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The Court of Justice of the European Union

in a nutshell...

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) is the judicial body of the EU and its remit includes the uniform interpretation and application of EU law. Its most important powers lie for example in issuing rulings in the Commission’s infringement procedures against the individual Member States. The decisions of the ECJ are binding for all EU countries.

Another key part of its activity is references for preliminary rulings. The ECJ cooperates with all the courts of the Member States which have jurisdiction to apply EU law. However, to ensure the uniform application of EU law, the national courts must turn to the ECJ for an interpretation of EU law, to examine the compatibility of their national legislation with EU law for example.

The ECJ comprises two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court. The Court of Justice comprises 28 judges and eleven Advocates General, and thus comprises one judge per EU country. The General Court has 47 judges at present, which is to be increased to 56 in 2019. This means that in future there will be two judges from each EU Member State. It should also be mentioned that the Advocates General assist the judges in their decision-making. Although the ECJ is not bound by the Advocates-General proposals, it nevertheless follows them in three out of four cases.

Last but not least, it should also be said that the monitoring of EU Member States' compliance with their Treaty obligations naturally also leads to a political momentum of its own in the case of the ECJ. In the past, the Court of Justice has tried its hand as a political body several times and has influenced the migration policy of EU countries, among other things, with its judgments that are definitely worthy of discussion.

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