Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Court of Justice defends doubling number of judges

  • One of the court's judges, Belgium's Franklin Dehousse, said doubling the judges amounted to “useless spending” (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The two top judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union on Tuesday (5 April) defended the decision by member states to double the number of judges in the General Court from 28 to 56, despite criticism that the move may be disproportionate to the workload.

Originally, the Luxembourg-based institution had suggested that the General Court should be enlarged by 12 members. But the EU's national governments were not able to agree on how to divide 12 jobs among 28 countries.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The General Court is one of the three courts that make up the Court of Justice of the European Union and deals mostly with cases from individuals and companies. The second, called simply the Court of Justice, interprets EU law when requested by national judges. The Civil Service Tribunal is specialised in disputes between EU staff and their employer.

Judge Marc Jaeger had been one of the strongest voices against the doubling of the number of judges. And while Jaeger acknowledged he had initially said “switching from 12 to 28 might not be the right solution”, on Tuesday he spoke “as president of the General Court, so my opinion is the official one”.

“The decision has been taken, so I am accepting it,” said Jaeger, president of the General Court.

'Useless spending'

One of the court's judges, Belgium's Franklin Dehousse, strongly criticised the decision, taken in December 2015, in a piece he wrote for a think-tank. Dehousse called the doubling “manifestly excessive” and said it amounted to “useless spending” - noting the total cost will be €22.9 million a year.

Jaeger spoke at a briefing with journalists in the court in Luxembourg, together with president of the Court of Justice Koen Lenaerts.

Both said that the strengthening of the court would help speed up the processing of cases.

Lenaerts noted that in 2015 the average duration for a competition case was 47 months.

“And that is average, which means that some of these cases take six years or even more. That is justice delayed, justice denied,” said Lenaerts.

Three stages

He explained that the reform would be done in three stages. This year, the General Court would be expanded with 12 new judges. Also this year, the Civil Service Tribunal would be dissolved, and its seven judges transferred to the General Court.

Finally, in 2019, another nine judges would be appointed.

“The first stage, 12, is obvious. The second stage, seven, is also obvious,” noted Lenaerts, pointing to the relatively low number of cases brought before the Civil Service Tribunal.

“There were years when there was very little work – which is a good thing, there were few civil servants complaining,” said Lenaerts.

The past five years, the number of cases brought before the tribunal annually was between 157 and 178.

“These judges are high-level colleagues, but they could not help out the General Court, which was overburdened,” he said.

“So the only difference in the end is that we have for 2019 these nine last judges, and that is indeed, a sort of view to the future.”

More work as EU deepens

He added that new policy themes the European Union has embraced, like the Banking Union, will lead to litigation in the General Court.

“Any new field the European Union is entering, triggers more work,” he said.

An additional justification Lenaerts gave, was that in “95 percent” of the cases, rulings were reached with three judges.

“That is too few. The general court will again have the possibility… to decide more cases, and especially more difficult cases, with five judges, or even with the grand chamber, that also exists in the General Court, but is rarely used because of the pressure of numbers,” he said.

In 2015, the number of new cases brought before the General Court was 831, down from 912 in 2014. The number of pending cases was 1,267, down from 1,423.

But Jaeger said: “Our workload is constantly increasing.”

He explained the increase by taking “not the annual figure, but the median of the three years”.

“Even if in some years you might have a reduction, but if you take a median of three years from the beginning on, it is increasing,” said Jaeger.

EU court reports increase in workload

Individuals and companies brought 974 new cases to the Court's General Court in 2016, compared to 831 new cases the year before.

Poland, Hungary push back at EU budget 'conditionality'

EU affairs ministers held their first discussion on the Commission's long-term post-Brexit budget plans - with cohesion and agriculture cuts, phasing put rebates, and the overall size emerging as major divisions.

Opinion

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  2. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  3. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  4. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  5. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of their advice to EU
  6. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  7. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  8. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight