The Role of the European Court of Justice in European integration: Continuity and Change

Author

Koen Lenaerts*

A. Introduction

 

Despite the difficult challenges that the European Union is currently facing, such as those brought about by the refugee crisis, the fight against international terrorism, and Brexit, the European Union has been, overall, a success story.

 

One must not forget that the primary objective of the EU is to ensure peace and prosperity in Europe by upholding and promoting the values of respect for democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The award of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union bore witness to that objective, whilst reminding us that the future of European integration must focus on what is truly important. As the Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’) states, ‘[t]he peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, [must remain] resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values’. Therefore, the EU is and will continue to be, first and foremost, a Union of democracies, a Union of rights and a Union of justice.

 

When examining the last 60 years, two different, albeit complementary, dynamics have governed the European integration project, namely that of strengthening and that of widening. This article will explain what those two dynamics have entailed and how the role played by the European Court of Justice (the ‘ECJ’) in European integration has evolved over that time.

 

B. Two different dynamics of European integration

 

I. The strengthening of the European Union’s foundational values

 

The ‘deepening’ of European integration means that the EU has consistently striven to strengthen the values on which it is founded. The EU has become more democratic, the fundamental rights discourse of the EU has been strengthened and the rule of law within the EU has been upheld both internally and externally.

 

1. Democracy

 

The EU has become more democratic. First, with every reform of the Treaties, the European Parliament has progressively gained power. A few exceptions notwithstanding, that EU institution now stands on an equal footing with the Council when it comes to exercising the legislative power of the EU. This is a positive development since the European Parliament embodies representative democracy at EU level. Moreover, the EU system of governance also allows room for direct democracy. As the ECJ held in Anagnostakis v Commission,[1] the European Citizen’s Initiative allows EU citizens to participate in the democratic life of the Union.

 

Second, since the adoption of the Treaty of Maastricht, nationals of the EU Member States are no longer seen as ‘factors of production’ that cross borders, but as holders of individual rights the exercise of which is no longer made conditional upon being economically active. In that regard, the ECJ has ruled time and time that ‘citizenship of the Union is intended to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States’. EU citizens have thus the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, the right to vote and to stand as candidate in European and local elections, the right to diplomatic and consular protection, the right to petition the European Parliament, the right to apply to the European Ombudsman, and the right to address the EU institutions and advisory bodies in any of the Treaty languages and to obtain a reply in the same language.

 

Third and last, EU governance has become more transparent so as to enable EU citizens to participate more closely in the EU decision-making process and to guarantee that the EU enjoys greater legitimacy and is more effective and more accountable to EU citizens. The well-developed case law of the ECJ on access to documents illustrates this point.

 

2. Fundamental rights

 

Fundamental rights have entered centre stage in European integration. Whilst it is true that at the beginning, the Treaties did not mention fundamental rights, the ECJ drew on the constitutional traditions common to the Member States to rule that fundamental rights are embedded in the EU constitutional fabric as general principles of EU law, understood as judge-made principles that enjoy constitutional status.

 

Accordingly, EU regulations, directives or decisions that fail to comply with EU fundamental rights are to be annulled or declared invalid. Similarly, national measures that implement EU law but fail to comply with EU fundamental rights are to be set aside. With the adoption of the Treaty of Maastricht, that case law found its way into the Treaties.

 

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Charter enjoys the same legal value as the Treaties. The EU has now its own catalogue of fundamental rights. This is a very positive development that has given the Charter more visibility. Suffice it to look at the case law of the ECJ in recent years. For example, in 2016, the Charter is mentioned in 94 judgments and orders. This is more than 10% of the ECJ’s case law.

