This is not entirely surprising: due to the increased use of all kinds of online services and information and communication technologies (ICTs), police and judicial authorities are confronted on a daily basis with the problem to collect electronic evidence, as the data they are looking for are often processed, transmitted and/or stored by foreign service providers, including big global technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Amazon. To compel a foreign person to cooperate in a criminal investigation is not obvious – the enforcement jurisdiction of police and judicial authorities is, in principle, limited to their own national territory.
This post will present the highlights of the double e-evidence proposal that is on the table and the first reactions to the proposals, at a moment where the institutional negotiations are picking up speed. Continue reading →
Compulsory retention, by ICT-providers, of all non-content user and traffic data, to ensure that that data will be available for subsequent use by law enforcement or intelligence, has been a controversial issue in the EU for several years now. On 19 July 2018 the Belgian Constitutional Court requested a preliminary ruling from the CJEU. Basically, it asks the EU Court to further clarify its earlier case law. The Belgian constitutional judges indicate that they find some aspects of the CJEU’s previous decisions puzzling and they also offer a new angle by explicitly linking the matter to the positive obligations of member states under the European Convention on Human Rights. The implied suggestion seems that the CJEU did not give those obligations enough weight when it found blanket data retention obligations disproportionate. Continue reading →
Book review: S. Vogenauer and S. Weatherill (eds.), General Principles of Law – European and Comparative Perspectives, Hart, 2017, 418 p.
The book is a collection of articles that reflect the outcome of a two-day seminar organised by the Oxford Law Faculty’s Institute of European and Comparative Law in 2015 on general principles of law. As often with collective works the result is a mixed bag with articles jumping in various directions, dealing with international law, EU law, private law and comparative law; some take a bird’s eye view on the legal landscape or the history of European integration, others focus on very specific issues, such as discrimination on the grounds of obesity. All authors, however, have clearly something to tell.
The book starts off with a brief introduction, as is customary for a collective work, but quickly cuts to the chase. The first two substantive chapters contrast the use of general principles in international law through a pleasant overview by Catherine Redgewell and in EU law with a most enjoyable essay by one of the editors, Stephen Weatherill. Continue reading →
On the day that Theresa May declared that withdrawal negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union have reached an impasse, the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland issued a judgment that may pave the road for a third option between no deal and May’s imperilled Chequers deal. The Scottish court decided to refer the following question in a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union:
‘Where, in accordance with Article 50 of the TEU, a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, does EU law permit that notice to be revoked unilaterally by the notifying Member State; and, if so, subject to what conditions and with what effect relative to the Member State remaining within the EU’.
The purpose of the reference is to clarify for Members of Parliament whether it would be a legally valid option under Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act to withhold a resolution approving any negotiated withdrawal agreement, or lack thereof, and instead vote to revoke notification under Article 50(2).
This post will summarise the reasoning of the Court of Session judgment. It will then engage with the arguments for and against the proposition that notice under Article 50(2) may indeed be revoked unilaterally. The argument will be forwarded that such a unilateral revocation by the United Kingdom should be possible, so long as a decision is made to do so in accordance with the constitutional requirements of the Member State. The post will conclude with consideration of the second limb of the conditions and effects of such a revocation for the Member State remaining within the EU. If unilateral revocation is indeed possible, it will be argued that the most desirable method of creating such a statutory power would be to include it within legislation mandating the holding of a second referendum on the question of whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain within the European Union, and to predicate its operation thereupon. Continue reading →
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued an important, highly anticipated judgment, condemning the United Kingdom for its mass surveillance program.
Following Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the United States-United Kingdom intelligence surveillance and intelligence sharing programme, 16 organizations and individuals (including the NGO Big Brother Watch) filed an application against the United Kingdom before the ECtHR. The 212page-long judgment published on September 13, 2018 is rich and deals with a great variety of important issues. Several among them are directly linked to some major legal questions examined in the past by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) or currently pending before it – not to mention the ongoing debate about whether the EU-US data transfer agreement known as Privacy Shield provides an “adequate level of protection”. The objective of this piece is to provide some first thoughts focusing on the strategic place of this judgment in the European legal landscape. Continue reading →
Thinking about the whole legal saga arising from Romano Pisciotti’s involvement in the Marine Hose Cartel, discussed recently on this blog by J. Przerwa, triggers some thoughts about how much depends on circumstance and happenstance. This is relevant to the claims often made by enforcers and lawyers regarding the deterrent effect of severe sanctions (in particular the ‘inferno’ of prison terms in the US), of dedicated enforcement efforts (in particular on the part of the US Department of Justice), and of the possibility of extradition to the US (as in Pisciotti’s case). ‘From Hollywood to Hong Kong – criminal antitrust enforcement is coming to a city near you,’ warned Scott D Hammond of the DoJ in 2002. Maybe so. But aficionados of deterrence theory should remember that in this world much depends on circumstance and happenstance.
