The Road that divided the EU: Italy joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative

By Femke van der Eijk and Angela Pandita Gunavardana

China’s global influence has grown dramatically in recent years. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an important manifestation of this rise. On 23 March 2019 Italy, the first G7 country, formally joined the BRI, which has caused significant tensions within the EU. This was the wake-up call for the EU, which prompted it to reconsider its policies towards the Asian superpower.

To BRI, or not to BRI?

The BRI is a transcontinental endeavour, launched in 2013, which is centred around infrastructure investment and aims at promoting projects that foster regional cooperation, development, and connectivity. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: June 2019

Conference “The protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the age of exits”

The Hague, 21-22 November 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 June 2019.

Workshop “Judicial and extra-judicial challenges in the EU multi- and cross-level administrative framework”

Maastricht University Brussels Campus, 8-9 July 2019. Registration necessary.

Workshop “EU Trade Agreements and the Duty to Respect Human Rights Abroad”

Asser Institute, The Hague, 11 December 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 July 2019.

Conference “Constitutional interpretation in European populist regimes ‒ new methods or old tools for new purposes?”

Budapest, 5-6 December 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 July 2019.

AG Opinion on Case C-411/17: EIA for existing installations and the CJEU’s struggle with international law

By Sebastian Bechtel

Currently pending before the CJEU is a fundamental issue regarding the assessment of environmental effects of major projects: Should their impacts only be reassessed when construction takes place? Or should there also be an environmental impact assessment (‘EIA’) if an aging project is allowed to continue operation many years beyond its originally projected lifetime, without any physical alterations?

Case C-411/17 requires the Court to address its own interpretation of the EIA Directive in an earlier judgement which arguably contradicts the EU’s obligations under international law. In her Opinion published in November last year, AG Kokott has therefore urged the Court to reverse its case law.

EIA is an essential procedure to prevent environmental impacts at source and to allow for public participation in decision-making. Since many major industrial facilities, such as energy infrastructure, operate over many years, the question as to when an EIA obligation arises for existing facilities is of crucial importance. Next to posing intricate legal questions concerning the EU legal order, the case is therefore of great practical relevance to environmental protection in Europe.

This commentary presents the relevant international and EU law developments leading up to this case, discusses AG Kokott’s Opinion and reflects upon the wider implications of Case C-411/17 for the development of EU environmental law and its interaction with the international legal order. Continue reading

German prosecutors are insufficiently independent to issue European Arrest Warrants

By Johannes Graf von Luckner

It is a statement that one would more readily expect from political activists – it was, however, issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU): Public prosecutor’s offices in Germany are not sufficiently independent to issue European arrest warrants (EAWs) (Joined Cases C-508/18 and C-82/19 PPU, OG and PI).

The case is sending shock waves through Germany’s judiciary, although it was not wholly unexpected after Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona stated, in his Opinion preceding the judgment, that he had been waiting for an opportunity to comment on German prosecutors’ independence.

The purpose of this post is to summarise the Court’s legal reasoning and to give a brief overview of the implications the judgment might have for Germany, German EAWs, and other Member States. Continue reading

Autonomy and Opinion 1/17 – a matter of coherence?

By Francisco de Abreu Duarte

On the 30th of April this year, the CJEU handed down its highly anticipated Opinion 1/17 on the compatibility of the CETA agreement with EU law. As Ankersmit details in his blogpost, the request for an opinion had been part of a widely known quarrel within Belgian internal politics, with Wallonia demanding the Belgium government to expressly consult the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the legal merits of that agreement. Respecting that decision from its regional parliament, Belgium asked the CJEU, among other things, whether such an agreement was compatible with the principle of autonomy of the EU.

I will circumscribe this post to the analysis of the precise question of autonomy and leave out many of the other troubling questions such as the ones raised by Schepel’s in his previous post. The argument I put forth is as simple as it is controversial: autonomy, due to its abstract characteristics, is often subject to power injections leading to incoherent interpretations depending on the subject-matter at hand.