 

In addition to those Treaty amendments, the EU has also passed legislation that focuses specifically on the protection of fundamental rights. For example, the EU has adopted several measures that aim to facilitate the cross-border movement of personal data whilst ensuring a high level of protection of the fundamental right to privacy, a right enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter. In so doing, the EU political institutions must strike the right balance between that fundamental right and opposing public interests that relate, for example, to the protection of public security. If those EU institutions fail to do so, cases such as Digital Rights and Schrems demonstrate that the ECJ will not hesitate to annul or declare invalid an EU measure that imposes an unlawful limitation on the exercise of the fundamental right to privacy.

 

In the same way, the EU is not confined to fighting discrimination based on nationality in the context of the internal market. On the one hand, since the 1970s, the EU has adopted directives that seek to combat discrimination based on sex in the work place. On the other hand, since the adoption of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the EU may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. For example, in the Chez Bulgaria case,[2] the ECJ was called upon to interpret Directive 2000/43, which implements the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin and applies to the supply of good and services, such as the supply of electricity. Between 1999 and 2000, CHEZ RB, an electricity company, installed the electricity meters for all the consumers living in Gizdova mahala – a district of the town of Dupnitsa – on the concrete pylons of the overhead electricity supply network, at a height of between six and seven metres. That district is inhabited mainly by persons of Roma origin. However, in the other districts of the town (where Roma are not present in such great numbers), the meters installed by CHEZ RB are placed at a height of 1.70 metres, usually inside the consumer’s property or on the façade or the wall around the property. According to CHEZ RB, that difference in treatment is justified by the increased frequency of tampering with and damage to meters and by the numerous unlawful connections to the network in the district concerned.

 

However, the owner of a grocery shop, Ms Nikolova, lodged a complaint that the installation of the meters in an accessible location was due to the fact that most of the inhabitants of the district at issue were of Roma origin. Despite not being of Roma origin herself, she considered that she too was suffering discrimination because of this practice. In particular, she argued that she was unable to check her electricity meter for the purpose of monitoring her consumption and making sure that the bills sent to her, which in her view overcharged her, were correct.

 

Suffice it to say that the ECJ ruled that the principle of equal treatment applies not only to persons who have a certain ethnic origin, but also to those who although not themselves a member of the ethnic group concerned, suffer, together with the former, less favourable treatment or a particular disadvantage on account of a discriminatory measure. Thus, in practical terms, this meant that Ms Nikolova had standing to challenge the behaviour of CHEZ RB, which the ECJ found that it could give rise to direct or indirect discrimination depending on a number of factors that were for the Bulgarian court to examine.

 

3. Rule of law

 

The rule of law within the EU has been strengthened, both internally and externally. Internally, all EU acts that produce legal effect vis-à-vis third parties are subject to judicial review. As the ECJ ruled in the seminal Les Verts and E and F. cases,[3] ‘the European Union is based on the rule of law and the acts of its institutions are subject to review by the Court of their compatibility with EU law and, in particular, with the [Treaties] and the [Charter]’.

 

With the exception of the CFSP, the EU courts enjoy jurisdiction in all areas where the Treaties apply. However, the Treaty of Lisbon brought ‘two exceptions to the CFSP exception’. First, EU courts are empowered to monitor the dividing line between the CFSP and other areas of EU law, so as to prevent CFSP measures from encroaching upon those other areas of EU law, and vice versa. Second, EU courts enjoy jurisdiction to review the legality of CFSP decisions providing for restrictive measures against natural or legal persons. Those restrictive measures have included, for example, the freezing of assets of and the imposition of travelling bans on persons linked to terrorist activities or to governments that commit acts of repression against their own people.

 

In that regard, the ECJ has recently ruled in the H. v Council and Others and Rosneft cases that the principle of effective judicial protection implies that ‘the exclusion of the [EU Courts’] jurisdiction in the field of the CFSP should be interpreted strictly’.[4] In the Rosneft case, this meant, in essence, that judicial review of CFSP restrictive measures may be carried out by means of an action for annulment and, where appropriate, of a preliminary reference of validity.

 

Furthermore, the need to comply with the rule of law within the EU also applies to national measures that fall within the scope of EU law. A national provision, even if it is set out in the national constitution, that conflicts with EU law must be set aside.

