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Litigating European Union Law Conference at the ERA in Trier

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

By Eoin Delap BL

In the last week of January, members of the EU Bar Association attended the Litigating European Union Law conference hosted by the Academy of European Union Law (ERA) in the German city of Trier. This three-day conference brought participants, in a practical and engaging way, through each step of bringing a case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

From left to right are: Eoin Delap BL, Wafa Memon BL and Lorraine Lally BL.

The conference was held in hybrid format, with six members travelling to Trier to attend in-person. We joined more than 30 lawyers from across Europe bringing a range of perspectives and experiences, and representing diverse legal traditions.

The conference was held in the excellent ERA premises in Trier and online participants logged in via the equally impressive webcasting facility.

Michaela Hájková, of the ECJ, began the conference with a presentation on the basic workings of the Court and its interactions with domestic legal systems. Amedeo Barletta followed walking us through how to use the preliminary reference procedure. Drawing on his experience in Italy, he focused on how to persuade judges and decision makers in domestic courts and tribunals to make a preliminary reference.

After lunch, Bram Hoorelbeke introduced us to the mechanics of litigating at the ECJ covering everything from how to submit pleadings to borrowing robes. We were disappointed to learn advocates can only borrow their own member state’s robe!

It was an early start on Thursday for the short journey to visit the ECJ complex in Luxembourg. We toured the impressive court buildings and observed submissions in a preliminary reference from the Italian courts—the latest in a series of cases before the ECJ on the compatibility of restrictions on gambling with freedom of establishment.

We returned to Trier for lunch and spent the afternoon with Daniel Sarmiento Ramírez-Escudero applying some of the lessons of the preceding days by working in groups to solve a problem question.

Eileen Lagathu led the conference’s last day giving a lecture on admissibility and the options available to parties where an urgent or expedited preliminary ruling is sought. The conference then wrapped up with lunch.

On Friday afternoon, those attending in-person had an opportunity to visit Trier, Germany’s oldest incorporated city, famed for its Roman ruins and as Karl Marx’s birthplace. Others took the train to visit central Luxembourg before flying home that evening.

Two elements of Litigating European Union Law stand out. First, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow lawyers from across the EU and benefit from shared knowledge and experiences. Second, visiting the ECJ helps to make the Court’s work more real and relevant to us as practitioners.

The conference brought the previously distant prospect of bringing a case before the ECJ closer to reality. I highly recommend this and other ERA conferences and to anyone with an interest in EU law.

Thank you to the EUBA for facilitating our attendance and to the ERA—Sanja Jovičić and Elizabeth Greenwood in particular—for hosting this excellent conference.

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