Indirect effect of EU law
Produced in partnership with Laura Bolado of Andes Legal Consulting Ltd
Indirect effect of EU law

The following Public Law practice note produced in partnership with Laura Bolado of Andes Legal Consulting Ltd provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Indirect effect of EU law
  • What is indirect effect of EU law?
  • What changed with Marleasing?
  • What are the limits of the obligation?
  • What is the approach of the Court of Justice?
  • What is the approach in national courts?
  • Indirect effect in UK courts—before Brexit [Archived]

What is indirect effect of EU law?

The doctrine of indirect effect, or consistent interpretation, is a duty that national courts have, as part of the Member State responsible for fulfilment of EU obligations, to interpret national law in light of EU law, especially with Directives. It achieves indirectly, via judicial interpretation of national law, the result obtainable through direct effect of Directives where that principle cannot be applied. The principle was developed by the Court of Justice in Von Colson and its scope was widened in Marleasing.

It is also a means to counteract, at least partially, the negative effects of the non-recognition of horizontal direct effect of Directives. For background reading, see Practice Note: Direct effect of EU law.

The Von Colson case was a referral for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions. The national litigation concerned alleged discrimination suffered by qualified social workers in the access to employment in a German prison due to their sex. Under German law (implementing the Directive), in the event of discrimination in the access to employment, the employer was liable for damages/loss incurred (apparently limited to expenses). The German government recognised, during the EU proceedings, that a proper implementation of

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