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Pikamae to soon assume job of advocate general of European Court of Justice

TALLINN - Priit Pikamae, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Estonia since 2013, is about to start work as advocate general of the European Court of Justice at the beginning of February. 

Pikamae will leave his current position on February 4 and take the oath of office in his new position on February 6, spokesperson for the Supreme Court Merje Talvik told BNS on Monday.

"Pursuant to law, the longest-serving head of a chamber of the Supreme Court will become acting chief justice of the Supreme Court, in the present case the chairman of the civil chamber, Villu Kove," Talvik said. 

The proposal concerning the appointment of the new chief justice of the Supreme Court must be made by the president and the candidate must be endorsed by the Riigikogu.

Pikamae has been a justice of the Supreme Court since 2006 and has served as chief justice of the Supreme Court since 2013. He has been a judge since 2001.

The advocates general are appointed to office for six years. The term of office of the advocate general Pikamae will replace will end in October 2018. The government at a Cabinet sitting in November 2017 initially approved Madis Ernits as the Estonian candidate for the position of advocate general of the European Court of Justice but a high committee of experts at the last moment rejected his candidacy, ERR reported last fall.

As a result of this, the Foreign Ministry announced a new competition for finding an advocate general. Six people submitted an application by the deadline. One person to have submitted an application, European Court of Rights judge Julia Laffranque, withdrew her application, after which there were statements in media as though Laffranque had lobbied among politicians for support toward her candidacy.

In addition to 28 judges, the European Court of Justice also includes 11 advocates general. Each court case is handled by a judge as well as one advocate general, who aid judges but are not directly involved in making decisions. The European Court of Justice usually pronounces verdicts that are the same as the assessments of the advocates general.

Several judges of the European Court of Justice have previously been advocates general and their salary is equal to the judges of the European Court of Justice, which in Estonia's terms is high. For example, the annual salary of the Estonian judge of the European Court of Justice Kulliki Jurimae according to 2016 figures is more than 250,000 euros, not including other aid awards and payments, ERR said.

Advocates general of the European Court of Justice are chosen from among people whose independence is beyond doubt and who hold the qualification necessary for being appointed to the highest judicial office of their country or who are recognized and competent lawyers. The advocates general are nominated for six years by common accord of the governments of member states after consulting with the EU's high committee of experts.

No Estonians have previously been appointed advocates general of the European Court of Justice.

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