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The Brussels Swamp
Business as EUsual

A top EU court misled the EU’s governing body in order to get the latter to double its budget, succeeded, and everyone more or less yawned, a whistleblower judge is alleging. reports:

Franklin Dehousse, a judge in the General Court (the court one step below the European Court of Justice) has written a scathing and unusual paper with Benedetta Marsicola, a legal assistant in the General Court, saying the recent reforms to the size and processes of the court are a disaster. Dehousse is a long-standing critic of the reforms, and now concludes:

– The court attempted to hide the fact that it had cleared its case backlog, in order to ensure that EU legislators and national governments would go ahead with a plan to double the size of the court (they did).
– There were “shocking” efforts by the Court, Council and Parliament to prevent preparation of a detailed impact assessment regarding the proposed changes.
– The inability of EU national governments to compromise over the reform created “a clear source of useless spending, and risks now contaminating the EU judicial system.”
– The U.K. stood alone opposing what the authors consider to be a useless spending of EU funds.

This seems to have been enabled by a clear-as-mud separation of powers. As Delhousse highlights, under the Lisbon treaty, the European courts have a “quasi-monopoly” on “legislative initiative”: the judges can introduce (and must be consulted on) changes to the statute that governs the court. This is unlike any national Supreme Court—presumably because it creates situation like this one.

It’s noteworthy that the UK objected—and objected alone. For all the (many, many) problems that Brexit would entail, the sentiment for it ultimately rests on the feeling that there’s a difference between the British traditions of government and those of the Continent—a sense that moments like this bear out.

As we’ve written before, the Continental bureaucratic system, in which one hand washes the other, is poorly suited to meet the challenges of a hyperdynamic, tech-based, 21st Century economy. This story suggests just how much work Europe has to do cleaning out its Augean stables if it wants Brussels to work.

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