A Europe of Judges

Away from the summits of EU power, other institutional actors continue to shape the EU system, with courts, in particular, driving European integration forward as much as politicians have. But what courts have given they might now take away – starting in Germany.

MAYNOOTH, IRELAND – As the Greek financial drama reaches its sorry dénouement, another crisis looms for the European project – this time in Germany, beginning with a case now before Germany’s Constitutional Court.

Away from the rarefied atmosphere of EU summits (which, so far, have been shaping the Union’s response to events in Greece), other institutional actors have been – and are – shaping the EU system. In particular, courts have driven European integration forward as much as politicians have.

The powerful European Court of Justice (ECJ), in particular, has frequently been criticized for using European law to disguise an integrationist agenda. Without the ECJ’s doctrines of “direct effect” and “primacy,” and without national courts that are willing to enforce these doctrines in their own jurisdictions, the EU most likely would not have attained the level of integration that it has.