The European Court of Justice is the court of the 15-nation European Union. It was created after WWII as a mediator of disputes over steel and coal quotas. Over the years the court has accumulated jurisdiction over so many aspects of European life that it has become the de facto EU Supreme Court.
While dealing mostly with economic matters, economics is a term that is used to cover a broad range of topics. The Court of Justice has made decisions that have overturned the actions of sovereign member countries. The court is being used as a tool to forge a union from a collection of different states, similar to what the U.S. Supreme Court did. The Court of Justice is approaching this "one union" concept through the formation of a single European economy.
The U.S. Supreme Court first addressed the idea of a singe American economy in 1824 with the case of Gibbons vs. Ogden, allowing steamboats from New York to enter New Jersey waters. This decision, like those that the Court of Justice is making, tended to undermine the individual states and promote the over-arching control of the federal government.
The European Court of Justice is the key driving factor in keeping the 15-member political confederation together by ensuring that EU laws are maintained in all the EU member countries, in effect implementing an ad hoc constitution. Where EU law and national law of a member country conflict, the Court of Justice is the body that makes the determination as to which laws will prevail.
The Courtís power is growing in direct proportion to the integration of Europe, which ironically, the court is promoting through its decisions. A recent European treaty struck in Amsterdam, and awaiting ratification, will extend the power of the Court of Justice into the area of human rights. With this added to its list of open-ended responsibilities, there is no limit to what the Court can rule on.
The British representative on the Court of Justice, Justice David Edward, was recently quoted as saying that the European Court of Justice is more important than the national courts. While some countries are realizing that they could lose control of their sovereignty and are waging a battle to reaffirm their national rights, the court is marching onward toward consolidating its power and the idea of a united Europe under its jurisdiction.
The actions of the European Court of Justice are a re-confirmation of the concept that the natural state of any government, at whatever level, is the continuous advancement of the consolidation of its power. As the Court of Justice undermines the sovereignty of the member states, the idea of state sovereignty for Britain, France, Germany and the other member nations will begin to take a back seat to the concept of submitting to a supreme authority that is guided by priorities other than those of the individual members. This scenario has been experienced in America and has resulted in big government that is wasteful and inefficient. If the socialistic governments of the individual EU states are already as wasteful and inefficient, or more so, than the U.S. federal government, how bad will it get when the EU "federal government" takes over? For the sake of the people of Europe, someone in the EU better wake up and smell the coffee.
June 29, 1999