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Proposals to improve the operation of the European Court of Justice and to curb the excessive effects of certain co...
Proposals to improve the operation of the European Court of Justice and to curb the excessive effects of certain court judgments are published today in a memorandum by foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind.

Speaking about the memorandum, Mr Rifkind said: 'The UK wants an independent and effective ECJ. It is essential to uphold the community legal order and especially to enforce the single market.

'But changes are necessary both to improve the workings of the court and to address concerns about the effects of some of its judgments. I believe the proposals I have published today will achieve these aims and accordingly improve public perception of the court and strengthen its authority.

'Some judgments have imposed disproportionate costs on governments and businesses even where every effort has been made to comply with EC obligations. We are also concerned that the ECJ's interpretation sometimes seems to go beyond what member states intended when they made the laws. The role of the court is to interpret existing law, not to make new law.'

The main proposals in the memorandum are designed to:

-- limit the retrospective effect of court judgments;

-- limit the damages payable by member states found to be in breach of treaty obligations;

-- apply national time limits in relation to claims made against member states for non-compliance with directives;

-- introduce an appeal procedure;

-- speed up procedures for cases where British courts seek clarification of European Law (Article 177 references);

-- speed up procedures to amend Community law after a court judgment which interprets it in ways contrary to its original intention;

-- clarify the principle of subsidiarity in the interpretation of community law.

The memorandum contains detailed proposals for discussion in the Inter Governmental Conference in Brussels. It is being tabled today by the UK and the foreign secretary has circulated the text to his EU foreign minister colleagues.

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