Language, Culture and Politics in the Life of the European Court of Justice

1 Colum. J. Eur. L. 397 (1995)

Giuseppe Federico Mancini. Judge, Court of Justice of the European Communities. 

David T. Keeling. Legal secretary, Court of Justice of the European Communities.

Amongst the judicial organs presently in operation in the western world the Court of Justice of the European Communities is unique in many respects: the native tongues of its 15 judges are 11 in number; of the States from which they originate seven are monarchies and eight are republics; ten have a unitary structure, while five are divided into regions with varying degrees of autonomy; seven have some form of judicial review of legislation, while in eight of them such a concept is alien or downright blasphemous; two possess a legal culture molded by centuries of judge-made law, whereas lawyers in the other 13 have been brought up to believe that law-making is strictly the function of the legislature. No less importantly, the polity which has its judicial branch in Luxembourg has grown into something more than an international organization, but it has not yet become a State. Moreover, its foundations are in a state of constant flux. Suffice it to remember that during its 42 years of life it has undergone two major constitutional reforms and that, whereas it initially had a single source of legitimacy – the will of the Member States -, it has since acquired a second one, in the shape of the election by direct universal suffrage of a Parliament now endowed with significant budgetary and legislative powers.

One could develop further the list of characteristics that make the European Court of Justice an unprecedented and unparalleled institution; but those already referred to are sufficient to demonstrate the daunting nature of the exercise which we are to undertake: identifying and appraising the language problems, the cultural influences, the political pressures and the institutional constraints which affect the jurisprudence of the Court.