the idea that functions that can be exercised at a lower level of organisation should be rather than being taken over by a higher level organisation. The idea appears within the Roman Catholic Church in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and the Quadragesimo Anno (1931). Its present importance, however, is as a new principle within the legal system of the European Union. The Treaty on European Union embodies the concept in various places, most notably in the Preamble, where the parties intend to create an ever closer union in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. It has been described as the Euro-concept that all can admire by giving it the meaning they want. It has been questioned whether, save in the narrow area of cooperation on justice and home affairs, the concept is sufficiently 'legal' to be subject of decisions by the courts. Rather, it may be a political directive or at most an aid to interpretation. The applicability of the doctrine is made more difficult by the fact that the precise role of the European Union is not specifically defined, and it acquires and has acquired functions over time. Finally, if the superior body is to exercise a function it should be proportionate – appropriate to the scale of the problem addressed.
Collins dictionary of law. W. J. Stewart. 2001.
The subsidiarity principle (in Article 3b of the EC Treaty) states that action should be taken at European Community level only if the desired objectives cannot easily be achieved by national action by the EU member states.
Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms. www.practicallaw.com. 2010.