Autonomy: The Central Idea of the Reasoning of the Court of Justice

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Table of Contents: I. Introduction. – II. The concept of autonomy beyond a jurisdictional claim. – III. Autonomy as a source of coherence. – IV. Autonomy’s omnipresence in the case law of the Court. – IV.1. Autonomy operating visibly. – IV.2. Autonomy not explicitly mentioned but operating actively. – IV.3. Autonomy as a silent undercurrent. – V. Conclusion.

Abstract: This Article aims to demonstrate that if there is a single vision of the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, it is the idea of autonomy. It portrays how autonomy, defined as an idea of a new legal order with its distinct ontological and axiological character, serves as an organizing principle ensuring the coherence of the case law. It first examines the concept of autonomy, and then investigates the presence of autonomy in the case law of the Court, arguing that it is either explicitly or implicitly always present as the undercurrent in the Court’s legal reasoning. It goes on to show the inextricable link between autonomy and the fundamental principles of the EU legal system, among them the rule of law, the protection of human rights and the effectiveness of the EU legal order. By drawing upon case law of the Court in varied areas of EU law, the Article establishes that autonomy, with its distinct character, is the most important guideline in understanding the Court’s jurisprudence, ensuring its predictability and coherence. Autonomy vitally ensures pluralism of the European Union by contributing to the integrity of the judicial process and enabling the Court to speak with one voice. Through Aristotle’s’ approach for the search of knowledge, the Article portrays that autonomy is not the end in itself, but is rather vital for realizing the goals and values of the European Union.

Keywords: European Court of Justice – autonomy – coherence – rule of law – human rights – legal reasoning.

European Papers, Vol. 8, 2023, No 3, pp. 1403-1439
ISSN 2499-8249 - doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/723

* Judge, General Court of the European Union,


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