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Civil Society and Legitimate European Governance

Edited by Stijn Smismans

This book explores the concept of ‘civil society’, which over recent years has been revived and introduced into the institutional debate within the EU. Significantly, EU institutions themselves have made reference to civil society and, on an academic plane, it has been argued that the debate on the legitimacy of European governance should value the role of civil society organisations.
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Chapter 5: Group Litigation Before the European Court of Justice

Olivier De Schutter


Olivier De Schutter INTRODUCTION Three different kinds of arguments are traditionally put forward in favour of ‘associational’ or ‘organisational’ standing, implying the possibility for organisations to bring judicial proceedings for the safeguard of the values which they seek to defend. A first argument is based on the idea that certain illegal acts of the administration, or unconstitutional acts adopted by the legislator, risk being left unremedied if associations are not recognised a locus standi in order to seek their judicial review. This is the case, in particular, with respect to violations which concern large and diffuse interests, which no individual litigant would otherwise be under an incentive to challenge, or where no individual litigant may even have standing to sue, in systems where the admissibility of the action is made conditional upon a demonstration that the interest is sufficiently ‘individualized’, that is, specific to the individual applicant rather than common to an open category of persons of which the litigant is a member. We may call this the ‘rule of law’ rationale for the recognition of the locus standi of groups. It is this argument which has been predominant in the areas of environmental law and consumer law, precisely because of the diffuse character of the interests which these branches of law seek to protect.1 Here, the objective of recognising associational standing is to make it possible for organisations to act as ‘private Attorneys General’, to use the expression made famous by Judge Jerome Frank,2 in order to contribute...

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