Tuesday

19th Jun 2018

EU court reforms damaged system, judge says

  • The ECJ. Doubling the number of judges is "a great example of a purely mechanical vision of public service reform" (Photo: katarina_dzurekova)

Last year's reform of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) weakened the court's efficiency, led to "useless spending" and dealt a blow to the court's independence, a judge has said in a report.

The reform saw the doubling of the court's judges to 28, one from each member state, in a move that was disputed by MEPs and judges within the ECJ including Belgium's Franklin Dehousse.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

In a report co-written with Benedetta Marsicola, an ECJ lawyer and published by the Egmont - Royal Institute for International Relations, Dehousse said that the reform was "a great example of a purely mechanical vision of public service reform".

A judge and academic, Dehousse has been an ECJ judge since 2003. He is also a regular contributor to the Egmont think-tank, where he published a first paper on EU court reform in 2011.

While the ECJ's general court would become "the largest international court in the world", doubling the number of judges was "manifestly excessive", he said.

"In general, the benefits of such an approach are strongly overestimated, and its costs strongly underestimated," he wrote.

He said the reform would cost €22.9 million a year, an increase of 6.6 percent of the court's budget "and 0.34 percent of the entire EU budget".

Dehousse said "more important improvements could still have be obtained through new limited and targeted increases of personnel".

"The weakness of this 'reform' is that it creates too many top jobs while at the same time promising to reduce the second and third tier of personnel in the cabinets,” he wrote.

“Judges risk ending up in fact being paid highly to perform tasks that could be as easily (and less expensively) performed by less qualified personnel.

"This is hardly an efficient – or an economical – strategy."

'Relentless' micromanagement

Although the reform was pushed by former ECJ president Vassilios Skouris, judge Dehousse blames EU countries that agreed out of national interest and weakened the court's independence.

"Equality of the member states in the appointment of judges has become the keystone of the system, the independent appointment process for the nomination of judges having been abolished," Dehousse wrote.

The European Commission is also criticised for "relentlessly" trying to "micromanage some aspects of the general court’s organisation" and for rubber-stamping Skourios' proposal to double the number of judges.

"A proposal emerges out of the blue, with important constitutional and managerial impacts and vital consequences for the appointment of judges and personnel,” he noted.

“It is strongly supported by people who have no direct experience in the matter, without the benefit of any external consultation, beginning with the court in question, and without conducting any impact assessment.”

He added that "one might have thought the commission would know better in that domain".

Overall, Dehousse said the reform of the main EU court was introduced "without any substantive analysis of the long term implications for any of the four institutions involved in the legislative process".

'Exorbitant prerogative'

The judge also pointed out that the reform was done through a legislative process introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which gives the ECJ more powers in the elaboration of its own status.

This "very exceptional" situation leads to an "accumulation of power" with no equivalent in the member states, Dehousee noted.

"Serious consideration ought to be given to the withdrawal of this exorbitant prerogative. Should it be retained, its exercise must be subject to specific constraint," he wrote.

The approach followed for the EU courts is not to be recommended for the future, Dehousse said in the conclusion of his report.

"One can only hope that, in the next decades, all of the EU institutions involved will pay more attention to the long term benefits of productivity measures (and specialised courts) – thereby fully respecting the quality of justice, recruitment of staff, productivity of judges and, finally, the not unreasonable expectation that public funds should be put to use only after the most careful consideration," he wrote.

Investigation

UK unlawfully copying data from EU police system

The British government is abusing EU travel security systems, making and using illegal copies of outdated information, and putting innocent people at risk of being red-flagged.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us