The General Court – Ensuring EU Institutions Respect EU Law

When adopting legislation, EU institutions must respect EU law. If a person or company who is subject to an EU decision believes the law hasn’t been respected, they can take the matter before the Court of Justice of the EU These cases are heard by the General Court which was created in 1989 to improve judicial protection for citizens and companies. This court’s workload covers areas such as competition, the environment, public health, trademarks, and transparency, all of which can affect individuals or companies. For example, in one famous judgment, the Court confirmed fines of nearly half a billion euros imposed on Microsoft for breaching EU competition rules. In another decision, the General Court confirmed that countries can insist that all matches of the Football World Cup and European Championship be broadcast on free-to-air television in the public interest. But the Court does not simply rubber-stamp decisions made by the EU and, in many instances overturns decisions made by other EU institutions. As was the case in a series of judgments about company mergers and takeovers which have ensured that the Commission now pays greater attention to the economic effects of a merger when making its decision. The General Court has also held the EU institutions to account by insisting they respect citizens’ fundamental rights ensuring a person’s right to be informed why a decision has been taken against them is respected and that our right to access EU documents is only refused in limited circumstances. In this way the General Court ensures that the EU respects its own rules, and remains an organisation based on the rule of law.

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