CHAPTER 1: Introduction |
1. The Court of Justice of the European Union
(CJEU) is one of the Union's seven principal institutions.
Its role is to "ensure that in the interpretation and application
of the Treaties the law is observed"
and like the EU's other six
institutions it is required to promote, advance and serve the
Union's interests, including those of the Union's citizens and
its Member States, and act within the limits of the powers conferred
on them by the Treaties.
2. A simple reading of the relevant Treaty articles,
however, does little to convey the important role that the CJEU
performs within the EU, a role which is central to the effective
functioning of the Union. The importance of the Court's central
role was summarised by the Attorney General when he told us that
the Government supported "an effective and efficient Court
ensuring that EU law is uniformly interpreted and applied in all
Member States to ensure a level playing field for UK businesses
operating in other Member States, and that British citizens living
and working across Member States enjoy the full benefits of EU
3. It is impossible to place a precise figure
on the importance of the CJEU's role in the operation of, for
instance, the Single Market. Delay has a cost that impacts directly
on litigants and individuals operating in the internal market.
Allowing the CJEU to suffer sclerosis in the delivery of justice
would bring both the CJEU and the wider EU into disrepute whilst
at the same time undermining the legitimacy of both the institution
and the wider EU.
4. The CJEU upholds the Union's founding principles
such as the rule of law and respect for human rights, values common
to all the Member States.
For all courts enjoined with the critical function of upholding
the rule of law certain prerequisites apply, adherence to which
is, in the case of the CJEU, further complicated by the multi-national
nature of the EU. All courts ought to deal with matters before
them in a timely manner, with consistency, and their decisions
ought to be accessible to those subject to its jurisdiction. In
an EU of 27 Member States covering 500 million citizens, speaking
23 official languages, in simply fulfilling its role the CJEU
confronts unique difficulties. In being drawn from each individual
Member State, its judges come from 27 Member States, each with
its own legal system (or systems) and history, and together they
adjudicate and build a body of law applicable in those 27 states.
All this must be achieved in a way that is accessible to the Union's
citizens and regarded as legitimate.
5. 2010 marked a decade since the Due Report
looked at the future of the EU court structure (see Chapter 2),
five years since the largest round of enlargement in the EU's
history which brought with it the largest expansion in the EU's
judiciary and, potentially, its workload, and also the first anniversary
of the institutional structure introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.
Sufficient time has passed since all these events occurred to
permit an assessment of the impact of the last 10 years on the
6. The Committee's concern for the ability of
the CJEU in future to fulfil its central role is motivated on
the one hand by worrying statistics in the CJEU's own Annual Report,
for example an average duration of 33.1 months for some cases
in the General Court, and on the other by the potential impact
of the Lisbon Treaty on the CJEU's workload.
Against this background the Justice and Institutions Sub-Committee
(whose members are listed in Appendix 1) published a call for
evidence in July 2010 (see Appendix 2). The Call for Evidence
made it clear that the inquiry would not address the substance
of the Court's judgments.
7. The Committee took evidence from those listed
in Appendix 3. Three members of the Committee visited the CJEU
in Luxembourg (a note summarising the evidence taken on the visit
is in Appendix 4). We are grateful to all the witnesses. The Committee
would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of
the Court of Justice of the European Union and their staff for
making us so welcome when we visited the Court in Luxembourg.
8. We recommend this Report to the House for
1 Article 13, Treaty on the European Union (TEU). Back
Article 19(1) TEU. Back
The other institutions are: the European Parliament, the European
Council, the Council, the European Commission, the European Central
Bank and the Court of Auditors. Back
Article 13 TEU. Back
Q 125. Back
Article 2 TEU. Back
See this Committee's previous Reports: An EU Competition Court
(15th Report of Session 2006-07, HL 75) and The Treaty
of Lisbon: an impact assessment (10th Report of Session 2007-08,
HL 62). Back