The Court of Justice of the EU and judicial politics

Authored by: Jessica Guth , Sanna Elfving

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and EU Politics

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138485259
eBook ISBN: 9781351049955
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter deals with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as both a political and legal institution. The CJEU has often been described as political because of its prominent role in developing EU law as well as promoting further integration within the EU through its judgments. These judgments constitute a major source of EU law and apply in all member states. In terms of equality law, the judgments concerning equal pay, pensions, retirement ages and the protection afforded to workers due to pregnancy and maternity have been very influential, and many of these cases have also developed the EU legal order and strengthened its influence in member states (see Guth 2016). This first section briefly outlines the court’s composition, power and position. Section two focuses on existing work on gendering the CJEU, outlining key themes and key gaps. Research on the CJEU can be divided into two main categories: first, gendering the court itself and how it works and, second, the case law i.e. the outcomes of that work. These approaches highlight how applying a gender lens can help us better understand the power dynamics and relationships at play in the institutional structure. The final section of this chapter focuses on the way forward and, particularly, the relationship between the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as an area for future research. In spite of the CJEU’s and the ECtHR’s very distinct jurisdictions, their decisions in areas of law where fundamental human rights play a role are mutually reinforcing, and therefore the relationship between these courts could be important for the future of substantive gender equality.

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