UCL Faculty of Laws


The Uncertain Structure of Process Review in the EU

By Dr Oliver Gerstenberg (Senior Lecturer at UCL Laws)

Four European Union flags in front of the Berlaymont Building, Brussels

29 November 2021

Image credit: Thijs ter HaarCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons  

Publication details

Gerstenberg, Oliver (2021) 'The Uncertain Structure of Process Review in the EU: Beyond the Debate on the CJEU’s Weiss Ruling and the German Federal Constitutional Court’s PSPP Ruling', Jus Cogens, 3, 279-301. 10.1007/s42439-021-00049-y.


The obligation to provide reasons (e.g. in Art. 296 TFEU) may appear rather a simple and straightforward, but in actual practice—as the mutually antagonistic Weiss rulings of the CJEU and the German Bundesverfassungsgericht (“BVG”) amply demonstrate—is fraught with constitutional complication. On the one side, there lies the concern with a deeply intrusive form of judicial review which substitutes judicially determined “good” reasons for those of the reviewee decisionmaker—legislatures, administrative agencies, or, as in Weiss, the European Central Bank (ECB). On the other side lies the concern with judicial abdication in the face of technical expertise, uncertainty and complexity, turning the reason-giving requirement into a mere façade thereby placing democratic accountability in the modern administrative state beyond law’s remit. Either way, normatively and conceptually, we seem left with a half-way house only. Drawing on the recent US administrative law discourse—the neo-Fullerian concept of an “internal morality of law” (Sunstein / Vermeule) and democratic experimentalism (Sabel / Kessler)—this paper explores the concept of process review as tertium datur. Process review responds to concerns over the rule of law and administrative discretion through indirect, procedural safeguards, by imposing requirements of reasoned justification, rather than through wholesale invalidation or aggressive substantive review.