Looking for the ‘Justice’ in EU civil and private law?

It is great to see this debate on the EU justice deficit. To me this debate goes to the fundamental issue of legitimacy, with which the EU continues to grapple. However I have one regret, which relates to the lack of attention devoted to the European Union’s justice deficit in the area of civil and private law. All of us enter into private law obligations throughout our lives, making small contracts, buying property, inheriting property, being involved in an accident; the list is endless. The justice or injustice consequences of these civil law interactions, in terms of the way in which these obligations operate, are construed and adjudicated upon which can dramatically impact individuals and society.

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A few more thoughts on equality and solidarity

Although discussions on justice in Europe are not new, ’justice deficit’ is not a term as familiar to wider audiences as ‘democratic deficit’. However, it has the potential to become a powerful catchword for all those disillusioned with the European project, or even for the ardent supporters of the idea of the European Union, who […]

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Justice Deficit or Justice Deficient?

A legal order centered on the market, far from being vacant from a justice perspective, embodies a particular theory of justice: one that valorizes voluntary economic exchange for its conduciveness to peace, prosperity, and freedom. Whether commerce is, indeed, conducive to all of these things is another question.

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The Empire of Principle

The idea of Constitutionalism beyond the state perfectly matches the essentially non-political, economic arrangement that has clothed itself in political discourses of human rights, rule of law and democracy. The forms and procedures put forward by Kumm et.al. conceal the initial lack of substance and proximity with the life of Europeans and their daily dealings and the relations which the framework they were designed to merely formalize. The Union postulates the a-priori conditions of unity which do not dynamically (organically) emerge from within the heat of political life – unity appears as extraneous layers superimposed on the disarray of European communities. What remains, within the framework the European Union, is an expression without anything to express, devoid if not of meaning then of a connection to the sources of meaningfulness.

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The EU’s limited justice capacities

The starting premise behind Europe’s Justice Deficit? is that we have to associate justice not only with the state, but also with sub- and supra-state entities. Considering the depth and breadth of European integration, the EU cannot escape our scrutiny; the EU is, as the editors remark, ‘clearly at the very least a potential agent of (in)justice’. One cannot but wholeheartedly agree with this starting assumption, but we should also acknowledge that it leaves a very important question unanswered: does the EU possess the same capacities for delivering (in)justices as other entities, in particular the state? Can we simply apply our justice vocabulary to the EU without even the slightest modicum of translation that takes into account the context within which the EU is situated? While it is not denied that the EU has the ability to deliver justice, it is suggested that there are limits to the EU’s justice capacities.

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When asking, ‘if there is justice deficit in Europe?’ we should query the power of Member States

As the winds of populism blow across Europe, from the Algarve to Lapland and from the Irish to the Aegean Sea, it might be tempting to dismiss the return to nativism as a temporary and transitory vehicle of popular protest. However, as UKIP, Golden Dawn, Jobbik, the Sweden Democrats, Podemos, Syriza, Vlams Belang and True Finns all secure seats in local, regional, national and supranational assemblies, the questions mount about differential impact of the Euro crisis on comparative attractiveness of these political forces to national electorate over the idea of a unified and indeed just Europe. With populist parties advocating extremely diverse political agendas, they all reach out to their voters hushing them away from the political forces who have dominated the political scene during the years of plenty before the Euro crisis.

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European Justice for Migrants and Refugees

By enlisting transport companies in migration control, and denying visas to refugees, the EU is complicit in the grotesque scenes in the Mediterranean Sea: Those fleeing cannot board regular flights and ferries, for lack of visas and as carriers face sanctions if they allow them to board. We are willing to spend billions on rescue at sea, but not provide safe means of access to refugees. Those most in need, including those whose needs we would recognize by offering asylum, risk their lives to reach the relatively safety of the EU. Unjust? Unethical? Indecent? Cruel? All of these, surely.

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Taking the European Court of Justice up on its Name

Recognising “justice” as inherently contestable, one might raise the more specific question what role the European Court of Justice has in (re)assuring justice in Europe, and whether the Court, insofar as it possesses a distinct role in that regard, succeeds in promoting justice. The avalanche of criticism at, amongst others, Laval, McCarthy, Dereci and, most recently, Dano, represents a deep belief that the European Court of Justice should not betray its name. In the knowledge that we fiercely disagree about what justice entails, however, it is not easy to substantiate the Court’s role and scope of responsibility.

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On Europe’s justice deficit, and how to reduce it

The main obstacle nowadays to communities that are perceived as such is the level of inequality that we have reached in our societies. Tony Judt, before he died, wrote that I cannot perceive someone as a member of my community if the distance of my income to his is too big. Taxation is what we need and what we can use. But this requires something beyond of what Europe can do.

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Maybe we just don’t like the Justice we see…

If the economic advancement of the lender states is at least in part attributable to the access to the markets of the debtors, then the latter have a right to solidarity and political redistribution of economic benefits. Building solidarity – as a basis for political redistribution – in Europe from such premises would not be impossible: it is very much in contrast with the self-righteous attitude adopted by lender states today, and condoned by much of mainstream economic theory.

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