Judicial Activism at the European Court of Justice
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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.
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Chapter 6: Actively talking to each other: the Court and the political institutions

Vassilis Hatzopoulos


By its very title, the discussion which follows in this chapter is bound to be controversial. Are political EU institutions supposed to give guidance to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU; the Court)? And, supposing that they do so, should the Court be responsive to such guidance? Although there is no clear answer to these preliminary, and yet fundamental, questions (Section 6.1), the contention of this paper is that the CJEU actively interacts with political institutions. While in some occasions the Court adjusts its positions to meet the express will of the other institutions (Section 6.4), in many other cases the Court actively furthers and fleshes out their decisions (Section 6.3). More controversially, there are many occasions where the Court acts as an instigator to political action (Section 6.2). A terminological clarification is necessary at this point: from the four ‘other institutions’ (i.e., the European Council, the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament) only the latter two possess legislative powers. The four are treated together, being the ‘political institutions’ which steer the EU and, broadly, share the legislative competence.

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