suffered damage and wish to obtain compensation. The deadline for acting is five years from the date on which the damage occurred.

The Court of Justice shall recognise the liability of the Union when three conditions are met:

  • the claimant has suffered damage;
  • the European institutions or their agents have acted illegally under European law;
  • there is a direct causal link between the damage suffered by the claimant and the illegal act of the European institutions or their agents.

An action for damages before the Court of Justice of the EU may be brought only where the liability of the Union is implicated. Individuals may also render Member States liable in the case of damage caused by European law being poorly applied. However, actions taken against Member States must be brought before the national courts.

Division of powers between the Court of Justice and the General Court

The General Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance actions brought by individuals.

The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine actions brought by the Member States. It may also hear appeals brought against judgments given by the General Court at first instance. In the latter case, the Court of Justice shall rule only on questions of law and shall not re-examine the facts.

The Court of Justice and the General Court may also rule on actions implicating the contractual liability of the Union. These actions are brought in accordance with the conditions provided for by the contracts to which the Union is party.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

The action for annulment

The action for annulment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The action for annulment

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

The action for annulment

The action for annulment is a legal procedure brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This of action enables the Court to review the legality of acts adopted by the European institutions, bodies, offices or organisations. Thus, the Court shall annul the act concerned if it is judged to be contrary to European Union (EU) law.

Actions for annulment may be brought by the European institutions or by individuals under certain conditions.

Nature of the action

The action for annulment consists of a review of the legality of European acts which may lead to the annulment of the act concerned. This action may be brought against:

  • all legal acts;
  • acts adopted by the Council, the Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the European Council where these acts are intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties;
  • acts adopted by European bodies, offices or organisations where these acts are intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties;
  • measures adopted by the Board of Governors or the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank, under the conditions of Article 271 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

In addition, Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU excludes recommendations and opinions from the scope of the CJEU’s jurisdiction.

Furthermore, once an action for annulment has been referred to the Court of Justice, it shall assess whether the act conforms to EU law. It may then annul the act based on the grounds of:

  • lack of competence;
  • infringement of an essential procedural requirement;
  • infringement of the Treaties or of any rule of law relating to their application;
  • or misuse of powers.

Plaintiffs

Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU distinguishes several categories of plaintiff. First, it refers to preferential plaintiffs. These are Member States, the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. These plaintiffs are ‘preferential’ in the sense that they may bring an action for annulment before the CJEU without having to demonstrate any interest in taking action.

Individuals may also refer an action to the CJEU. They constitute the category of non-preferential plaintiffs. In contrast to preferential plaintiffs, individuals must demonstrate an interest in taking action in order to request the annulment of a European act. Thus, the contested act must be addressed to the plaintiff or must concern him or her directly and individually.

Furthermore, certain plaintiffs may bring specific actions. The Court of Auditors, the European Central Bank and the Committee of the Regions may bring actions against European acts which, in their view, undermine their prerogatives. In addition, the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank may contest measures adopted by the Board of Governors of the Bank. Lastly, the Treaty of Lisbon has created a new type of action: national parliaments and the Committee of the Regions may henceforth bring actions for annulment against acts which they consider to be contrary to the principle of subsidiarity.

Furthermore, plaintiffs have a period of two months in which to bring an action for annulment. This period begins either from the date of publication of the measure, or of its notification to the plaintiff, or of the day on which it came to the knowledge of the latter.

Annulment of the act

If the action is well-founded, the CJEU may annul the act in its entirety or certain provisions only. The annulled act or provisions shall therefore no longer have legal effect. Moreover, the institution, body, office or organisation which adopted the act is required to fill the resulting legal void in accordance with the judgment delivered by the CJEU.

Division of powers between the Court of Justice and the General Court

The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction in:

  • actions brought by Member States against the European Parliament or the Council;
  • actions brought by an institution against another institution.

The General Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance all other types of action, in particular actions brought by individuals.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.