Method of citing the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the basis of the ECLI (European Case-Law Identifier)
I. Context of the method of citing the case-law
A European Case-Law Identifier (ECLI) has been created as part of an initiative taken by the Council. 1 That identifier is intended to provide an unambiguous reference to both national and European case-law and to define a minimum set of uniform metadata for case-law. It thus facilitates the consultation and citation of case-law in the European Union.
The ECLI is composed of the following four mandatory elements, in addition to the prefix ‘ECLI’:
- the code corresponding to the Member State of the court or tribunal concerned or to the European Union where it is an EU Court;
- the abbreviation corresponding to the court or tribunal which delivered the decision;
- the year of the decision;
- an ordinal number of a maximum of 25 alphanumeric characters, in a format decided by each Member State or by the supranational court or tribunal concerned. The ordinal number may not contain any punctuation marks other than full stops (‘.’) or colons (‘:’), the latter separating the components of an ECLI.
Following the recommendation of the Council that the Court of Justice of the European Union adopt the European Case-Law Identifier system, the Court has assigned an ECLI to all decisions delivered by the Courts of the European Union since 1954 and to the Opinions and Views of the Advocates General.
For example, the ECLI of the judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 July 2005, Schempp (C‑403/03), is: ‘EU:C:2005:446’. 2
This is broken down as follows:
- ‘EU’ indicates that it is a decision delivered by one of the Courts of the European Union (for decisions of national courts or tribunals, the code corresponding to the relevant Member State will appear instead of ‘EU’);
- ‘C’ indicates that this decision was delivered by the Court of Justice (decisions delivered by the General Court would be indicated by the letter ‘T’ and those of the Civil Service Tribunal by ‘F’);
- ‘2005’ indicates that the decision was delivered in 2005;
- ‘446’ indicates that it is the 446th ECLI assigned in respect of the year in question.
II. Method of citing the case-law
The method of citing the case-law adopted by the Court of Justice of the European Union combines the ECLI with the usual name of the decision and the case number in the register. It has gradually been brought into use by each EU Court/Tribunal since the first half of 2014, and was harmonised as between the Courts of the European Union in 2016.
Thus, this method of citation:
- improves the accessibility of judicial decisions in that the references to the case-law contain, each time they appear, the information necessary unambiguously to identify the decision referred to, particularly as all the constituent elements of the references are mentioned every time the reference is made;
- provides greater linguistic neutrality since the format of the citation is largely identical in all languages and thus contains fewer elements to be translated;
- facilitates the automatic insertion of hyperlinks on the ECLI of the decision cited and on the relevant paragraph of that decision.
The constituent elements of the reference are as follows:
1 Council conclusions of 29 April 2011 inviting the introduction of the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) and a minimum set of uniform metadata for case law (OJ 2011 C 127, p. 1). Further information.
2 In order not to lengthen the reference unnecessarily, the abbreviation ECLI is omitted when citing decisions of the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal.