Belgian Constitutional Court offers CJEU chance to explain its puzzling Tele2 Sverige AB-decision
By Frank Verbruggen, Sofie Royer, and Helena Severijns
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
By Oliver Garner
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
By Sofia Mirandola
The case and questions referred
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-216/18 L.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.
By Eleni Frantziou
In its recent ruling in Egenberger (C-414/16), the Court’s Grand Chamber has redrawn the boundaries of a constitutional problem German courts are rather familiar with: the horizontal application of the right not to be discriminated against in situations coming within the scope of EU law. The case raises two important constitutional issues: firstly, whether the horizontal effect of EU fundamental rights must be direct; and, secondly, how the balance between conflicting fundamental rights should be reached in a private dispute. This post argues that, on the one hand, in Egenberger,the Court offers a methodologically more principled account of the horizontal effect of fundamental rights than its case law has provided to date. On the other hand, its approach towards the balance between religious freedom and non-discrimination is problematic because it does not offer the degree of clarity and guidance that is needed to accommodate horizontal conflicts of rights under the Charter framework. Continue reading
By Giovanni Zaccaroni and Francesco Rossi
Many valuable contributions have been written (for example this blog post but also elsewhere, among many others) on the M.A.S. decision (M.A.S. and M.B., case C-42/17 a.k.a. Taricco II) and, more in general, on the Taricco saga. The majority of them, however, focus mainly on the criminal and constitutional law dimensions separately. In this contribution, we focus on these dimensions together: we believe that this decision is equally important for the relationship between the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the national Constitutional Courts as it is for the hazardous path of a harmonization of the general part of criminal law at EU level.
The reason why these two dimensions are usually examined separately lies on the different background of the scholars concerned. In this blogpost we have done the effort to put together and explain the importance of the M.A.S. decision from the viewpoint of a criminal lawyer and from the one of a (European) constitutional lawyer. To do that, this work will be divided in two main parts: we will firstly look at the relationship between the CJEU and the Italian Constitutional Court (ICC) (in the first part, sections I and II, written by Giovanni Zaccaroni). We will then see whether and how the decision advances the harmonization of criminal law at an EU level (the second part, sections III-V, written by Francesco Rossi). Continue reading
By Harm Schepel
Investment Tribunals called upon to resolve intra-EU disputes are getting used to the European Commission showing up at their doorstep to try to convince them to decline jurisdiction. Though the range of arguments is wide and varied depending on the circumstances of the case and the underlying Investment Treaties, the overarching theme is simply that EU Law reigns supreme in relations between Member States and overrides all international law commitments that individual Member States- and the EU itself in the case of the Energy Charter Treaty- have entered into. The Commission has occasionally met with success: in Electrabel, a long learned discussion on the relationship between EU Law and the ECT was concluded with the bombshell that EU law ‘would prevail over the ECT in case of any material inconsistency’ (para. 4.191). Other times, it is summarily dismissed. ‘Should it ever be determined that there existed an inconsistency between the ECT and EU Law’, observed the Tribunal in RREEF Infrastructure, ‘the unqualified obligation in public international law of any arbitration tribunal constituted under the ECT would be to apply the former. This would be the case even were this to be the source of possible detriment to EU law. EU law does not and cannot “trump” public international law.’[i]
The most interesting point about these wide divergences between different Tribunals on rather fundamental points of EU and international law is how little they seem to matter. In both RREEF and Electrabel and numerous other intra-EU cases, the Tribunals disposed of the matter by pointing out that, in casu, there was no relevant material inconsistency, no conflict, no need to rule on matters of EU law, no incompatibility of obligations under different Treaties, and/or nothing that could not be solved by ‘harmonious interpretation.’ It might make sense to think of this Tribunal practice as devising conflicts-rules.
There are good reasons for the Court of Justice not to want to play this game. A case by case analysis of whether a particular award passes muster through national enforcement proceedings, or a Treaty-by-Treaty analysis of whether a particular dispute settlement or applicable law clause is compatible with EU law, is bound to be time consuming and labor-intensive, and will inevitably be unpredictable and lead to legal uncertainty. Continue reading
By Oliver Garner
Update (19/6/2018): On 19th June 2018 the Amsterdam Appeal Court decided not to refer the question of whether EU citizenship is automatically lost with Member State withdrawal to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The questions were declared ‘insufficiently concrete’ in light of the hypothetical nature of the complaint. It remains to be seen whether the legal dispute could re-surface if and when the issue of the loss of EU citizenship does become concrete when the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is finalised. The judgment (in Dutch) can be found here, and a summary (in English) here.
