Edited by Mark Dawson, Bruno De Witte and Elise Muir
Chapter 1: Introduction: the European Court of Justice as a political actor
The context within which this volume was developed is the rise, in the last years, of concerns among national authorities and judiciaries, and within European civil society, about alleged judicial activism at the European Court of Justice. The subject of judicial activism has become a fashionable topic of academic commentary once again. This volume does not take sides in this debate, in the sense that it does not seek to offer a simple answer to the question of whether the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is indeed an activist court. Indeed, a simple answer would be misleading when the question itself is underdetermined. Arguing that a court is activist may indeed mean many different things. We do, however, assume that the Court of Justice is (also) a political actor. It is sometimes claimed by judges of the ECJ that their institution cannot be a political actor for the simple reason that it is a passive institution which has to wait and see which cases will come its way, and which then will try to solve those cases as best it can, without the capacity to steer the evolution of EU law on the basis of political priorities. Although one can understand why members of the Court should claim such a politically neutral status, that claim is not very plausible.