Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: September 2014

Detention of irregular migrants – The Returns Directive shows its true colours in Mahdi (C-146/14 PPU)

Directive 2008/115/EC on the returns of irregular migrants (or, less neutrally, ‘illegally staying third-country nationals’) has been the subject of fierce criticism and not without good reasons. In an attempt to make the legal framework clearer, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been called to interpret its provisions on numerous occasions (such as Kadzoev, El Dridi, and Achughbabian). In particular, with regard to Article 15 on the detention of irregular migrants prior to their removal the Court has so far explained how the period of detention should be calculated and when there is a ‘reasonable prospect of removal’ (Kadzoev); it has precluded the incarceration of irregular migrants during the return process on the sole ground that they remain on the territory of a Member State even though an order to leave exists (El Dridi), and it has attempted to strike a balance between the right to be heard and the efficiency of the administrative procedure to extend the period of detention (G & R).

In the past few months one has witnessed the re-emergence of the issue of pre-removal detention. The judgment in the case of Mr. Mahdi, released on the 5th June 2014 by the Third Chamber, is central in this regard and raises mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Court provides the national authorities with important guidelines with a view to ensuring –at least to a certain extent- the right of irregular migrants to effective remedies. On the other hand, it seems to lack inspiration when dealing with harder questions that require a constructive approach beyond the mere replication of the provisions of the Directive. Continue reading

The Appeal in Greek Lignite: Clarification of the Law or Jumpstarting Article 106 TFEU?

Introduction

In October 2012 I wrote an entry about the General Court judgment that annulled the Commission decision in the Greek Lignite-saga, concerning the Greek state-owned electricity company DEI that benefitted from the exclusive right to mine for lignite (brown coal) which, according to the Commission, distorted competition. In a nutshell I found that the judgment did little to clarify the obscure clarity or clear obscurity of Article 106 TFEU, but it was certainly good news for DEI, the state-owned electricity company that benefitted from the exclusive right to mine for lignite. In that blog I wrote that the Commission should appeal so that the Court could clarify its own case law (instead of the General Court second-guessing what the Court could have meant). Well, the Commission did appeal, but I’m not sure whether the Court clarified its own case law. One thing that is for sure it that Article 106 TFEU may well have been given a new lease of life. This turns on the question whether actual abuse by the public undertaking must be shown in Article 106 TFEU-cases. This follows from the fact that Article 106 TFEU is addressed to the Member States, but is an empty norm that only gets substance when it is read in conjunction with another Treaty provision. In this regard Article 102 TFEU is by far the most popular norm to be mated to Article 106 TFEU as the exclusive right mentioned in Article 106 TFEU is easily equated to a statutory monopoly for the public undertaking and thus dominance within the meaning of that provision.

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POMFR: European Police and Criminal Co-Operation

Maria Bergström and Anna Jonsson Cornell (eds.), European Police and Criminal Co-Operation, Swedish Studies In European Law, Volume 5, Hart Publishing 2014, 198 pages, ISBN: 978-1-84946-350-8

The fields of police and criminal law cooperation within the European Union have been significantly transformed and widened with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009; yet, they remain contested on a number of grounds. Maria Bergström and Annna Jonsson Cornell, the editors of the book under current review, argue that there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, they consider that this is because the two policies have a significant impact on the rights of individuals and on the relationship between the individual and the State; secondly, they consider that this is because policing and criminal law remain anchored to State sovereignty and the monopole of enforcement exercised by the States in these domains. Against this background, the different contributions of the book take stock of post-Lisbon developments in order to assess the extent to which the reform of 2009 and recent legislative initiatives relate to the two main controversial aspects identified by the editors. With legislative proposals such as the new Europol Regulation and the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor pending in Brussels, the book comes out at a time in which the powers of the EU in the fields are in the spotlight.

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The territorial reach of the “right to be forgotten”: think locally, but act globally?

