One of us vs the European Commission: The General Court of the EU gave its decision

One of us: The General Court decided

By Grégor Puppinck1524569509970

The ECLJ, which has represented the European Citizen’s Initiative One of Us before the Court of Justice of the European Union, makes an assessment of the judgement rendered by the General Court of the European Union on 23 April 2018, in the case One of Us against the European Commission (T-561/14).

On the institutional side of the action, as One of Us requested, the Court has admitted that the act whereby the Commission decided not continuing with the citizen’s initiative produces legal effects and, therefore, it may be impugned by the General Court of the European Union (§77). The Court agrees with One of Us when recognizing that: “the act of not presenting the negative of the Commission to judicial review undermines the achievement of the aim [“to encourage the participation of citizens in the democratic life and make the Union more accessible”], due to the fact that the risk of arbitrariness by the Commission may discourage any use of the ECI mechanism, bearing in mind the demanding proceedings and conditions under which the mechanism is presented." Therefore, the Court has stated that its agreement with One of Us is a major point of its appeal and saves the mechanism of the European Citizen’s Initiative from the total arbitrariness of the Commission by deciding that it may be subject to judicial review. The quasy-monopoly of the legislative initiative of the Commission has been reduced.

Nevertheless, the Court of First Instance limited immediately the scope of the review as it ruled, on the one side, that “the Commission has a broad discretion to decide whether to act upon the ECI" (§§145 and 169) and, on the other side, that the decision of the Commission “will be subject to limited review by the Court in order to verify the appropriateness of its motivation, the existence, in particular, of manifest errors of assessment that vitiate the decision” (§ 170). As a consequence, the Court has not examined in detail the grievances related to the ethical issues raised by One of Us. In fact, the Court has only devoted approximately ten of the 185 paragraphs of the judgment to conclude, at the end of the summary, that the argument of the Commission was not “vitiated by a manifest error” (§182).

Therefore, the trial constitutes an institutional victory and an ethical defeat for One of Us. Above all, it is a victory of the Court of Justice, as it has increased its power of control over the Commission regarding the legislative initiative. The advocates of the democratization of the European Union may affirm that, after this judgment, the mechanism of the Citizen’s Initiative has been strengthened.

Finally, the initiative One of Us has certainly not succeeded in the annulment of the decision of the European Commission of giving up the respect for prenatal human life for the benefit of technoscience and population control in poor countries.

However, the initiative has allowed:

  • To support the testimony of humanity of each individual life, even before birth, with an incomparable power;
  • To reunite in One of Us a large number of people and organizations who carry the testimony all over Europe;
  • To place the European Union in a position to face its contradictions in terms of democracy and to ensure that the power of the European Commission becomes less arbitrary.