Category: Environmental Law

Brown Bears II: Aarhus and the Charter show their teeth

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:

  1. The legal effects of the Aarhus Convention in the EU legal order;
  2. The meaning of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).

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Silver linings: What to expect from environmental chapters in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements?

By Laurens Ankersmit

This blog post summarises my contribution to the Brexit & Environment roundtable organised by the British Academy & EUrefEnv on 30 January 2017. It was published before on the blog The EU Referendum and the UK Environment: an expert review

The UK government has announced that it will pursue a “bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement” with the EU. The EU, no stranger to negotiating such agreements, typically includes in its FTAs a chapter dedicated to sustainable development. From the start, it should be clear that these chapters come nowhere near the protection offered by current EU environmental legislation. That said, these chapters may present some opportunities. This contribution seeks to explain the EU’s approach to environmental protection in its FTAs and identifies four key options for a potential future environmental chapter in a UK-EU FTA. Continue reading

Access to information relating to emissions into the environment – Case C-673/13 P Commission v Greenpeace Nederland and PAN Europe

By Anne Friel

On 23rd November the Court of Justice handed down its judgment in appeal case C-673/13 P European Commission v Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe, confirming a broad interpretation of the concept of “information which relates to emissions into the environment” in the context of pesticides. According to the EU’s access to documents laws, public authorities, including the EU institutions, cannot disclose information that would harm the commercial interests of a third party unless there is an overriding public interest in doing so. And if the information relates to emissions into the environment, there is an irrebuttable presumption that disclosure is in the public interest (Article 4(4)(d) of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, implemented with regard to the EU institutions by Article 6(1) of Regulation 1367/2006 (the Aarhus Regulation)). Consequently, a broad interpretation of the term “information which relates to emissions into the environment” has a direct impact on the ability of companies to protect commercially sensitive information. The long list of international, European and American pesticide lobbies that intervened in the case bears witness to this.  Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: December 2016

Conference « EU Civil Procedure Law and Third Countries: Which Way Forward? »

University of Kiel, 2-3 February 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 19 December 2016.

Workshop « International Law in a Dark Time »

University of Helsinki, 22-23 May 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 30 December 2017.

Conference « EU Policy on International Investments : Uncertainties, Challenges, and Opportunities »

University of Zaragoza, 20-21 March 2017. Deadline for proposal submissions : 31 December 2017.

IntLawGrrls! 10th Birthday Conference

University of Georgia Law School, 3 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 January 2017.

Workshop « New Challenges for European Solidarity »

University of Cambridge, 9-10 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 13 January 2017.

Call for papers Jean Monnet Seminar « The EU and Trust in the Online Environment »

Inter University Center, Dubrovnik, 23-29 April 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 31 January 2017.

ESIL Annual Conference 2017 : Global Public Goods , Global Commons, and Fundamental Values : The Responses of International Law

University of Naples, 7-9 September 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 31 January 2017.

Call for submissions : Trade, Law and Development Special Issue on Recent Regionalism

Deadline for submissions : 15 February 2017.

Call for papers : « Human Dignity and the Constitutional Crisis in Europe : Humanity, Democracy, Social Europe »

European University Institute, Florence, 15-16 June 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 28 February 2017.

European Environmental Law Forum 2017 Conference : « Sustainable Management of Natural Resources – Legal Approaches and Instruments »

Copenhagen, 30 August – 1 September 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 17 March 2017.

The Extraterritorial Reach of EU Animal Welfare Rules (Again): Case C-592/14 European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients

By Jessica Lawrence

What is the scope of the marketing ban on cosmetics containing ingredients that were tested on animals? Does it include cosmetics that were tested on animals because of the requirements of a third country’s laws? This was the question the CJEU addressed in its decision in the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients case. The Court’s 21 September 2016 judgment goes some way toward resolving the lack of clarity of the animal testing provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation (which Advocate General Bobek’s Opinion referred to as ‘not well drafted’ and ‘not a paragon of clarity’ (AG’s Opinion paras 74 & 24)). But it also continues a recent line of cases in which the Court approves of EU rules with important extraterritorial effects. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: March 2016

Jean Monnet Doctoral Workshop “Interactions Between European Union and International Law”

City University London, 23 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submission: 25 March 2016.

