EU court reports increase in workload
By Peter Teffer
Individuals and companies brought 974 new cases to the European Union's Court of Justice in 2016, compared to 831 new cases the year before.
Statistics released by the court on Friday (17 February) supported a claim from judge Marc Jaeger that the court's “workload is constantly increasing”.
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The institution consists of two courts.
The General Court, of which Jaeger is president, deals mostly with cases from individuals and companies.
A second court, called simply the Court of Justice, interprets EU law when requested by national judges.
In April 2016, Jaeger defended the decision made by member states to double the number of judges from 28 to 56.
The decision was not based on objective criteria of how many judges were needed, but rather a political solution to the issue that member states could not agree: every country wanted to nominated his or her judge.
When EUobserver pointed out that the number of new cases brought before the General Court in 2015 was 831, down from 912 in 2014, Jaeger said there is an increase when looking “not [at] 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.
Jaeger was correct
Friday's figures from the General Court proved him correct.
The average number of new cases in the General Court was 773 in 2012-2014; 844 in 2013-2015; and 905 in 2014-2016.
Meanwhile, in the Court of Justice, the number of new cases went down from 713 to 692.
Taking the three-year average, the figure was 651 for 2012-2014, 678 for 2013-2015, and 675 for 2014-2016.
The Court said 470 cases were requests from national courts for a preliminary ruling.
“This figure is a record in the history of the Court of Justice, and it reflects both the importance of the preliminary ruling procedure in developing EU law and the trust placed by national courts in this form of judicial cooperation with a view to the uniform interpretation and application of EU law,” it said in the press release.
It also said that the average duration of proceedings in cases for a preliminary ruling was 15 months, the "shortest duration recorded for more than 30 years".
The General Court completed 755 cases in 2016, down from 987, while the Court of Justice wrapped up 704 cases, up from 616.
A total of 2,358 cases were pending at the end of 2016.
Last year, Jaeger pointed to the increase in policy areas the European Union is involved in, like the Banking Union, and the Digital Single Market as the cause of the uptick.
“Any new field the European Union is entering, triggers more work,” he said.