Van Gend en Loos: The Case Study


This case has since famously received the name of Van Gend en Loos. In the book by Hanson, this case represents a very essential ruling as related to the European Court of Justice. The importance of this case is emphasized by the fact that it set out that the establishment of the European Economic Community treaty had provisions for creation of legal rights enforceable by natural and legal persons in priority of the courts of the member states in the community. This principle is currently known as that of direct effect. This case by far turned out to be one of the most significant if not the most vital decision in the European Union’s operations.


The plaintiff who was a postal and transportation company did import urea formaldehyde into the Netherlands from West Germany. The former country’s customs authority went ahead and charged them duty on the chemical imported. Following this, the plaintiff argued that the tariff in essence was contrary to the law of the European community. According to the treaty of Rome the plaintiff argued in line with the 12th article of the treaty, which has since been replaced by article 25EC, that states in part that member states were not under any circumstances to introduce any duties or taxes or any other charges whatsoever that would have a similar effect as to raise the commodity prices. Further, the preexisting ones were not to be increased.


The root of the case was the setting of a chemical in a different class by the Benelux countries. This customs category resulted in higher customs charges for the chemical. The decision of the court was that there was breach of the treaty in doing this since the provision of the treaty was that member states were to progressively lower the custom duties between themselves. In his book Calmann states that the ruling went further to state that such a breach could create an action by individuals before national courts or even by the states in the community themselves. The plaintiff went ahead to pay up the tariff charged but went to seek for a recompense from the national court. In its ruling, the national court made a reference to the judiciary of the EC in a quest to know whether the present 25th article of the treaty did actually confer rights to nationals to vindicate in the national court.

The advocate, General Roamer, was of the opinion that some of the articles entrenched in the treaty actually had a direct effect and thus implying that citizens of the members states could actually rely upon them; but state that article 12 was not such an article. This opinion was however totally distinct from the judgment that was established by the court.

The court argued that it was essential to consider the spirit of a provision, the wording and the general scheme thereof for it to be directly effective. Further the argument was that since the treaty was created to benefit individuals of the members’ states; the individuals could therefore have rights in their national courts.


The case has largely affected how the articles in the EC treaty are viewed. They are seen to be directly effective as opposed to being directly applicable, in their usage against the state. It has also been vital in illustrating the very innovative jurisprudence of the European court of Justice. While on one hand the concept of direct effect finds no mentioning in the agreement, the court decided that the doctrine was essential to ensure that the members states complied with their responsibilities set out by the Treaty of Rome. In the book by Moens, the ruling has worked to provide a more effective yet very relevantly distributed mechanism of enforcement6. This is because, in direct effect, the Commission is not ideally required to bring an action against a state.

Reference List

Calmann, J. 1967. The Common Market: the Treaty of Rome explained. London: Blond.

Hanson, S. 2003. Legal method & reasoning. 2nd edition. London: Routledge Cavendish.

Moens, G. 2005. International trade and business law review. London: Cavendish publishing.

The treaty of Rome 1957. Web.

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