FECL 45 (July 1996):


At its Florence Summit on 21-22 June, the European Council succeeded in putting an end to the dispute in which Britain was opposed to the rest of the Union over the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Europol. On 24 July, the Permanent Representatives of the 15 EU member states signed a Protocol opening the way for the ratification of the Convention by the member states.

Political agreement on the Protocol was reached in Florence, after the EU Heads of State managed to appease Prime Minister John Major on the "mad cows" issue, thereby obtaining an end to the United Kingdom’s boycott of EU decision-making.


Compromise formula

Prime Minister Major finally accepted a compromise formula established by a Protocol. By a declaration made at the time of the signing of this Protocol or at any time thereafter, any member state may state that it accepts the jurisdiction of the ECJ to give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of the Europol Convention.


Two options

The Protocol offers member states a choice of two alternatives when making a declaration as described. According to alternative a), any court or tribunal of that State against whose decision there is no judicial remedy under national law may request the ECJ to give a preliminary ruling on a question raised in a case pending before it and concerning the interpretation of the Europol Convention, if that court or tribunal considers that a decision on the question is necessary to enable it to give a judgement. According to alternative b) such a request to the ECJ may be presented by any court or tribunal of that State.


John Major satisfied with "flexible" cooperation

The ratification of the Protocol shall take place together with the Europol Convention itself.

In a comment on the compromise formula, a satisfied John Major said the fact that British courts were free to address the ECJ proved the advantage of "flexibility" in building Europe.


Sources: Florence European Council, 21-22.6.96: Presidency Conclusions; EU Council, General Secretariat: press release, Brussels 24.7.96, 9152/96 (Presse 218); Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 24.6.96.