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Referral to European Court of Justice to be mandatory on certain conditions

No requests for preliminary rulings sent from Estonia in disputes concerning VAT, for example, have been resolved in the European Court so far. It seems that we can expect some changes soon. So why is an increase in the number of referrals to the European Court predicted?

One of the topics the European Court dealt with in the aforementioned judgment was the issue of whether and when the higher court of a Member State (whose judgment cannot be appealed at the national level; the Supreme Court in Estonia) is required to file a request for a preliminary ruling to the European Court. Previously, this was more of an option for the courts of Member States, not an obligation.

The position of the European Court can be summed up as follows. If two of the following circumstances exist at the same time, the national higher court will have to request a preliminary ruling from the European Court. Firstly, if lower national courts have made contradictory judgments in relation to the interpretation of terms. Secondly, if other Member States have also repeatedly dealt with the interpretation of the same term.

Considering the practice of Estonian courts, the circuit court annuls the ruling made by the county court, and in the end the matter will once again be resolved in the Supreme Court. And if a dispute has already been heard in the European Court in the disputed matter, then it can be presumed that the European Court will have significantly more work to do in the future.


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