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 7: The European Court of Justice in the face of scientific uncertainty and complexity

Ellen Vos


Decision-makers often act in the face of scientific uncertainty and complex technical issues regarding matters ranging from competition law to environmental protection or food safety. At the same time, it is also true that scientific support for legislative and other measures increasingly gains in importance. In the field of EU food safety regulation, for instance, we may observe a ‘scientification’ process in view of the heavy reliance of the European Commission, and to a lesser extent the other institutions, on the role of science and the scientific advice delivered by the European Food Safety Authority. In this regulators tend to see and/or use science as an objective and neutral source to validate their decisions. The authority assigned to science by the law and decision-makers, indicated by Joerges as the ‘meta-legal authority of science’, can also be identified in the case law of the EU Courts. It does not come as a surprise that disputes on science-based measures not only involve legal questions but also touch upon the science underpinning the disputed measures. It is no secret that in such disputes, the EU courts, just like their colleague courts elsewhere, visibly struggle in dealing with the technicalities of such cases. These issues are at times so complex that the question arises how the EU Courts, and courts in general, can legitimately deal with such issues.

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