Principle of Subsidiarity (NL: subsidiariteitsprincipe FR: principe de subsidiarité GER: Subsidiaritätsprinzip) (See also: Acquis Communautaire) = it is one of the overarching general principles of European Union law. It was formally included in the European legal framework by the Maastricht Treaty, but the first reference dates back to the Single European Act. It is now embodied in Article 5 of the Treaty of the European Union and in substance, the principle has both a legal and political dimension, declaring that the Union only acts (takes legislative measures) in so far as individual member states cannot achieve the same objectives more efficiently or for reasons of scale can be better achieved on the Union level. In other words, competencies are left to the member states as much as possible, and voluntarily delegated to the EU where necessary. This principle does not apply to areas which are deemed to be the exclusive competency of the Union.



Legislation: Treaty of the European Union, Article 5(3) [English] – Treaty establishing the European Community, Article 3b [English] - Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - PROTOCOLS - Protocol (No 2) on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality

Case Law:, CJUE, C-84/94 , United Kingdom v Council, 1996, ,, CJUE, C-331/88, The Queen vs Minister of Agriculture, 1990,, CJUE, C-547/14, Philip Morris Brands SARL and Others v Secretary of State for Health, 2016

Organizations: - European Parliament - European Commission

Online Publications:

Dzurinda, M, 2019, Subsidiarity in the EU: From principle to practice, Wilfried Martens center for European studies [English] -

Blockmans, S., Hoevenaars, J., Schout, A., Wiersma, J., 2014, From Subsidiarity to Better EU Governance: A Practical Reform Agenda for the EU [English]

Craig, P., 2012, Subsidiarity: A Political and Legal Analysisjcm, JCMS [English]

Waters, T., 2016, A World Elsewhere: Secession, Subsidiarity, and Self-Determination As European Values, Revista d'Estudis Autonòmics i Federals [English]


Horspool M, Hymphreys M Wells-Greco, M, 2016, European Union Law, United Kingdom, OUP [English]

Foster, N, 2012, EU Law, OUP [English]

Foster N, 2018, EU Law Directions, OUP [English]

Inman M, Rubinfeld D, 1998, Subsidiarty and the European union, Netherlands institute of international relations [English]

Pazos-Vidal S, Subsidiarity and EU Multilevel Governance, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2019 

Practical Use

European Parliament -

By: Ramin Rahnema