The EU case law on the horizontal effect of fundamental rights is not the average lawyer’s go-to example of coherence, clarity, or adequate judicial reasoning. To give credit where credit is due, however, in a series of cases over the last year, the Court has significantly improved this state of affairs. The Grand Chamber’s judgment in Bauer et al is the most noteworthy affirmation of this change of direction so far. This post maps out what might now be safely described as the current position on the horizontal effect of fundamental rights in the European Union and attaches a threefold (mostly positive) meaning to the Bauer judgment. However, using Bauer as a springboard, it also raises two broader questions regarding the status of social rights and the non-horizontality of directives, which may require further refinement in future case-law. Continue reading →
On 8 October, four new Judges and two Advocates General officially entered into office at the Court of Justice of the European Union (henceforth ‘the Court’). Just two days before, the U.S. Senate had confirmed the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Whilst the latter process had attracted the attention of media from all over the world, the appointment of the new European judges had barely made the news. This situation is reflected also in the academic world, which, surprisingly, never showed much interest in the Court’s appointment process.
However, this does not mean that the procedure set out at Articles 253-255 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (henceforth “TFEU”) is immune to criticism. Two aspects in particular appear capable to negatively affect the appearance of independence of the European Judges: the duration of the mandate – 6 years – and the lack of transparency of the whole process which is dominated by national governments. These flaws may be one of the reasons why the Court had elaborated a minimal definition of the concept of judicial independence; a definition that may need to be reshaped in order to tackle the judicial reform enacted by the Polish government.
The concerns related to the transparency of the procedure and the discretion of national executives have been partially addressed by the Lisbon Treaty, with the creation of the s.c. Article 255 Panel. This Panel, composed of senior members of national judiciaries, former members of the Court and one person chosen by the European Parliament, is charged with the task to confirm a candidate’s suitability to perform the duties of Judge or Advocate General. Notwithstanding the undoubtedly positive effects produced by the panel on the quality of candidates, serious concerns remain regarding the transparency of its work: the Council Decision 2010/124/EU establishing the operating rules of this Panel, provides that both the hearing of the candidate and the deliberations of the body shall take place in private. Hence, the introduction of Article 255 Panel has been effectively dubbed as a form of “progress by stealth”.
Ahead of the oral hearing at the Bundesverfassungsgericht in the proceedings “European Banking Union” (on Tuesday, 27 November 2018, at 10:00 a.m.) signs can be found of the need of a slight reconsideration by the Court of some of its tenets about sovereignty and the status of the European Parliament, to which this case lends itself eminently. Here is one of the feelers for a possible outcome, as found circulating in the form of a fictional draft press release of the ruling.
The question whether it would be lawful for a Member State to revoke the notification of withdrawal from the EU before the two-year lapse (laid down in the third paragraph of Article 50 TEU) has, clearly, vital political, economic and social implications. Even though it cuts to the core of the philosophy governing the “ever closer Union” and the role that States and private individuals play in it, it’s also a matter to which the provision itself does not give a definite answer. Moreover, there is no case law issued on the matter by the CJEU that could contribute to the interpretation of the provision, while the UK Supreme Court seems to have posited the irrevocability of a withdrawal notification in the famous judgment issued in the case of R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [UKSC 2016/0196], foregoing the opportunity to use the preliminary reference mechanism. This absence of relevant CJEU case-law is expected to change after the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland decided on 21.09.2018 to refer a relevant preliminary question (see O. Garner’s analysis),
Part of the literature expressing interesting and strong legal arguments has suggested the answer to the above question to the positive (e.g. P. Craig, S. Peers, O. Garner, A. Sari). Arguing the contrary and attempting a contribution to the academic debate, this post’s point of view is based on the fundamental principle that the EU legal order constitutes an “autonomous legal system”, which is governed by its own rules enacted by its own institutions and interpreted by its established Court (C-26/62, Van Gend en Loos). It is, therefore, argued that the legal lacuna regarding the provision of revoking the withdrawal notification, leads, according to the interpretation of the provision set out in Article 50 TEU – in line with the letter and spirit thereof – to the conclusion that permitting such a revocation would contradict the principle of autonomy, regardless of whether it is unilateral or initiated upon consensus.
