Recent media coverage of the EU Court of Justice suggests that the period of ‘benign neglect by the powers that be and the mass media’ – once described by Professor Eric Stein – may well be truly over once and for all. The most unexpected aspect of this rather unique level of media attention is that it does not directly concern any particular judicial ruling by a Court, which, since it decided its first case in 1954, has issued more than 28,000 judgments and orders. Instead, the Court of Justice (CJ) and its President, Mr Vassilios Skouris, have been subject to unprecedented media scrutiny following intense internal infighting about a contentious proposal which officially aims to ‘reinforce the efficiency of justice at EU level’ by doubling the number of judges working at the General Court (GC).
In an interesting judgment, the CJEU has ruled that Regulation 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport applies outside of EU borders to transport taking place in third states, if that transport began on EU territory. This is a novel ruling that is expected to have important positive impacts on animal welfare. However, it can also be seen as an example of the CJEU’s tendency in recent years to read the EU’s jurisdiction expansively, stretching traditional international law notions of ‘territorial jurisdiction’ to permit the regulation of conduct taking place in third states. Continue reading →
This post concerns an interesting case (commented on by Steve Peers a while ago) on one of the main powers of the Commission that accompanies its right to initiate legislation: its right to withdraw a proposal. In Case C-409/13 Council v. Commission the Grand Chamber of the Court had to decide on the limits of this power to withdraw and its judgment has important implications for the balance of powers among the EU’s institutions. In a nutshell, the Court required the Commission to state reasons for an act of withdrawal and even assessed the Commission’s actions on the merits. While this means that withdrawals by the Commission may be challenged on both procedural and substantive grounds, the Court did nonetheless exercise deference towards the Commission. The case may have implications for the Commission’s controversial policy to ‘improve’ EU rules by inter alia withdrawing proposals for ‘unnecessary’ legislation in the future, although the deadline for challenging the withdrawal of the circular economy legislative package has already passed. Continue reading →
When is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU applicable to a Member State measure? In C-446/12 – 449/12 Willems the CJEU held that a Member State which stores and uses fingerprint data, originally collected in compliance with Regulation No 2252/2004, but which the Member State then uses for purposes other than those stipulated in the Regulation, is not acting within the scope of EU law, and therefore is not bound by the Charter. This case appears to indicate a retreat by the Court from the expansive interpretation of the scope of application of the Charter which it had previously laid down in C-617/10 Fransson. Continue reading →
Situated between the market and the state, the notion, concept and characteristics of public services are often multifaceted and difficult to grasp. The EU layer of public service regulation further adds to this complexity as it interacts in many different ways with the national legal frameworks in this field: EU law may structure national legal norms, coordinate the provision of services between the Member States, bring about minimal or maximal standards (e.g. pertaining to quality, ubiquity or affordability of the services provided), comprise detailed regulation or even set prices for the provision of public services as in the case of mobile roaming tariffs. At the same time the law on public services is under the influence of a whole range of EU law provisions and regimes: namely the rules on free movement, competition law and state aid, general and sector-specific primary law provisions, horizontal rules of secondary law, as well as a large body of sector-specific secondary EU law, which has increased substantially over the past few years. With his book Public Services in EU Law Wolf Sauter undertakes a challenging attempt to elucidate the complexity of EU law in the field of public services. Continue reading →
When rendering one of its last judgments of 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (Court) had the opportunity to end once and for all the dispute of (now) three rounds between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Council of the European Union (Council) over the legal basis to be used when the EU wishes to adopt jointly, within the framework of an association agreement with a third country, a social legislation benefitting the migrating workers of both parties.
As the UK did in earlier cases on this topic submitted to the Court, in case C-81/13 UK v Council it criticised the Council once more for using Article 48 TFEU as the substantive legal basis for the adoption of a social security measure implementing an association agreement, in this particular case the Council Decision 2012/776/EU, which aimed to update the obsolete implementing provisions on the coordination of social security systems as established by the EEC-Turkey Association Agreement (Agreement).
The following post discusses whether the judgment delivered by the Grand Chamber of the Court in this case has been successful in finally bringing the above-mentioned dispute to an end, and it also provides a closer look on the Court’s reasoning as regards the choice of legal basis in relation to the measures implementing association agreements. Continue reading →
According to 2012 OECD data, 52% of EU adults are overweight or obese. It is thus not surprising that the recent decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Kaltoft (Case C-354/13), on whether obesity discrimination can amount to disability discrimination, has created quite a stir in the press. Following Advocate General (AG) Jääskinen’s Opinion, some media suggested that ‘Severe obesity is a disability’. As will be discussed in this post, the CJEU did not quite go as far as to accept that obesity is a disability, but it did recognise that, in some cases, differential treatment on the basis of obesity can amount to disability discrimination. Hence, this judgment marks another step forward towards clarifying the scope of EU equality law and bringing about a consistent application at national level.
The present contribution is a translated and somewhat simplified version of an article that appeared in German on 23 March 2015 in the Swiss legal online-journal Jusletter. The authors thank the Jusletter for their kind permission to republish the article and Markus Kern and the European Law Blog’s editorial team for valuable comments on earlier versions.
Readers of this blog will nearly inevitably already have been confronted with this decision. The reactions to the Court’s Opinion have been vivid, to say the least. What did the Court say exactly on this draft agreement for accession to the ECHR? And is the current predominantly negative reaction (see for an exception here) justified? The main aim of the present post is to provide a concise summary of the Court’s findings, but also to provide some early assessment and criticism of the reactions on particular points. After a brief historical introduction to the context of the Opinion, we follow the sequence of analysis of the Court and thus examine in turn:
the arguments of the Court on the autonomy of the EU legal order;
the monopoly on dispute settlement established by Article 344 TFEU;
the co-respondent mechanism;
the procedure for the prior involvement of the CJEU and the specific characteristics of EU law concerning judicial review in matters of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
Few elections have as their core issue an international arrangement. The Greek election of 25 January 2015 was one of these exceptions. In 2010 and 2012, Greece agreed with its Eurozone partners and the IMF to accept two large bailout packages conditioned on the fulfilment of far-reaching, austerity-oriented reforms. It also agreed to submit to a monitoring mechanism comprised by officials from the European Commission, the IMF, and the ECB that would supervise its compliance with the conditions and regularly revise them. This monitoring and rule-making structure became known as the Troika.
