The milk story that shook the justice system

By Camille FratiGilles Kayser Switch to French for original article

It was a tug of war over milk quotas in the early 1980s that led to a resounding ruling by the European Court of Human Rights forcing the Grand Duchy to carry out a thorough review of its judicial system.

Behind the key rulings in case law, learnt by heart by generations of law students and cited in court, there are always stories that are more or less harmless and whose protagonists did not expect repercussions that would go far beyond their personal situation. Like how the current face of Luxembourg's justice system has its origins in a legal battle between a handful of dairy farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The story begins in 1984. It was in that year, on April 2nd to be precise, that the member countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) had to start applying the quotas on milk production devised by the European Commission. "You have to remember that at the time Europe was drowning in milk", says former lawyer Fernand Entringer, who was defending the dairy farmers' association Procola at the time. "The EEC was obliged to buy the surplus milk and had it processed into milk powder for Third World countries. This was ruining it. So, the Commission introduced national quotas to better control milk production."

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