Flaminio Costa v ENEL – 1964

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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Flaminio Costa v ENEL (1964) Case 6/64  

Established the supremacy of European Community laws over the national laws of Member States.

Facts

The claimant, Costa, was an Italian citizen with shares in the Italian electricity supply company Edisonvolta, and he sought to oppose moves by the State to nationalise the electric industry. Thus, he attempted to assert that the creditor for his electric bill remained Edisonvolta rather than the new national company, ENEL. Costa subsequently submitted that nationalisation was in violation of the Treaty of Rome. The Italian Constitutional Court viewed that the traditional rules of statutory interpretation, lex posterior derogat legi anteriori/ priori ought apply, whereby in the event of statutory incompatibilities, the newer law prevails, meaning the more recent Italian nationalisation statute would prevail over the earlier Treaty of Rome.

Issues

Should EC law, specifically the Treaty of Rome, be considered dominant over national statutes?

Held

The European Court of Justice overturned the verdict of the Italian Constitutional Court, finding that the Treaty of Rome’s provision regarding the single market did not have direct effect and subsequently was one that only the EC could bring a charge against a Member State for violating. However, the claimant was entitled to avail himself of the national Courts system in Italy, and attempt to contend that a national statute was not compatible with EC law, which the national Courts were thus entitled to decide. It can subsequently be found that Courts are obligated to hear and refer cases until they reach the furthest domestic appeal level where such cases concern EU law.

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