EU lawmakers René Repasi (Socialists and Democrats) and Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) today submitted amendments to the reform of the EU Court of Justice Statute, aimed at opening proceedings before the EU’s highest court to more public debate and participation. Specifically the public, civil society and the media would be given a right to access documents, positions and arguments submitted in court proceedings, subject to some exeptions. Civil society organisations would also be allowed to submit „amicus curiae“ comments to the Court in procedures initiated by national courts.
Breyer explains: „In landmark cases with far-reaching implications, the public has a right to know and debate our governments’ and institutions’ positions. In a democracy and where press freedom reigns the powerful can be held accountable. Transparency builds trust in times of the EU and the Court experiencing a crisis of acceptance. In the same vein civil society representing general interests needs to have a say before landmark decisions are made.“
The European Court on Human Rights already grants public access to documents submitted to the court. Regarding the EU Court of Justice, however, insights can so far only be obtained indirectly by requesting the Commission to grant access to copies of documents it holds, with the Commission being very reluctant to do so.
The EU is currently in the process of revising the EU Court of Justice Statute. The overloaded Court of Justice proposes to delegate some proceedings to the General Court of first instance.
The EU Court of Justice decides on the interpretation and validity of European law, including its compliance with fundamental rights. Landmark court rulings have, for example, concerned communications data retention, upload filters, the right to be forgotten or the purchase of government bonds by the European Central Bank (“euro bailout”).
In light of the increasing non-application of Court of Justice rulings by some national courts for ‘ultra vires’ reasons, Breyer additionally proposes introducing a dialogue between the EU Court of Justice and national courts where needed.