POSTS BY Wouter van Ballegooij

The CJEU in the Celmer case: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Upholding the Rule of Law Within the EU

Surrender cases are litmus tests for the EU’s approach towards the enforcement of the rule of law in the Member States. Without judicial independence and other elements of the rule of law concept, EU law will cease to be operational, whether in the context of the single market or outside of it. Aranyosi and LM are the beginning of a long journey. In a more general sense, these cases demonstrate that ultimately – as in all incomplete constitutional systems – it is the courts which play a crucial role in carving out and applying rule of law and fundamental rights exceptions.

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The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why Lack of Judicial Independence Should Have Been Framed as a Rule of Law Issue

On 28 June 2018, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev delivered his Opinion in the Case C‑216/18 PPU Minister for Justice and Equality v LM on the surrender of a crime suspect to Poland. The issue is whether Mr. Artur Celmer, referred to by the Opinion as LM, should be surrendered from Ireland to Poland when there are serious doubts as to whether he would receive a fair trial, due to the alleged lack of independence of the judiciary resulting from recent changes to the Polish judicial system.

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Judicial Independence as a Precondition for Mutual Trust

The Celmer case calls for us to reflect on the question what role judicial authorities can and should play in ensuring compliance with democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (DRF) in other EU Member States. In our view, judicial authorities ultimately have an independent responsibility to put a halt to surrenders, in case the wanted person’s fair trial rights are put in peril due to a general lack of judicial independence in the issuing state. At the same time, the political responsibility for balancing diverse EU constitutional principles needs to be borne by democratically elected institutions. Therefore, the court of the executing state should not only halt or suspend judicial cooperation in the event that persuasive pieces of evidence point to a violation of the values shared by the EU and the Member States in the issuing state, but it should also freeze the case awaiting a resolution of the matter from political actors.

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