Principle of Subsidiarity

The principle of subsidiarity is a fundamental concept in the European Union (EU) that guides decision-making and the allocation of responsibilities between the EU and its member states. It is enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and is meant to ensure that decisions are made at the most appropriate level of government, whether that is at the EU level or the national level, in order to achieve the best possible outcomes and promote efficiency.

Decentralisation: Subsidiarity promotes decentralisation, meaning that decisions should be made as close to the citizens as possible. It emphasises that matters should be handled by the lowest level of government (local, regional, or national) capable of effectively addressing them.

Proportionality: Decisions taken at the EU level should be proportional to the objectives they seek to achieve. This means that the EU should not take action unless it is necessary to achieve its objectives and the benefits outweigh the costs or burdens imposed.

Justification: When proposing EU legislation or action, the European Commission (the executive branch of the EU) is required to justify why EU-level intervention is necessary, taking into account the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. If national parliaments believe that an EU proposal violates the principle of subsidiarity, they can issue a subsidiarity objection.

Early warning mechanism: The Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force in 2009, introduced a mechanism to strengthen the role of national parliaments in the EU legislative process. National parliaments can review draft legislation and issue reasoned opinions if they believe that a proposal violates the principle of subsidiarity. If a significant number of national parliaments object, it can trigger a yellow card procedure, requiring the Commission to reconsider its proposal.

Judicial review: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) can also review whether EU actions or legislation comply with the principle of subsidiarity. It ensures that decisions taken at the EU level are in line with the subsidiarity principle.

The principle of subsidiarity is intended to strike a balance between the need for collective action at the EU level and the preservation of national sovereignty and autonomy. It aims to prevent unnecessary centralisation of power and decision-making in Brussels, ensuring that decisions are made by the appropriate authority while respecting the diversity and unique circumstances of each member state.
Back to blog

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham
ESSEC Business School

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.