EU Adviser Deems Some Findings not Reviewable

     (CN) – Courts should not review decisions adopted by the European Parliament’s petitions committee, an adviser to the EU’s highest judicial authority said Thursday.
     All EU citizens and legal residents have the right to petition the committee with regard to a certain “sphere of activities” that affect the petitioner directly, according to the opinion by Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen, which is not available in English.
     If the petitions committee deems a submission inadmissible, it will usually “suggest that the petitioner bring the matter before the competent national or international body,” a statement on Jaaskinen’s opinion says.
     Admissible opinions are on the other hand examined for substance, and then subject to a direct reply, “unless the petition is first of all sent to other institutions or bodies for analysis, for an opinion or for information.”
     The case at issue stems from a petition submitted by a former official of the European Parliament, identified only as Mr. Schonberger, regarding his 2005 staff report.
     The petitions committee could not deal with the substance of Schonberger’s petition and so forwarded it to the director-general for personnel.
     Schonberger in turn brought an action before the General Court, which ruled that the petition was considered to be admissible and was therefore nonchallengeable.
     As the matter heads to the Court of Justice for review, Jaaskinen on Thursday quoted General Court case law that sayss “the action taken by the Parliament pursuant to a petition declared admissible is not subject to review by the EU courts, since the Parliament retains full political discretion in that regard.”
     The court’s summary of Jaaskinen’s opinion says judicial review is appropriate for assessments of petition admissibility, “since such review is the only guarantee of the effectiveness of the right of petition.”
     It could affect the very essence of the right of petition to declare any given petition inadmissible, so it is possible to annul decisions of that nature, Jaaskinen said.
     Jaaskinen considered the novel issue of “whether the decisions adopted by the Petitions Committee are subject to review by the EU courts,” and recommended Thursday that the court “find that the judicial review exercised of the decisions of the European Parliament’s petitions committee of the must be precluded, in so far as those decisions are not challengeable acts.”
     “The right of petition is a tool for direct political dialogue and is the expression of democratic interaction between a citizen and elected representatives which should, except in exceptional cases, remain shielded from intervention by the EU courts,” the court’s summary of his opinion states.
     While the right of petition aims to formally make the Parliament aware of certain issues, it does not give “the applicant the right to claim legal protection directly,” the summary of Jaskinen’s opinion continues.
     Parliament has a duty to give applicants access, and “only the establishment of those mechanisms may therefore be subject to review by the EU courts by means of an action for failure to act,” the statement reads.
     “Review by the EU courts is thus required only if the Parliament’s conduct reflects a serious and persistent infringement of the right of petition, calling into question the application of the petitions instrument in itself. That would particularly be so if the Parliament were to refuse to receive petitions or in the event of a failure to respond to petitions.”
     Jaaskinen’s opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, which has not begun deliberations on the case.

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