Sweden’s courts fall foul of ECJ

Sweden faces censure from the European Commission for failing to refer enough cases to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Commission has called for Swedish courts to refer more cases involving interpretation of EU law to the ECJ, arguing that with only three referrals since 2001 Sweden is breaking its EU treaty obligations.

Brussels is threatening to force at least one extra case if Sweden does not comply, by asking the ECJ to censure Sweden’s high court for interpreting EU law without guidance from European judges. Under EU treaties, a court from which there is no right of appeal is obliged to refer questions to the ECJ.

In the last three years there have been 57 such referrals by UK courts compared with 155 in Germany and 122 in Italy.

Despite the fact that Sweden’s judicial system is more centralised, Brussels has issued its government with a final warning letter giving it two months to say how it will encourage ECJ referrals; if it fails, the EU judges may order Swedish judges to stop interpreting EU law unaided.