Legal certainty as a general principle of European Union and Eurasian Economic Union law

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Author: Kirill Entin

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2023-1-40-57

Keywords: general principles of law; legal certainty; Court of Justice of the European Union; Court of the Eurasian Economic Union; retroactive effect


The creation of general principles of European Union law is rightly considered to be one of the most important achievements of the Court of Justice of the EU and a significant contribution to the development of the EU legal order. The general principles of EU law perform a triple function by filling gaps in the law, interpreting secondary rules, and providing separate grounds of review of the legality of the acts of EU institutions and of EU Member States. Since 2016–2017 the Court of the EAEU has also started formulating general principles of Union law including, among others, the principles of proportionality, non bis in idem, and respect for the constitutional rights and freedoms of persons and citizens. The principle of legal certainty, in accordance with which the rules established in the framework of the EU must allow all interested persons to clearly understand the obligations imposed upon them, can reasonably be described as one of the most difficult and multifaceted general principles of EU law. An analysis of CJEU case law reveals that this principle has two main dimensions. The first one is the requirement of clarity of legal acts. However, the CJEU’s application of this requirement includes not only an appreciation of the contents of legal acts in order to reveal possible contradictions, but also regard for such formal attributes of a legal act as its publication and for an indication of its legal basis, i.e., the legal norm underlying the challenged act. The second dimension is a temporal one, determining, as a general rule, that a law may not have retroactive effect. Finally, legal certainty is also actively used by the CJEU as a means of argumentation. The principle of legal certainty has also been widely used in the case law of the EAEU Court and, before it, the Court of the Eurasian Economic Community in the field of customs law. The EAEU Court uses this principle to review whether Eurasian Economic Commission decisions are sufficiently clear and devoid of contradictions. In its turn the temporal aspect of the legal certainty principle has been used by the EAEU Court, in the Delrus II case, to formulate its approach to the time limit for execution of its judgments.

About the author: Kirill Entin – Candidate of Sciences (PhD) in Law, Deputy Registrar – Head of the Legal Research and Analysis Department, Minsk, Belarus; Head of the Eurasian Sector of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Entin K. (2023) Pravovaya opredelyonnost’ kak obshchiy printsip prava Evropeyskogo Soyuza i Evraziyskogo ekonomicheskogo soyuza [Legal certainty as a general principle of European Union and Eurasian Economic Union law]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 40–57. (In Russian).


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