 

Externally, it follows from the Kadi I and II judgments that no public international law obligation may be incorporated into the constitutional fabric of the EU if compliance with that international obligation entails a violation of fundamental rights as recognised in the Charter. In the same way, it follows from Opinions 1/09 and 2/13 that the EU may not enter into an international agreement the effects of which would be to disturb the judicial dialogue between the ECJ and national courts.[5] That dialogue takes place by means of the preliminary reference procedure, which is the keystone of the EU judicial system.

 

II. Widening the scope of European integration

 

As to the second dynamic, the scope of European integration has become wider and wider, both in terms of the number of actors involved in the EU decision-making process and in terms of the subject matters over which the EU enjoys legislative and regulatory powers.

 

The EU has undergone seven enlargements. Those enlargements have been very positive because they have contributed to uniting the European continent. For example, the enlargements of 2004, 2007, and 2013 erased the East and West divide. They have also contributed to giving new impetus to the founding values of the EU since, having being deprived of the liberties and freedoms of liberal democracies for most of the last century, their citizens are actively committed to defending those values. From a judge and scholar’s perspective, those enlargements have also enriched the legal culture of the EU. They have enabled the ECJ to become acquainted with the laws and courts of those Member States, giving new opportunities for the ECJ to apply the comparative law method.

 

The EU institutional framework has also become wider given that it has witnessed significant change as a result of the proliferation of EU agencies. Whilst most of those agencies have been entrusted with the task of collecting and disseminating information, some agencies have been given decision-making powers. Agencies are necessary because their superior expertise may contribute to solving technical, scientific and complex challenges with which the EU is confronted. However, the ECJ has held that the creation of agencies may not operate as a way for the EU political institutions to forego the responsibilities with which the Treaties entrust them. This means, in essence, that the EU institutions may only delegate powers to an agency where that delegation involves clearly-defined executive powers whose exercise can be subject to strict review in the light of objective criteria determined by the delegating authority.

 

Most importantly, the European integration project is no longer confined to economic and commercial matters relating to the establishment and functioning of the internal market. That project has evolved with the adoption of successive Treaty reforms so that the Union may now exercise its powers over areas of activity which had traditionally been reserved to the nation-State. As Title V of Part III of the TFEU shows, matters such as criminal law or family law are no longer the exclusive preserve of the Member States. Through the adoption of regulations or directives in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (the ‘AFSJ’), the EU legislator now takes policy decisions that are likely to affect the everyday lives of European citizens.

 

C. The Court of Justice between Continuity and Change

 

Logically, the question that arises is how those two dynamics have, over the last six decades, shaped the role that the ECJ is called upon to play within the EU legal order. In that regard, the role of the ECJ has been subject to ‘continuity and change’. This point will be illustrated by looking at recent developments in the case law of the ECJ in the AFSJ.

 

I. Judicial continuity

 

On the one hand, it is important to stress ‘continuity’ because since its creation, the role of the ECJ has always been to uphold the rule of law within the EU, fundamental rights being part and parcel of that rule of law.

 

Moreover, just like any court in a democratic society, the ECJ has never had a political agenda. It has limited itself to upholding the rights that the Treaties bestow upon individuals, whilst never crossing the dividing line between law and politics. The ECJ has always operated as a check on the EU political process: since the functioning of the EU is founded on the principle of representative democracy, it is for the EU political institutions to make policy choices, and it is for the ECJ to verify whether those choices comply with the Treaties and the Charter. However, it is not for the ECJ to evaluate whether a policy decision will give rise or has given rise to good or bad results, since that evaluation is a responsibility that lies ultimately with the European citizens when they cast their votes.

