Problems arise every now and then when the acts and decisions of these EU institutions overlap or run into conflict with the mandates of their national counterparts. For example, the ECJ has rendered decisions that member states found incompatible with their own statutes as observed by their national courts. This paper discusses the EU setup as a unique constitutional body whose implementing arms sometimes perform acts that encroach upon the functions and purposes of the national institutions of member states, but it nonetheless succeeds in stringing the disparate Community members into a cohesive whole. Special attention is given to the ECJ whose role it is to implement the EU Constitution and laws, as well as interpret the EC treaties as these apply to specific cases on the national levels.
Under Article 234 of the Constitution, the ECJ is tasked with giving preliminary rulings on interpretation of the treaties, the validity or legality of any acts of the EC institutions, and interpretation of the statutes of bodies established by an act of the Commission. In 146/73 Rheinmuhlen (1974) ECR 139, it was emphasized that Article 234 is "essential for the preservation of the EC character of the law established by the EU Treaty and has the object of ensuring that in all circumstances, the law is the same in all states of the Community." When questions of EC law arises, national courts may apply to ECJ for a preliminary ruling on matters of interpretation or validity, after which they may apply the law for their own purposes. In effect, the ECJ reviews the legality of acts passed by the European Parliament and Commission. EC Website (2002) points out that in safeguarding fundamental rights, the ECJ is expected to draw inspiration from the constitutional traditions of member states, such that it cannot uphold measures that are incompatible with the fundamental rights recognized and protected by the constitutions of member states. On paper, the ECJ appears to have effectively played its role of shaping a polity instrumental in bringing the Union to new levels of peace, stability and economic growth. However, the Court of Justice contends with accusations from time to time that it pursues an agenda that departs from the spirit of the treaties, from which it really derives its powers. The rest of this essay examines the ECJ acts and decisions in relation to specific cases to determine if there is any validity to such accusations.
The most salient feature of the new Constitution for Europe, which was finalized in 2004, is the provisions on the so-called Community Method and on "subsidiarity." For the first time, the Constitution also gives European citizens the right to ask the Union to launch initiatives. Under the Community Method principle, the EU law has primacy over the law of member states. This means that any EU law is an integral part of the law in each member state, whose courts are duty-bound to apply it. As for subsidiarity, this new principle enshrined in the new Constitution dictates that if member states cannot transpose EU laws into national laws, the Community would act to see that the