In view of the current hype on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), spawning recently a grant competition of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft and iversity for courses to be hosted, publicly available and free of charge, on a Europe-based MOOC platform, a few thoughts an EU law, legal education and MOOCs are in order. It should be added at the outset that the author of this post is coordinating one of the bids for a MOOC grant for a course entitled “Europe in the World: Law and Policy Aspects of the EU in Global Governance”, which makes him particularly invested in this issue. The author is grateful to European Law Blog Team that he was granted the opportunity to share his thoughts on these developments, as well as his bid, in the form of this post.
Transnational law meets transnational education
Ever since Prof. Sebastian Thrun’s historic feat of attracting more than 150,000 students to his Massive Open Online Course on artificial intelligence two years ago, MOOCs have started to shake up the landscape and minds of higher education. In a kind of “gold rush”, academics want to join this remarkable development, and companies are being founded to provide platforms for such ventures, predominantly in the US, but also more recently in Europe. Beyond subjects closer to technology, such as computer science or engineering, the social sciences and humanities have also come to feel the potential and attraction of MOOCs. Continue reading
In a second round of cases in Luxembourg, a number of seal hunters failed (yet again) to convince the General Court to annul the EU-wide ban on trade in seal products. In a nutshell, the seal hunters argued that the EU acted ultra vires by adopting the ban on the basis of article 114 TFEU (harmonization of rules for the establishment and functioning of the internal market). Moreover, the applicants argued that the ban violated their fundamental rights and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. According to the applicants, the EU-wide ban was not aimed at improving the functioning of the internal market, but rather at safeguarding the welfare of animals, an objective for which no legal basis exists within the EU Treaties.
In dismissing the arguments put forward by the seal hunters, the General Court made a number of interesting statements regarding the EU’s ability to severely restrict trade of an ‘exotic import’ (a product not made within the EU) within the EU’s internal market on grounds of protecting the welfare of animals living outside the EU. In this post I will focus on the competence issue by discussing the particularities of EU constitutional law and the (modest) challenge a ban on the sale of exotic imports such as seal products poses for EU legislative competence.
Scottish Independence through the Prism of European Union Law
In the previous post, we discussed Professor Crawford and Professor Boyle’s legal opinion on Scottish independence and set down the framework for state continuity, state succession and succession to membership of international organizations. In this post, we turn to the crux of their enquiry: would Scotland have to reapply to join the EU? In a word, their answer is “yes”. However, Crawford and Boyle are at pains to emphasize that this is, in legal terms, unknown territory:
“All this is not to suggest that it is inconceivable for Scotland automatically to be an EU member. The relevant EU organs or Member States might be willing to adjust the usual requirements for membership in the circumstances of Scotland’s case. But that would be a decision for them, probably made on the basis of negotiations; it is not required as a matter of international law, nor, at least on its face, by the EU legal order.” [para.164]
Is EU competition law ‘special’? Should it be insulated from other EU policies? Should we Europeans follow the neoliberal teachings of Chicago scholars like Bork who claim that American antitrust policy ‘cannot properly be guided any goal other than consumer welfare’ and that ‘distribution of (…) wealth or the accomplishment of noneconomic goals are the proper subjects of other laws’? These questions are particularly relevant to EU environmental policy, where we have seen an increase in reliance on market based instruments (the emissions trading scheme for instance). The central argument of Suzanne Kingston’s new book ‘Greening EU Competition Law and Policy’ is that EU competition law is not special and that it should take greater account of EU environmental policy and goals.
Hi folks, I know there has not been going on much on the blog over the last few weeks, but August is really not the busiest time in EU law land. Anyway, since I wanted to share something with you, I thought it would be fun to write about a pretty random discovery I made in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. There is a typo in the English version of the Treaty! Yes, can you believe that? I thought they would check the thing a number of times before sending it to the presses, but nonetheless article 28 (2) TFEU as available on the eur-lex website is translated incorrectly.
On 12 July 2012, the ECJ handed down a new ruling on gambling advertisements. The judgment in C-176/11 HIT and HIT LARIX clarifies that a country may restrict advertisements for foreign casinos on the ground that the casino’s home state does not provide equivalent protection for gamblers. However, they cannot require identical regulation, and the restriction must be directly related to protecting consumers.
At the same time, however, the judgment raises once more the question of what regulations should be found proportional in gambling cases. The disagreement over proportionality is evident in the differences between the opinion of the Court and that of Advocate General Mazák, and will no doubt lead to further debate regarding the exact scope of Member State freedom in this area.
Well, that came as no surprise. Today, the European Parliament officially rejected ACTA. In a vote today 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained. As we mentioned earlier on the blog, the Commission already requested the Opinion of the Court on the compatibility of ACTA with the Treaties and the Charter in accordance with article 218 (11) TFEU.
Now that the European Parliament has rejected ACTA, what happens to this request? The Commission could retract its request, saving the Court from a lot of headaches and drawing it into this political mud-fight. That would be kind of the Commission of course. However, since the Commission has been so determined in arguing the benefits of ACTA, as well as defusing concerns over fundamental rights issues, the Commission might be tempted to hear the Court’s Opinion anyway. The advantage for the Commission would be that it obtains legal certainty on whether ACTA is compatible with the Treaties and the Charter, possibly opening the door to ratification or renegotiation. And if the Court were to rule that ACTA is compatible, the Commission would have proven its case and save some face.
The question is: does the Court still need to give an Opinion now that the European Parliament has rejected ACTA?
Under Article 27(2) of the Rome I Regulation (Regulation (EC) 593/2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations), the Commission is charged with the task to submit to the EP, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee a report on the proprietary aspects of voluntary assignment. The Commission report under Article 27(2) Rome I will be based on a comprehensive study that has just been released titled “Study on the question of effectiveness of an assignment or subrogation of a claim against third parties and the priority of the assigned or subrogated claim over a right of another person”. This study shall serve as a potential future proposal to amend Art. 14 Rome I Regulation to provide for a new harmonized conflict of laws solution for the third-party aspects of assignment. Why was this necessary?
The rule in art. 14 Rome I Regulation is concerned with the law applicable to assignment of debt and subrogation. As far as the third-party aspects are concerned however, no uniform solution to a conflict–rule could be agreed upon in the drafting process of Rome I and, consequently, the Rome I Regulation (save a reference in recital 38) doesn’t regulate the proprietary aspects of assignment. As a result, Member States currently adopt different approaches. The current incomplete conflict of laws solution in Article 14 Rome I gives rise to various problems, as described in the study. To end this situation, the Commission has to deliver a report (which, incidentally, was due 17 June 2010) accompanied with, if appropriate, a proposal to amend the Rome I Regulation and an impact assessment.
When the Commission will deliver its report is unclear at this point but there is no doubt that it will rely heavily on this study. We will go into more detail in subsequent posts.
The European Law Blog aims to highlight, and comment on, current developments in EU case law and legislation. Our posts are short comments on judgments and legislation and are intended for anyone who wishes to stay informed on EU law. We hope you will enjoy our posts!