 

For example, in Joined Cases Slovakia and Hungary v Council,[6] those two Member States challenged a decision adopted by the Council that sought to help Italy and Greece deal with the sudden massive inflow of migrants that took place in the summer of 2015. The idea was to relieve the significant pressure on the Greek and Italian asylum systems. To that end, the Council adopted such a decision which provided for the mandatory relocation from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States, over a period of two years, of 120 000 persons in clear need of international protection.

 

Slovakia and Hungary, which, along with the Czech Republic and Rumania, had voted against the adoption of that decision, sought its annulment on the grounds that it was vitiated by errors of a procedural nature or arising from the choice of an inappropriate legal basis. They also posited that the decision was neither a suitable response to the migrant crisis nor necessary for that purpose. However, the ECJ dismissed their applications.

 

For present purposes, this contribution focusses on the arguments put forward by Slovakia that called into question the suitability and necessity of the contested decision. As to the suitability of the decision, Slovakia argued, first, that the contested decision was not appropriate for attaining the objective it pursued because the relocation mechanism at issue was not capable of redressing the structural deficiencies in the Greek and Italian asylum systems. Second, the small number of relocations that had been carried out showed that, ever since its adoption, the relocation mechanism set up by the contested decision had been inappropriate for attaining the intended objective.

 

The ECJ took, however, a different view. At the outset, it recalled that the legality of a measure adopted in areas which entail choices on the part of the EU political institutions of a political and/or complex nature can be affected only if the measure is manifestly inappropriate having regard to the objective which those institutions are seeking to pursue. In that regard, the ECJ found that the relocation mechanism at issue was not manifestly inappropriate for working towards the objective of helping Greece and Italy to cope with such a massive influx of migrants.

 

First, any asylum system would have been seriously disrupted by the unprecedented influx of migrants that occurred in Greece and Italy in 2015. Second, the relocation mechanism was part of a broad array of measures – such as the provision of operational and financial support – that sought to improve the capacity, quality and effectiveness of the Greek and Italian asylum systems. The contested decision also obliged those two Member States to establish a solid and strategic framework that would provide structural solutions to address exceptional pressures on their asylum and migration systems. Third and last, the ECJ noted that judicial review of the contested decision could not amount to a retrospective assessment of its effectiveness. In other words, the ECJ would be overstepping the limits of its jurisdiction if it were to decide the legality of the contested decision in the light of current events. On the contrary, judicial review must be limited to examining whether the prospective analysis carried out by the Council was manifestly incorrect in the light of the information available at the time when the contested decision was adopted. This was not the case since the analysis of the Council relied on a detailed examination of the statistical data available at that time. In addition, the ECJ observed that the small number of relocations so far carried out pursuant to the contested decision could be explained by a series of factors that the Council could not have foreseen at the time when the decision was adopted, including, in particular, the lack of cooperation on the part of certain Member States.

 

As to the necessity of the decision in question, Slovakia argued that the objective pursued by means of the contested decision could have been achieved just as effectively by other measures that were less intrusive on national sovereignty.

 

Just as it did when examining the suitability of the contested decision, the ECJ began its reasoning by pointing out that judicial scrutiny should be limited to finding a manifest error of assessment in the light of the information available to the Council at the time when the contested decision was adopted. According to the ECJ, Slovakia had produced nothing concrete to show that the alternative measures it put forward –– such as increasing the resources, in particular of a technical and financial nature, made available to Greece and Italy –– were less intrusive or would clearly involve lower costs than a temporary relocation mechanism.

 

Furthermore, there is ‘continuity’ in the role of the ECJ in that that court has always exercised its jurisdiction in keeping with the vertical and horizontal allocation of powers sought by the authors of the Treaties. The ECJ is precluded from delivering judgments the effects of which would be to encroach upon the prerogatives of the EU legislator or the competences retained by the Member States. The recent judgment of the ECJ in the X and X case illustrates this point.[7]

 

The facts of that case showed the catastrophic situation that the war in Syria had brought about. It involved a Christian-orthodox family living or, rather, surviving in the then besieged (now destroyed) city of Aleppo that submitted applications for visas with limited territorial validity at the Belgian Embassy in Beirut. The purpose of the applications was to enable them to leave Aleppo in order to apply for asylum in Belgium immediately upon arrival. As a result of the Belgian diplomatic authorities rejecting their application, the applicants brought legal proceedings before the referring court.

