The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why the Test for the Appearance of Independence is Needed

In this post, I focus on what I believe is the most important question in the Celmer case: what kind of a test for the rule of law/fair trial, and with how many prongs? I argue that the rule of law/fair trial test that the Court should apply is the test for the appearance of independence, known from the practice of the ECtHR. I also argue that the Court should not leave the application of this test to the referring court but carry it out by itself.

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Hic Rhodus, hic salta: The ECJ Hearing of the Landmark "Celmer" Case

The highly anticipated hearing in the Celmer case took place on 1 June 2018 before the Grand Chamber of the ECJ. The stakes are undoubtedly high. On the one hand, the efficiency of the European Arrest Warrant mechanism is clearly at risk — a risk which could lead to broader consequences for the whole architecture of mutual trust and recognition. On the other hand, the Celmer dispute goes to the heart of the problems surrounding the current Polish judicial reforms, and to the ensuing concerns about judicial independence. Taking into account the present negotiations between the Polish government and the Commission, Celmer is unquestionably both political and delicate in the extreme.

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10 Facts on Poland for the Consideration of the European Court of Justice

In June, the European Court of Justice is to decide whether, despite massive legislative changes, the Polish judiciary is still independent and therefore able to ensure a fair trial to people extradited to Poland on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant. Marcin Matczak, a Polish lawyer, uses the old tradition of the amicus curiae letter – a letter from a friend of the court – to depict the situation of the Polish judiciary in 2018.

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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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