Paper: Who’s Afraid of a True European Judicial Culture? (Herman Van Harten)

In September 2011 the European Commission published an ambitious plan for judicial training in the European Union: Building trust in EU-wide justice: A new dimension to European Judicial Training (COM(2011) 551 final). Judicial training is one of the instruments for the establishment of the area of freedom, security and justice. The Treaty of Lisbon has given the European Union competence in the field of judicial training, particularly in the context of judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

The Commission’s Communication of September 2011 provides the first concrete goals and objectives within the framework of its ‘newly’ gained competence in this field. For the purpose of creating a ‘true European judicial culture’, the European Commission intends to enable approximately 700.000 (!) legal practitioners in the European Union to participate in European Judicial Training by 2020 ‘through the use of all available resources at local, national and European level, in line with the objectives of the Stockholm Programme’. Therefore, it requires ‘full commitment and full co-operation’ of all the stakeholders at all levels. In the Commission’s view ‘Member States, the judiciary, judicial schools and legal professions [should] boost their judicial training activities’, because they are ‘best placed’ to make sure that Union law is integrated in national training and ‘action at European level will complement national activities.’

A major part of the envisaged European judicial training will concern training national judges in EU law. As a result, the plans touch upon several fundamental questions, of which the bottom line is: how does the judge learn EU law? This contribution will elaborate on the ambitious Commission plans in the field of judicial training and it will place them in the broader context of pluralism in European (administrative) law. It identifies some tentative tensions between the somewhat policy orientated approach of the Commission by forcing the establishment of a ‘true European judicial culture’ and national procedural, institutional and judicial autonomy.

Author: Herman Van Harten, Europa Institute, Utrecht University

Keywords: European Judicial Culture, National Courts, European Judicial Training, EU Law, National Procedural Autonomy, National Institutional Autonomy and national judicial autonomy


We thank Lawrence Solum for the pointer.

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