Litigating for Fundamental Rights in Europe: why (not) before the Court of Justice of the European Union?
PhD student: Mrs L.I. van der Meulen
Promotor: Mrs Dr E. Muir
Duration: 15/10/2020 - 14/10/2024
This thesis is a part of the project RESHUFFLE, funded by the European Research Council. RESHUFFLE is aimed at researching the role of the EU as a fundamental rights actor. An important part of the changing role of the EU in fundamental rights development is its effect on the national actors that engage in fundamental rights protection. This thesis researchers how actors that interact with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for the purpose of fundamental rights litigation view the role the Court has taken on as a fundamental rights court. Litigation for fundamental rights is an important tool in enhancing fundamental rights protection in Europe. Through litigation, individuals have access to justice and the CJEU can ensure that EU law and national laws enacting EU law are in line with the principles of EU fundamental rights and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights. Litigation, however, often starts at the national level and is highly dependent on the actions and perceptions of both national litigators and national judges. National litigators review individual cases, set up legal frameworks and legal questions, and decide on how to advance their claims to the national courts in order to reach (one of) the European or international courts. National judges play a pivotal role in the process of litigation before the CJEU as well, since they ultimately decide whether or not to put through a preliminary question for a ruling to the Court. Before the CJEU gets to assert itself as a fundamental rights court, therefore, national actors need to believe that the fundamental rights question or problem they are looking to solve should be placed in the hands of the CJEU. This begs the question: to what extent do they perceive the CJEU to be the right institution for this? Through qualitative research, the thesis investigates the perceptions of (one of) these national actors towards the CJEU. Thereby, the research comments on whether the EU legal system, in comparison to the Council of Europes legal system, is considered appropriate for fundamental rights litigation. It is investigated whether the narrative of the EU as a fundamental rights actor is shared by those who interact with the Court of Justice. If the EU is aspiring to be an institution that is founded on and guided by principles of fundamental rights, the main court of this institution should be trusted and expected to deliver on this promise as well.
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