The Effect of Direct Effect on Directives

The new regulations of European Union Law now state that the European regulations that have been framed in accordance with the provisions of the new European treaties have a direct effect upon all citizens of the European Union and on the laws that are made by the member states of the Union. This principle was first laid out by the European Court of Justice in the case of Van Gend en Loos v Nederlanse Administratie der Belastingen1. In this case, the Treaty of Rome was at issue and the ECJ ruled that individuals could take action against a State for breaching EU rules, since the new treaty grants rights and imposes obligations on individuals. According to the ruling laid out in this case, European Community regulations were also valid when tried in the national courts, because the regulations were similar to the national laws in that they had a similar effect upon an individual’s rights and responsibilities. Therefore in effect, the Court has ruled that a new legal order has been created. The Direct Effect creates individual rights which the domestic courts must protect without needing to resort to the States concerned, since EU law took precedence. This is known as the “vertical direct effect” of Treaty articles. A “horizontal direct effect” was laid out in the case of Defrenne vs Sabena2, wherein provisions of EU law were directly applicable in a domestic court, in proceedings by an individual against a Company.
This has affected the application of internal laws within each of the European member States. By virtue of the Direct Effect, member States are now obligated to comply with Community Law as it has been framed according to European laws within the framework of their own internal laws.