Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


Letter from Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe, to the Chairman

  During my evidence session to your Committee on 21 January, I promised to write to you in reply to Lord Scott of Foscote's question about the practical challenges of enlargement, concerning the size of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

  The European Community Treaty, as amended by the Treaty of Nice, which is now in force, provides that the ECJ shall consist of one judge per Member State. This will continue to be the case following enlargement.

  Prior to the Nice Treaty, it was already possible for the court to sit in chambers in certain cases. Under the Nice reforms, the ECJ can now sit in chambers, as a Grand Chamber or as the full court, as determined by the Statute of the Court. This further increases the ECJ's flexibility to sit in smaller numbers. It is important to maintain the principle of one judge per Member State in the ECJ. This makes a crucial contribution to ensuring that the ECJ as a body acts with a sound understanding of the EU's different legal traditions.

  The Convention on the Future of Europe has set up a discussion circle on the ECJ. Baroness Scotland and Lord Maclennan are both members of this group, which will consider in more detail issues relating to the ECJ.

4 March 2003

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