European Court in danger of overload

The President of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has warned that the most powerful court in the European Union is at risk of being overloaded with work, and has called for reforms to prevent the build-up of a large backlog of cases.

Gil-Carlos Rodriguez-Iglesias warns that the court needs to respond to two changes – the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty, which has given the European Commission the right to propose EU laws affecting justice and home affairs, and the likely accession of East European countries to the EU in the early years of the next millennium.

In a report, he says: “Problems principally relate to the increase in the volume of cases, the consequent lengthening of the time needed to deal with them and the congestion that may be expected to occur in the translation service of the institution.”

His suggested solutions include:

A fast-track procedure for urgent cases.

The introduction of written procedures for cases where hearings are not necessary.

New rules allowing the ECJ to ask national courts for legal clarification.

Dealing with cases by a simple order, where case law is clear and established.