Tag Archives: Council of Europe

European and international courts

European and international courts

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European and international courts


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in criminal matters

European and international courts


The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) refers to the whole judicial system of the EU. It is composed of three courts:

  • the Court of Justice;
  • the General Court;
  • the Specialised Courts.

Court of Justice

The Court of Justice has jurisdiction in actions brought by Member States or European institutions. It may also have jurisdiction of last resort in judgments delivered by the General Court. In this case, it rules on the questions of law only and not on the facts of the case.

General Court

The General Court is attached to the Court of Justice and is designed to reduce that Court’s workload.

The General Court has jurisdiction to hear at first instance actions brought by Member States or individuals in the cases provided for by the European Treaties.

Specialised Courts

The Specialised Courts were created by the European Parliament and the Council in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. These courts have jurisdiction at first instance in certain categories of action on specific matters.

Different types of action

The CJEU is responsible for ensuring compliance with European law. It has jurisdiction in actions brought by Member States, other European institutions and European citizens. There are several types of procedure:

  • the action for annulment;
  • the proceedings for failure to fulfil an obligation;
  • the proceedings for failure to act;
  • the action for damages;
  • the reference for a preliminary ruling.


There is a wide range of courts and tribunals that hear disputes at international level and which have their headquarters on European territory. However, these courts do not come under the auspices of the European Union. They are:

  • the courts of other European organisations, in particular the European Court of Human Rights and the EFTA Court (European Free Trade Association);
  • the courts created under the auspices of the United Nations;
  • the independent dispute settlement bodies of the United Nations.

Courts of other European organisations

Neither the European Court of Human Rights nor the EFTA Court is a European Union institution.

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up under the Council of Europe, which currently has 47 Member States. The Court enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, signed on 4 November 1950.

The EFTA Court enforces the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The Agreement secures freedom of movement of persons, goods, services, etc.

Courts created under the auspices of the United Nations

The Member States of the United Nations have established three Permanent Courts of Justice – the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

International Court of Justice

(ICJ). The ICJ was founded by the Charter of the United Nations, signed on 26 June 1945. It is the main judicial body in the United Nations family and has jurisdiction in, among other matters, questions relating to the Charter of the United Nations, the interpretation of international treaties, questions of international law, violations of international law and the nature and extent of compensation in the event of a violation of an obligation under international law. Only States can be parties in cases in the Court. The ICJ sits at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

International Criminal Court

(ICC) has the power to try persons who have committed serious crimes of international concern. These crimes include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The ICC sits at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent court set up by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (FR). It has jurisdiction in disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention. The States party to the Convention and natural and legal persons have access to the Tribunal, which sits at Hamburg, in Germany.

Furthermore, the United Nations has created two other non-permanent courts in order to try war crimes and certain genocides:

  • the
    International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY):
    the ICTY was created to try persons presumed to be responsible for war crimes committed in the Balkans during the conflicts in the 1990s;
  • the
    International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR):
    the ICTR was created to try persons presumed to be responsible for acts of genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed on Rwandan territory between 1 January and 31 December 1994.

United Nations independent dispute-settlement bodies

Apart from the international courts and tribunals, there are several other dispute-settlement bodies, in particular the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body.

Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
is an independent intergovernmental organisation. It administers arbitration and conciliation procedures and committees of inquiry in disputes between Member States, private parties and intergovernmental organisations on the basis of international arbitration regulations. The PCA sits at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body settles disputes in world trade
. WTO dispute settlement is governed by the memorandum of agreement signed at Marrakech in 1994 following the Uruguay Round negotiations. The memorandum puts the emphasis on consultation and sets strict deadlines for settling disputes. The WTO is based at Geneva, in Switzerland.

This summary is for information only. It is not intended to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Fighting corruption

Fighting corruption

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Fighting corruption


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Fight against fraud > Fight against corruption

Fighting corruption

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee of 6 June 2011 – Fighting corruption in the EU [COM (2011) 308 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Corruption affects all countries of the European Union (EU) to various degrees. Corruption is harmful, not only financially but also socially, because it is often used to mask other serious crimes such as trafficking in drugs or human beings. In addition, it can weaken citizens’ trust in democratic institutions and their political leaders.

Several anti-corruption instruments exist at international and EU level, but their implementation by Member States remains uneven.

In order to strengthen the political will, in all Member States, to tackle this problem, the Commission announces the setting up of an Anti-Corruption Report and calls on EU countries to implement the existing anti-corruption instruments more effectively. It also presents measures aimed at a stronger focus on corruption in EU internal and external policies.

Anti-Corruption Report

Starting in 2013, the Commission will publish an Anti-Corruption Reportevery two years as an EU evaluation and monitoring mechanism. The Report will identify trends and weaknesses that need to be addressed, and stimulate exchange of best practices. It will give a better reflection of the efforts made and problems encountered, and of the causes of corruption.

The Report will be based on data from different sources, including the monitoring mechanisms of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations, but also from independent experts, research findings, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Eurojust, Europol, the European Anti-Corruption Network, Member States, Eurobarometer surveys and civil society.

Implementation of existing instruments

The Commission urges the EU countries to transpose all European legislation against corruption in the private sector into their national law and to ensure that it is applied properly.

It also asks the Member States that have not already done so to ratify the existing international anti-corruption instruments: the Criminal Law Convention and the Civil Law Convention on Corruption of the Council of Europe, the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the OECD Convention.

The Commission also intends to enhance cooperation with those international authorities and will request EU participation in the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) created within the Council of Europe.

Focus on corruption in EU policies

Anti-corruption should be an integral part of all relevant EU policies, both internal and external.

Internally, the Commission intends in particular to strengthen judicial and police cooperation in the field of corruption, in collaboration with Europol, Eurojust, the European Police College (CEPOL) and OLAF. It also aims to improve the training of law enforcement officials in this field.

The Commission will also propose modernised EU rules on confiscation of criminal assets to ensure that courts in Member States are able to effectively confiscate and recover criminal assets, including in cases involving corruption. Because corruption is often linked to money laundering, the Commission will present a strategy in 2012 to strengthen the quality of criminal financial investigations. Lastly, to gain a better measure of the extent of corruption and the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures, an Action Plan to improve statistics on crime and criminal justice is under preparation.

The Commission will also focus on modernising EU rules governing public procurement, accounting standards and statutory audit for EU companies. It has also adopted an Anti-Fraud Strategy against fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union.

Externally, the Commission will continue to focus strongly on the monitoring of anti-corruption policies in candidate countries and potential candidates for EU accession. It plans to make this fight a key aspect of the support given by the EU to countries participating in the Neighbourhood Policy. With regard to cooperation and development policies, the Commission promotes greater use of the conditionality principle, i.e. making compliance with international anti-corruption standards a condition of cooperation and development assistance.

Related Acts

Report from the Commission to the Council of 6 June 2011 on the modalities of European Union participation in the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) [COM (2011) 307 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

of 28 September 2011 setting up the Group of Experts on Corruption [OJ C 286 of 30.9.2011].
The task of this Group of Experts is to advise the Commission on all matters relating to corruption and, in particular, to assist it in producing the EU Anti-Corruption Report.