Sowing Wheat and Reaping Thorns? The Referring Courts’ Relationship with the CJEU

The preliminary reference procedure laid down in Article 267 TFEU is often considered the crown jewel of the Union judicial structure. These rules afford significant powers, most notably the decisions as to whether and when to request a ruling, to national courts. As has been famously pointed out by Karen Alter, if national courts suspect that their questions will be misused by the CJEU, they will resort to withholding questions. Securing the continued trust of national courts is thus a necessity for the continued functioning of the preliminary reference procedure, and by extension for the Court’s position in the EU institutional structure. Against this backdrop, the paper examines the CJEU’s rulings from the referring courts’ perspective. Relying on a unique dataset of 193 orders for references and the 160 judgments they gave rise to, it offers empirically grounded insight into the CJEU’s efforts to gain and preserve the trust of its interlocutors within the Member State judiciaries.