For instance, there is the happenstance of double criminality as a basis for extradition, and that still varies among European jurisdictions in relation to the criminality of cartel offending. If Pisciotti had changed flights at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport rather than Frankfurt Airport, there would have been a crucial criminal law difference – no possibility of extradition. Moreover, Pisciotti was unaware that he was at risk, having been indicted in the US ‘under seal,’ so that he blithely disembarked at Frankfurt Airport. Then there is the happenstance of court jurisdictions, the Landgericht in Berlin seemingly more willing to raise questions with the European Court of Justice than the Bundesverfassungsgericht. And then there is the circumstance that Pisciotti’s state of nationality, Italy, appeared disinterested or unwilling to take over the legal process and possibly save its national from the ‘inferno’ of an American correctional institution.
In sum, many elements along the road may remain unpredictable or variable, while arguably there are still arguments to be played out at the EU legal level that the variability of legal position across the EU may fall foul of non-discrimination and free movement rules. Even if Pisciotti brings no further claims, this may not be the end of the legal saga, especially in the circumstance of determinedly litigious cartelists such as Romano Pisciotti or Ian Norris, a former UK executive of Morgan Crucible who underwent a somewhat similar fate: his extradition to the US was first refused by the House of Lords on grounds of price-fixing but the DoJ eventually succeeded on the basis of obstruction of justice charges (see for instance here). Let’s hope this case law will also stimulate some further reflection on the underlying deterrence logic of cartel enforcement and the long road ahead to make detection, prosecution and enforcement of sentences more predictable across Europe.
The story of Romano Pisciotti is the first ever case that resulted in extradition of an EU citizen to the US on antitrust charges. On 10 April 2018, the Court of Justice rendered its second ruling in the saga. Before, in Case C-411/14 P, the Court declared inadmissible Pisciotti’s complaint that the European Commission had not instigated infringement proceedings against Germany for breach of EU law. In the most recent case (C-191/16), the German court referred questions to Luxembourg concerning compatibility of the different treatment in extradition cases of German nationals and other Member States’ nationals with EU law. When Member State nationals are treated differently than nationals of other Member States, such extradition practices may raise questions of compatibility with EU free movement law and the principle of equal treatment. Continue reading →
In these times when “strong headwinds” are blowing against the European culture of fundamental rights and the rule of law (see P. Pinto de Albuquerque), the principles of mutual recognition and mutual trust on which judicial cooperation in the EU is based have come under pressure. The CJEU and the ECtHR are increasingly called upon to address the phenomenon of “rule of law backsliding” and to strongly defend these common values.
The recent preliminary reference submitted by the High Court of Ireland in case C-216/18L.M. fits into such trend. It concerns the possibility to refuse the execution of three European Arrest Warrants issued by Polish courts against an individual, L.M., on account of the potential violation of the right to a fair trial ensuing from the latest controversial reforms of the judiciary in Poland. According to the Commission’s reasoned proposal to activate for the first time in history the procedure of Art. 7 TEU, which recently found the endorsement of the European Parliament calling on the Council to take action swiftly, the said reforms resulted in a breach of the rule of law due to, essentially, a lack of sufficient guarantees of external independence of the judiciary at all levels. Even though the application of the Framework Decision on the EAW can be suspended only after a Council’s decision under Art. 7 (1) TEU has been adopted (Recital 10 of the Framework Decision on the EAW), it is nonetheless inevitable that such circumstances may – from the viewpoint of the person subject to an EAW issued by Poland – entail a serious risk of breach of the right to a fair trial. The CJEU now has thus the opportunity to clarify whether an alleged lack of judicial independence amounts to a breach of the right to a fair trial that calls for the refusal to execute an EAW, as an exception to the principle of mutual trust.
The Commission established OLAF (Office de Lutte Anti-Fraude), an administrative investigative service of the Commission, in 1999, in the wake of the fall of the Santer Commission, to strengthen the fight against illegal activities affecting the Union’s financial interests. One of the shortcomings in OLAF’s legal framework on the conduct of on-the-spot inspections, one of the service’s main investigative powers, is that it refers back to national law at various instances, requiring OLAF to cooperate with national authorities which operate on the basis of national law. A question that has lingered in academic circles for some time is when precisely – and to what extent – national law applies. In the recent Sigma Orionis case the General Court shed light on this issue. The General Court’s solution has been embraced by the Commission in its recently published proposal to amend the rules which govern OLAF’s investigations. The Commission´s proposal, as a result of the Court´s judgment, places OLAF shoulder to shoulder with other Union bodies – at least when it comes to the applicable law – in the business of enforcing Union law by means of inspections. Continue reading →
On April 19, 2018 the Court of Justice made an important clarification to the understanding of Article 102 TFEU with a judgment in case C-525/16 MEO – Serviços de Comunicações e Multimédia SA v Autoridade da Concorrência. This judgment, in which the CJEU followed the detailed Opinion of Advocate General Wahl, is important for at least three reasons: first, it clarifies the substantive scope of point (c) of Article 102 TFEU, which prohibits dominant firms from “applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage” (my emphasis); second, building on previous case law such as Post Danmark II and Intel, it provides guidance on the law of abuse of dominance in general; third, its conclusions could be significant for a particular kind of undertakings, namely holders of standard-essential patents (SEPs). Continue reading →
In its much-awaited judgment in Coman, delivered earlier this month, the Court of Justice ruled that the term ‘spouse’ for the purpose of the grant of family reunification rights under EU free movement law, includes the same-sex spouse of a Union citizen who has moved between Member States. This means that in such situations, the Union citizen can require the State of destination to admit within its territory his/her same-sex spouse, irrespective of whether that State has opened marriage to same-sex couples within its territory.
