Judicial Activism at the European Court of Justice

Judicial Activism at the European Court of Justice

Edited by Mark Dawson, Bruno De Witte and Elise Muir

Detailed chapters from academics, practitioners and stakeholders bring diverse perspectives on a range of factors – from access rules to institutional design and to substantive functions – influencing the European Court’s political role. Each of the contributing authors invites the reader to approach the debate on the role of the Court in terms of a constantly evolving set of interactions between the EU judiciary, the European and national political spheres, as well as a multitude of other actors vested in competing legitimacy claims. The book questions the political role of the Court as much as it stresses the opportunities – and corresponding responsibilities – that the Court’s case law offers to independent observers, political institutions and civil society organisations.

Chapter 11: The potential of civil society and human rights organizations through third-party interventions before the European Courts: the EU’s area of freedom, security and justice

Sergio Carrera and Bilyana Petkova

Subjects: law - academic, european law


This chapter examines the present role and the potential for future involvement of civil society and human rights organizations in the new judicial accountability and fundamental rights landscape characterizing the European Union’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ) after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. We focus our assessment on existing paths and opportunities for these actors to have access to the European Courts in providing evidence and legal expertise on fundamental rights cases through so-called ‘third party submissions’, i.e. as ‘intervening parties’. To flesh out these issues we rely on examples falling within the scope of a relatively new and complex domain of European law such as the AFSJ, and in particular on asylum and external border control law. Our main argument is that civil society, represented by the non-governmental sector (NGOs), as well as human rights-oriented organizations, might substantively facilitate effective judicial protection and foster the practical delivery of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to vulnerable groups such as refugees and asylum seekers. Access to effective remedies for these individuals in cases of alleged fundamental rights violations has proved to be difficult due to lack of information and an ‘accountability gap’ affecting the ways in which EU asylum, immigration and external borders law are being implemented by the set of national authorities and European agencies involved in migration and border control.

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