A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
In the second part of my CJEU visit, following the first one on the city of Luxembourg which you can read from here, I want to share my experience from the visit to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), also known as the European Court of Justice.
As the only court which has the exclusive competence to interpret the EU law, rule on the allegations of Member States’ breaches of the EU law and answer the questions asked by the national courts, CJEU has been a key actor on what we know as the EU today. It is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful institutions among 7 official EU institutions and I believe the holiest place for an EU law student. It was amazing to go to the place where the dozens of judgments I read this year are rendered and see the atmosphere of the hearings.
We arrived quite early in the morning, at 8.15 am, where our guide was already waiting for us and first had a presentation over the organisation of the Court and its premises.
What surprised me first is a completely modern premise. It apparently keeps expanding, with more and more cases being referred. Last editions to this complex of several buildings were the two twin towers, called the Golden Towers, which exclusively serve to lawyer-linguistics. These people being the 40% of the staff says a lot about how heavy the translation work is, as every single document has to be translated into all languages of the member states (24).
Then, we attended to the oral hearings for a pending case against Poland, due to the recent judiciary reforms which rose doubts regarding the independence of judges. As the cases are allocated to chambers of usually 5 judges, we were lucky to witness a case in Grand Chamber with 15 judges which only adjudicates important cases.
The atmosphere was amazing. After their pleadings, the judges questioned both the representatives of the Polish government and the Commission fiercely, which was both intimidating and impressive. Another point meant to mention is how apparent the tension between first the member state who has allegedly breached the core principles of EU and the institutions who are entrusted to protect them, as well as between the institutions who think they should be the ones policing them.
Apart from the proceedings, the intense multilingual environment was one of a kind. At both sides of the chamber, there are small cabins for each language where translators provide simultaneous interpretation of what is being said so you can follow the proceedings through the little earphones attached to each seat. This translation is even more crucial for the participants of the courts as at some point the judge asked the question in French (the official working language of the Court), the instruction of the President Judge was in English as the Polish representatives didn’t speak French and the answer given was in Polish, as everyone has the right to plead in their own language before the Court. Thanks to the translators, it is still possible to go on without any delay. This is the moment where I felt how multicultural the European Union is the most so far and has been impressed by how things are handled with harmony.
What was your favourite visit to your programme? Share in the comments!