The second of the bailout agreements, concluded in 2012, was due to expire on 28 February 2015. Unlike Portugal or Ireland, Greece had not established access to the bond market by the end of its Adjustment Programme. Ending international financing support at the end of February would thus possibly prompt a Greek default. What the next step after the expiry of the 2012 bailout programme should be was put to a national vote on 25 January.
This post will offer an overview of the recent major developments concerning the Greek part of the Eurozone crisis. It will discuss how the Greek government tried to challenge basic elements of the new European economic governance and the outcome of this challenge. In the first part of the post, I present the starting position of the new Greek government (1.), then the legal and political context in which the negotiations took place (2.), and finally the agreement of 20 February 2015 (3.). In my conclusion, I take the position that opponents of austerity should wait to celebrate a victory. “Strict conditionality”, the necessary counterpart of financial assistance according to EU law, proved to be much stricter than many actors thought, both in economic and institutional terms (4.). Continue reading →
Most state aid cases seem relatively straightforward, with the most notable exception being tax cases which had their fair share of attention recently. When I read a summary of the Eventech case (C-518/13), at first glance it seemed to fall in the straightforward category. However, as one may recall from tax state aid cases, often the most difficult aspects of these cases are the criteria of selectivity and the involvement of state resources. And it just so happens that these criteria are the main issues at stake before the CJEU in Eventech, which makes it a judgment worthy of some further discussion.
Anyone who has ever been to London knows the distinctive Black Cabs which are probably as much a British symbol as their well-known bigger sisters, the red double-deckers. What you may not know (at least I didn’t) is that there are also other kinds of taxis in London called minicabs.
In C-413/13 FNV Kunsten Informatie en Media, the Court decided that competition law does not apply to arrangements among freelance substitute orchestra musicians that aim to improving their working conditions if they can be qualifed as ‘workers’. In so doing, the Court significantly expanded the scope for taking social interests into account within competition law analysis and rejected the more narrow and liberal approach taken by the Dutch National Competition Authority (NCA), the Dutch government and—not surprisingly—the European Commission. This is a significant case, not only because the Court for the first time had to deal with the increasingly more common phenomenon of the ‘false self-employed’ when interpreting competition law, but also because the Court once again demonstrated its willingness to take public interests other than economic efficiency into account when applying competition law (a holistic approach that, I argue, is fundamentally more in line with the EU treaties).
On January 14, Advocate General (AG) Cruz-Villalón issued his opinion in the reference for a preliminary ruling on Gauweiler et al. v Deutscher Bundestag on the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT). The OMT Programme launched in September 2012 was part of a series of measures taken by the ECB in response to the Euro crisis accompanying the loan facilities (European Financial Stability Facility – EFSF, European Stability Mechansim – ESM).
The German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, “BVerfG”) had asked the Court of Justice (CJEU) two questions in what it classified as an ultra vires review of acts of the European Union. Roughly speaking, the BVerfG wanted to check whether the European Central Bank (ECB) had transgressed the limits of its powers derived from the treaties. If the ECB had, this would have consequences for the constitutional identity of Germany. Therefore, the BVerfG first wanted clarification on whether the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) Programme was an economic rather than a monetary measure and whether the ECB had therefore exceeded its powers by establishing it. Second, the BVerfG raised the question whether the OMT programme was not violating the prohibition of monetary financing of Member State. Continue reading →
Sometimes a book wins you over, and José Luís Da Cruz Vilaça’s EU Law and Integration: Twenty Years of Judicial Application of EU Law (Oxford/Portland, Hart 2014), is such a book.
I must admit that I had some reservations at first over the concept of the book, which is in essence an overview of the legal career – both as a legal scholar and a judge – of José Luís Da Cruz Vilaça, on the basis of a series of articles on different topics written over the course of two decades. Books like this only stand out if they can avoid three traps. Continue reading →
Should EU secondary legislation be reviewed against the benchmark of the provisions of an international agreement? In 2012 the General Court answered this question in the affirmative and annulled two decisions of the Commission which were based on a regulation which was deemed incompatible with the Aarhus Convention. However, the EU institutions appealed against those judgments. Consequently, in cases C‑401 to 403/12, Council e.a. v. Vereniging Milieudefensie and C-404 and 405/12, Council v. Stichting Natuur en Milieu e.a., the Grand Chamber of the Court was confronted with the same question. There is already quite some case law on the topic of review of legality within the EU legal order in light of international obligations of the EU, typically with the Court being hesitant to undertake such review. In the cases involving the Vereniging Milieudefensie and the Stichting Natuur en Milieu, the General Court and the Advocate General made, in my view, some valuable suggestions in favour of reviewing EU law against international agreements. Unfortunately, the Court decided to stick to its guns, thus continuing in the line of its own previous jurisprudence, and annulled the General Court’s judgments. The result leaves a somewhat sour taste for those who think that EU institutions and their legal acts should be amenable to judicial review under reasonable conditions. Not only is the very purpose of the EU regulation at issue to implement the obligations arising from the Aarhus Convention, but the Grand Chamber’s view also leads to a lacuna in legal protection in EU law exactly where the central aim of the Aarhus Convention would in theory be to provide individuals with access to justice. Continue reading →