Introduction: A New Route from Amsterdam to Luxembourg.
A Brief Chronology of the Relevant Facts and Sources for the Amsterdam Case.
A Summary of the Amsterdam District Court Decision.
Legal Analysis of the Questions Referred: The Arguments for and against Automatic extinction and a Potential Compromise.
Conclusion: The Ramifications of Emancipative Legal Constitutionalism.
Introduction: A New Route from Amsterdam to Luxembourg
Despite the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, a direct Eurostar train route from London to Amsterdam will soon be established. This route will enable, amongst others, all of those holding the status and rights of EU citizenship to move ‘freely’ between the two metropolises. This class still includes nationals of the United Kingdom, and ostensibly will continue to do until that Member State’s withdrawal is concluded in accordance with Article 50 TEU. An incorporeal yet no less direct route has now also been established between Amsterdam and Luxembourg as a result of a preliminary reference by the Rechtbank Amsterdam (‘District Court’) to the European Court of Justice (‘ECJ’) under Article 267 TFEU. Such a judicial pathway may facilitate retention of the status and rights created by Article 9 TEU and Article 20 TFEU for the aforementioned nationals of the withdrawing state. Continue reading
Call for papers: Workshop “Information Sharing and European Agencies: Novel Frontiers”
European University Institute, 23 May 2018. Deadline for submissions: 15 February 2018.
Call for Papers: “Challenges to EU Law and Governance in the Member States”
European University Institute, 8 June 2018. Deadline for submissions: 18 February.
Call for papers: Special Issue “Revisiting WTO’s Role in Global Governance”
Trade, Law and Development. Deadline for submissions: 28 February 2018.
Call for Papers: PhD Colloquium “Regulating New Technologies in Uncertain Times”
Tilburg University, 14 June 2018. Deadline for submissions: 28 February 2018.
Call for Papers: “Geography and Legal Culture on the International Bench”
Leiden University, The Hague Campus, 17-18 May 2018. Deadline for submissions: 28 February 2018.
By Andrea Carta and Laurens Ankersmit
A few months ago, AG Wathelet delivered a remarkable defence of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in international investment agreements between Member States in his Opinion in C-284/16 Achmea. The case concerned a preliminary reference by a German court (the Federal Court of Justice, or Bundesgerichtshof) regarding the validity of an award rendered by an ISDS tribunal under the Dutch-Slovak bilateral investment treaty (BIT). This monetary award against the Slovak government was the result of the partial reversal of the privatisation of the Slovak health care system. The Opinion is the latest development in the legal controversies surrounding ISDS and EU law after the Micula cases and, of course, the recent Request for an Opinion by Belgium (Opinion 1/17) on the compatibility of CETA with the EU Treaties. Although many aspects of this Opinion merit critical commentary, this post will focus on two issues:
- the question whether ISDS tribunals set up under intra-EU BITs should be seen as courts common to the Member States and are therefore fully part of the EU’s judicial system.
- whether the discrimatory access to ISDS in the Dutch-Slovak BIT is compatible with Article 18 TFEU and justified under EU internal market law. Continue reading
By Michał Krajewski
To err is human and so it is with judges, even the highest ones. Take the long awaited ECJ’s judgment in case C-42/17, M.A.S. & M.B. (Taricco II). This is already a second ruling on the Italian statutes of limitation applicable to pending criminal proceedings regarding VAT fraud. The statutes of limitations turned out too short for the Italian justice system, facing workload and efficiency problems. As a result, a significant number of persons guilty of serious VAT fraud might go unpunished. This in turn would undermine the effective protection of the financial interests of the EU (Article 325 TFEU). Previously, in case C-105/14, Taricco I, the ECJ had obliged Italian criminal courts to disapply the statutes of limitations in VAT cases, in order to give full effect to Article 325 TFEU. However, following the firm opposition from the Italian Constitutional Court (the ‘ICC’), the ECJ revoked the said obligation in Taricco II.
