Judgement: C‑355/22. – Osteopathie Van Hauwermeiren BV | A national constitutional court also does not have the right to implement a European court decision only partially for reasons of national interest.
In a previous judgment (C-597/17), the European Court of Justice deemed Belgian regulations incompatible with EU law, as they provided VAT exemption for certain healthcare services only when provided by a doctor, and not when the same service was performed by a specialist with appropriate qualifications.
In its decision of December 5, 2019, the Belgian Constitutional Court annulled the restrictive rule reviewed by the European Court but stipulated that the old, annulled rule should still apply to transactions subject to VAT before October 1, 2019. The Constitutional Court justified its decision by stating that it would have unforeseeable consequences if the more favorable VAT exemption rule were to be applied retroactively for a longer period, as numerous service providers would claim significant VAT refunds. Furthermore, it was far from certain that every service provider kept records that could trace which services should not have had VAT charged. In its judgment C-355/22, the European Court emphasized that ensuring the full application of EU regulations takes precedence over the decisions of national constitutional courts, and therefore, the constitutional court could not have limited the retroactive effect of the more favorable rule without referring a question to the European Court.