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Workshop on Access to Justice and the EU’s Remedies System

On 3 and 4 November 2022, Melanie Fink convened a Workshop to bring together the authors of an Edited Volume on ‘Access to Justice and the EU’s Remedies System’, to be published in early 2024 by Cambridge University Press.

Over the past decade, individuals have increasingly struggled to access mechanisms within the context of which fundamental rights violations committed by the EU can be established and remedied. A striking illustration is the EU border control agency Frontex which has been involved in well-documented fundamental rights violations, but has never been brought before a court on that basis. This is not surprising. Since the EU’s establishment, EU powers and competences have grown significantly. In addition, major developments in EU fundamental rights protection have afforded individuals a central position within the EU legal order. Yet, the EU’s remedies system is as old as the EU itself, never having undergone comprehensive reform. It thus struggles with providing effective redress against an EU that is very different from the one the founders may have had in mind when designing the system of judicial protection.

This challenge forms the backdrop to the forthcoming book ‘Access to Justice and the EU’s Remedies System: Mechanisms to Redress Fundamental Rights Violations by the EU’, edited by Dr Melanie Fink to be published in early 2024 by Cambridge University Press. The aim of the Edited Volume is to explore the avenues private parties have within the EU legal system and beyond to seek redress for fundamental rights violations committed by the EU. A total of 19 authors take stock of the existing mechanisms and their shortcomings, analyse the main challenges underlying the current remedies system, and develop recommendations on how to overcome them. Doing so, they not only advance the academic debate surrounding the effectiveness of the EU’s multi-level remedies system under today’s circumstances, but also contribute to the societal efforts to improve individual access to justice in the EU. The book forms part of Dr Fink’s project ‘No Right Without a Remedy’, funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences under the APART-GSK grant scheme.

On 2 and 3 November 2022, the authors came together in Leiden for an authors’ Workshop, funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Europa Institute of Leiden University. The aim of the Workshop was to exchange ideas, discuss first outlines and drafts, and ensure overall consistency of the Edited Volume. After a more general debate on the aims and structure of the book, each contributor presented their ideas and draft chapters, following the overall three-part structure of the book.

The first session focused on mechanisms before the Court of Justice of the EU, discussing their strengths and weaknesses in addressing fundamental rights violations by the EU. Giulia Gentile (LSE Law School) kicked off by presenting her chapter on action for annulment. Clara Rauchegger (University of Innsbruck) and Melanie Fink (Central European University/Leiden University) followed suit on the topic of action for damages. Lucía López Zurita (University of Copenhagen) discussed the role of the preliminary ruling procedure in remedying EU fundamental rights violations. Ljupcho Grozdanovski (FNRS University of Liège) and Francesca Episcopo (UvA) then spoke on the system of evidence and its enabling or filtering effect of actions brought by private parties directly before the EU courts. Kris van der Pas (Radboud University) closed the first session talking about the successes and missed opportunities of strategic litigation in this context.

The second session focused on a selection of types of administration that present a particular challenge to the remedies system. Mariolina Eliantonio (Maastricht University) discussed legal protection against decisions made through composite procedures with national and Union participation. Merijn Chamon followed speaking on the challenges presented by EU soft law. Koen Bovend'Eerdt, Argyro Karagianni and Miroslava Scholten (University of Utrecht, UU) presented their ideas to look into agencies’ enforcement powers. Finally, Simona Demkova (Leiden University) discussed the different ways that artificial intelligence in EU administration affects individuals’ access to justice. Florin Coman-Kund (Erasmus University), who could unfortunately not be present at the workshop, will complete this part of the book with a chapter on the judicial protection challenges presented by factual conduct.

The third session focused on the final part of the book, covering mechanisms alternative or complementary to the EU judiciary. Moritz Schramm (Humboldt-Universität) spoke about EU review bodies beyond the judiciary and the role they play in complementing the EU’s judicial remedies system. Andreas Hofmann (Freie Universität Berlin) discussed the role of national courts and Jasper Krommendijk (Radboud University) the role of the European Court of Human Rights. Veronika Yefremova (Leiden University) explored the potential for arbitration as an alternative dispute settlement to resolve fundamental rights conflicts in the EU. Finally, Maria-Jose Schmidt-Kessen (CEU) presented her ideas on opting for some form of online dispute resolution.

The Workshop was thoroughly thought-provoking and invaluable for the editor and authors to benefit from each others’ insights and experience. The discussion showed both the need for and timeliness of this edited volume, the publication of which will be marked by a book launch conference in spring 2024.

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