Conference “Boosting the Enforcement of EU Competition Law at Domestic Level”

Radboud University Nijmegen, 3 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 March 2016.

Workshop “The Disintegration of Europe”

Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, 30-31 May 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 April 2016.

Seminar “Transnational Solidarity: Setting the Boundaries”

Center for Transnational Legal Studies, London, 1 April 2016. (Free) registration needed.

Conference “Environmental Rights in Europe and Beyond”

Lund, 21-22 April 2016. (Free) registration needed.

Conference “Existe-t-il encore un seul non bis in idem aujourd’hui?”

University of Nancy, 28 April 2016. Registration needed.

Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law Conference 2016

Vienna University of Economics and Business, 23 September 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 May 2016. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: December 2015

Workshop „The Age of Austerity: A New Challenge for State Powers“

University of Edinburgh, 30 March 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 20 December 2015.

CJICL Conference „Public and Private Power“

University of Cambridge, 8-9 April 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 10 January 2016.

Workshop „The preliminary reference procedure as a compliance mechanism of EU environmental law“

Brussels, 17 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 January 2016.

Conference „Building Consensus on European Consensus“

European University Institute, Florence, 1-2 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 January 2016.

Doctoral Colloquium „Responsibility in International and European Law, Philosophy and History“

University of Fribourg, 11-12 November 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 March 2016.

EELF Conference „Procedural Environmental Rights: Principle X in Theory and Practice“

Wrocław University, 14-16 September 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 March 2016.

Conference „Intra-EU BITs and Intra-EU Disputes“

University of Vienna, 7 March 2016. (Paid) registration needed.

Review of EU legislation under EU international agreements revisited: Aarhus receives another blow

By Laurens Ankersmit and Benedikt Pirker

Challenging EU rules on the basis of EU agreements is very difficult. Challenging EU rules on the basis of the Aarhus Convention is pretty much impossible. In ClientEarth v Commission the Court reasoned once again that the Aarhus Convention could not be relied upon to invalidate EU secondary legislation. In this case, the Court found that ClientEarth could not rely on the Aarhus Convention to challenge the Public Access to Documents Regulation (Regulation 1049/2001) in order to obtain commissioned studies on compliance by Member States with EU environmental law in the context of infringement procedures. One of the arguments put forward by the Court was that the Aarhus Convention could not be relied upon because it ‘was manifestly designed with the national legal orders in mind’. This is an extraordinary statement, since the EU is party to the Convention and thus bound by it. It was no doubt inspired by the concern to protect the infringement procedure contained in article 258 TFEU, raising a number of questions on the relationship between EU primary, secondary and international law. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: September 2015

Conference “The European Union as an Actor in International Economic Law”

University of Luxembourg, 1-2 October 2015. Deadline for registration: 30 September 2015.

Conference “Criminal Justice: Jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice – Today and Future”

Court of Justice of the European Union, 2-3 October 2015. (Paid) registration required.

Inaugural CMLRev Conference “Membership of the Union and Membership of the Euro”

University of Liverpool, 9 October 2015. (Free) registration required.

Workshop “Mutual Legal Assistance in the Digital Age: Problems, Challenges, Solutions for Criminal Justice”

University of Luxembourg, 15 October 2015. (Free) registration required.

Workshop “A balanced data protection in the EU: conflicts and possible solutions”

UM Campus Brussels, University of Maastricht, 19 October 2015. (Paid) registration required.

Conference “Migration Policy in the European Union – Current Challenges and Future Developments”

University of Luxembourg, 22-23 October 2015.

Call for submissions for the 2016 edition of the Hibernian Law Journal

Deadline for submissions: 31 October 2015.

EIUC Training for International Electoral Observers

Monastery of San Nicolò, 23-28 November 2015. Deadline for application: 30 October 2015.

Workshop “Victims in Europe – Needs, Rights, Perspectives”

University of Luxembourg, 16 November 2015.

Colloquium “The Environment in Court – Environmental Protection in National and International Courts, Tribunals, and Compliance Mechanisms”

PluriCourts, University of Oslo, 20-25 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 January 2016.

Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH v Stadt Kempten: The Extraterritorial Reach of EU Animal Welfare Rules

By Jessica Lawrence

In an interesting judgment, the CJEU has ruled that Regulation 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport applies outside of EU borders to transport taking place in third states, if that transport began on EU territory. This is a novel ruling that is expected to have important positive impacts on animal welfare. However, it can also be seen as an example of the CJEU’s tendency in recent years to read the EU’s jurisdiction expansively, stretching traditional international law notions of ‘territorial jurisdiction’ to permit the regulation of conduct taking place in third states. Continue reading

Cases C-401 to 403/12 and C-404 to 405/12: No review of legality in light of the Aarhus Convention

By Benedikt Pirker

Should EU secondary legislation be reviewed against the benchmark of the provisions of an international agreement? In 2012 the General Court answered this question in the affirmative and annulled two decisions of the Commission which were based on a regulation which was deemed incompatible with the Aarhus Convention. However, the EU institutions appealed against those judgments. Consequently, in cases C‑401 to 403/12, Council e.a. v. Vereniging Milieudefensie and C-404 and 405/12, Council v. Stichting Natuur en Milieu e.a., the Grand Chamber of the Court was confronted with the same question. There is already quite some case law on the topic of review of legality within the EU legal order in light of international obligations of the EU, typically with the Court being hesitant to undertake such review. In the cases involving the Vereniging Milieudefensie and the Stichting Natuur en Milieu, the General Court and the Advocate General made, in my view, some valuable suggestions in favour of reviewing EU law against international agreements. Unfortunately, the Court decided to stick to its guns, thus continuing in the line of its own previous jurisprudence, and annulled the General Court’s judgments. The result leaves a somewhat sour taste for those who think that EU institutions and their legal acts should be amenable to judicial review under reasonable conditions. Not only is the very purpose of the EU regulation at issue to implement the obligations arising from the Aarhus Convention, but the Grand Chamber’s view also leads to a lacuna in legal protection in EU law exactly where the central aim of the Aarhus Convention would in theory be to provide individuals with access to justice. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: January 2015

Conference : Alternatives to Immigration Detention in the EU – The Time for Implementation

Université Libre de Bruxelles, 6 February 2015. Deadline for (free) registration : 2 February 2015.

Workshop “Drones and Targeted Killings: Defining a European Position”

Aarhus University, 5-6 March 2015. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 February 2015. Continue reading

‘Facilitating’ infringements of article 34 TFEU and the territorial nature of green electricity support schemes: Case C-573/12 Ålands Vindkraft AB v Energimyndigheten

By Laurens Ankersmit

In this very interesting Grand Chamber judgment, the Court found Sweden’s scheme promoting the national production of green electricity (in accordance with Directive 2009/28, the so-called RES Directive) to be compatible with article 34 TFEU. The Court’s judgment is particularly notable for its deferential stance towards measures related to environmental protection based on EU rules which – paradoxically – are very nationally oriented although they tackle the global problem of climate change. The judgment is to be welcomed for giving both the EU and its Member States sufficient policy discretion on how to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, it remains problematic that the EU legislator opted for such a national approach, as this is bound to frustrate the achievement of a truly European electricity market. In adopting this deferential approach, the Court had to deal with some interesting legal issues relating to the free movement of goods, in particular:

  • The discriminatory nature of the rules in question and, despite this, their possible justification;
  • The impact EU legislation has on the proportionality analysis of the Court.

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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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AG Bot puts Belgium in Catch 22 position… or not

The future judgement in Joined Cases C-204-208/12 Essent Belgium N.V. v. Vlaamse Reguleringsinstantie voor de Elektriciteits- en Gasmarkt could very well be one of those landmark cases in which the CJEU clarifies one of the fundamental doctrinal issues in internal market law: can Member States rely upon the rule of reason to justify distinctly applicable measures? In his Opinion, Advocate General Bot makes a convincing case that this should (under strict conditions) indeed be the case.

In this case, the Belgian government fined Essent Belgium for failure to comply with Belgian legislation requiring electricity suppliers to purchase a certain amount of green energy from Belgian suppliers. As many readers will no doubt notice, this case is very similar to PreussenElektra, however, the legislative context and European electricity market have undergone substantial changes since that judgment was handed down. Today, EU legislation enables Member States to verify whether electricity produced in other Member States is green. Also, EU legislation now requires Member States to reach certain national targets for contribution to green electricity production.

