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The Judicial Dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. EU Diplomacy Paper 08/2013, November 2013

Baudenbacher, Carl (2013) The Judicial Dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. EU Diplomacy Paper 08/2013, November 2013. [Working Paper]

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    In this paper, the expression “neighbourhood policy” of the European Union (EU) is understood in a broad way which includes the members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) contracting parties to the European Economic Area (EEA), the EFTA State Switzerland, candidate states, the countries of the European Neighbour-hood Policy (ENP), and Russia. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is the centre of gravity in the judicial dimension of this policy. The innermost circle of integration after the EU itself comprises the EFTA States who are party to the European Economic Area. With the EFTA Court, they have their own common court. The existence of two courts – the ECJ and the EFTA Court – raises the question of homogeneity of the case law. The EEA homogeneity rules resemble the ones of the Lugano Convention. The EFTA Court is basically obliged to follow or take into account relevant ECJ case law. But even if the ECJ has gone first, there may be constellations where the EFTA Court comes to the conclusion that it must go its own way. Such constellations may be given if there is new scientific evidence, if the ECJ has left certain questions open, where there is relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights or where, in light of the specific circumstances of the case, there is room for “creative homogeneity”. However, in the majority of its cases the EFTA Court is faced with novel legal questions. In such cases, the ECJ, its Advocates General and the Court of First Instance make reference to the EFTA Court’s case law. The question may be posed whether the EEA could serve as a model for other regional associations. For the ENP states, candidate States and Russia this is hard to imagine. Their courts will to varying degrees look to the ECJ when giving interpretation to the relevant agreements. The Swiss Government is – at least for the time being – unwilling to make a second attempt to join the EEA. The European Commission has therefore proposed to the Swiss to dock their sectoral agreements with the EU to the institutions of the EFTA pillar, the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) and the EFTA Court. Switzerland would then negotiate the right to nominate a member of the ESA College and of the EFTA Court. The Swiss Government has, however, opted for another model. Swiss courts would continue to look to the ECJ, as they did in the past, and conflicts should also in the future be resolved by diplomatic means. But the ECJ would play a decisive role in dispute settlement. It would, upon unilateral request of one side, give an “authoritative” interpretation of EU law as incorporated into the relevant bilateral agreement. In a “Non-Paper” which was drafted by the chief negotiators, the interpretations of the ECJ are even characterised as binding. The decision-making power would, however, remain with the Joint Committees where Switzerland could say no. The Swiss Government assumes that after a negative decision by the ECJ it would be able to negotiate a compromise solution with the Commission without the ECJ being able to express itself on the outcome. The Government has therefore not tried to emphasise that the ECJ would not be a foreign court. Whether the ECJ would accept its intended role, is an open question. And if it would, the Swiss Government would have to explain to its voters that Switzerland retains the freedom to disregard such a binding decision and that for this reason the ECJ is not only no foreign court, but no adjudicating court at all.

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > EU-EFTA/EEA
    EU policies and themes > External relations > European Neighbourhood Policy
    Countries > Switzerland
    Countries > Russia
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > College of Europe (Brugge) > EU Diplomacy Paper
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2014 12:35
    Number of Pages: 32
    Last Modified: 10 Dec 2019 16:47

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