The case C-105/14 Ivo Taricco and Others delivered on 8 September 2015 is a new example of activism of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU). It draws consequences from Åkerberg Fransson C-617/10 (already commented on this blog here and here), but this time goes in another direction as it extends the obligation of Member States in the field of criminal law for a more effective penalisation at the expense of national criminal procedure. Once again the obligations related to VAT collection are at stake, as was the case in Åkerberg Fransson, however this time from the point of view of the protection of the financial interests of the Union. In this field, the Member States have indeed the duty to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union (Article 325 (1) TFEU), the so-called “PIF fraud” (where PIF is a French acronym for ‘protection des intérêts financiers de l’Union’). In particular, they are required to “take the same measures to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union as they take to counter fraud affecting their own financial interests” (Article 325 (2)). In this Grand Chamber ruling, the Court took an opportunity to clearly express its will to include VAT fraud in the definition of PIF fraud and to significantly extend the obligations of the Member States to effectively penalize such fraud. Given the difficulties related to the ongoing negotiations on the project of PIF Directive, this decision is very timely. Continue reading →
Citizenship is typically conceived of as membership in a political community, carrying with it certain rights and obligations, and especially the right to participate in the government of that community. Union citizenship has until recently been deficient in that regard. Despite the existence of a democratically elected assembly since 1979 in the form of the European Parliament, the links between this parliament and the status of Union citizenship have been ambiguous with the parliament representing not a single group of Union citizens but rather the ‘peoples’ of Europe, those peoples being defined by Member States and national law.
The Treaty of Lisbon changes that paradigm, stating boldly that the European Parliament represents no longer the peoples of Europe but rather the ‘citizens of the Union’. The link between Union citizenship and the European Parliament being made apparent, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the Court drew the conclusion that the rights of Union citizenship contained a stand-alone right to vote in European Parliamentary elections. That decision has just occurred in the judgment in Delvigne. Continue reading →
On 6th of October, in Schrems vs. Data Protection Commissioner, the CJEU, following the controversial Opinion of AG Bot, put an end to the specific regime regulating data flows to the US. The 4600 US companies using this agreement are now forced to rethink how to ensure the continuity of the protection when data are transferred from EU to the US. In this milestone ruling, the Court also reaffirmed the key role played by national Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) in the European system of data protection, and clarified the different competences of the European Commission, the DPAs and the courts –including the ECJ- in assessing the adequate level of protection offered by a third country. Continue reading →
With each passing day scores of lives are either ended by bodies being washed ashore or are lost in the faceless congregation of ‘refugees/migrants’ on the peripheries of Europe and beyond. Both the ‘European family’ and the ‘European Fabric’ has laid itself bare in the face of the uncontainable refugee crisis brewing in the heart of Europe, uncovering the stark divide between the East and the West. Amidst the melancholy that has reached the shores of Europe, it is vital to take pause and query whether the present catastrophe could have been contained and what steps are being taken by the European Union (hereinafter referred to as “EU”) towards this end. In this regard, Juncker’s State of the Union address 2015 (hereinafter referred to as “Union address”/ “Address”) comes at an auspicious time and has been met with pensive eagerness. The Union address rightly devotes significant attention towards the refugee crisis and has proposed a slew of measures, both immediate and long term, to alleviate the present situation. This post looks through these developments and assesses whether the measures adopted thus far and proposed for the immediate future are sufficient to improve the current circumstances and prepare the EU and its member states (hereinafter referred to as “MS”) to effectively deal with the continuing crisis.
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 →
Ne bis in idem is a fundamental principle of EU criminal law, protecting citizens against double prosecution, even in transnational situations. Yet what is more, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the ne bis in idem principle has become a yardstick of the systemic impact of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU) on secondary EU law.
One reason for this is that the ne bis in idem principle in Article 50 CFREU differs in some aspects from the principle as laid down in the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement (CISA), which introduced transnational ne bis in idem in the EU legal order. In particular, the CFREU neither provides for the “enforcement clause” (Article 54 CISA) nor for the exceptions foreseen by Article 55 CISA, such as the national security exception. According to the enforcement clause, the transnational ne bis in idem bars further prosecution provided that, if a penalty has been imposed: a) it has been enforced, b) it is actually in the process of being enforced or c) it can no longer be enforced under the laws of the Contracting State. Since none of these enforcement conditions are mentioned by Article 50 CFREU, the question arose, when the CFREU became a source of primary EU law, whether those limiting conditions in the CISA are compatible with the CFREU, taking into account that the CFREU is a lex superior and posterior.
In the Spasic case (C-129/14 PPU, 27 May 2014) the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice (CJEU) provided a partial and to a certain extent striking answer to this question, as this contribution will show. Continue reading →
The recent 2 December judgment in the A, B and C case, provides guidance on prohibited steps in determining an asylum claim based on sexual identity. Where was the positive guidance? Is the Court’s failure to provide guidelines on how a claim is to be determined a blessing in disguise?
In last Tuesday’s Opinion (Grand Chamber) following an article 218 (11) request by the Commission, the Court confirmed that the acceptance of the accession of an non-Union country to the 1980 The Hague Convention on child abduction fell within the EU’s exclusive competence. As a consequence, the decision to accept accession of a third state can only be taken after the Council has taken a decision on the matter, and Member States can no longer decide that third countries can accede and establish bilateral obligations on their own. The Court rejected the position taken by 19 out of 20 Member States who submitted observations to the Court, and once again supported the view that EU Member States are required to act jointly first in matters which may affect the EU legal order. The judgment is particularly noteworthy because;
The Court’s interpretation on the scope and meaning of the article 218 (11) TFEU request;
The confirmation of the ERTA-case-law post-Lisbon.
