Category: EU constitutional law

Tele2 Sverige AB and Watson et al: Continuity and Radical Change

By Orla Lynskey

Introduction

The CJEU delivered its judgment in Tele2 Sverige AB and Watson on 21 December 2016. The Court had been asked by a Swedish and British court respectively to consider the scope and effect of its previous judgment in Digital Rights Ireland (discussed here). The judgment reflects continuity in so far as it follows in the line of this, and earlier judgments taking a strong stance on data protection and privacy. Yet, the degree of protection it offers these rights over competing interests, notably security, is radical. In particular, the Court unequivocally states that legislation providing for general and indiscriminate data retention is incompatible with the E-Privacy Directive, as read in light of the relevant EU Charter rights. While the judgment was delivered in the context of the E-Privacy Directive, the Court’s reasoning could equally apply to other EU secondary legislation or programmes interpreted in light of the Charter. This judgment will be a game-changer for state surveillance in Europe and while it offered an early Christmas gift to privacy campaigners, it is likely to receive a very mixed reaction from EU Member States as such. While national data retention legislation has been annulled across multiple Member States (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Germany and Romania), this annulment has been based on an assessment of the proportionality of the relevant measures rather than on a finding that blanket retention is per se unlawful. For those familiar with the facts and findings, skip straight to the comment below. Continue reading

The power to conclude the EU’s new generation of FTA’s: AG Sharpston in Opinion 2/15

By Laurens Ankersmit

To say that the EU’s new generation of trade agreements (such as CETA and TTIP) is politically controversial is becoming somewhat of an understatement. These free trade agreements (FTA), going beyond mere tariff reduction and facilitating hyperglobalization, have faced widespread criticism from civil society, trade unions, and academics. It may come as no surprise therefore that the legal issue over who is competent to conclude such agreements (the EU alone, or the EU together with the Member States) has received considerable public attention, ensuring that the Advocate General Sharpston’s response to the Commission’s request for an Opinion (Opinion 2/15) on the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA (EUSFTA)  has made the headlines of several European newspapers.

The Opinion of Advocate General Sharpston in Opinion 2/15, delivered on 21 December, is partly sympathetic to the Commission’s arguments on EU powers, but ultimately refutes the most outlandish of the Commission’s claims to EU power vis-à-vis that of its constituent Member States. The Opinion is of exceptional length (570 paragraphs, to my knowledge the longest Opinion ever written), and contains an elaborate discussion on the nature of the division of powers between the EU and the Member States and detailed reasoning on specific aspects of the EUSFTA such as transport services, investment protection, procurement, sustainable development, and dispute settlement.

Given the breadth of the AG’s conclusions, the aim of this post is to discuss the Opinion only in relation to investment protection and to reflect upon some of the consequences for the Commission’s investment policy, perhaps the most controversial aspect of this new generation of trade agreements. Continue reading

EU-Morocco Trade Relations Do Not Legally Affect Western Sahara – Case C-104/16 P Council v Front Polisario

By Sandra Hummelbrunner and Anne-Carlijn Prickartz

Shortly before Christmas, the Court of Justice delivered its highly anticipated judgment in case C-104/16 P Council v Front Polisario, on appeal against the General Court (GC) judgment in case T-512/12 Front Polisario v Council, an action for annulment brought by Front Polisario, the national liberation movement fighting for the independence of Western Sahara. In this action, Front Polisario sought the (partial) annulment of Council Decision 2012/497/EU, which approved the conclusion of an agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural and fishery products and amendments to the 2000 EU-Morocco Association Agreement. The main bone of contention was the application of the Liberalisation Agreement to the territory of Western Sahara, a non-self-governing territory to be decolonised in accordance with the principle of self-determination, but which is considered by Morocco to be an integral part of its sovereign territory and is largely under Morocco’s effective control.

