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Judicial enforcement of EU law by private parties – the impact of European Union law on domestic standing doctrines [PhD] (completed)

The European Court of Justice has recognized that access to court is an essential element of a Union based on the Rule of Law. Whether the litigant has standing to make a legal claim in court – locus standi – is critical as to whether he may enforce the law and obtain a remedy. Hilde K. Ellingsen's Ph.D project contains an analysis of how Union law impacts on domestic standing rules.

Photo: Colourbox

About the project

In the absence of specific regulation, domestic enforcement of EU law is primarily governed by the general procedural and remedial rules in force in the member states. The Court has nevertheless articulated certain requirements that the procedural laws of the Member States must comply with in order to ensure that individual rights are protected and that the effectiveness of Union law is guaranteed in the course of national proceedings. These requirements are based on firstly, the principles of equivalence and effectiveness and secondly, the principle of effective judicial protection. In relation to domestic standing rules, the latter principle takes the center stage. The principle is enshrined in Article 47(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 19(1) TEU.

The Member States apply different doctrines to limit the scope of persons with standing. While natural or legal persons of full capacity are generally eligible to sue, most member states require the plaintiff to demonstrate either a right or an interest in order to be granted access to court. Still, where the enforcement of Union law is at stake, the Member States may have to modify their domestic standing rules to afford effective access to court.


The analysis covers all sectors of Union law. The extent of the Member States duty to ensure effective judicial protection and effective enforcement – and consequently the requirements posed on domestic standing rules – may however differ, depending on the objective of the Union law provision in question. I outline the extent to which individuals’ entitlement to enforce Union law obligations varies according to the relevant sector.

Based on an analysis of the Court’s case law, I examine whether the private enforcement route is tuned towards ensuring the protection of Union rights or whether the underlying rationale is rather ensuring that Union law is fully materialized in the member states’ legal orders. If the emphasis is on the possibility for individuals to enforce their rights emanating from Union law, this leaves little scope for extending standing beyond rights-holders. On the other hand, the more plaintiffs are required to demonstrate the impairment of a right in order to obtain standing, the less they can contribute to the overall effectiveness of Union law. From an effectiveness point of view, it would be desirable to confer the right to sue on ‘private attorney-generals’ permitted to sue as guardians of the Union interest, regardless of the degree of detriment to his own individual situation.


Hilde K. Ellingsen's Phd project will end in 2017.

Tags: EU Law, enforcement
Published Dec. 22, 2016 4:30 PM - Last modified Feb. 14, 2020 10:21 AM


PhD Candidate Hilde K. Ellingsen

Supervisor: Professor Finn Arnesen