Book Review: The European Union and Its Court of Justice. By Anthony Amull. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 593 Pages.

6 Colum. J. Eur. L. 392 (2000)

reviewed by Sophie Hausler.

A superficial glance at this book’s title might give the impression that one is dealing with yet another book on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and its procedure. However, on closer inspection the realization hits home that the focus is in fact on the relationship between the European Union (EU) and its Court.

The book’s aim is to examine, in relation to both constitutional and substantive Community law, how the Court contributed to the forming of the EU’s legal framework as it stands today.’ Amull’s book must be viewed against the backdrop of the ongoing debate as to whether the Court’s approach to the interpretation of Community law represents unwanted and unwarranted judicial activism at the expense of the individual Member State’s sovereignty or a valuable contribution to the peaceful, stable and prosperous development of European Integration. After all, the very active and imperative role taken on by this judicial body, which is clearly based on international law, came as quite a surprise to the Member States. In addition, European Communities originally consisted only of civil law countries, which are traditionally unaccustomed to judges as law-makers. In view of the recent expansion of the Court’s powers under the Treaty of Amsterdam, this book comes at an ideal point in time. Arnull captures the most important developments until the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam and hopefully creates the basis for a better understanding of developments to come.

The European Union and its Court of Justice is the author’s first book on this subject, but he has already written a number of articles on questions relating to the Court’s role.3 As Professor of European Law at the University of Birmingham, and a former legal secretary at the Court, Arnull is in an excellent position to contribute to a student’s better understanding of the stance taken by the Court on various important questions of constitutional and substantive Community law. Amull’s approach is to use the Court’s case law as the clear point of departure for the systematic analysis of various important substantive and constitutional questions of Community law. Through this explicit attention to the Court’s important role with regard to the evolution of Community law right from the outset, this book distinguishes itself from other treatises on European Law.

The book is roughly divided into three parts entitled “Legal foundations,” “Substantive law,” and “The Court’s general approach.” The first part, which deals with constitutional issues of Community law, is preceded by a brief introduction to the Court’s creation, organization and working methods as well as remarks on the creation of the Court of First Instance (CFI) and the future of the Community judicature. Here, the author also gives a good overview of the current problems facing both the ECJ and the CFI with regard to their workload and new powers as well as the possible solutions envisaged to solve these problems. Next, Amull looks at the jurisdiction of the Court. He examines the interpretation the Court has given to the powers expressly conferred upon it by the EC Treaty, most notably in the area of enforcement actions against Member States, actions for annulment and preliminary rulings. Close attention is given to the problem of standing of private parties before the Court, where the author criticizes in particular the restrictive approach the CFI has taken towards the question of standing.6 He also inspects the enlarged scope of jurisdiction accorded to the Court by the Treaty of Amsterdam, claiming that it signifies that the Member States were not altogether dissatisfied with the way that the Court has handled its responsibilities so far.