This is a landmark ruling of great constitutional importance which has the potential of changing the legal landscape for the recognition of same-sex relationships within the EU. It is, also, a judgment which is hugely significant at a symbolic level, as through it the EU’s supreme court made it clear that it considers same-sex marriages as equal to opposite-sex marriages, in this way reversing the discriminatory stance it had adopted in the early 00’s, when it ruled in D and Sweden v. Council that ‘[i]t is not in question that, according to the definition generally accepted by the Member States, the term marriage means a union between two persons of the opposite sex’.
In the recent years the Court of Justice of the European Union, has pronounced twice about physical requirements as a matter of discrimination. The first case – Kaltoft (C-354/13)– concerned obesity and was briefly annotated on European Law Blog. The present commentary will look into another case from the Union’s Court – Kalliri (C-409/16) – this time regarding discrimination based on height requirements. While it is usually excessive rather than low weight that causes discrimination, height entails a contrary correlation. By now, rich studies about stature in psychology and sociology unequivocally show that shorter people are more likely to face discrimination than their taller compatriots, with employment patterns often imitating biological dispositions about size amongst animals. Social hierarchies are, thus, clearly height-bound, permeating our public image, wages, choice of work partners and even success of presidential candidates.
What the present case of Kalliri (2017) illustrates in addition is that the stigma of short stature in employment has particular repercussions for women. Ms. Maria-Eleni Kalliri brought a complaint in front of the administrative court in Greece regarding the rejection of her application for police training due to insufficient height. The default height requirement for such applicants under Greek rules was 170 centimeters for both men and women. Ms. Kalliri fell short of this criterion by 2 centimeters and therefore complained that her dismissal was a matter of gender discrimination, since men are on average more likely to satisfy this requirement. While the lower tribunal found this to be discrimination, a higher Greek court requested a preliminary ruling from the Luxembourg court on whether the height requirement indeed constitutes sex discrimination under EU law. Continue reading →
The much awaited Company Law Package was finally published by the European Commission on April 25. It aims to establish “simpler and less burdensome rules for companies” regarding incorporation and cross border transactions and consists of two proposals.
Proposal 2018/0113 intends to promote the use of digital tools and procedures in company law. Member States will need to allow a fully online procedure for the registration of new companies and of branches of other companies, that permits the incorporation without the physical presence of the members before any public authority. To avoid fraud and abuse the proposal “sets safeguards against fraud and abuse such as mandatory identification control, rules on disqualified directors and a possibility for Member States to require the involvement of a person or body in the process, such as notaries or lawyers”. The proposal also establishes the need to offer free access to the most relevant information of companies in the Companies Registers. This proposal will require important changes in national legislations and its implementation will be a technological challenge for the Member States that want to preserve the present level of control in the incorporation of companies. The question of online identification will undoubtedly be of special interest and complexity.
This first proposal certainly deserves more detailed examination. However, to keep this post short, I will concentrate here on the second proposal (2018/0114) regarding cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions. Continue reading →
On 8 May 2018, with the judgment in K.A. and others vs. Belgium, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has added another piece to the now quite big puzzle that surrounds the legal status of EU citizens (and their third country family members). It ruled that Article 20 TFEU can be violated if a Member State refuses to examine a request for family reunification of a EU citizen with a third country national solely on the basis of an existing entry ban against the third country national. The Court argued that if the refusal compels the EU citizen to leave the territory of the EU as a whole, it deprives EU citizens of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status. Like in the Zambrano case, the EU citizens in K.A. had never exercised their right to free movement.
Just a quick reminder of the Court’s main findings in Zambrano: In that case, Belgium had denied a right of residence to a Colombian father of two Belgian minors. The Court held that, by not giving the father of a Belgian child a derived residence right, Belgium will oblige the child to leave the territory of the EU as a whole, and therefore deprive the child of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights’ conferred by the EU citizenship status. It was argued – and here is the revolutionary aspect – that this even applies in purely internal situations, e.g. where the EU citizen has never exercised his or her right to free movement. Normally, EU law only applies in situations with a cross-border element. Continue reading →