By Brendan Van Alsenoy and Marieke Koekkoek

In May of this year, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that individuals can ask Google to stop referring to certain information about them, as discussed previously on this blog. The CJEU’s recognition of this so-called “right to be forgotten” has kicked up quite a storm. Now that the dust is beginning to settle, it is time to direct our attention to questions of practical implementation. One set of questions is about territorial reach. How far should the right to be forgotten extend, geographically speaking? Should Google, upon finding that an individual’s request is justified, modify its search results globally? Or should it only modify search results shown within the EU?And if so, how useful or effective is this right to be forgotten then?

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Democratic scrutiny of EU foreign policy: From pirates to the power of the people (Case C-658/11 Parliament v. Council)

Opinions may differ on what is the “most dangerous branch” in the EU. However, at the moment the most ambitious institution regarding the expansion of its powers is doubtlessly the European Parliament (EP). The recent judgment in Case C-658/11 Parliament v. Council shows that even the Union’s traditionally “sovereignty-sensitive” Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is not immune to the Parliament’s advances.

Wielding the all-powerful mantra of “democratic legitimacy” (on the concept in transnational context, see this recently published Special Report), the EP has a decades-long history of increasing its influence in European politics. In recent months, it could celebrate important victories by interpreting the new rules laid down in the post-Lisbon reform EU Treaties in its favour. The most prominent triumph concerned the first ever election, and no longer mere approval, of the new Commission President by the Parliament. By proposing Jean-Claude Juncker as the prevailing Spitzenkandidat, the European Council acquiesced to the Parliament and set an important precedent for the future direction of the European polity. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: August 2014

10th International Workshop for Young Scholars (WISH) – New Directions in EU and Global Risk Regulation

HEC Paris, December 2014 (exact date to be determined). Deadline for proposal submission: 1 September 2014.

Bilingual (fr/en) Doctoral Colloquium on The European Union and International Law/L’Union européenne et le droit international

University of Fribourg (CH), 17-18 April 2015. Deadline for abstract submission: 31 August 2014.

Postgraduate Law Conference 2015

University of Copenhagen, 29-30 January 2015. Deadline for abstract submission: 10 October 2014.

International Interdisciplinary Conference “The Transnational in International Law”

University of Bremen, 25-27 March 2015. Deadline for abstract submission: 31 October 2014.

State aid case C-224/12 ING: Private investor test by default?

On 3 April 2014 the CJEU confirmed the General Court’s judgment of 2 March 2012 in the State aid dispute between the European Commission and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, ING Groep NV and the Dutch Central Bank (De Nederlandsche Bank NV). All six grounds of appeal brought by the Commission in this case were dismissed by the Court. Most notable are the Court’s considerations  on the applicability of the private investor test. The Court confirmed that the Commission cannot evade its obligation to assess the economic rationality of a given measure in the light of the private investor test solely on the basis that the measure is connected to a measure which itself already constitutes State aid. Centrally, the decision raises the question as to why the Court sticks to the private investor test in the particular circumstances of the given case. Is the private investor test to be applied by default? Or are there good reasons for the applicability of this test, no matter what?

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Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: July 2014

Workshop Global Administrative Law and the Concept of Law

University of Lisbon Law School, 28 November 2014. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 August 2014.

Workshop Imagining post-neoliberal regulatory subjectivities

University of Turku, 15-17 October 2014. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 August 2014.

Trade, Law & Development – Call for submissions

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 17 September 2014.

Overseas Tax Holiday to Dutch Caribbean under the Free Movement of Capital spoiled by CJEU in TBG Limited-case

The free movement of capital provision of Art. 63 TFEU applies ratione loci ‘worldwide’: to both capital movements within EU’s internal market and to movements from the internal market to third countries (and vice versa). Or perhaps almost worldwide, since the question arises whether the free movement of capital also applies to the British, Danish, Dutch and French Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), which are not part of the internal market but associated with the EU?

In 2011, the CJEU decided in Case C-384/09 Prunus that Art. 63 TFEU also applied to the OCTs as if they were third countries; they are not third countries, since they áre part of the EU Member States (such as the Caribbean island of Curacao which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, both constitutionally as under public international law; under EU-law, Curacao is an OCT).

