Interpretation and Judicial Development of EU Private Law. The Example of the Sturgeon-Case

Karl Riesenhuber 1
  • 1 **Professor of Civil Law, German and European Commercial and Economic Law, Ruhr-Universität Bochum.


EU law comprises a large body of legislation in the area of transport and travel. Contract law plays a prominent role in this area with the Package Travel Directive 90/314/EEC, Regulation 1371/2007 on rail passengers' rights and obligations and Regulation 261/2004 on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. The Court's competence to interpret and develop the law is particularly important with regard to the Regulations as directly applicable instruments. The Sturgeon-decision illustrates that the uniformity of the applicable rules contrasts with a disagreement in regard to methods of the law. Under the cover of interpretation, the Court establishes a new claim to compensation for delay. Despite the importance of the decision, the Court's argument is rather thin and not based on firm methodological ground. The article analyses the judgment from a standpoint of German-tongue methodology. Based on considerations of constitutional law, it argues for a distinction between interpretation and judicial development of the law. Beyond the questions raised by the decision in Sturgeon, there is a need for a European discourse on methods of the law. National perspectives should enter into a European competition of methods, EU primary law delineates the constitutional boundaries for this endeavour.

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This journal deals with contract law and serves as a pan-European platform for discussion and analysis. Since the early 2000s when this journal was created, European Contract Law has come to encompass an increasingly comprehensive body of law. The importance and breadth of the field and the methods and questions involved are such that ERCL has established itself as the specialised European journal in this area.