 

The type of visas that the applicants applied for was set out in the EU Visa Code. It is important to note that that Code only applies to short-term visas, i.e. visas issued for stays not exceeding 90 days in any 180-day period. Regarding visas with limited territorial validity, the relevant provision of the EU Visa Code states that they may be issued ‘when the Member State concerned considers it necessary on humanitarian grounds, for reasons of national interest or because of international obligations’. The applicants interpreted that provision of the EU Visa Code as imposing a positive obligation on the Belgian diplomatic authorities to issue them such visas on humanitarian grounds, since the delivery of those visas was the only way to avoid any risk that the right to asylum, enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter, and the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment, enshrined in Article 3 ECHR and Article 4 of the Charter, would be infringed.

 

The ECJ took, however, a different view. Since it was clear that the applicants in the main proceedings submitted applications for visas with a view to applying for asylum in Belgium immediately upon their arrival in that Member State and, thereafter, to being granted a residence permit with a period of validity not limited to 90 days, the ECJ held that the EU Visa Code did not apply to the case at hand. In that regard, the ECJ pointed out that the EU had only exercised its competence to harmonise the proceedings and conditions for issuing short-term visas, meaning that applications for long-term visas and resident permits to third-country nationals on humanitarian grounds remained governed by national law.

 

The ECJ put forward two additional findings militating in favour of that reading of the EU Visa Code. First, allowing third-country nationals to apply for visas on the basis of that Code in order to obtain international protection in the Member States would undermine the general structure of the system set out in the Dublin III Regulation. In other words, it would enable those third-country nationals to pick and choose the Member State in which they desire to obtain international protection, since the Dublin III Regulation provides that the Member State that issued the visa is the Member State responsible for examining the asylum application of the visa holder. Second, as EU law stands at the moment, no legal obligation is imposed on the Member States to examine applications for international protection outside their own territories.

 

Finally, there is continuity because the ECJ has always given impetus to the idea that the EU judicial power does not rest in the hands of the EU courts alone, but it is shared with the national courts. It is for the ECJ to interpret the law of the EU, and it is for the national courts to apply that law to the case at hand. The principles underpinning the dialogue between the ECJ and national courts has not changed with the passing of time, if anything they have been clarified and strengthened by the case law of the ECJ. To that end, Bulgarian courts have contributed to such clarification and strengthening.

 

For example, in Elchinov,[8] the ECJ ruled that EU law precludes a national court which is called upon to decide a case referred back to it by a higher court hearing an appeal from being bound, in accordance with national procedural law, by legal rulings of the higher court, if it considers, having regard to the interpretation which it has sought from the ECJ, that those rulings are inconsistent with EU law.

 

More recently, in Ognyanov,[9] the ECJ was asked to examine a Bulgarian provision that obliged the referring court to disqualify itself from a pending case, on the ground that it set out, in its request for a preliminary ruling, the factual and legal context of that case. The rationale underpinning that provision was that the referring court was expressing a provisional opinion on questions of fact and law before deliberations had begun, which entailed not only that the judge was removed from the case and his final judgment set aside, but also that an action for damages could be brought against him for compensation in respect of a disciplinary offence.

