Article 177 of the EEC Treaty gives the Court of Justice competence to issue rulings on the interpretation of the Treaty. It also gives the Court the right to give validity meaning of the Community acts when a national court of Member State requests that. Under Art. 177, a national court may request from the ECJ a "preliminary reference" or "referral". The judgement of the ECJ renders as "preliminary rulings."
Such a review of Community acts by the ECJ constitutes an important protection against abuses of authority by the Community institutions.
According to Art. 173,"any natural or legal person may, under the same conditions" as set out in paragraph 1, institute procedings against a decision addressed to that person or against a decision which, although in the form of a regulation or a decision addressed to another person, is of direct and indvidual concern to the former.
The Court of Justice may declare the acts of Community institutions as void according to Art. 174. In such a case, Article 176 suggests that the institution must "take the necessary measures to comply with the judgement of the Court."
There is a time limitation on challenging an act before the ECJ, usually two months from the date of publication or notification. However, a Community act may always be brought as incidental issue in litigation before Member State courts according to Art. 177, long after the Art.173 limitation period has passed.
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