ECJ / CFI
Court of Justice of the European Communities and Court of First Instance

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The Court of Justice of the European Communities (ECJ) is the common judicial organ of the three European Communities: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the European Community (EC). The three European Communities are the economic buttress of the European Union (EU).

The ECJ was originally created in 1952 as the judicial body of ECSC, the first of the European Communities. However, in 1957, following the establishment of the other two communities, the Euratom and the European Economic Community (subsequently transformed into the EC), the Court became the common judicial organ of all three European Communities.

In many regards, the ECJ is the odd man out in this compilation. Indeed, the ECJ is by far the largest, busiest, most complex and developed of the judicial bodies surveyed. The extent of its competencies and powers and its enormous case-load, budget, and staff are unmatched. Moreover, many, including the ECJ itself, regard the Court not as much as an international body, but rather as a supra-national organism, the main purpose of which is to bring about a closer integration between its members, rather than to merely avert conflict between them. However, because the ECJ has become the model of many other subsequent regional courts examined here (i.e., the Court of Justice of the Andean Community, the Benelux Court of Justice or the Court of Justice of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and is taken into consideration by other regional economic integration zones that have considered establishing regional jurisdictions (e.g., the MERCOSUR) its exclusion would have severely limited the serviceability of this survey.

Two caveats, however, should be introduced. First, the constant expansion of the competencies of the European Communities, as well as the increase in the number of member States (from the original six to 15), led in 1988 to the creation of the Court of First Instance (CFI). While the CFI is formally part of the ECJ, its characteristics warrant treatment in a separate entry.

Secondly, the three communities are still distinct international organizations with their own distinct body of law and legal personality, and the procedure of the Court acting in its three different capacities has some slight differences.