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.
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.
On 13 February, the Spanish Constitutional Court (“SCC” or the “Court”) handed down its awaited judgment in the Melloni case (STC 26/2014). The case concerned the problematic issue of differing levels of protection of fundamental rights at national and European levels in relation to the execution of a European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”). This affair was the source of the SCC’s first-ever preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”). Following the CJEU’s ruling last year (Melloni, Case C-399/11, 26 February 2013), which has already been covered in this blog by V. Franssen, the SCC has now agreed to lower the degree of protection afforded by the Spanish Constitution in line with EU law.
I plead guilty: this post on the Melloni ruling of the CJEU should have been written long ago. However, instead of invoking attenuating circumstances, I prefer to draw your attention to the reasons why a blog post on this case still is highly relevant today. First, Melloni is a true landmark case with respect to the relation between EU and national standards of fundamental rights in the field of criminal justice. Central issue in this case was whether Member States are still allowed to impose a higher level of fundamental rights’ protection for cross-border cooperation in criminal matters than the standard set by EU law. Second, Melloni has become ‘hot’ again thanks to the recent follow-up judgment of the Spanish Constitutional Court, which shows the real impact of the CJEU’s ruling and which will be discussed in a separate post by M. García García.
What is an ‘internal armed conflict’ in EU law? This was a question which the Belgian Conseil d’État referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), asking in essence whether this concept is to be understood as defined in international humanitarian law (IHL) or as a term with an independent meaning in the Union legal order.
On 30 January 2014, the CJEU gave its answer in the Diakité judgment, which concerns the granting of ‘subsidiary protection’ to third country nationals as well as stateless persons who seek refuge in the EU from such ‘internal armed conflicts’. By giving an autonomous meaning to the latter term in EU law, the CJEU has spoken up for a lower threshold for receiving such status throughout the 28 Member States. While this is, from a legal point of view, a highly interesting case with regard to the relationship between EU law and international law, it amounts, more practically speaking, to good news for all those in search of shelter from violence-ridden regions on a continent marked by an increasing reluctance to welcome foreigners (note most recently the successful Swiss referendum on limiting mass immigration). Continue reading →
The Court of Justice of the European Union (‘the Court’) in the landmark decision of X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie en Asiel, has provided a template based on which the Member States can address the claims of gay asylum seekers. The Court has ensured that the floodgates are not opened to enable gay and lesbian applicants from the 78 countries in the world, to arrive through the portcullis of Fortress Europe, seeking, and being granted sanctuary, solely on the basis of the existence of laws which criminalise consensual same-sex conduct in their countries of origin, even when they are not enforced.
The Fleeing Homophobia report estimated in September 2011 that approximately 10,000 gay or lesbian asylum seekers seek sanctuary in Europe every year. The following year, the Dutch authorities, ironically the first country in the world to recognise in 1981 the protection of gay men as a Particular Social Group under the 1951 Refugee Convention, posed three questions to be addressed by the Court, through the prism of the 2004 Qualification Directive, with respect to the asylum claims of 3 gay men from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda:Continue reading →
Some time ago, I discussed here the European Commission’s proposal on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (‘EPPO proposal’). As I pointed out, this proposal adopts a ‘federal’ logic, aiming at an EU-wide criminal law enforcement of fraud against the financial interests of the Union (in short: EU fraud). The EPPO, when and if created, would have exclusive competence to investigate and prosecute EU fraud, thereby excluding any prosecutorial discretion at national level. What is more, the involvement of Eurojust would be reduced to an absolute minimum, even though Eurojust has acquired a lot of expertise over the years in coordinating and supporting criminal investigations and prosecutions of EU fraud. With this proposal, the Commission clearly wants to move away from the ‘old’ intergovernmental approach of the pre-Lisbon era.
On 17 July 2013 the European Commission launched its proposal on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (‘Proposed EPPO Regulation’). With this proposal, the Commission aims at improving the enforcement of offences affecting the EU’s financial interests and thereby at increasing the deterrent effect of law enforcement. At present, those offences are investigated and prosecuted by national prosecution authorities, to be brought to trial before national courts. This approach is however deemed inadequate. Offences affecting the EU budget are usually complex cases with a cross-border dimension and ‘of secondary importance’ for national prosecutors. Moreover, statistics used by the Commission show substantial differences in enforcement between the various Member States. With the establishment of an EPPO, this should change significantly. Most notable is the shift from administrative investigations, as they are now conducted by OLAF (i.e., the EU’s antifraud office), to criminal investigations by the EPPO, a new EU judicial body.
The idea of an EPPO is far from new. The first concrete proposals in that direction saw the light in the Corpus Juris (1997, finalised in 2000). This research project proposed an extensive harmonisation of national criminal procedure, which was politically unacceptable at the time. In 2001, the European Commission presented a Green Paper, which took an entirely different approach based on the principle of mutual recognition. The EPPO would apply national criminal procedure rules when investigating, prosecuting and bringing to trial offences against the Union’s financial interests. After a very critical public consultation, which revealed numerous pitfalls, the EPPO ‘dream’ was shelved for a few years, until it resurfaced in the Lisbon Treaty. Article 86 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’) now provides an explicit formal basis for the creation of an EPPO. It determines the applicable legislative procedure and instrument, as well as the scope and competence of the future EPPO. Other aspects are left to the wisdom and discretion of the EU legislator. The current Commission proposal is based on Article 86 TFEU, and draws inspiration from the Draft Model Rules, which resulted from a triple EPPO research project funded by the Commission.