Lawful composition – the EFTA Court’s approach

On 10 September 2020, the British Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Eleanor Sharpston, was replaced by the Greek lawyer Athanasios Rantos. Most of the commentators of the incident, which stirred up a great deal of dust, focus on the question whether the termination of Ms. Sharpston’s mandate on 10 September 2020 was lawful. The following considerations, on the other hand, examine the legal situation in the event that her expulsion from the ECJ was after Brexit in line with EU law. A precedent of the EFTA Court in 2016 may be relevant in this context.

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It’s Urgent II

On Friday 4 September 2020, Judge Anthony Collins of the General Court has ordered the suspension of operation and all consequential effects of the Decision of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, in so far as it purports to appoint Mr. Athanasios Rantos to the position of Advocate General of the Court of Justice. The significance of this development for the independence of the judiciary in the EU and the general articulation of the rule of law in Europe is difficult to overestimate.

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It’s Urgent

In a remarkable move, the Member States appointed, on 2 September 2020, an Advocate General put forward by Greece, who will enter into office on 7 September 2020 if Member States get their way. There is a ginormous problem with this move, as the office that this Advocate General will try to fill, as things stand, does not become vacant until October 2021. Eleanor Sharpston, the officeholder presently in situ, remains there until then. Any other reading of EU law is tantamount to the Member States sacking a member of the Court in direct violation of the primary law. This is a wholly unacceptable scenario in a Union grounded and predicated upon the rule of law. Urgent measures are thus necessary to save not only the legitimacy of the Court, but that of the EU.

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Frankenstein’s Court

Due to Brexit, the remaining 27 EU Member States would like to remove Eleanor Sharpston, an Advocate General nominated by the United Kingdom, from the CJEU. Many have criticized this idea, claiming that a removal would undermine the judicial independence of the Court. This post argues that the position taken by the EU 27 to remove Eleanor Sharpston from the Court is actually well-reasoned and lawful while leaving her in office would lead to strange consequences e.g. that the Judges of the Court are less protected than its Advocate Generals.

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Humiliating the Court?

The Member States, dismissing an Advocate General before the expiration of her term of office on the Court, have demonstrated that they are ready to humiliate the Court of Justice by allowing post-Brexit frustrations take the place of the Primary Law of the EU. The Rule of Law stands replaced with political whim. As AG Sharpston’s tenure is left in suspense, what is the worth of the core aspects of EU Rule of Law and judicial independence, when the Member States are willing to alter the composition of the Court by a political declaration?

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Could there be a Rule of Law Problem at the EU Court of Justice?

The Member States’ current plan of replacing the sitting U.K. Advocate General at the Court of Justice Eleanor Sharpston before the end of her six-year term raises a serious question whether doing so may violate the European Treaties. If yes, this would be a troubling intrusion on the independence of the Court and the constitutional structure of the Union – just when the EU should be setting an example for the Member States (both current and former).

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Kopftuchverbot am Arbeitsplatz als Diskriminierung

Ein pauschales Kopftuchverbot am Arbeitsplatz, so EuGH-Generalanwältin Eleanor Sharpston, ist diskriminierungsrechtlich kaum zu rechtfertigen. Dabei möchte die Generalanwältin den Fall offenbar zum Anlass nehmen, ein paar sehr grundsätzliche Dinge zum Verbot unmittelbarer Diskriminierung im Europarecht klar zu stellen.

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