Thanks to Pirates: EU Parliament approves new level of Court transparency

The European Parliament today voted by a large majority in favour of a reform of the ECJ Statute. In future, the European Court of Justice will proactively and systematically publish the pleadings and arguments submitted by the parties to proceedings on its website once the proceedings have been concluded. An exception applies if the author of a pleading objects, but in this case there is a right of access to information via the EU Commission upon request. The new transparency rule will apply to all legal questions referred to the ECJ by national courts (“preliminary rulings”), as most landmark cases result of such references. MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party), who is himself a judge by profession, had proposed the new transparency rule and fought for its adoption during the negotiations.

“With the systematic publication of pleadings, the European Court of Justice will be more transparent than ever before. This also sets standards for the national judiciaries,” said Breyer. “It is a privilege that, as a Pirate Party MEP, I was able to introduce our core aim of a transparent state into the negotiations and successfully see it through thanks to the support of my colleagues. Pressure from civil society also contributed to this.

After landmark judgements with far-reaching consequences, the public has a right to know and discuss the positions of governments and institutions in the run-up to the decision. I am sure we will be surprised by some of the arguments put forward by them. In a democracy where freedom of press reigns, we need to be able to hold the powerful accountable for their behaviour in court. At a time when the EU and its Court of Justice are facing a crisis of confidence, transparency creates trust.

Of course, the new transparency rule with its restrictions and reservations does not yet fully meet our expectations. In particular, we will be keeping a close eye on whether transparency objectors will systematically abuse their right to object to publication. Nevertheless, the introduction of the principle of proactive transparency in the EU judiciary is a milestone and a paradigm shift.”

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