EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Principle of proportionality

The principle of proportionality is laid down in Article 5(4) of the Treaty on European Union. It seeks to set actions taken by European Union (EU) institutions within specified bounds.

Under this principle, EU measures:

  • must be suitable to achieve the desired end;
  • must be necessary to achieve the desired end; and
  • must not impose a burden on the individual that is excessive in relation to the objective sought to be achieved (proportionality in the narrow sense).

It is closely linked to the principle of subsidiarity, which requires that the EU take action only if it is more effective than action taken at the national, regional or local level. Another related principle, the principle of conferral, states that any policy areas not explicitly agreed on in the treaties by all Member States remain in their domain.

The criteria for applying the principle are set out in the protocol (No 2) on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality annexed to the treaties.

In the case of a breach of the principle of proportionality, applicants may – provided the conditions are met – challenge the validity of relevant measures before the Court of Justice of the European Union.