Step 4. Why is EU law unique?

Some say that EU law is just international law by another name. However, this is not the case. Others claim that EU law is simply an appendage to national legal systems. This is not correct, either.

The most important feature of EU law is that it is autonomous. By establishing the EU, the Member States have created a self-sufficient body of law that is binding on them, their citizens, their businesses, and their courts. Currently, no other legal order is similar to EU law. You can think about EU law as a navigation system – it show you where you are now, and how to get where you want to go next. In order to work for all its users, the navigation system must use the same rules, metrics and maps.

The autonomy of the EU legal order is the only guarantee that Union law will not be watered down by interaction with national law and that it will apply uniformly throughout the Member States. This is why the concepts of EU law are interpreted in the light of the aims of the EU.

EU law is applied in order to achieve EU’s common aims. Otherwise, each Member State could decide individually on the substance of the rights that EU law is supposed to guarantee. EU law would be quickly transformed into many different versions of the same rules, confusing citizens and businesses. The only standard by which Union legal instruments are measured is EU law itself, and not national constitutional law or other national legislation.

However, EU law is not some artificial, theoretical construction. EU law becomes operational only if it interacts with the legal orders of the Member States. In this way, the EU’s legal order and the national legal orders are interdependent. You can imagine this as two people rowing in the same boat, and in the same direction.

National authorities of EU Member States are required not only to technically observe EU law; they must also implement it accurately and in full. You may see how the success of EU law is dependent on its correct and sincere implementation by Member States.