The present post is divided into two parts. In the first part I approach the interpretation of Article 50 TEU through its letter and spirit. In the second part I develop my argumentation concerning the critical role that the fundamental principle of autonomy should play when attempting to find the true meaning of the provision and to fill the legal gap concerning the right to revoke the withdrawal notification. Continue reading →
This is not entirely surprising: due to the increased use of all kinds of online services and information and communication technologies (ICTs), police and judicial authorities are confronted on a daily basis with the problem to collect electronic evidence, as the data they are looking for are often processed, transmitted and/or stored by foreign service providers, including big global technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Amazon. To compel a foreign person to cooperate in a criminal investigation is not obvious – the enforcement jurisdiction of police and judicial authorities is, in principle, limited to their own national territory.
This post will present the highlights of the double e-evidence proposal that is on the table and the first reactions to the proposals, at a moment where the institutional negotiations are picking up speed. Continue reading →
Book review: S. Vogenauer and S. Weatherill (eds.), General Principles of Law – European and Comparative Perspectives, Hart, 2017, 418 p.
The book is a collection of articles that reflect the outcome of a two-day seminar organised by the Oxford Law Faculty’s Institute of European and Comparative Law in 2015 on general principles of law. As often with collective works the result is a mixed bag with articles jumping in various directions, dealing with international law, EU law, private law and comparative law; some take a bird’s eye view on the legal landscape or the history of European integration, others focus on very specific issues, such as discrimination on the grounds of obesity. All authors, however, have clearly something to tell.
The book starts off with a brief introduction, as is customary for a collective work, but quickly cuts to the chase. The first two substantive chapters contrast the use of general principles in international law through a pleasant overview by Catherine Redgewell and in EU law with a most enjoyable essay by one of the editors, Stephen Weatherill. Continue reading →
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 →
Thinking about the whole legal saga arising from Romano Pisciotti’s involvement in the Marine Hose Cartel, discussed recently on this blog by J. Przerwa, triggers some thoughts about how much depends on circumstance and happenstance. This is relevant to the claims often made by enforcers and lawyers regarding the deterrent effect of severe sanctions (in particular the ‘inferno’ of prison terms in the US), of dedicated enforcement efforts (in particular on the part of the US Department of Justice), and of the possibility of extradition to the US (as in Pisciotti’s case). ‘From Hollywood to Hong Kong – criminal antitrust enforcement is coming to a city near you,’ warned Scott D Hammond of the DoJ in 2002. Maybe so. But aficionados of deterrence theory should remember that in this world much depends on circumstance and happenstance.
For instance, there is the happenstance of double criminality as a basis for extradition, and that still varies among European jurisdictions in relation to the criminality of cartel offending. If Pisciotti had changed flights at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport rather than Frankfurt Airport, there would have been a crucial criminal law difference – no possibility of extradition. Moreover, Pisciotti was unaware that he was at risk, having been indicted in the US ‘under seal,’ so that he blithely disembarked at Frankfurt Airport. Then there is the happenstance of court jurisdictions, the Landgericht in Berlin seemingly more willing to raise questions with the European Court of Justice than the Bundesverfassungsgericht. And then there is the circumstance that Pisciotti’s state of nationality, Italy, appeared disinterested or unwilling to take over the legal process and possibly save its national from the ‘inferno’ of an American correctional institution.
