Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Subsidiarity has become one of the most puzzling buzzwords behind recent developments in the European Community. At its most fundamental level, it mandates that accomplishment of a legitimate governmental objective should be a responsibility of the lowest level of government capable of effectively addressing the challenge. In the context of the European Community, subsidiarity is a principle of power-sharing between the Community institutions and the Member States. More specifically, it stands for the proposition that Community institutions should exercise the power vested in them by the Community Treaties and legislation only to the extent that the Member States are unable to satisfactorily address the problem.

This Article provides a much-needed conceptual framework for analyzing issues of distribution of power between the Community and its Member States. The Article explains why subsidiarity is crucial to the effective functioning of the Community and identifies some of the functions subsidiarity may usefully perform. At the same time, the Article makes clear that there are important limits significantly restricting the usefulness of subsidiarity as a principle of legislation for the Community federal structure.