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The Court of Justice of the European Union: Abiding by the Law

Function:     To adjudicate on matters of human rights within the EU
 The Court of Justice: One judge and eight advocates-general from each EU country
General Court (Court of first instance): At least, one judge from each EU country
Term: Members of both courts are appointed for renewable six-year terms
 Address:  Boulevard Konrad Adenauer L 2925 Luxembourg
 Tel:  (352) 4303-1
 Website:      http://www.curia.europa.eu/en/index.htm


The Court of Justice of the European Communities (CJEU) (referred as the “Court”) was established in 1952 under the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Based in Luxembourg, the Court of Justice ensures that the EU legislation is interpreted and applied uniformly in each member state. This way, the laws are equal for all. For instance, it ensures that national courts do not make different decisions on the same issue.

The Court of Justice also ensures that EU member states and institutions do as needed by the law. The Court of Justice reserves the authority to resolve any legal disputes between EU member states, institutions, companies, and individuals. The Court of Justice comprises one judge per member state. Thus, all of the EU’s 28 national legal systems are represented. 

The Court of Justice typically convenes as the Grand Chamber of 13 judges alone, or as a committee of five or three judges. 

The Court of Justice is supported by eight “advocates-general” who are responsible for presenting a legal opinion on the cases assigned to them. Advocates-general must provide independently and impartially reached public opinions. 

The General Court (Court of First Instance of the European Communities) was established in 1989 to assist the Court of Justice in dealing with thousands of files and offer citizens better legal protection. The General Court (a constituent court of the CJEU) is responsible to take decisions in certain types of cases, especially those brought up by individuals, companies, and certain institutions and related to competition law.  

Both the Court of Justice and the General Court have one president each, elected by peer judges for a renewable three-year term.

What does the CJEU do?

The CJEU takes legal decisions in its cases. The five common types of cases are as follows:

  • Interpreting the law (preliminary rulings)
  • Enforcing the law (infringement proceedings)
  • Annulling EU legal acts (actions for annulment)
  • Ensuring the EU takes action (actions for failure to act) and
  • Sanctioning EU institutions (actions for damages).