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The present contribution starts with an overview of the terminological and conceptual confusion underlying the notion of principle, its generality and the concept of the “general principles” in EU law. Far beyond the delicacy in relation to their genesis and nature, their interaction with other norms at the constitutional or legislative level deserves a closer look. For analytical purposes, a distinction will be drawn between, first, a view that conceives of general principles as self‐standing instruments, secondly, a combined reading of the respective general principle with relevant legislation and, thirdly, a view that is based exclusively on the application of the relevant legislative act. In the light of the Mangold‐Kücükdeveci cases and other cases involving equality or employment matters, the question will be raised of whether general principles merely serve to overcome deficits in relation to directives and are therefore often a transitional and compensatory phenomenon or whether they have an intrinsic value.