In sum, many elements along the road may remain unpredictable or variable, while arguably there are still arguments to be played out at the EU legal level that the variability of legal position across the EU may fall foul of non-discrimination and free movement rules. Even if Pisciotti brings no further claims, this may not be the end of the legal saga, especially in the circumstance of determinedly litigious cartelists such as Romano Pisciotti or Ian Norris, a former UK executive of Morgan Crucible who underwent a somewhat similar fate: his extradition to the US was first refused by the House of Lords on grounds of price-fixing but the DoJ eventually succeeded on the basis of obstruction of justice charges (see for instance here). Let’s hope this case law will also stimulate some further reflection on the underlying deterrence logic of cartel enforcement and the long road ahead to make detection, prosecution and enforcement of sentences more predictable across Europe.
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-216/18L.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.
In its much-awaited judgment in Coman, delivered earlier this month, the Court of Justice ruled that the term ‘spouse’ for the purpose of the grant of family reunification rights under EU free movement law, includes the same-sex spouse of a Union citizen who has moved between Member States. This means that in such situations, the Union citizen can require the State of destination to admit within its territory his/her same-sex spouse, irrespective of whether that State has opened marriage to same-sex couples within its territory.
This is a landmark ruling of great constitutional importance which has the potential of changing the legal landscape for the recognition of same-sex relationships within the EU. It is, also, a judgment which is hugely significant at a symbolic level, as through it the EU’s supreme court made it clear that it considers same-sex marriages as equal to opposite-sex marriages, in this way reversing the discriminatory stance it had adopted in the early 00’s, when it ruled in D and Sweden v. Council that ‘[i]t is not in question that, according to the definition generally accepted by the Member States, the term marriage means a union between two persons of the opposite sex’.
In the recent years the Court of Justice of the European Union, has pronounced twice about physical requirements as a matter of discrimination. The first case – Kaltoft (C-354/13)– concerned obesity and was briefly annotated on European Law Blog. The present commentary will look into another case from the Union’s Court – Kalliri (C-409/16) – this time regarding discrimination based on height requirements. While it is usually excessive rather than low weight that causes discrimination, height entails a contrary correlation. By now, rich studies about stature in psychology and sociology unequivocally show that shorter people are more likely to face discrimination than their taller compatriots, with employment patterns often imitating biological dispositions about size amongst animals. Social hierarchies are, thus, clearly height-bound, permeating our public image, wages, choice of work partners and even success of presidential candidates.
What the present case of Kalliri (2017) illustrates in addition is that the stigma of short stature in employment has particular repercussions for women. Ms. Maria-Eleni Kalliri brought a complaint in front of the administrative court in Greece regarding the rejection of her application for police training due to insufficient height. The default height requirement for such applicants under Greek rules was 170 centimeters for both men and women. Ms. Kalliri fell short of this criterion by 2 centimeters and therefore complained that her dismissal was a matter of gender discrimination, since men are on average more likely to satisfy this requirement. While the lower tribunal found this to be discrimination, a higher Greek court requested a preliminary ruling from the Luxembourg court on whether the height requirement indeed constitutes sex discrimination under EU law. Continue reading →
On 8 May 2018, with the judgment in K.A. and others vs. Belgium, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has added another piece to the now quite big puzzle that surrounds the legal status of EU citizens (and their third country family members). It ruled that Article 20 TFEU can be violated if a Member State refuses to examine a request for family reunification of a EU citizen with a third country national solely on the basis of an existing entry ban against the third country national. The Court argued that if the refusal compels the EU citizen to leave the territory of the EU as a whole, it deprives EU citizens of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status. Like in the Zambrano case, the EU citizens in K.A. had never exercised their right to free movement.
Just a quick reminder of the Court’s main findings in Zambrano: In that case, Belgium had denied a right of residence to a Colombian father of two Belgian minors. The Court held that, by not giving the father of a Belgian child a derived residence right, Belgium will oblige the child to leave the territory of the EU as a whole, and therefore deprive the child of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights’ conferred by the EU citizenship status. It was argued – and here is the revolutionary aspect – that this even applies in purely internal situations, e.g. where the EU citizen has never exercised his or her right to free movement. Normally, EU law only applies in situations with a cross-border element. Continue reading →
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 →