Members’ section
Personal identifiers
Home >> News >> Europe >> Bulgarian quasi-judicial equality body regarded as a ‘court or tribunal’ by (...)

Bulgarian quasi-judicial equality body regarded as a ‘court or tribunal’ by the Advocate General Kokott of the ECJ

October 9th 2012
The Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination, a quasi-judicial equality body regarded as a ‘court or tribunal’ by the Advocate General Kokott of the ECJ.
On 20 September 2012, Advocate General Kokott of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) delivered an opinion in the case Valeri Hariev Belov (C-394/11), brought before the Court through reference for a preliminary ruling from the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the Bulgarian equality body. In the opinion the Advocate General examined the case-law elements defining a national ‘court or tribunal’ with the power to refer cases to the Court for such rulings, and came to the conclusion that this equality body should be considered as fulfilling the conditions of that case-law.

The criteria which were questioned by the defendants regarding the admissibility of a reference for a preliminary ruling by this quasi-judicial equality body were its independence, the compulsory character of its jurisdiction and the judicial nature of its decisions. These were examined in detail by the Advocate General with reference to the settled case-law of the Court, and it was found that the only element which could be questioned was the compulsory character of the equality body’s jurisdiction, considering that an alternative legal remedy exists for taking action against discrimination before a civil court. However, understanding ‘compulsory’ as meaning the binding character of the decisions taken by the equality body and not its exclusiveness, the Advocate General invites the Court to seize the opportunity given by this case to clarify its case-law on this point, and to consider that the Commission for Protection against Discrimination is a ‘court or tribunal’.

Were the ECJ to follow the opinion of the Advocate General regarding the admissibility of the reference, it would have the opportunity to decide on an interesting case of indirect discrimination based on ethnic origin and the possibilities for justification of such discrimination. The facts of the case concerned the positioning of electricity meters at unreachable places in areas considered as being Roma-neighbourhoods, although these were placed in a very reachable way in all other areas of the municipality.

You can access the entire text of the opinion here.