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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

The Potential of Civil Society and Human Rights Organisations through Third-Party Interventions before the European Courts: The EU’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice

Bilyana Petkova
University of Kent
Bilyana Petkova
University of Kent

This paper examines the present role and the potential for future involvement of civil society and human rights organizations in the new judicial accountability and fundamental rights landscape characterizing the European Union’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ) after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. We focus our assessment on existing paths and opportunities for these actors to have access to the European Courts in providing evidence and legal expertise on fundamental rights cases through so-called ‘third party submissions’, i.e. as ‘intervening parties’. To flesh out these issues we rely on examples falling within the scope of a relatively new and complex domain of European law such as the AFSJ, and in particular on asylum and external border control law. Our main argument is that civil society, represented by the non-governmental sector (NGOs), as well as human rights-oriented organizations, might substantively facilitate effective judicial protection and foster the practical delivery of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to vulnerable groups such as refugees and asylum seekers. Access to effective remedies for these individuals in cases of alleged fundamental rights violations has proved to be difficult due to lack of information and an ‘accountability gap’ affecting the ways in which EU asylum and border rules are being implemented by the set of national authorities and European agencies involved in migration and border control.
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