Let us see how autonomy has been interpreted before Opinion 1/17 and then analyze it in that light. Continue reading

“Global Britain” Adopts the EU’s Normative Approach to New Trade Agreements

 By Sterre van Campen and Rebecca Poort

As for now, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 October 2019, unless a withdrawal agreement is ratified before this date. The UK aims to sign “continuity” agreements with third countries to replace existing agreements with the EU before Brexit to avoid disruptions in trade flows. With smaller market leverage and under political pressure to deliver results, there would be an incentive for the UK to adopt an approach that is more lenient than the EU’s in its negotiations of post-Brexit trade agreements. There have been reports of requests from non-EU trade partners for the UK to lower its human rights standards and to soften its food standards once it is out of the EU. However, there are indications that the UK will stick to a normative approach comparable to the EU’s when it comes to development cooperation and environmental standards, as can be seen in the UK’s first continuity agreement with a group of Eastern and Southern African States,. In this post, we argue that despite the pressures, the UK does not diverge from the normative approach that the EU takes in its post-Brexit trade agreements. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: May 2019

5th CLEER summer school on EU external Relations law

Brussels, 24-28 June 2019. Deadline for applications: 3 June 2019.

re:constitution Fellowships

Deadline for applications: 1 June 2019.

ELGS Summer School on Comparative Law & Global Governance

Sounion, 22-26 July 2019. Deadline for applications: 21 June 2019.

Conference “Zehn Jahre Vertrag von Lissabon. Reflexionen zur Zukunft der europäischen Integration”

Berlin, 21 June 2019. (Paid) registration necessary.

Seminar “Unravelling the Brexit Conundrum, Legal and Political Perspectives”

The Hague University of Applied Sciences, 27 May 2019.

Symposium “EU Citizenship 25 Years On : Civil and Economic Rights in Action”

University of Trento, 28 May 2019.

Helsinki Summer Seminar “International Environmental Law – Process as Decline”

Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, 26-30 August 2019. Deadline for applications: 31 May 2019.

Summer School “The Protection of Fundamental Rights in Europe”

Bertinoro, 23-28 June 2019. Deadline for application: 12 June 2019.

Workshop on counter-terrorism at the crossroad between international, regional and domestic law

Bocconi University, 13-14 June 2019. Online registration necessary.

Würzburger Europarechtstage “Die EU zwischen Niedergang und Neugründung: Wege aus der Polykrise”

University of Würzburg, 19-20 July 2019. Deadline for (free) registration: 11 July 2019.

3rd EDEN Conference “Paradise Lost? Policing in the Age of Data Protection”

Copenhagen, 19-20 September 2019. Deadline for early bird (paid) registration: 19 July 2019.

Conference “Towards European Criminal Procedural Law”

University of Nantes, 6-7 February 2020. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 September 2019.

Case C-620/16 (OTIF) – Why EU-external relation debates should remain EU-internal

By Liesbeth A Campo*

Introduction

The external relations of the EU are often subject to debate amongst the EU institutions. In particular the division of competences between the Union and the Member States can give rise to difficult discussions, not only in the various stages of the procedure for the negotiation and conclusion of an international agreement, but also in the stage of the fulfilment of the commitments entered into. Does the EU have competence with regard to a position to be taken in an international organisation? How should this position be determined? Who may present a position and on behalf of whom? Who should exercise the right to vote? These and other “mixity[1]”-related questions often lead to lengthy – sometimes heated –discussions, which are occasionally relocated from the Council Premises to the plateau de Kirchberg. People who are confronted with EU external representation issues for the first time, soon discover that the primary focus is actually often the “cuisine interne” of the EU. While these discussions usually remain “EU-internal”, they sometimes do become – painfully – visible to the outside world.  This is also happened during the events that have led to the judgment of the CJEU in Case C-620/16 Commission v. Germany (OTIF). In this case, the CJEU was called upon to give its judgment on the compatibility with Union law of the conduct of Germany at the 25th session of the OTIF Revision Committee.