In this blog post, I will point to ambiguities in the ECJ’s reasoning in Taricco II and to further problems that this ruling may generate. I will argue, however, that the shortcomings should not overshadow the generally positive conclusion that we may draw from the Taricco saga. In my view, this saga illustrates a positive side to the ‘conditional’ acceptance of EU law primacy by national constitutional courts as the latter provide checks and balances on the ECJ’s enormous judicial power. By threatening to disapply EU provisions, they can force the ECJ to seriously engage in a deliberative process, eventually leading to the correction of mistakes that the ECJ will surely commit from time to time. Continue reading
By Eduardo Gill-Pedro
In her recent entry on this blog, Prof. Capaldo criticised the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in Taricco II by arguing that there exists, in international law (or what the author calls ‘global law’), a fundamental human right to policies that criminalise tax fraud. According to the author, the Court presented in its judgment a false dichotomy between the need to ensure the effective application of EU law and the need to ensure the protection of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the accused. This is because the effective application of EU law also entails the protection of ‘social human rights’, presumably by the proper use of the taxes for public expenditure. In this blog entry I argue that Prof. Capaldo’s argument presupposes a particular understanding of human rights, and that this understanding of human rights is problematic from the perspective of democratic theory.
The understanding of human rights as socially beneficially outcomes which are to be ensured through the proper expenditure of tax revenue, sees human rights as policy goals. Such policy goals are then to be optimized and balanced against other policy goals situated on the same level. This is made clear in the blog entry, which argued that there was a need to “balance[e] the rights under these articles [social rights which would be secured through tax collection] and the accused’s individual rights guaranteed by the legality principle”. Continue reading
by Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldo
This contribution is a comment to the blog posts of Maxime Lassalle on Taricco I and Michal Krajewski on Taricco II. In the following, I summarize some reflections developed in my article entitled “Lotta globale all’impunità e Corte di giustizia europea: un nuovo approccio alla frode fiscale come crimine contro i diritti umani”, that touch upon the core of the Taricco dispute between the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Italian Constitutional Court concerning the prosecution of value added tax (VAT) fraud.
Two very closely related issues are considered in this regard. One is that the ECJ’s view in Taricco I on the interpretation and application of the obligation to combat fraud, imposed on Member States by Article 325 TFUE, opens the way to a new approach to tax fraud as a crime against human rights. The second, logically connected, is that the alleged conflict between the interpretation of Article 325 TFEU given by the ECJ and Italian Constitutional law (the principle of legality in criminal matters as laid down by Article 25(2) Const.) is a false problem for which I present a solution. Continue reading
By Michal Krajewski
The final countdown to the announcement of the long awaited judgment in case C-42/17, M.A.S. & M.B. (Taricco II) on 5 December 2017 has begun. The preliminary reference (for an overview see Bassini and Pollicino), by which the Italian Constitutional Court (the ‘ICC’) challenged the judgment of the European Court of Justice (the ‘ECJ’) in C-105/14, Taricco I, has already generated a heated debate online (see for instance here and here). The most fascinating question is whether for the first time the ECJ will authorise a national court to disapply an EU legal provision to protect its national constitutional identity or higher national standards of fundamental rights’ protection. My aim in this post is to question the compatibility of Taricco I judgment with the EU law itself. I will first argue that the ECJ’s judgment in Taricco I is problematic under EU law because the ECJ left out from its reasoning the general principle of legal certainty and ensuing limits to the direct applicability of EU provisions. Second, I will explore whether the ECJ can still withdraw from its stance taken in Taricco I without opening the Pandora’s box of exceptions to the EU law primacy: either due to national constitutional identity (Article 4(2) TEU) or higher national standards of fundamental rights’ protection (Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights). Continue reading
By Michele Simonato
The principle of the ne bis in idem in criminal matters (i.e. the right not to be prosecuted or punished twice for the same criminal conduct) is a key safeguard against arbitrary use of the ius puniendi. Furthermore, it offers an interesting perspective from which we can observe the development of an area of freedom, security and justice in Europe, and how the relationships between the two main European human rights instruments – the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (‘CFREU’) and the European Convention of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) and the related case law emanating from the courts of Luxembourg and Strasbourg – are evolving. Indeed, the way in which the CJEU will answer in the near future the questions that are submitted to it in several pending cases (see cases C-524/15, Menci; C-537/16, Garlsson et al.; C-596/16 and C-597/16, Di Puma) might have a ‘constitutional’ impact that goes well beyond the ne bis in idem principle. This post will take a closer look at some of these pending questions. Continue reading