 

The ECJ ruled that such a provision constituted an obstacle to the proper functioning of the preliminary reference procedure. How could the ECJ provide a useful answer to the referring court without knowing the factual and legal background of the case in the main proceedings? In that regard, the ECJ held that the presentation of the relevant factual and legal context of the main proceedings by the referring court is a response to the requirement of cooperation that is inherent in the preliminary reference mechanism and cannot, in itself, be a breach of either the right to a fair trial or the right to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Charter. Furthermore, it recalled that the choice of the most appropriate time to refer a question for a preliminary ruling lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the referring court. Accordingly, whilst the referring court is to give full effect to the interpretation of EU law provided by the ECJ, no provision of EU law prohibits the referring court from altering, after the delivery of the preliminary ruling, its findings in respect of the relevant factual and legal context. Thus, by virtue of EU law, the referring court was both empowered and required to set aside that conflicting provision of Bulgarian law.

 

To sum-up, the ECJ has always operated as the guardian of the values of respect for democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law on which the EU is founded.

 

II. Promoting societal change

 

On the other hand, in areas of law where the Member States have transferred new competences to the EU, the ECJ has had to adapt the application of old legal principles to a new legal environment. This has brought about change because in order to comply with the values on which the EU is founded, those principles that were, at first, meant to operate in the internal market do not necessarily operate in the same way in other areas of law. This point is illustrated by looking at the way in which the principle of mutual recognition operates in the internal market and the way it does in the AFSJ.

 

The successful application of the principle of mutual recognition to the internal market requires a fair balance between ‘individual freedom’ and ‘public interests’. This means, in essence, that neither the fundamental freedoms that protect economic operators nor legitimate objectives of public interest are absolute. Similarly, in the AFSJ, neither the free movement of judicial decisions nor the fundamental rights of the persons concerned by those decisions are absolute. In the EU legal order, individual freedom and public interest are both subject to limitations.

 

However, whilst in the context of the internal market, the principle of mutual recognition supports individual freedom, in the AFSJ it is very often the other way around: that principle limits individual freedom. In order to establish the internal market, the principle of mutual recognition was construed as a legal tool that enabled economic operators to exercise an economic activity in the host Member State in accordance with the more advantageous standards of the home Member State. By virtue of that principle, economic operators are thus freed from the double burden of having to comply with two different sets of standards.

 

Conversely, in favouring the extraterritorial application of judicial decisions in civil or criminal matters that may involve the application of coercive measures, such as a judicial decision ordering the return of a child or an arrest warrant, the principle of mutual recognition contributes to the effective exercise of public power by the Member States. In so doing, that principle limits individual freedom.

 

That is why the principle of mutual recognition in the AFSJ is subject to stricter conditions and limits. Notably, limitations on fundamental rights must, in accordance with Article 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’), be ‘provided for by law’. Whilst the principle of mutual recognition in the context of the internal market is enforced by national courts through the direct effect of the relevant Treaty provisions, the operation of the same principle in the AFSJ rests on legislative acts adopted at EU level. Legislative inaction at that level cannot be replaced by interest-driven litigation. It is thus for the EU legislator to adopt the acts needed to ensure that the principle of mutual recognition respects the essence of the rights and freedoms recognised by the Charter and complies with the principle of proportionality.

 

The ECJ interprets the EU legislative acts shaping the principle of mutual recognition, and enforces their compliance with fundamental rights: secondary EU legislation that seeks to facilitate the mutual recognition of judicial decisions in civil or criminal matters must comply with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter. As a result, the ECJ acts as the guarantor of fundamental rights, i.e. as a constitutional check on the EU political process.

 

As we all know, in the area of the internal market, not only judges but also administrative authorities are called upon to participate actively in the application of the principle of mutual recognition. Mutual recognition applies to administrative decisions, e.g., inspections, certifications, diplomas.

 

However, the establishment of the AFSJ is, first and foremost, to be achieved through the mutual recognition of national judicial decisions. Mutual recognition of those decisions implies that the court where recognition and enforcement is sought is to trust that the court that adopted the decision in question provided effective judicial protection to the persons concerned by that decision, including first and foremost protection of their fundamental rights. Indeed, it follows from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States that judges must play a leading role in the protection of fundamental rights.

