Court clarifies role of national courts when national
provision conflicts with European Union law
>> This reference for a preliminary ruling concerned the interpretation of Art. 7 of the Working Time Directive (Directive 2003/88)
The national court asked, inter alia, whether Art. 7 of the Working Time Directive must be interpreted as meaning that in proceedings between individuals a national provision which made entitlement to paid annual left conditional on a minimum period of actual work during the reference period, which was contrary to Art. 7, must be disregarded.
The Court held that the question whether a national provision must be disapplied in as much as it conflicts with European Union law arose only if no compatible interpretation of that provision proves possible.
The Court reiterated that when national courts applied domestic law they were bound to interpret it, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and the purpose of the directive concerned in order to achieve the result sought by the directive and consequently complied with Art. 288(3) TFEU.
In the dispute in the main proceedings, the national court stated that it had encountered such a limitation. According to that court, the first paragraph of Art. L. 223-2 of the Code du travail, which made entitlement to paid annual left conditional on a minimum of one month’s actual work during the reference period, was not amenable to an interpretation that was compatible with Art. 7 of Directive 2003/88.
The Court of Justice clarified that the principle that national law must be interpreted in conformity with European Union law also required national courts to do whatever lies within their jurisdiction, taking the whole body of domestic law into consideration and applying the interpretative methods recognised by domestic law, with a view to ensuring that the directive in question was fully effective and achieving an outcome consistedent with the objective pursued by it (see Case C-212/04 Adeneler and Others (2006)).
Text of Judgment