Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Reforming the EU General Court

with 2 comments

Last week, the European Commission adopted a formal position on the reform of EU Courts. The document refers to both the ECJ and the General Court, but for the moment we will focus on the latter as the main subject of the proposed reform.

The Commission´s position advocates for the appointment of 12 new Judges to the General Court (which would make a total of 39) as well as for the creation of at least two new specialised chambers (one of which would most likely be devoted to competition cases). These reforms are aimed at addressing the enormous workload that the General Court currently faces (with over 600 new cases registered every year and ever growing delays).

The Commission´s proposal -which to a great extent endorses that of the President of the ECJ, Mr. Skouris- has now been circulated to the Parliament and to the Council.

Unsurprisingly, the most contentious issue that has arisen in the context of the ongoing discussions between Member States relates to the designation and nationalities of the new Judges. As you know, the method for the designation of Judges falls entirely upon Member State, which have always acted on the basis of informal consensus. The Commission, fully aware of the fact that abandoning the principle of equal representation would be tough to swallow for some Member States, has attempted to tackle the issue by proposing two alternative methods of designation (see recitals 42-50 of the document that appears in the link above). In our view, the merits of the candidates should weigh much more than their nationality, and therefore the second option proposed by the Commission appears to be preferrable.

We feel nonetheless, that several important issues remain unaddressed:

First, whereas the nationality of the Judges may certainly be important, there is another very relevant nationality factor at the General Court that has so far gone unnoticed.

What would you say is the percentage of French référendaires (clerks) at the General Court?   Under a system of equal representation, the answer should be approximately 4%. In real life, that number is however…..40%!

We know some truly excellent French référendaires, and of course French is the working language at the Courts, but, as a mater of principle, when it comes to judging shouldn´t quality and credentials matter more than language abilities? (I´m using “we”, but maybe Nico, being a froggy French citizen sees things differentlly…) 😉

Secondly, there is nothing the Commission can do about designations of candidates at the national level. The Committee envisaged in Art. 255 TFEU has certainly helped by acting as minimum filter in the most flagrant cases. Nonetheless, some Member States may still be tempted by the possibility of appointing candidates on grounds other than those strictly technical (although the second option proposed by the Commission has the virtue of perhaps shifting those incentives).

In our view, Member States should ideally follow the Dutch example (we believe that other Member States are already doing it). They arranged a merit-based competition and eventually appointed two outstanding Judges such as Sacha Prechal (ECJ) and Marc van der Woude (GC).

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

12 October 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Case-Law, Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Brilliant! I fully agree.

    Zenaida de la Plaza

    12 October 2011 at 11:48 pm

  2. Let’s have a merit-based selection at the EU level. There are many excellent judges, but quite a few not so good ones. Appointed additional not-so-good ones won’t help clear the backlog. Many good candidates are repelled by the selection process which is most MS is entirely political. Let’s go Dutch 😉

    Damien Geradin

    13 October 2011 at 9:30 am

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