 

That is why in three recent cases concerning the European Arrest Warrant,[10] the ECJ ruled that ‘[t]he principle of mutual recognition […], is founded on the premise that a judicial authority has intervened prior to the execution of the European arrest warrant, for the purposes of exercising its review’. However, ‘the issue of an arrest warrant by a non-judicial authority […] does not provide the executing judicial authority with an assurance that the issue of that European arrest warrant has undergone such judicial approval and cannot, therefore, suffice to justify the high level of [trust] between the Member States, […] which forms the very basis of the [European Arrest Warrant] Framework Decision’. In concrete terms, this meant that the arrest warrant issued by the Swedish police service with a view to executing a judgment imposing a custodial sentence could not be regarded as a ‘judicial decision’ and thus, fell outside the scope of that Framework Decision. Nor could a warrant issued by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania with a view to executing a judgment imposing a custodial sentence. By contrast, a confirmation by the Hungarian public prosecutor’s office of a national arrest warrant issued previously by a police service in connection with criminal proceedings could be regarded as such a ‘judicial decision’. This was because, unlike the police or the Ministry, the public prosecutor’s office was, for the purposes of the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision, a ‘judicial authority’ given that, under Hungarian law, it is entrusted with the administration of criminal justice.

 

D. Conclusion

 

In summary, the European integration project has evolved. Long gone are the days where the EU’s only focus was to complete the internal market. Today, the EU has to deal with a broad array of challenges that are affecting the lives of millions of persons living or wanting to live in Europe. In so doing and as the case law of the ECJ reveals, the EU must remain faithful to the values on which it is founded. Those values are the very essence of European integration and give true meaning to the idea that has successfully transformed a divided continent into an area of freedom, security and justice.

 

Therefore, regardless of what the future may bring in the coming years, the ECJ will continue, as the guardian of the rule of law within the EU, to honour its ongoing commitment towards ensuring that the European Union remains a Union of democracies, a Union of rights and a Union of justice.

 

 

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Резюмето на български език на статията четете тук:

Ролята на Съда на Европейския съюз в процеса на европейската интеграция: последователност и промяна

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* President of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This article is based on a lecture given on the occasion of a conference organised on 29 September 2017 in Sofia by the Bulgarian Association for European Law celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the 10th anniversary of the accession of the Republic of Bulgaria to the European Union. All opinions expressed herein are strictly personal to the author.

[1] See judgment of 12 September 2017, Anagnostakis v Commission, C‑589/15 P, EU:C:2017:663.

[2] See judgment of 16 July 2015, CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria, C‑83/14, EU:C:2015:480.

[3] See judgments of 23 April 1986, Les Verts v Parliament, 294/83, EU:C:1986:166, and of 29 June 2010, E and F, C‑550/09, EU:C:2010:382.

[4] See judgments of 19 July 2016, H v Council and Others, C‑455/14 P, EU:C:2016:569, and of 28 March 2017, Rosneft, C‑72/15, EU:C:2017:236.

[5] See Opinions 1/09 (Agreement creating a Unified Patent Litigation System) of 8 March 2011, EU:C:2011:123, and 2/13 (Accession of the European Union to the ECHR) of 18 December 2014, EU:C:2014:2454.

[6] See judgment of 6 September 2017, Slovakia and Hungary v Council, C‑643/15 and C‑647/15, EU:C:2017:631.

[7] See judgment of 7 March 2017, X and X, C‑638/16 PPU, EU:C:2017:173.

[8] See judgment of 5 October 2010, Elchinov, C‑173/09, EU:C:2010:581.

[9] See judgment of 5 July 2016, Ognyanov, C‑614/14, EU:C:2016:514.

[10] See judgments of 10 November 2016, Poltorak, C‑452/16 PPU, EU:C:2016:858; Özçelik, C‑453/16 PPU, EU:C:2016:860, and Kovalkovas, C‑477/16 PPU, EU:C:2016:861.

Hristo Kirilov

Реферандер в Общия съд на Европейския съюз.