A judgment which shows the importance of the principle of sincere cooperation in the context of the EU’s external relations, and sheds more light on the admissibility of infringement actions launched by the European Commission where the alleged improper conduct lies in the past. Continue reading

The Jawo case: The limits of the principle of mutual trust

By Anthea Galea

On 19 March 2019, in Jawo vs. Germany, the Court of (ECJ) the question of whether the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter) prohibits the transfer of an asylum applicant to the Member State responsible for processing the asylum application if there is a serious risk that the applicant will be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. The ECJ established that when deficiencies in the asylum system of a Member State put a person who has been granted international protection in a situation of extreme material poverty, in which his or her most basic needs are not met, the threshold of a high level of severity is reached. As a result, the asylum seeker may not be transferred. In contrast to previous judgments, namely N.S. and Others and C.K. and Others, the ECJ considered the applicant’s circumstances after having been transferred to the responsible Member State and granted international protection. In addition, this judgment provides another instance in which the principle of mutual trust – which is the cornerstone of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) – can be rebutted, leading to an asylum applicant not being transferred.

Continue reading

Challenging a bank’s license withdrawal by the ECB: can the bank act or can its shareholders?

By René Smits

Summary

Pending before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is a core issue of legal protection against European Union (EU) acts – can a bank itself challenge the withdrawal of its license by the European Central Bank (ECB) even when the powers of the bank’s board have been taken over by a liquidator, or can the shareholders act for the bank or, alternatively, for the protection of their own interests?

Three years since the ECB withdrew the license of a Latvian bank, Trasta Komercbanka, in March 2016, this issue of effective judicial protection is at the centre of proceedings[1] in which the Advocate General (AG)’s Opinion is just out. This post sketches the background to the on-going proceedings and summarises the AG’s Opinion, highlighting the issue of contestation of withdrawal of a bank’s license: who can challenge the ECB in court: the bank’s board, side-lined by the liquidator, or its shareholders? Continue reading

The principle of economic continuity’s application on private enforcement: Case 724/17 Skanska

By Guilherme Oliveira e Costa

Introduction

With two major decisions, March 2019 was an interesting month with regard to the ECJ’s case-law on the private enforcement of competition law: Skanska (C-724/17) and Cogeco (C-637/17).  This post will comment on the judgment in Skanska, whereas a later post will analyse Cogeco.

Skanska is a challenging judgement that confirms that the competition enforcement system must be viewed as a coherent system where both public and private enforcement play a crucial and complementary role, which is demonstrated by the application of the principle of economic continuity to private enforcement. Moreover, it addresses one of the several issues that has not yet been harmonised regarding private enforcement: the responsibility for damages in private enforcement legal procedures. As such, Skanska may be a leading case in a private enforcement’s possible second stage of development in the aftermath of Directive 2014/104/EU. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: April 2019

US – EU Environmental Law Colloquium

Rome, 30 May 2019. Registration necessary.

Conference  From Tampere 20 to Tampere 2.0: Towards a new programme (2020-2024) for EU migration and asylum policies 20 years after the Tampere conclusions?

Helsinki, 24-25 October 2019. Deadline for submissions: 10 May 2019.

5th Annual TAU Workshop for Junior Scholars in Law – Rethinking Law and Boundaries

Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv, 17 November 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 10 May 2019.

4th European Privacy Law Scholars Conference

University of Amsterdam, 24-25 October 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 23 May 2019.

Workshop on Feminist Data Protection

Berlin, 20 November 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 June 2019.

Academy of European Public Law

Athens/Sounion, 26 August-14 September 2019. Deadline for applications: 29 June 2019.

XXIX FIDE Congress 2020

The Hague, 20-23 May 2020. Registration opens in summer 2019.

