Legislative Interpretation within the European Union: The Challenge of Legislative Intent

If the central purpose of interpretation is to show respect for the authority of the EU, how should those faced with the task of interpretation interpret European Union legislation? This article rejects purposive interpretation as it implausibly assumes the EU legislature acts solely with the intention to realise a set of substantive purposes, thereby ignoring that the legislative plan includes the legislative rules posited in the text of its acts. It also dismisses theories of interpretation that argue for a literal reading of legislative text. Instead, the article argues that the object of interpretation should be the intended meaning of the EU legislature, which the interpreter can discern by placing legislative text in the context in which the legislature expressed itself. The shortcomings of existing theories of legislative interpretation within the EU and the strength of the alternative presented here are illustrated by examples from the case law of the EU Court of Justice.