C-195/08 PPU, Rinau

Today, the first case (C-195/08 PPU) was heard in which the new urgent preliminary ruling procedure in the area of freedom, security and justice is being used (hence the suffix). This procedure was introduced by Council Decision 2008/79 (pdf) of December 20, 2007, which, as is well known, ended a long discussion on whether such procedure should be introduced.

The Brussels European Council of 4-5 November 2004 decided that “thought should be given to creating a solution for the speedy and appropriate handling of requests for preliminary rulings concerning the area of freedom, security and justice, where appropriate, by amending the Statutes of the Court”. This finally resulted in amendments to the Rules of Procedure (pdf) of the Court of Justice, inter alia introducing a new Article 104b (see this link (pdf) for the text of the amendments). The new urgent procedure is applicable as from March 1, 2008 (see this press release of the Court of Justice (pdf)).

Of course, as is well known, Article 104a already provides for an urgent preliminary ruling procedure, but as Lenaerts has pointed out last December in the Common Market Law Review: “ this accelerated procedure has been considered inadequate for the present purposes because, among other things, it has not been found to cut down sufficiently the duration of the proceedings and its acceleration is achieved at the expense of all the other cases pending before the Court, thereby explaining why it has been used by the Court only on a very exceptional basis” (link, pp 1654-1656 (access kluwerlawonline required, pdf)).

The lenght of the preliminary ruling procedure is of course a returning point of criticism and concern. The Lisbon Treaty will add to Article 234 EC that when a preliminary question is raised in a case pending before a court or tribunal of a Member State with regard to a person in custody, the Court of Justice of the European Union shall act "with the minimum of delay". (new Art. 267(4) TFEU)

Update July 12: judgment was delivered yesterday: