Interim Relief Before the EU Courts: Three Great Fundamentals and Two Fundamentals That Need a Rethink

Eric Barbier de La Serre, Mar 19, 2013

Before the EU Courts, nearly all applications for interim relief-including those made in major competition law cases-are heard by a single Judge, who is either the President or his delegate. While this rule is also applied in many Member States, the audacity of vesting a single person with the power to suspend decisions adopted by the full College of the European Commission, sometimes after years of complex proceedings, is noteworthy. If a suspension is not sufficient to ensure effective judicial protection, the Presidents can even address direct orders to the Commission.

In almost every case, the Presidents decide on their own whether they must strike quick and hard or, on the contrary, hold their horses. Clearly this is not an easy task, which probably explains why the case law on interim relief displays a recurring tension between audacity and caution.

  • On the one hand, the Presidents sometimes do not shy away from using their impressive powers even when this means that they must make findings that are entirely at odds with the decision of the European Commission. One of the best examples of such audacity is the IMS Health case, in which the President of the (then) Court of First Instance (“CFI”) found that it was urgent to suspend a Commission decision ordering interim measures, i.e., measures which by definition, in the Commission’s view, needed to be applied urgently.
  • On the other hand, in many cases the Presidents appear to

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