2019 Odysseus Summer School on EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy

Brussels, 1-12 July 2019.

Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting – European Law Section Works in Progress Panel

Washington, 2-5 January 2020. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 August 2019.

EU Equality Law: Looking Ahead after 20 Years of Policymaking*

By Sara Benedi Lahuerta and Ania Zbyszewska

The adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights (‘the Pillar’) in 2017 and the 20-year anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 2019 provide an auspicious moment for not only take stock of accomplishments in the field of EU equality law and critically reflect on the past, but also to look forward. The Treaty of Amsterdam expanded the legal base (current Article 19 TFEU) for adopting EU legislation to six new anti-discrimination grounds (race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation) and the recent adoption of the Pillar suggests that EU equality law and policy could now be at a pivotal point. In this brief blog post, we reflect on what, in our view, is one of the key current problems of EU equality law, namely, its (in)coherence at different levels (see Figure 1), and whether the Pillar carries the potential to -at least partially- address this issue. Continue reading

Bold and Thoughtful: The Court of Justice intervenes in nationality law Case C-221/17 Tjebbes

By Stephen Coutts

Introduction

 Tjebbes is a bold and yet thoughtful judgment. It pushes the boundaries of the role of EU law in nationality matters and yet does so in a manner that both respects the primacy of the Member States in regulating this area of law, and acknowledges the genuine Union-interest in the manner in which denaturalisation decisions impact on Union citizens. It provides a follow-up and elaboration of the judgment in Rottmann, confirming the applicability of Union law in nationality law and detailing the nature of its intervention. This intervention is of both a procedural and a substantive kind, requiring an individual examination of any decision withdrawing nationality having regard to a set of consequences linked to the status of Union citizenship. Continue reading

New posts on the European Law Blog – email subscription service working again

By the editors

The European Law Blog had a software malfunction in the email subscription service for the past few posts. We have resolved the issue and would therefore draw your attention to the four posts that have been published and for which you have not received an email notification.

 

1. Will Deliveroo and Uber be captured by the proposed EU platform Regulation? You’d better watch out…

How to turn subsidiarity into an effective tool ? – Reflections on the Communication of the European Commission on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality

By Vincent Delhomme

After its State of the Union address of 13 September 2017, in which he presented his vision for the future of the Europe Union, President Juncker announced the creation of a Task Force to reflect on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in EU policymaking and to make propositions to strengthen their role (see the President’s Decision). After several meetings and consultations, the Task Force published its findings in a final Report and the Commission released a Communication in October 2018 in which it commits to follow several of the propositions made.

This commentary presents some of these recommendations and sketches some (rough) reflections on the place of the principle of subsidiarity in the EU legal order and how to improve its role as a tool to control EU legislative activity. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: March 2019

Conference “European Union Law Enforcement: The Evolution of Sanctioning Powers”

University of Turin, 28-29 March 2019.

Young Researchers Colloquium “Enforcement Challenges in Multi-level Regulatory Systems: Mapping the Landscapes”

University of Luxembourg, 21-22 May 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 March 2019.

Conference “Diversity in Unity: The Succession Regulation in Hungary and Beyond”

Budapest, 12 April 2019. (Free) registration necessary.

Seminar “EU Blocking Regulation and extraterritorial US sanctions”

University of Utrecht, 18 April 2019. (Free) registration necessary.

Conference “10 Jahre Vertrag von Lissabon. Reflexionen zur Zukunft der europäischen Integration”

Berlin, 21 June 2019. Deadline for proposal submissions: 26 April 2019.

Call for Papers “The City in Constitutional Law”

European Yearbook of Constitutional Law. Deadline for proposal submissions: 30 April 2019.

Conference “Synergies between International Criminal Law and UN Agenda 2030”

International Nuremberg Principles Academy, 3-4 May 2019. (Free) registration necessary.

The Imminent Distortion of European Private, Company and Insolvency Law by the Introduction of Relative Priority European Style

By Rolef de Weijs, Aart Jonkers  and Maryam Malakotipour

One stone can change the current of a river. Likewise, one small seemingly technical rule can alter the entire legal system and with it the basic fabric of society.

The European Parliament is about to enact a Directive on Preventive Restructuring Frameworks. Last minute a completely new and never tested nor explained legal concept referred to as Relative Priority was inserted, probably without realizing its ramifications. This new rule is likely to distort basic private law, basic company law and basic insolvency law. Most likely, the European Parliament thinks it is saving businesses and thereby jobs and while at it, also strengthening the position of Small and Medium Enterprise (‘SME’) Businesses in Europe. It will not do that. Much more likely is that Relative Priority will turn against the interests of SME’s.

Regardless of whether one has the interest of large banks and the stability of the financial system in mind or the interest of SME’s, the Relative Priority Rule (RPR) is an untested underexplored rule that will upend general commercial law. Continue reading

Will Deliveroo and Uber be captured by the proposed EU platform Regulation? You’d better watch out…

By Pieter van Cleynenbreugel

Online platforms have become major economic players over the past decade. It is not surprising, therefore, that their business practices have captured the European Union’s attention. This attention resulted in a 2018 proposal for a Regulation on transparency and equity in relationships with online platforms, a political agreement on which has been reached between the Commission, Council and European Parliament on 13 February 2019 (see for the press release, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-1168_en.htm). It is very likely that this Regulation will be adopted before the European Parliament elections of this year. Even though it may seem premature to comment on the Regulation’s content in an in-depth way (the final negotiations and fine-tuning are still in progress at this time), this contribution would like to flag an important gap that has seemingly withstood scrutiny so far. That gap concerns the fact that the proposed Regulation apparently – seemingly unintentionally – would not apply to ‘underlying service-attached intermediation activities’ offered by platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo. This is most surprising, as the Commission clearly wants them to fall within the scope of that Regulation (according to its press release mentioned above, the new instrument is to apply to ‘the entire online platform economy’ if and when adopted). This contribution uncovers that gap and proposes a way to close it. Continue reading

The Butterfly Effect of Publishing References to Harmonised Standards in the L series

By Annalisa Volpato and Mariolina Eliantonio

A small change can have big consequences. Some of these changes may be unplanned and unpredictable. Some represent welcome developments that complement and contribute to long-running narratives of progress. Arguably, the recent publication of a reference to a harmonised standard in the L series of the Official Journal of the European Union belongs to the latter category. It may yet, however, prove to have unintended consequences that go beyond that which was originally envisioned.

Technical standards have long played a fundamental role in the regulation of the internal market. According to the regulatory technique of the “New Approach”, EU directives establish only the essential requirements of general interest of a product, while referring the detailed definition of technical aspects to private organizations composed of experts and representatives of the business sector, i.e. the European standard-setting organisations (ESOs). To this end, the European Commission makes a request to one of these ESOs and, where a standard satisfies the requirements set out in the request and in the corresponding Union harmonisation legislation, it publishes a reference to it in the Official Journal. Through this procedure, these standards elaborated by private European standardisation bodies are granted a presumption of conformity with the secondary EU law measures they are aimed at complementing. Consequently, they are endowed with the qualification of ‘harmonised standards’.

Recent developments in EU legislation (see Regulation EU) No 1025/2012) and in the case law (see, inter alia, Case C-171/11, Fra.bo. v DVGW) have progressively changed the view of standardization as a purely non-binding, private phenomenon. In particular, the James Elliott case established the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice with regard to the interpretation of harmonised standards in a preliminary reference under Article 267 TFEU, clarifying that harmonised standards shall be considered as “measures implementing or applying an act of EU law” and, therefore, “part of EU law”. This ruling of the Court has thus contributed to strengthen the claims of an unstoppable “juridification” of harmonized standards, fostering the debate on their legal qualification under EU law (as discussed here, here and here). Continue reading