Article 26 — Appeals
- Member States shall ensure that decisions relating to the granting, withdrawal or reduction of benefits under this Directive or decisions taken under Article 7 which affect applicants individually may be the subject of an appeal within the procedures laid down in national law. At least in the last instance the possibility of an appeal or a review, in fact and in law, before a judicial authority shall be granted.
- In cases of an appeal or a review before a judicial authority referred to in paragraph 1, Member States shall ensure that free legal assistance and representation is made available on request in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice. This shall include, at least, the preparation of the required procedural documents and participation in the hearing before the judicial authorities on behalf of the applicant.
Free legal assistance and representation shall be provided by suitably qualified persons, as admitted or permitted under national law, whose interests do not conflict or could not potentially conflict with those of the applicant.
- Member States may also provide that free legal assistance and representation are granted:
- only to those who lack sufficient resources; and/or
- only through the services provided by legal advisers or other counsellors specifically designated by national law to assist and represent applicants.
Member States may provide that free legal assistance and representation not be made available if the appeal or review is considered by a competent authority to have no tangible prospect of success. In such a case, Member States shall ensure that legal assistance and representation is not arbitrarily restricted and that the applicant’s effective access to justice is not hindered.
- Member States may also:
- impose monetary and/or time limits on the provision of free legal assistance and representation, provided that such limits do not arbitrarily restrict access to legal assistance and representation;
- provide that, as regards fees and other costs, the treatment of applicants shall not be more favorable than the treatment generally accorded to their nationals in matters pertaining to legal assistance.
- Member States may demand to be reimbursed wholly or partially for any costs granted if and when the applicant’s financial situation has improved considerably or if the decision to grant such costs was taken on the basis of false information supplied by the applicant.
- Procedures for access to legal assistance and representation shall be laid down in national law.