Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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Europe and the law

6.5 The principle of subsidiarity

This is defined in Article 5(1) EC and 5(2) EC. It requires decision-making bodies with responsibility for larger areas to perform only those functions that decision-making bodies with responsibility for smaller areas cannot fulfil themselves. For instance, the Treaty requires the Community to take action ‘only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States …’ and can ‘by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action be better achieved by the Community’. So, if an issue which affects the realisation of the objectives of the Community can be better addressed through national, rather than European, policies and legislation, then the EU should allow the national governments to deal with the issue. The underlying reason for the development of this principle is to maintain the EU's function as a liberating rather than a centralising influence. Decisions should be taken at the lowest appropriate level, that is, as close as possible to the people who are affected by those decisions.


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