European Court of Justice declares itself not competent when the reference for a preliminary ruling26/03/06 / cata_european-union-news

Judgement by the European Court of Justice in Case C-302/04 – Ynos kft v Janos Varga, dated 10 January 2006

A Hungarian court asked the European Court of Justice (hereinafter the “ECJ”) to interpret the provisions of an EU Directive in the context of a dispute on a transaction that took place in 2002 (i.e. before accession on 1st May 2004). The Hungarian court also asked for confirmation that the ECJ was competent given the relevant date.

The ECJ decided that it was not competent to interpret EU law in the context of a dispute regarding facts that took place before the date of accession to the EU.

First of all, this decision only relates to the possibility for a Czech/Polish/Slovak court (or another national court) to refer to the ECJ for the purpose of interpreting EU law. The decision therefore means à contrario that if the relevant events took place on or after 1st May 2004, or if the case concerns a situation which continues after that date, Czech/Polish/Slovak courts can ask the ECJ for its interpretation on the relevant EU rules.

Secondly, however, it is important to stress that the above decision does not restrict the use of EU rules and case law in proceedings before a Czech/Polish/Slovak courts (regardless of the date of the facts of the dispute). Such reference may for instance be relevant for clarifying existing ECJ case law or other parts of EU law. In other words, the fact that the ECJ may not have jurisdiction does not prevent from making arguments on the basis of EU law.