The Court of Justice of the European Union was established in 1952, with a mission of uniform interpretation and application of the European Union law. The Court of Justice of the European Union has its seat in Luxemburg, and his organisation is regulated by the Treaty on European Union, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice.
The Court of Justice of the European Union consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court. The Treaty on European Union provides for the possibility of establishing other, specialised courts at European Union level.
The Court of Justice is composed of 28 judges, one from each Member State. They are assisted by the 11 Advocates General, who are responsible for presenting to the Court the expert assessment (“the opinion”) on the interpretation and application of the law, in the cases assigned to them, with complete impartiality and independence. The Court of Justice sits as a full court, in a Grand Chamber or in Chambers of three or five judges.
The Court of Justice has the jurisdiction in following cases:
- References for preliminary rulings - The proceedings are initiated by the national court when the question of the application of the European law is relevant for the settlement of the dispute before the national court in question. The national courts may submit questions to the Court about the interpretation or validity of a provision of European Union law. The national courts of lower instances may submit such questions, while the courts of final instance must submit them. The Court replies in the form of a judgment or reasoned order. The national court which submitted the question is bound by the interpretation given by the Court, and so are the other national courts dealing with the same issue. In this manner, the uniformity of the application of the European Union law is secured. These proceedings are very important in practice, and it is precisely in this type of proceedings that the European Court of Justice has developed some of the fundamental principles of the European Union law.
- Action against Member State for failure to fulfil obligation - Following the action by the Commission or a Member State, the Court decides whether a certain Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation arising from the European Union law. In the preliminary procedure, before the action is submitted to the Court, the Commission gives the opportunity to the Member State to respond to the complaints addressed to it. If the Commission is not satisfied with the reply, it brings an action before the Court of Justice. It may propose to the Court to impose a penalty against the Member State. If the failure to fulfil the obligation is found, the Member State in question is expected to take all necessary measures to bring the failure to an end.
- Action for annulment - The Court has the authority to annul the act of an institution of the European Union which is unlawful under the European Union law. The action can be brought before the Court by one or more Member States or by another EU institution. If the Court finds that the act is unlawful, the institution in question is required to take all the necessary measures to act in accordance with the judgment of the Court.
- Action for failure to act - The proceedings can be initiated for failure of an EU institution, body, office or agency to act, in case where the obligation to act existed under the EU law. The action can be brought before the Court by one or more Member States or by another EU institution.
- Appeals - The Court decides upon appeals against the judgments and orders of the General Court. The appeals must refer only to the questions of law and not to questions of facts.
The General Court (former Court of First Instance) is composed of at least one judge from each Member State. Today the General Court has 46 judges. The General Court does not have the Advocates General, however it may decide to assign the task of an Advocate General to the one of the judges. The General Court sits in Chambers of three or five judges, exceptionally in full.
The General Court has jurisdiction in following cases:
- actions for annulment against acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the European Union brought by legal of natural persons to which the challenged act is addressed to;
- actions brought by the Member States for annulment of the acts of the Council relating to the field of State aid, trade protection measures (dumping) and acts by which it exercises implementing powers;
- actions for compensation of damages caused by the institutions or the bodies, offices or agencies of the European Union or their staff;
- actions relating to intellectual property;
- disputes between the institutions of the European Union and their staff.
Useful information on the European Court of Justice may be found on following links: