The Workload of the Court of Justice of the European Union - European Union Committee Contents


SUMMARY



One of the central responsibilities of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is to uphold the EU's founding principles including respect for the rule of law. Concerned by both the latest workload statistics in the Court's own 2009 Annual Report and the impact that the Treaty of Lisbon will have on the CJEU's ability to fulfil its central and crucial role, the Committee published a call for evidence in July last year. Our concerns were not misplaced.

In the case of the Court of Justice (CJ) we predict another crisis of workload soon, in part driven by the rise in the EU's membership to 27 States, and also caused by the expansion of the Court's jurisdiction into the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. As for the General Court (GC) the prognosis is even bleaker; we found an institution struggling to manage its existing and ever increasing workload, and twice criticised by the Court of Justice for taking too long to deliver justice, most recently in 2009. As an example of the delays in the GC, the Confederation of British Industry highlighted an average time of 33.1 months for competition cases.

Whilst we recognise the Government's argument regarding the current economic climate, this Report argues that there is a cost for litigants and individuals in allowing the EU's judicial institution to suffer sclerosis in the delivery of justice. This cost will be felt not just financially but in bringing both the CJEU and the wider EU into disrepute whilst at the same time undermining their legitimacy.

We make a number of recommendations designed to alleviate these problems. For the CJ we suggest that an increase in the number of Advocates General should be made as soon as possible. For the General Court where the need is most pressing, we reject the creation of more specialised tribunals provided that their problems are dealt with by other means. The main solution that we suggest is an increase in the number of judges serving the GC. Although this will of course cost money we believe it could be accommodated by adjusting priorities in the existing budget and, given the central role fulfilled by the Court, we believe the benefits will outweigh the costs.


 
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