Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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4.6 The European Court of Justice

The role of the European Court of Justice is to ensure that EC legislation is interpreted and applied consistently in each EU member state. It has the power to settle disputes and impose sanctions. It may also be asked to clarify the meaning of an EU law. Cases may be brought by EU member states, EU institutions, businesses or individuals. The membership of the court has expanded with the growth of the EU itself. The ECJ is composed of one judge for each EU member state. There is no system of precedent and judgments of the ECJ are decided by majority. Dissenting opinions are not given.

Figure 9
Paul Brown/Rex Features ©
© Rex Features
Figure 9 The European Court of Justice building

Table 2 Legal rule-making institutions of the EC

InstitutionRule-making functions
Council of the European Union• Consists of ministers from each member state
• Responsible for broad policy decisions
• Can issue regulations, directives and decisions
European Commission• The Commissioners’ duty is to act in the EU's interests
• Proposes legislation
• Ensures the implementation of treaties
• Brings court action against member states who do not comply with EU law
European Parliament• Members of Parliament are voted for by the electorate in each of the member states
• In some policy areas, under the co-decision procedure, Parliament can amend and block legislation. In other policy areas, under the consultation procedure, it only has the right to be consulted
European Court of Justice• The European Court of Justice comprises judges from each member state
• Decides on cases of EU law

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