By Mario García
In recent months, the Spanish Constitutional Court (SCC) has issued a series of decisions related to EU law that show an interesting combination of both openness toward the European legal order and a certain degree of apprehension to the growing role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in constitutional matters. In these cases the SCC has arrived at fairly pro-EU results: the SCC decided that preliminary references from Spanish courts to the CJEU take precedence over constitutional questions submitted to the SCC, and that a non-transposed, directly-effective EU Directive can be taken as a factor in the interpretation of a constitutional provision. But, as discussed below, the details subtly suggest that the SCC does not fully agree with the ways in which the CJEU has asserted its institutional position, and prefers to avoid potential conflicts in the future. Continue reading
By Laurens Ankersmit
Opinion 2/15 on the EU’s powers to conclude the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) delivered Tuesday received considerable attention from the press. This comes as no surprise as the Court’s Opinion has consequences for future EU trade deals such as CETA and potentially a future UK-EU FTA. Despite the fact that the ECJ concluded that the agreement should be concluded jointly with the Member States, the Financial Times jubilantly claimed victory for the European Union, belittling Wallonia in the process. This victory claim calls for three initial comments as there are aspects of the Opinion that might merit a different conclusion. Continue reading
By Laurens Ankersmit
In a significant win for access to justice in environmental matters, the Court’s Grand Chamber found that Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (the right to an effective remedy), read together with the Aarhus Convention, precluded the application of national procedural rules allowing for swift decision-making at the expense of rights granted to environmental NGOs. The case’s procedural history is very complex (the Advocate General referred to it as either Kafkaesque or tilting windmills like Don Quixote, depending on your point of view), so after only a brief factual discussion I will focus on the two major constitutional issues that the Court had to deal with:
- The legal effects of the Aarhus Convention in the EU legal order;
- The meaning of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).
By Oliver Garner
Introduction – A Timely History Lesson
On the 24th January 2017, 7 months to the day of the result of the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union, the President of the United Kingdom Supreme Court delivered the judgment in the Miller appeal. The Court held, by an 8-3 majority, that the UK Government did not have the power to give notice under Article 50 TEU to withdraw from the European Union without a prior Act of Parliament .
Lord Neuberger started the announcement in the manner of a history lecture, detailing the United Kingdom’s accession to the then European Economic Community in 1973. This was a fitting introduction to a judgment which at times reads like a lesson in the UK’s constitution. Accordingly, this lesson encompasses the place that EU law occupies within this order. This post will attempt to provide a concise summary of the magisterial judgment, before providing some comment on the salient issues relevant to EU law. Continue reading
by Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi
I. SETTING THE STAGE
In recent years ISDS has been on the lips of many politicians, academics, NGOs and even laymen, some of whom have recently ‘discovered’ that there is a mechanism through which foreign investors (often large multinationals, but not always) can bring claims against host-states before an international arbitral tribunal. The arguments in favour and against ISDS are plentiful, but one always catches my eyes. According to this argument (page 3), the EU does not need ISDS in its new free trade and investment agreements (FTIAs) with developed states, because the original rationale of this mechanism was to protect foreign investors from host‑state jurisdictions where basic tenets of the rule of law were not observed. However, trading partners such as the US or Canada have well‑functioning judicial systems that protect foreign investors; therefore, ISDS is not needed.
As a novice to the field of EU investment law, I must confess I am not yet fully convinced by the benefits of ISDS. Nevertheless, the afore-mentioned argument resonates with my previous field of research, concerned with the domestic enforcement of EU and US international agreements, and once again illustrates that there is often a disconnect between the international and the domestic enforcement of treaties.
I will not advocate for the ‘greater’ protection of foreign investors. Instead, I want to shed some critical light on the argument according to which foreign investors already enjoy high levels of protection in advanced domestic judicial systems. I will argue that the domestic protection of foreign investors is more complex. On the one hand, foreign investors can bring a claim before a domestic court against the host-state, invoking domestic standards of protection. On the other hand, they could also potentially bring a claim before the same domestic courts, relying on international standards of investment protection. As I will illustrate, the international and domestic levels of enforcement should not be treated as worlds apart and the interplay between the two can shape the strategies of the treaty negotiators and of the investors. Continue reading