Amministrazione Delle Finanze Dello Stato V Simmenthal Spa C-106/77

Conflict of law and the supremacy of EU law

The supremacy of the European Union law is a fundamental and settled principle that means that in cases of conflicts between EU law and national law, the EU law should prevail.
In consequence of this principle, national law must protect EU law, and domestic law must apply EU law in its entirety and disregard national law that may conflict with it. The principle of primacy, therefore, seeks to ensure that citizens are uniformly protected by an EU law across all EU territories.

In this relevant case, regarding the supremacy of The Community law, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) clarified that the primacy of EU law must be applied to all national acts, whether they were adopted before or after the EU act in question and that Domestic law must apply EU law in its entirety and disregard national law that may conflict with it.

Case Summary

The Pretoria di Susa ( Italy ) reference the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling in the case pending between Amministrazione delle Finanze Sello Stato (Italian Finance Administration) and Simmenthal S.P.A, where Simmenthal brought an action against the Amministrazione delle Finanze dello Stato claiming the repayment of fees it had been charged for the medical inspection of meat, which it had imported into Italy from France, imposed by an Italian law from 1970. 


Simmenthal alleged that Italian law No. 1239 of 30 December 1970, was incompatible with the free movement of goods (article 30 of the ECC Treaty) and thus, in conflict with the Community law, in particular with the Regulation (EEC) No. 805/68 of the Council of 27 June 1968 on the Common Organization of the Market in Beef and Veal. 


From the other part, the importer argued that Italian Law was passed after EU provisions came into force and that, therefore, it prevails over Community Regulations. 


The question then from the national Courts was if the Italian law even if it is contrary to Community law, but since it was subsequent, it should be applied or not until it is declared invalid. 


In this respect, the national court asked about the interpretation of article 189 of the EEC Treaty concerning the effects of the direct applicability of a community law if it conflicts with any provisions of national law. 


The ECJ clarified that the principle of the precedence of Community law (supremacy of EU law), means not only that the entry into force render automatically inapplicable any conflicting provision of current national law but also preclude the valid adoption of new national legislative measures to the extent to which they would be incompatible with community provisions.


In consequence, the ECJ ruled that these charges were incompatible with EU law and contrary to the Treaty. 


Read the whole case summary here.

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