The Justice and Institutions Sub-Committee, as it was then known, published its report The Workload of the Court of Justice of the European Union in April 2011. Since then, following debates and votes in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons in July, three proposals aimed at improving the efficiency of the Court have been scrutinised by the Sub-Committee and adopted. However, Members States failed to reach agreement on the most significant reform: the increase to the number of judges in the General Court
The Member States set up a Friends of the Presidency Group to discuss reform of the General Court, including increasing the General Court’s judiciary, and a report was expected by the end of December 2012. In the event, the Friends of the Presidency Group did not produce a report. Instead, a proposal was put forward by the Presidency whereby nine extra judges would be appointed to the General Court with a system of designation based on two parallel systems of rotation. The six larger member states would designate four additional judges, each designating a judge for two successive mandates, while all the other member states would designate five extra judges, each designating a judge for a single mandate.
This proposal was considered at the General Affairs Council on 11 December 2012. However, the Council was unable to agree this proposal. Negotiations on the appointment of extra judges are not expected to resume until new rules of procedure for the General Court have been adopted. Proposals for these new rules of procedure have not yet put forward.
Follow up inquiry
The Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection Sub-Committee, as it is now known, has repeatedly stated in correspondence with the Government that the continued inability by Member States to reach agreement to increase the number of judges in the General Court is leading to significant delays in that court and has severe implications in terms of bringing the institution into disrepute whilst undermining its legitimacy.
The Sub-Committee has contacted the original witnesses to the inquiry to seek their views on these latest developments. In particular, we have invited them to respond to the following questions:
Court of Justice
- The Sub-Committee concluded in 2011 that the Lisbon Treaty would impact negatively on the workload of the Court of Justice, in particular the expansion of its jurisdiction into justice and home affairs matters. Has this been the case?
- Do you think that the three legislative proposals that have been adopted already will have a significant impact on the workload of the Court of Justice?
- It was also recommended that the number of Advocates General should increase as soon as possible in order to increase the speed with which cases can be dealt with and to improve the quality of decision-making. This suggestion was not included in the proposed amendment to the Court’s Statute. Do you think there is still a case for increasing the number of Advocates General?
- The Sub-Committee recommended increasing the General Court’s judiciary by one third. Do you think this is still necessary in order for the General Court to better deal with its workload? Has the case for this change become more urgent since 2011?
- At present there is one judge per Member State. How would any additional judges be appointed?
- What is your view of the continued inability by the Member States to reach agreement on increasing the number of judges in the General Court?
It is expected that the Sub-Committee will take oral evidence from the Minister for Europe in early March and a report will be published in April.