Towers of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – Photo: wikipedia

CJEU: Courts cannot be prevented from turning to CJEU by national supreme courts

The right of European Union member states to turn to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) stands above the laws of member states, and so the courts are within their rights to ignore all decisions prohibiting them to seek guidance from the CJEU, the European court ruled on Tuesday.

The decision concluded a 2015 case in which a Budapest court turned to the CJEU concerning whether Hungarian practices on interpretation and translation in legal matters complied with EU regulations. Hungary’s top court, the Kuria, ruled the request was unlawful as it had no direct connection with the case that had arisen — a Swedish national was charged with use of illegal firearms. The quality of the Swedish-Hungarian language interpretation at the court was questioned, throwing doubt over whether the accused’s right to interpretation and information were fulfilled.

Subsequently, the Kuria initiated disciplinary proceedings against the judge who referred the case to the CJEU.

In its ruling, the CJEU said that under the Treaty of the European Union, it was unlawful for national supreme courts to declare “that a request for a preliminary ruling submitted by a lower court is unlawful … on the ground that the questions referred are not relevant and necessary for the resolution of the dispute in the main proceedings,” as that decision is the competence of the CJEU alone.

“In such circumstances, the principle of the primacy of EU law requires the lower court to disregard the decision of the supreme court of the Member State concerned,” the ruling said.

The CJEU also declared the disciplinary procedure against the Hungarian judge in question unlawful. “Such proceedings are liable to deter all national courts from making references for a preliminary ruling, which could jeopardise the uniform application of EU law,” the ruling said.

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