Subsidiarity as Judicial and Legislative Review Principles in the European Union

  • Gabriël A. MoensEmail author
  • John Trone
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 37)


The founding Treaties of the European Union make clear that subsidiarity is a judicially enforceable legal principle. However, the case law of the Court of Justice reveals that the enforcement of subsidiarity as a judicial principle has been ineffective. The Court has applied a very weak standard of review for both substantive and procedural compliance with the subsidiarity principle. By far the most significant application of the subsidiarity principle is its consideration as part of the EU legislative process. A Member State legislature may issue a reasoned opinion regarding subsidiarity aspects of a proposal. These reasoned opinions may trigger the yellow card procedure, forcing the Commission to review its proposal, or the orange card procedure, where the Parliament or Council can block the proposal. These procedures have some potential as legislative safeguards of subsidiarity: in 2013 the Commission withdrew a legislative proposal after the yellow card procedure was activated.


Judicial enforcement of subsidiarity Legislative review of subsidiarity Role of Member State legislatures 


  1. Barker, Robert S. 1991. Taking constitutionalism seriously: Costa Rica’s Sala Cuarta. Florida Journal of International Law 6: 349.Google Scholar
  2. Bermann, George A. 2008. National parliaments and subsidiarity: An outsider’s view. European Constitutional Law Review 4: 453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Besselink, Leonard F.M., and Brecht van Mourik. 2012. The Parliamentary Legitimacy of the European Union: The role of the States General within the European Union. Utrecht Law Review 8(1): 28. Available at
  4. Constantin, Simona. 2008. Rethinking subsidiarity and the balance of powers in the EU in the light of the Lisbon Treaty and beyond. Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy 4: 151.Google Scholar
  5. Conway, Gerard. 2010. Conflicts of competence norms in EU law and the legal reasoning of the ECJ. German Law Journal 11(9): 966. Available at
  6. Cooper, Ian. 2006. The watchdogs of subsidiarity: National Parliaments and the logic of arguing in the EU. Journal of Common Market Studies 44: 281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Craig, Paul. 2012. Subsidiarity: A political and legal analysis. Journal of Common Market Studies 50: 72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cygan, Adam. 2013. Regional governance, subsidiarity and accountability within the EU’s multi-level polity. European Public Law 19: 161.Google Scholar
  9. Davies, Gareth. 2006. Subsidiarity: The wrong idea, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Common Market Law Review 43: 63.Google Scholar
  10. Delehanty, Michael Marc. 2010. Subsidiarity and Seanad Éireann. Trinity College Law Review 13: 133.Google Scholar
  11. Evans, Michelle. 2012. The use of the principle of subsidiarity in the reformation of Australia’s Federal System of Government. PhD thesis, Curtin University School of Business Law and Taxation, Perth.Google Scholar
  12. Fabbrini, Federico, and Katarzyna Granat. 2013. Yellow card, but no foul: The role of the national parliaments under the subsidiarity protocol and the Commission proposal for an EU regulation on the right to strike. Common Market Law Review 50: 115.Google Scholar
  13. Horsley, Thomas. 2012. Subsidiarity and the European Court of Justice: Missing pieces in the subsidiarity jigsaw? Journal of Common Market Studies 50: 267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jančić, Davor. 2012. The Barroso Initiative: Window dressing or democracy boost? Utrecht Law Review 8: 78.Google Scholar
  15. Kiiver, Philip. 2012. The early warning system for the principle of subsidiarity: Constitutional theory and empirical reality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Korhonen, Kaisa. 2011. Guardians of subsidiarity: National parliaments strive to control EU decision-making, Briefing paper 84. Helsinki: Finnish Institute of International Affairs.Google Scholar
  17. Louis, Jean-Victor. 2008. National parliaments and the principle of subsidiarity – Legal options and practical limits. European Constitutional Law Review 4: 429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moens, Gabriël A. 1997. The subsidiarity principle and EC Directive 93/104. Australian and World Affairs 34: 51.Google Scholar
  19. Moens, Gabriël A. 2004. The subsidiarity principle in European Union law and the Irish abortion issue. In Legal culture and politics in the twenty first century, ed. Guenther Doeker-Mach, Klaus A. Ziegert, and Klaus A. Ziegert, 424. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.Google Scholar
  20. Moens, Gabriël, and John Trone. 2010. Commercial law of the European Union. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ritzer, Christopher, Marc Rutloff, and Karin Linhart. 2006. How to sharpen a dull sword – The principle of subsidiarity and its control. German Law Journal 7(9): 733. Available at
  22. Sander, Florian. 2006. Subsidiarity infringements before the European Court of Justice: Futile interference with politics or a substantial step towards EU federalism? Columbia Journal of European Law 12: 517.Google Scholar
  23. Schütze, Robert. 2009. Subsidiarity after Lisbon: Reinforcing the safeguards of federalism? Cambridge Law Journal 68: 525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tridimas, Takis. 2006. The general principles of EU law, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Van Nuffel, Piet. 2011. The protection of member states’ regions through the subsidiarity principle. In The role of the regions in EU governance, ed. Carlo Panara and Alexander De Becker, 55. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  26. Vandenbruwaene, Werner. 2012. Multi-tiered political questions: The ECJ’s mandate in enforcing subsidiarity. Legisprudence 6: 321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wechsler, Herbert. 1954. The political safeguards of federalism: The role of the states in the composition and selection of the national government. Columbia Law Review 54: 543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Curtin Law SchoolCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Adjunct Professor, School of LawMurdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations