EU Shipping Law

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An overview of the European Union and European Union Law

A. Introduction

3.001 This chapter provides a general overview of the law, legal system, policies and institutions of the European Union (“EU”).1 An understanding of EU law is vital to understand fully the subsequent chapters. The inclusion of such a chapter is useful because many readers could be maritime or non-EU lawyers who are unfamiliar with this area of law. 3.002 The legal consequences for each Member State of its involvement in the EU are very significant. The EU is, in the words of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”), “a new legal order of international law”.2 Every citizen of a Member State has acquired new rights and duties.3 A Member State is liable to citizens where it breaches EU law; for example, a Member State may even be liable to pay damages to an individual resulting from a manifest infringement of EU law by a Member State court.4 There is hardly a sector of the economy which is not affected: be it agriculture, banking, energy or transport.5 The consequences of EU membership are equally significant through social, environmental, employment and regional development policies; for example, there is a prohibition on discrimination in terms of pay on the basis of gender and obligations on employers to treat employees in accordance with standards which are higher than those which might have otherwise operated in Member State law. And, politically, the EU represents a transfer of some aspects of sovereignty by the Member States to the Union.6

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B. The European Union


3.003 The EU is an international organisation of the most extraordinary variety. Apart from the EU, there is also the European Atomic Energy Community (“EAEC”) which is separate from the EU but is, in practical terms, interlinked by shared institutions organs and resources. The EAEC and the EU are collectively referred to as the EU for present purposes though the EAEC is not often relevant for those in the shipping sector and hence will not be addressed much in this book. The EU operates principally in the political, economic, social and financial spheres while the EAEC’s activities are confined to the field of nuclear energy. Before examining the EU in more depth, it is useful to place them in their overall and historical contexts.

European Coal and Steel Community (“ECSC”)

3.004 Before the European Economic Community (“EEC”) and the EAEC were created in 1957, the ECSC had been established and was seen by its six Member States to be working successfully.7 The ECSC was founded on 18 April 1951 under the Treaty of Paris which was signed by Belgium, the (then) Federal Republic of Germany (i.e. West Germany), France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.8 Over time, other States joined the ECSC at the same time as they joined the EAEC and what is now the EU. However, the ECSC’s practical significance declined over time as coal and steel became, in relative terms, less significant given that the EU covered every economic sector (other than nuclear energy which is within the remit of the EAEC). The ECSC is now defunct as its 50 year mandate, under the ECSC Treaty, has expired. The operation of the ECSC was confined to the coal and steel sectors9 – two economic sectors which were critical in the European economy and political world of the early 1950s. The ECSC had as its task

“to contribute, in harmony with the general economy of the Member States and through the establishment of a common market [in coal and steel], to economic expansion, growth of employment and a rising standard of living in the Member States”.10

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