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Supremacy or Primacy of EU Law—(Why) Does it Matter?

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Even 50 years on the principle of supremacy or primacy is still surrounded with ambiguity, which is apparent already on the level of semantics. The principle has not carried a single name, but three. This paper argues that a disparity in the denomination of the principle amounts to much more than semantics. It exhibits conceptual differences. Different conceptualisations of the principle of primacy or supremacy entail different models of structural principles of EU law: the hierarchical, the conditionally hierarchical and the heterarchical model. These are no mere theoretical constructions; rather they have influenced concrete practices of EU law, including the most recent Kücükdeveci case as well as the Lisbon decision of the German Constitutional Court. While none of the three models has yet found an unequivocal and conclusive endorsement in the EU practice, there are compelling theoretical and practical reasons for which one of them should be preferred over the others. Whether EU law has supremacy or primacy therefore matters.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Graduate School of Government and European Studies, Kranj, Slovenia

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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