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Decoding Judgements: Understanding Supremacy of EU Law in Costa v ENEL

1 September 2023 | CaseSnappy Team

A photo of power pylons at sunset.


We are thrilled to return with another engaging “Decoding Judgements” series from CaseSnappy. Today, we explore a bedrock of EU law: the supremacy of EU law. The case pivotal to our discussion is the well-known Costa v ENEL (1964) Case 6/64, whose roots are firmly grounded in Italy's electricity industry and has left a long-lasting impact on the constitutional law within the European Union.

Power Surge: Facts of the Case

At the core of the case is an individual named Costa, an Italian citizen and shareholder in Edison, an electricity company. Imminent changes arose when the Italian government nationalised electricity, buying majority shares of Edison to create a state monopoly named ENEL. Costa opposed this condensation of power, deeming it a breach of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC) and took his case to the Italian courts.

Undercurrent of Supremacy: Issues in the Case

The crux of the case hinged on whether Italian national law could supersede EEC law. Costa maintained that the steps taken by Italy contravened the Treaty of Rome, while ENEL and Italy's government contended that national law could still have precedence despite the Treaty in place.

Circuit of Decision: The Verdict

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) determined the verdict in Costa's favour. It ruled that the Treaty of Rome enjoys priority over any national law. The ECJ stated permitting national law to undercut EEC law would jeopardise the efficacy and underlying purpose of the Treaty.

In a key passage, the Court of Justice declares: "...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."

CaseSnappy: Simplifying Legal Complexity

Through the avenue of Costa v ENEL, we uncover the underlying premise dictating the supremacy of EU law within member states. At CaseSnappy, we strive to demystify intricate legal rulings so they can be readily understood by law students, professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Stay connected for our next article in the "Decoding Judgements" series for more case insights. Register for CaseSnappy for free today and immerse yourself in a treasure trove of legal knowledge, right at your fingertips.

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