Category: Courts of Member States

The AG’s opinion on the Outright Monetary Transactions Case

By Daniela Jaros

On January 14, Advocate General (AG) Cruz-Villalón issued his opinion in the reference for a preliminary ruling on Gauweiler et al. v Deutscher Bundestag on the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT). The OMT Programme launched in September 2012 was part of a series of measures taken by the ECB in response to the Euro crisis accompanying the loan facilities (European Financial Stability Facility – EFSF, European Stability Mechansim – ESM).

The German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, “BVerfG”) had asked the Court of Justice (CJEU) two questions in what it classified as an ultra vires review of acts of the European Union. Roughly speaking, the BVerfG wanted to check whether the European Central Bank (ECB) had transgressed the limits of its powers derived from the treaties. If the ECB had, this would have consequences for the constitutional identity of Germany. Therefore, the BVerfG first wanted clarification on whether the Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) Programme was an economic rather than a monetary measure and whether the ECB had therefore exceeded its powers by establishing it.  Second, the BVerfG raised the question whether the OMT programme was not violating the prohibition of monetary financing of Member State. Continue reading

Top 10 Most Read Posts of the Year

With the end of the third year of operation of the European Law Blog approaching, it is once again time to take a brief look back at the most popular posts of the year. Based on our Google Analytics statistics and keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, we receive the following little tour d’horizon of EU law… Continue reading

Luxemburgerli: Groundhog Day in Luxembourg with Case C-322/13 Grauel Rüffer

luxemburgerli BildBy Benedikt Pirker

Remember the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray is caught in a time loop and relives the same day over and over again? Well, that’s a bit how the Court must have felt when being asked this question by the Landesgericht Bozen:

“Does the interpretation of Articles 18 and 21 TFEU preclude the application of provisions of national law, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, which grant the right to use the German language in civil proceedings pending before the courts in the province of Bolzano only to Italian citizens domiciled in the Province of Bolzano, but not to nationals of other EU Member States, whether or not they are domiciled in that province?” Continue reading

STC 26/2014: The Spanish Constitutional Court Modifies its case law in response to the CJEU’s Melloni judgment

By Mario García

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.

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The German Federal Constitutional Court on Outright Monetary Transactions by the European Central Bank – pressing the CJEU or a friendly gesture?

On Friday, February 7th, 2014, the German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) requested the CJEU for preliminary ruling for the first time. The request is exceptional in terms of both European Union law and German constitutional law. Commentators call the decision a Spring in the Desert, a Golden Bridge to Luxembourg or simply put Historic. The BVerfG stated its opinion throughout several decisions regarding fundamental questions between the European Union and its Member States (e.g. Solange I, Solange II, Maastricht, Lisbon), but always abstained from requesting a preliminary ruling. This time, however, the BVerfG indeed submitted a question. The stakes in the case are high, as the BVerfG considers giving an ultra vires ruling regarding a decision by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) concerning Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) unless the CJEU announces that that decision is partially incompatible with primary law or restricts its scope. If the “conditions” laid out by the BVerfG are not met by the CJEU, the decision on OMT will be declared incompatible with the German constitution. The consequence would be that German authorities would not be bound to the decision by the ECB. In other words, the German central bank with around 18 % in capital subscriptions (shares) of the ECB would not participate in OMTs. Continue reading

Protection from ‘internal armed conflict’ in EU law: The Diakité case

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

POMFR: Constitutional Review in Europe – A Comparative Analysis

The 20th century has witnessed an impressive rise of constitutional justice, in particular as regards the emergence of and role given to constitutional courts in many European countries and the CJEU at the supranational level. A lot of literature has covered aspects of this development, and in the academic debate several authors have also voiced criticism of this court-centred constitutionalism and academic obsession with courts. This can be seen e.g. in the recent issue of the German Law Journal which features a number of contributions on the Political Constitution as a counter movement. In this rich context, Maartje de Visser examines two questions in her book Constitutional Review in Europe: First, who should uphold the Constitution, and second, how is constitutional review organised? In an attempt to answer these questions, she scrutinizes the legal order of 11 European countries and the EU legal order. In this post, I will first briefly set out the structure and content of the book in some more detail, before offering some praise and criticism. Continue reading

The return of the forbidden fruits: Van Parys II on the horizon

Bananas are back on the menu of the Court of Justice of the EU. The court of first instance of Brussels (Interim Decision of 17 May 2013, 196/33/13, in Dutch, not online) decided to refer a preliminary question to Luxembourg concerning the consistency of Council Regulation 1964/2005 regarding import tariffs for bananas with the EU’s obligations under the GATT. Soon the Court is to decide whether to address this question in a regular panel, or instead in a Grand Chamber. This decision itself will signal whether the Court considers this a fresh legal argument warranting scrupulous attention, or regards this simply as old, long-settled questions. In this post, I will argue that authoritative judicial clarifications would indeed be desirable in this case. Continue reading

Calling calls for papers: Our new category of posts Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm

Having received from time to time requests to publish EU-law related calls for papers, we have been reflecting at the blog on how to deal with such requests. We would like the blog to remain mainly a forum for discussion on recent developments in EU (case) law, and have noted that – at least based on the statistics – this seems to meet our viewers’ needs as well. At the same time, we also continue to cover political developments and literature related to EU law, so that it would seem unjustified to exclude calls for papers and similar announcements, as they are arguably part and parcel of the academic development of EU law.

