The Principle of Subsidiarity

Takis Tridimas & Robert Schütze (eds.), Oxford Principles of EU Law (OUP 2016), Forthcoming

iCourts Working Paper Series No. 66

26 Pages Posted: 20 May 2016

See all articles by Federico Fabbrini

Federico Fabbrini

Dublin City University - School of Law and Government

Date Written: May 19, 2016


The paper examines in depth the principle of subsidiarity in EU law. The aim of this contribution is to provide an updated legal analysis of the principle of subsidiarity, systematizing its substantive meaning, discussing its philosophical underpinnings and evaluating the institutional mechanisms currently in place to ensure its enforcement in the framework of EU law. As the chapter explains, subsidiarity represents the guiding principle on the exercise of legislative powers by the EU institutions in areas in which both the EU and the member states share legislative competences.

As the chapter explains, given its constitutional function, the EU Treaties currently foresee both judicial and political safeguards to ensure that the EU respects the principle of subsidiarity when adopting legislation. Nevertheless, for different reasons, none of these safeguards appears entirely satisfactory: in fact, as the chapter claims, both of them raises challenges that may be worse than the disease they are expected to cure. While respect for the principle of subsidiarity is important for a proper constitutional balance of powers in the EU, and although both the EU courts and the national parliaments have a role to play in policing respect for subsidiarity, the chapter underlines how there are significant risks associated with the practical enforcement of the judicial and political safeguards of subsidiarity.

Suggested Citation

Fabbrini, Federico, The Principle of Subsidiarity (May 19, 2016). Takis Tridimas & Robert Schütze (eds.), Oxford Principles of EU Law (OUP 2016), Forthcoming; iCourts Working Paper Series No. 66. Available at SSRN: or

Federico Fabbrini (Contact Author)

Dublin City University - School of Law and Government ( email )


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