C-11/70 Internationale Handelsgesellschaft [1970]

C-11/70 Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH v Einfuhr- und Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel [1970] ECR 1125 is an EU law case that concerns German constitutional law in relation to the conflict of law between a national legal system and the laws of the European Union.

The case involved a challenge by Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH (IHB), a minority shareholder, against the Common Agricultural Policy's licensing system, which required a deposit for export licenses. IHB claimed a disproportionate violation of its right to conduct business under the German Constitution. The German Administrative Court sought clarification from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ held that the validity of EU measures cannot be challenged based on national law rules or concepts, even if it violates fundamental human rights provisions in a member state’s constitution. The court acknowledged that EC law respects fundamental rights but emphasised that there was no fundamental right violation in this case.

The judgment asserted that challenging the validity of EU measures based on national law would undermine the uniformity and efficacy of Community law. The examination should focus on whether any analogous guarantee inherent in Community law had been disregarded. The protection of fundamental rights, inspired by common constitutional traditions, must align with the Community's structure and objectives.

The German Constitutional Court, considering fundamental rights protection, expressed a provisional approach. It stated that, in a hypothetical conflict between Community law and guarantees of fundamental rights in the German Constitution, the latter prevails until the competent organs of the Community resolve the conflict according to the Treaty mechanism.

The German Constitutional Court recognised the Community's lack of a democratically legitimated Parliament and a codified catalogue of fundamental rights. Provisionally, in cases of conflict, the guarantee of fundamental rights in the Constitution prevails.

The case addresses the challenge of balancing European law supremacy within the German legal order against potential conflicts with fundamental rights protected by the German Constitution. It highlights the role of the ECJ in protecting fundamental rights in the European legal order, allowing the German Constitutional Court to adopt an accommodating approach to European law supremacy.

The case's significance lies in its contribution to the evolving understanding of the supremacy of European law within national legal orders, emphasising the importance of protecting fundamental rights in the EU legal framework. The subsequent Solange II judgment further shaped the approach of the German Constitutional Court, recognising developments in the protection of fundamental rights by the ECJ and other EU institutions.
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