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
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.