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Leth: Court Rules Out Francovich Claim on the Basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive

The facts of the Leth case are relatively simple. Ms. Leth bought a house close to Vienna-Schwechat Airport. However, following her purchase of that property, several works were carried out on the airport, most probably increasing the use and thus noise it produced. Probably much to miss Leth’s disliking, it further turned out that many of these works were carried out without any environmental impact assessment. The reason for this absence of an environmental impact assessment was a belief on the part of the Austrian authorities that no such assessment was necessary on the basis of the national laws implementing the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (Currently codified in the EIA Directive). This is a widely held belief on the part of authorities that prefer executive action over cumbersome procedures that are time-consuming and costly. However, often this belief is the result more of a desired outcome than a correct interpretation of the EIA Directive, making this one of the most frequently invoked directives in EU environmental law. Indeed, significant aspects of direct effect have been established and refined on the basis of cases turning on the EIA Directive (think of Kraaijeveld and Wells).

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Court of Justice rejects Switzerland’s appeal concerning Zurich airport

After an Odyssey of nearly 10 years, the legal proceedings of Switzerland against German restrictions on flights to and from Zurich airport have come to an end:  The CJEU, in its judgement delivered on 7 March 2013 (Case C‑547/10 P), has rejected Switzerland’s appeal against the judgment of the General Court of 9 September 2010 (Case T‑319/05), by which the General Court had rejected Switzerland‘s action for annulment against Commission Decision 2004/12/EC of 5 December 2003 (OJ 2004 L 4, p. 13), thus allowing Germany to continue to apply unilateral restrictions on flights to and from Zurich airport over German territory.

Beyond its undoubtedly grave consequences for the airport of Zurich and all other affected stakeholders, the case was also particularly interesting from the point of view of Swiss-EU relations in general: As Advocate General Jääskinen pointed out in his Opinion delivered on 13 September 2012, this is the first time Switzerland initiated an action for annulment before the EU judiciary. Unfortunately, like the General Court before, the CJEU did not take the opportunity to assess the legal consequences of the Swiss-EU Agreements on the procedural status of Switzerland before the CJEU. Continue reading

POMFR: Greening EU Competition Law and Policy

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.

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The legal risks of stopping the clock on the EU ETS aviation scheme

Past Monday, Commissioner Hedegaard announced that she requested the EU Member States to suspend the application of the Emissions Trading Scheme to the aviation sector pending new impetus that might be given by the ICAO Council to find a multilateral solution to combating climate change in the aviation sector. Hedegaard announced that  ‘in order to create a positive atmosphere around these very important negotiations, I have just recommended in a telephone conference with 27 member states that the EU stops the clock when it comes to enforcement of aviation into the Emissions Trading System (ETS) to and from non-European countries until after the ICAO assembly next autumn.’

This is the latest development in the ongoing saga concerning the inclusion of aviation into the European scheme. The international protest has been growing the past year especially since last years ATA-judgment of the CJEU, with many of the EU’s main trading partners having threatened to take retaliatory measures against the EU for applying their scheme to third country carriers. This heterogeneous group, dubbed ‘the coalition of the unwilling’, has vowed to combat the EU ETS within the ICAO until it has been removed. Today, the Republican dominated US House of Representatives passed a bill making it illegal for US air transport undertakings to comply with the EU ETS.

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The diversion of the Acheloos river under EU environmental law

The CJEU handed down an important judgment two weeks ago on EU water policy which concerns a number of interesting definitional issues as well as the more general issue of legal effects of directives prior to their transposition deadline. The case concerned a preliminary reference from a Greek court in legal proceedings between the central Greek government and local authorities on the diversion of the river Acheloos in the north-west of Greece.

 Authorities and local environmental groups have been fighting each other for over 20 (!) years concerning this diversion project, with those in favour of the diversion at the losing side (I call upon our Greek readers to share with us any information on what on earth is going on there).

Anyway, in the current legal proceedings the question arose whether the government measures leading to the partial diversion of the Acheloos river for water supply and electricity generation purposes was in conformity with a number of EU directives on water policy. The judgment is way too extensive to deal with in a single blog post, so I would like to discuss two aspects of the judgment:

  • The legal effect of directive 2000/60 before the transposition period has expired (the Inter-Environment Wallonie doctrine);
  • The definition of ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’ in article 6 (4) of Directive 92/43 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

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