European Law


From the date of Poland’s accession to the European Union, Polish administrative courts are at the same time European courts, which pursue the obligations of applying the EU law arising from the said legislation and of providing legal protection to individuals pursuant to the norms provided for in the EU law.

The Union-derived powers of national courts are set forth in the Treaties: Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) establishes the preliminary ruling procedure as a form of judicial dialogue between the national court and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and indirectly in the second sentence of Article 19(1) of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) which concerns the jurisdiction of the CJEU. The latter provision is the source of the assumption of  applying the EU law by the national courts the EU law. Other provisions of the Treaties, including Article 7 TEU, which allows the Council of the European Union to determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the Union values, do not affect the execution of the powers of national courts, including administrative courts, in their capacity as “EU law courts”.

In their jurisprudence, administrative courts apply the EU law, refer to the case law of European courts (both the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights) as well as assess the legality of administrative decisions issued on the basis of the EU law or of the provisions of the Polish law implementing the EU legislation. The EU law is aplied by administrative courts in the process of interpreting the Polish law. Polish courts also interpret the EU legislation for the purposes of the cases they examine.

In the case law of administrative courts, the issues involving the EU law come up mostly when examining cases in the area of: taxation, customs law, road and air transport, environment protection and spatial planning, agriculture and forestry, sanitary, veterinary and pharmaceutical supervision, personal data protection, access to public information, social security, games and mutual wagering, financial aid from the EU funds within the Common Agricultural Policy and Regional Operational Programmes and in the cases regarding foreigners.

While examining cases with an EU element, the courts refer to both the primary and secondary law of the European Union. They refer to the obligation to interpret the national laws in a pro-European way and to give priority to the EU law. They also use the possibility to direct application of the regulations and directives. Administrative courts also refer to the jurisprudence of the  Court of Justice of the European Union in order to determine the relevance of the given EU law applicable to the case, and to assess the applicability of the EU law to the cases in question.

As regards the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR),  administrative courts refer to this act as well as to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular in cases regarding to the right to a fair trial and to an effective remedy, the protection of the right of property,  the Bug river property claims, in cases regarding to foreigners and in cases relating to the freedom of conscience and religion.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is referred to by the Polish administrative courts in order to indicate that the certain rights of an individual are guaranteed not only by the Polish Constitution or the ECHR, but also within the EU legal system. In particular, the above applies to the right to a fair trial, the right to property, the principle of legality and proportionality of administrative penalties, the right to the protection of personal data, the right to respect for private and family life.

Shortly after Poland joined the European Union, administrative courts began to use the possibility to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union with questions concerning the validity and interpretation of the EU legislation for preliminary ruling. In 2004-2017, Polish administrative courts requested for 67 preliminary rulings to the Court of Justice (47 questions has been referred by the Supreme Administrative Court). The majority of the questions referred for preliminary ruling by the Polish administrative courts concerned matters related to tax law.