Reform split in two, extra judges issue postponed until next year
By Gaspard Sebag in Strasbourg | Thursday 05 July 2012
Grudgingly, the European Parliament’s plenary split the reform of the EU Court of Justice’s (ECJ) statute in two, on 5 July. Seeing as the politically sensitive request for 12 more judges for the General Court - which would disrupt the balance of one judge per member state - has hit a brick wall, the EP separated this demand from other non-controversial modifications, such as creating the posts of vice-presidents.
To cope with an increased workload, mainly due the enlargements, the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the sizeable backlog of pending cases, ECJ President Vassilios Skouris requested, in June 2011, that the total number of judges in the General Court be increased from 27 to 39. Parliament supports this request. Nevertheless, no agreement can be found amongst member states on the method to decide upon their nationality. According to a diplomat, normally such issues can only be solved in the framework of a bigger package, such as a treaty change.
The EP’s rapporteur, Alexandra Thein (ALDE, Germany), blamed “individual national vanities of member states”. Cyprus’ Deputy Minister to the President for European Affairs Andreas Mavroyiannis recognises that further work will be needed. “Both our institutions are ready to work to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to address this issue by September 2013,” he said.
Parliament green-lighted several non-controversial changes, such as the creation of vice-president posts for both the General Court and the Court of Justice, allowing the presidents of the five-judge chambers not to participate in the cases sent to the large chamber and increasing the number of judges who can participate in the work of the large chamber from 13 to 15. To cover for prolonged sickness absences in the Civil Service Tribunal, MEPs agree that interim judges can be appointed to the specialised tribunals. n