Now, only three years later, the CJEU has decided otherwise in joined cases C-24/12 and C-27/12 X BV and TBG Limited. It came to the conclusion that not Art. 63 TFEU applies to the OCTs, but that a special capital movement provision which is contained in the OCT Association Decision applies in relation to the OCTs. This latter provision liberalises – in my view – ‘less’ than Art. 63 TFEU, since it ‘only’ applies to ‘direct investments in companies’, whereas Art. 63 TFEU also applies to (at least) 12 other categories of capital movements, such as investments in immovable property.[1]

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‘Facilitating’ infringements of article 34 TFEU and the territorial nature of green electricity support schemes: Case C-573/12 Ålands Vindkraft AB v Energimyndigheten

In this very interesting Grand Chamber judgment, the Court found Sweden’s scheme promoting the national production of green electricity (in accordance with Directive 2009/28, the so-called RES Directive) to be compatible with article 34 TFEU. The Court’s judgment is particularly notable for its deferential stance towards measures related to environmental protection based on EU rules which – paradoxically – are very nationally oriented although they tackle the global problem of climate change. The judgment is to be welcomed for giving both the EU and its Member States sufficient policy discretion on how to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, it remains problematic that the EU legislator opted for such a national approach, as this is bound to frustrate the achievement of a truly European electricity market. In adopting this deferential approach, the Court had to deal with some interesting legal issues relating to the free movement of goods, in particular:

  • The discriminatory nature of the rules in question and, despite this, their possible justification;
  • The impact EU legislation has on the proportionality analysis of the Court.

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Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: June 2014

Migration Summer School : International Migration Management – From Theory to Practice

University of Barcelona, 2-12 September 2014. Deadline for applications: 30 August 2014.

2014 Doctoral Scholarship Conference

Yale Law School, 14-15 November 2014. Deadline for abstract submission: 1 August 2014.

Global Law and Governance Summer School

European Public Law Organisation, Cape Sounion, 14-18 July 2014. Deadline for applications: 30 June 2014.

Conference ‘Using Human Security as a legal framework to analyse the Common European Asylum System

T.M.C. Asser Instituut, The Hague, 4 July 2014. Registration still open.

The Kone Case and the Lifts Cartel – An Upward Effect on Prices and Effectiveness?

On June 5 the Court has handed down the eagerly awaited judgment in the Kone case. This is one of the several cases that result from the Commission’s decision finding a cartel in the elevators and escalators sector. The decision concerned a bid rigging cartel involving four well-known firms (Kone, Schindler, Otis and ThyssenKrupp) active in the market for the production, installation and servicing of elevators and escalators. Bid rigging is a practice by which the participants in a tender procedure coordinate their bids in order to determine who wins the tender at what price. They will typically determine the cartel member intended to win and ensure that the other bidders put in a higher price. As most of these products are bought by professional buyers that tend to hang on to their purchasing records, civil damages claims resulted from the Commission’s finding that there was cartel. This means that the customers of the companies involved in the cartel seek to claim the supracompetitive part of the price they paid (the cartel mark-up). In keeping with the need for more damages claims fervently voiced by then Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the Court has had to deal with quite a few cases on this issue already, but many more are to be expected. Kone deals with the question to what extent the cartelists are required to compensate the higher price charged not just by the members of the cartel, but also by other companies in the market (the umbrella effect). Continue reading

The boundaries of the development cooperation legal basis: What to make of the Court’s ‘centre of gravity’ test?

In Wednesday’s Grand Chamber judgment C-377/12 Commission v Council, the Court annulled the Council’s decision to sign the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the European Union and the Republic of the Philippines because the Council had erroneously used a number of legal bases in addition to the development cooperation legal basis of article 209 TFEU and the common commercial policy legal basis of article 207 TFEU. While the outcome of the judgment is not that surprising, the Court’s reasoning is only partly helpful in shedding further light on the principle of conferral and the choice of the correct legal basis for the conclusion of international agreements when an agreement covers a number of policy areas. This is particularly true for agreements in the field of development cooperation, which traditionally covers cooperation in a multitude of fields not only directly linked to poverty reduction. This blogpost will discuss the two seemingly conflicting tests the Court applies when determining the correct legal basis of a measure and which now appear to have been merged into one test.

