Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH v Einfuhr und Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel [1970]

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  • Created on: 21-03-20 19:59


The national litigation underpinning this preliminary reference concerned an alleged breach of the terms of an export licence which had been issued to the firm Internationale Handelsgesellschaft for the export of maize. As a result, the firm was required to forfeit the sum of DM 17026.27 (approximately £17,800) from its licence deposit, in accordance with Community law. Litigation ensued.

The Verwaltungsgericht (Administrative Court) in Frankfurt made a reference for preliminary ruling asking questions on the lawfulness of the system of licence deposits under Community law, and on the legality of specific provisions of secondary law. In its order for reference, the Administrative Court noted that its existing case law did not accept the applicable Community provisions as valid and observed that Community regulations must respect ‘the elementary, fundamental rights guaranteed by the German Constitution and the essential structural principles of national law’. The Administrative Court considered that Community law relating to the system of deposits was contrary to—and therefore should not override—principles inherent in Arts. 2(1) and 14 of the German Basic Law.


In relation to the questions referred, the Court of Justice found that the system of licences under Community law did not violate any fundamental right and was appropriate for ensuring the normal functioning of the market, in compliance with Arts. 39 and 43 EEC Treaty. However, this ruling’s true significance lay in the Court of Justice’s findings regarding primacy and the protection of fundamental rights in the European legal order.

Addressing the referring court’s contextual observations in its order for reference, the Court of Justice found that the validity of Community law can only be judged in the light


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