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The action for annulment

The action for annulment is one of the actions which may be brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Through this action, the claimant requests the annulment of an act adopted by a European Union institution, body, office or organisation.

The action for annulment is a legal procedure brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This of action enables the Court to review the legality of acts adopted by the European institutions, bodies, offices or organisations. Thus, the Court shall annul the act concerned if it is judged to be contrary to European Union (EU) law.

Actions for annulment may be brought by the European institutions or by individuals under certain conditions.

Nature of the action

The action for annulment consists of a review of the legality of European acts which may lead to the annulment of the act concerned. This action may be brought against:

  • all legal acts;
  • acts adopted by the Council, the Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the European Council where these acts are intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties;
  • acts adopted by European bodies, offices or organisations where these acts are intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties;
  • measures adopted by the Board of Governors or the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank, under the conditions of Article 271 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

In addition, Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU excludes recommendations and opinions from the scope of the CJEU’s jurisdiction.

Furthermore, once an action for annulment has been referred to the Court of Justice, it shall assess whether the act conforms to EU law. It may then annul the act based on the grounds of:

  • lack of competence;
  • infringement of an essential procedural requirement;
  • infringement of the Treaties or of any rule of law relating to their application;
  • or misuse of powers.

Plaintiffs

Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU distinguishes several categories of plaintiff. First, it refers to preferential plaintiffs. These are Member States, the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. These plaintiffs are ‘preferential’ in the sense that they may bring an action for annulment before the CJEU without having to demonstrate any interest in taking action.

Individuals may also refer an action to the CJEU. They constitute the category of non-preferential plaintiffs. In contrast to preferential plaintiffs, individuals must demonstrate an interest in taking action in order to request the annulment of a European act. Thus, the contested act must be addressed to the plaintiff or must concern him or her directly and individually.

Furthermore, certain plaintiffs may bring specific actions. The Court of Auditors, the European Central Bank and the Committee of the Regions may bring actions against European acts which, in their view, undermine their prerogatives. In addition, the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank may contest measures adopted by the Board of Governors of the Bank. Lastly, the Treaty of Lisbon has created a new type of action: national parliaments and the Committee of the Regions may henceforth bring actions for annulment against acts which they consider to be contrary to the principle of subsidiarity.

Furthermore, plaintiffs have a period of two months in which to bring an action for annulment. This period begins either from the date of publication of the measure, or of its notification to the plaintiff, or of the day on which it came to the knowledge of the latter.

Annulment of the act

If the action is well-founded, the CJEU may annul the act in its entirety or certain provisions only. The annulled act or provisions shall therefore no longer have legal effect. Moreover, the institution, body, office or organisation which adopted the act is required to fill the resulting legal void in accordance with the judgment delivered by the CJEU.

Division of powers between the Court of Justice and the General Court

The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction in:

  • actions brought by Member States against the European Parliament or the Council;
  • actions brought by an institution against another institution.

The General Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance all other types of action, in particular actions brought by individuals.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 29.10.2010

See also

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