With a Member State’s accession to the EU, national judges acquire new powers as well as responsibilities. National judges as ‘juges communautaire de droit commun’ are expected to uphold the principle of EU law supremacy; interpret national law in conformity with EU law; set aside national provisions incompatible with EU law rules; when required, apply EU law ex officio; and send a preliminary question to the CJEU when the CJEU’s answers are needed for the resolution of a domestic legal dispute. Yet, is this feasible and how does this description of the EU law-minded national judge compare with reality? Based on survey and interview results with judges, this paper explores the knowledge of, experiences with, and attitudes towards EU law among lower court judges in Slovenia and Croatia. The paper aims to compare the reality of the application of EU law by national judges with the EU’s expectations of them. The results reveal that national judges are sceptical of their knowledge of EU law, encounter EU law only sporadically, and are fairly pessimistic of their role as EU law judges. Furthermore, this paper reveals that the constraints to the effective application of EU law by national judges do not necessarily stem from any negative sentiment towards the EU or EU law, but are rather of a practical nature. I discuss the relevance of these findings for discussions on the Europeanisation of national judiciaries.
Keywords: national judges, national courts, application of EU law, EU law, Europeanised judiciary, preliminary ruling procedure.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution − Non-Commercial − No Derivatives 4.0 International License.
Suggested citation: M Glavina, ‘The Reality of National Judges as EU Law Judges: Knowledge, Experiences and Attitudes of Lower Court Judges in Slovenia and Croatia’ (forthcoming in 2021) 17 CYELP.