In future, the European Court of Justice will proactively and systematically publish the letters and arguments submitted by the parties to proceedings on its website after a judgement has been delivered. An exception applies if the author of pleadings objects, but in this case there is a right to access the information via the EU Commission upon request. This is the result of the negotiations on the reform of the CJEU Statute between the EU Parliament and the EU Council, in which Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer was involved. The new transparency rule applies to all questions referred to the ECJ by national courts (“preliminary ruling procedures”). Following the initiative of Breyer, who is himself a judge by profession, the European Parliament had called for public access to the pleadings and arguments exchanged in court proceedings.
“With the systematic publication of submissions and arguments, the European Court of Justice is becoming more transparent than ever before. This also sets standards for the national judiciaries. It is a privilege that I, as a member of the Pirate Party, was able to introduce our core value of transparency into the negotiations and successfully implemented it thanks to the support of my colleagues. Pressure from civil society also helped.
After landmark judgements with far-reaching consequences, the public has a right to know and discuss the positions our governments and institutions advocated for. I am sure we will be surprised by some of the positions our own governments take. In a democracy where freedom of the press reigns, it must be possible to hold the powerful accountable for their behaviour in court. At a time when the EU and its Court of Justice are facing a crisis of confidence, transparency creates trust.
Of course, the new transparency rule with its restrictions and reservations does not yet fully meet our expectations. In particular, we will be keeping a close eye on whether member states with deep-rooted secrecy culture will systematically abuse their right to object to publication. Nevertheless, the introduction of the principle of proactive transparency in the EU judiciary is a milestone and a paradigm shift.”