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Germany constitutional court rules EU court precedents must be followed

The German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [judgment, in German; press release, in German] Thursday that German courts must follow precedent established by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] unless it is clearly a violation of the court's power. The court noted that minor violations of the ECJ's authority would not be enough to disqualify a ruling and that a ruling can be disregarded only if European institutions clearly violate the authority granted to them at the expense of the authority of the member states. The court's ruling came in a case involving a German law that made it easier to limit the employment contracts of workers over the age of 52, which ultimately led younger workers to be better protected by their employment contracts. The ECJ ruled that the law was in violation of an EU general principal [Bloomberg report] against age discrimination. A dissenting opinion in the ruling rejected the majority's finding that there was no violation of ECJ authority in this case and stated that allowing ECJ opinions to set precedent for the member states significantly shifted the structure of power. The ECJ ruling has been controversial in Germany and has been criticized by legal scholars in the country.

Other EU member states have also struggled with the enforcement of ECJ rulings. Earlier this month, the UK High Court suspended the enforcement of an airline regulation [JURIST report] requiring airlines to compensate passengers for flights that are delayed for more than three hours, until the ECJ releases a new ruling on the issue. The ECJ issued its original ruling on the matter [JURIST report] in November, but UK airlines indicated that they believe the ECJ's 2009 ruling was incorrect [trade group report, PDF] and that they would not compensate passengers for delayed flights. The ECJ is not expected to review the case [Travel Weekly report] until 2012.

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