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POMFR: EU Security and Justice Law after Lisbon and Stockholm

Diego Acosta Arcarazo and Cian C Murphy (eds.) EU Security and Justice Law after Lisbon and Stockholm, Hart Publishing 2014, 211 pages, ISBN: 978-1-84946-422-2

 Myriads of pages have been written about the impact of the Lisbon Treaty and the Stockholm Programme in the development of an EU ‘Area of Freedom, Security and Justice’ (AFSJ). This volume, edited by Diego Acosta Arcarazo and Cian Murphy and including a foreword by Sir Francis Jacobs, aims at adding to the existing literature. In particular, it takes stock of the legal developments in the field after Lisbon and Stockholm and provides an evaluation on what has been achieved and where there are still shortcomings. The publication of the volume comes at an interesting time; it coincides with the end of the transitional period, signifying that the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the Commission will assume their full powers over the former third pillar and the pick-and-choose relationship of the United Kingdom with the field will reach a crossroads. Besides, a new multi-annual Programme (named after Rome or any other Italian city) will be adopted by the European Council.

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EU law, Sunday trading restrictions …and the Charter?

For almost 25 years, retailers have sought, without much success, to invoke Union law in an effort to liberalise Member State restrictions on shop opening hours. The Pelckmans judgment, delivered by the Court of Justice (First Chamber) on 8 May 2014, marks a new stage of development in a long line of case law. In that decision, the CJEU was requested to review, for the first time, the compatibility of Belgian legislation prohibiting seven-day retail trading with provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Court’s response on the Charter is unremarkable. Nevertheless, Pelckmans remains an interesting case. That decision refreshes an important statement of principle in EU internal market law: non-discriminatory rules on retail trading hours fall outside the scope of the Treaty. More significantly, it reminds us that the legal framework governing the outer limits of the Treaty freedoms remains fragmented – a structural feature that the Court arguably maintains to its own advantage.

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Rising like a Phoenix: The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ before the ECJ

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) in C-131/12 Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja Gonzalez

 When Advocate General Jääskinen delivered his Opinion in the Google Spain case in June of last year (as commented upon on this blog here), it seemed to many (myself included) that it was the last nail in the coffin of the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ provided for in the EU’s Proposed Data Protection Regulation. The judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice delivered this morning in this case would however indicate otherwise. Indeed, it seems to follow from the judgment, which comes down decisively in favour of data protection and privacy when balanced with freedom of expression, that a ‘right to be forgotten’ already exists in the EU data protection regime in all but name only. For an assessment of the implications of this case, skip right to the bottom of this lengthy post!

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The Biocides judgment: In search of a new chemistry for the principle of EU institutional balance

Where to draw the line between delegated acts and implementing acts? That has been the one million dollar question since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. But I did not dare to ask this important question at the final exams of my students a few weeks ago. Why not? Because nobody, not even their teacher (after having spent years of research on the subject), had a plausible answer. However, on 18 March 2014, the Court of Justice in Commission v Parliament and Council, made a first attempt to answer this question. So would I now consider including this question in my next exam? Probably not, because the Court’s answer in this eagerly awaited judgment turns out to be quite hermetic and largely incomplete. Moreover, unfortunately, also the Opinion of the Advocate General – despite its deep analysis and ambitious tenor – failed to provide the necessary clarification to this endless and unsolved conundrum. Having said that, let me provide a brief analysis of this judgment and measure its most immediate impact.

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Dependent family members in EU free movement law: Comment on Reyes

On 16 January 2014, the CJEU ruled on case Reyes regarding dependent family members in the EU free movement law. The Court was asked to consider whether a family member of an EU/EEA citizen can be required to have unsuccessfully searched for employment in the country of origin in order to be regarded as a ‘dependant’ and whether for the interpretation of the same notion any importance should be attached to the intention of the family member to find employment in the host Member State.

In its judgment, the Court stated that family members cannot be required to prove that they have searched for a job in the country of origin and that whether they will eventually manage to find employment in the host Member State is an irrelevant factor with regards to the interpretation of ‘dependant’. The judgment is useful as it complements the previous jurisprudence of the Court regarding this issue and adds further details on the notion of dependence which is particularly important in the field of immigration law.

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