In conclusion, we have decided to have a monthly round-up of calls for papers on this blog. We will call this new category of posts – of course to be taken with a grain of salt – Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm, news from the ivory tower. For you, distinguished readers, this means that you should please feel free to get in touch with us concerning calls for papers for EU law-related (!) topics. However, we kindly ask for your understanding that we will not publish your call immediately and as such, but in a shortened form in our monthly round-up; also, we take the liberty of refusing calls for papers that are in our view not sufficiently relevant for our readership. Looking forward to hearing from you! And now for our first admittedly short round-up… Continue reading

Sustainable Competition law; Competition Law Kills Coal Closure Plan, Or Does It?

This post concerns a  bit of a Dutch thing, namely the ‘position’ of the Dutch National Competition Authority ACM on an agreement by electricity producers active on the Dutch market, but it is interesting more generally for those who are interested in the relation between (EU) competition law and other issues like sustainability. The trigger for this position by the ACM is a plan in the national Energieakkoord  which is an agreement between organisations representing employers, employees, environmental NGO’s, companies and other social actors that aims to benefit the transition to a more sustainable energy policy and sustainable economic development in the Netherlands. Part of this Akkoord is the deal between four electricity producers to close down five older coal fired power plants (all constructed in the 1980s) in a coordinated manner. This get-together of four competitors to reduce production capacity has obvious competition law implications, so the Netherlands Competition Authority (ACM) was consulted on the compatibility of this plan with Article 101 TFEU and the Netherlands equivalent, Article 6 of the Competition Act. As the title suggests, the ACM considered the plan incompatible with competition law in a very preliminary and barely reasoned finding.

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Increase of judicial fees in Spain: EU Law to the rescue?

As part of recent Spanish measures to reduce public expenses and increase public income, the Spanish Ley 10/2012 substantially raises judicial fees (a “tasa judicial” is a fee charged when citizens access certain judicial services)[1], a move that has generated a great deal of protests by judges, lawyers and citizens alike. Under the new system, a simple European order for payment procedure will cost 100 euro, and an appeal before the labour courts will now cost between 500 and 10,500 euro, depending on the amount at stake.

The Government of Catalonia has announced that it will challenge the constitutionality of the Ley, on the basis that it is contrary to Article 24 of the Spanish Constitution, which guarantees effective judicial protection. However, in the absence of a system to preventively suspend the application of national laws during unconstitutionality procedures, judicial fees must be paid at the higher rate until the Constitutional Court decides the issue. And here is where European Law may come to the rescue. If the new judicial fees could be considered so high as to clash with the principles of effectiveness and equivalence, EU law would become a useful tool to declare the fees inapplicable. Continue reading

German Constitutional Court on the ratification of the ESM Treaty and of the Fiscal Compact

On the 12th September 2012, the German Constitutional Court issued its much-expected third judgment on the constitutionality of measures that have been taken at the level of European and international law in response to the ongoing sovereign debt crises in the Eurozone and the crisis of the currency union that resulted thereof.

Although the decision as such bears nothing revolutionary, the interesting issues of this case lay in its details, particularly the parts of the decision regarding the representation of the German parliament in the ESM and the lack of termination clauses in both treaties. This is why I am going to do a rather detailed summary of the applicants’ arguments, of the government’s opinion and the court decision first and only comment on the case in the second part of this entry.

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EU-Competition Law in the Overseas: some recent French precedents

Parts of the territory of some EU-Member States are situated overseas. Does EU-Competition law apply there? Some recent French precedents answer this question. According to Art. 52 TEU the EU-treaties apply to the 27 Member States mentioned therefore. EU-law applies, in principle, to the whole territory of those Member States including the overseas parts of their territory. In Art. 355 TFEU, the territorial scope of the EU-treaties is further specified. There are more or less three ‘categories’ or ‘degrees’ of territorial scope with regard to the overseas (for a more extensive and general description see Kochenov’s article).

  1. First, the Outermost Regions, where EU-law applies, with the possibility for temporary exceptions to the acquis of the EU; although the term ‘temporary’ is perhaps not the right word, since the derogations are constantly extended. The Outermost Regions consist of the French départements d’outre-mer, the Spanish Canary Islands and the Portuguese Azores and Madeira.
  2. Secondly, the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) , where EU-law applies, with the possibility for more permanent exceptions to the acquis of the Union. On the OCTs a special regime of EU-law is applicable: the association regime (of Part IV of the TFEU). The OCTs are listed in Annex II to the TFEU and consist of Danish Greenland, the French territoires and collectivités d’outre-mer, the Caribbean part of the Netherlands and most of 12 British Overseas Territories.
  3. And thirdly, custom made regimes for specific parts of some Member States, such as the Channel Islands and Åland Islands. In addition some custom made regimes can be found in the accessions treaties, such as Gibraltar and the Spanish territories Ceuta and Mellila, which are situated on the African continent.

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