NV Algemene Transport-Expedite Onderneming Van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen (1963) Case 26/62
Established that EEC’s treaties were legitimate grounds for the recognition of legal rights and thus famously recognised the principle of direct effect.
The claimants, van Gend en Loos, imported chemicals from Western Germany to the Netherlands where they were asked to pay import taxes at Dutch customs, the defendants, which they objected to on the grounds it ran contrary to the European Economic Community’s prohibition on inter-State import duties, as per Article 12 of the Treaty of Rome. The defendants contended that as the claimants were not a natural person but a legal person, they could not claim such rights.
Whether the European Community treaty gave rise to actionable rights and whether legal persons could rely upon such rights in the same manner as natural persons.
The European Court of Justice found for the claimants, viewing that the European treaties gave rise to rights for legal and natural persons alike. Further, the Court viewed that European Community law ‘not only imposes obligations on individuals but is also intended to confer upon them rights’.
Significantly, this case indicates that European treaty law has direct effect against Member States and that they are directly bound by its provisions. Subsequently, European law could be enforced by individuals through the national courts system of a Member State, rather than necessitating that the European Commission bring a legal action against the State in question for failure to comply with its international obligations.