The Front Polisario, as the internationally recognised representative of the Sahrawi people, contended that the Agreement was contrary to both EU and international law, including the principle of self-determination, international humanitarian law, and EU fundamental rights. In first instance, the GC partly concurred with Front Polisario’s submissions, annulling the contested Decision insofar as it applied to Western Sahara (for a more extensive review of the GC judgment, see our Article on Front Polisario v Council). Deciding on appeal, the Court of Justice took a different path, managing to avoid a discussion on the merits by focussing on the GC’s interpretation of the territorial scope of application of the Liberalisation Agreement as determined by Article 94 of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement, which provides for the application of the Agreements to ‘the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco’. 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.

Referring Brexit to the Court of Justice of the European Union: Why Revoking an Article 50 Notice Should be Left to the United Kingdom

By Oliver Garner

An Encore to (R)Miller from the Court of Justice?
There is a potential European encore to the constitutional drama of the UK High Court decision in R(Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The judgment found that the UK government cannot trigger Article 50 TEU without Parliament’s involvement. The government has already indicated its intention to appeal directly to the UK Supreme Court (UKSC). Certain commentators in the media have picked up on the possibility that the Supreme Court could refer (certain aspects of) the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). This has been referred to as ‘the constitutional equivalent of breaking the space-time continuum’.

Of course, as the reaction to the judgment in (R)Miller has shown, the UK media are not afraid of exaggeration. The first and most important thing to reiterate is that the CJEU could not act as the final constitutional arbiter of the question in the case of whether the UK government may use the royal prerogative to give notice under Article 50 TEU. The EU law clause is clear that the condition for the decision to withdraw is ‘accordance with [the] constitutional requirements’ of the Member State. Therefore, the final decision on the substance of whether these requirements have been fulfilled will always be for that Member State’s highest judicial authority. Instead, the possibility of a referral to the Court of Justice in the case concerns one specific aspect of the withdrawal clause: whether the notification to the European Council of an intention to withdraw under Article 50(2) is revocable. The silence of the clause can be seen to constitute a ‘gap’ in the law.

However, this post will argue that it is not necessary for the Court of Justice to prove an authoritative determination on this question of EU law in order for the UK Supreme Court to decide the specific question of UK constitutional law in the (R)Miller adjudication. Therefore – in the specific case of (R)Miller  – the UK court is under no obligation under Article 267 TFEU to refer the question to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The post will go on to consider the hypothetical situations in which there may be such an obligation to refer, and will suggest how the Court of Justice should determine the question in such a scenario. Continue reading

Investment Court System in CETA to be judged by the ECJ

By Laurens Ankersmit

Last Thursday, the leaders of the Belgian federal government and the regional and community governments reached a compromise deal  over the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). One of the key outcomes is that the Belgian federal government will seek the Opinion of the European Court of Justice on the compatibility of the Investment Court System (ICS) in Chapter Eight of CETA with the Treaties. As soon as the Belgian federal government makes the request for an Opinion, the Court will be able to express itself on this contentious legal issue. In this post, I will provide some background on the origins of the Walloon request before explaining why ICS could potentially pose a legal problem for the EU.


Wallonia’s longstanding resistance against CETA and the resolution of 25 April of 2016

To insiders, the resistance put up by Wallonia in particular should have been no surprise. Over the past few years, the Walloon and Brussels parliaments have had extensive debates on the merits of CETA and have been increasingly critical of the deal. One of the main and more principled sources of opposition was the inclusion of ICS in CETA, a judicial mechanism that allows foreign investors to sue governments over a breach of investor rights contained in the agreement. Continue reading

Opinion 1/15: AG Mengozzi looking for a new balance in data protection (part II)

By Maxime Lassalle

The AG’s proportionality test

After these general considerations, the AG starts his proportionality test. In the opinion nine points are considered separately (para. 210). From this analysis, three main elements deserve to be emphasized. Continue reading

Opinion 1/15: AG Mengozzi looking for a new balance in data protection (part I)

By Maxime Lassalle

On 8 September 2016, Advocate General (AG) Mengozzi delivered his much awaited opinion on the agreement between Canada and the European Union on the transfer and processing of Passenger Name Record (PNR). It follows the European Parliament’s resolution seeking an Opinion from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the compatibility of the agreement with the Treaties. Even though the opinion concludes that the agreement has many loopholes, it could disappoint those who were expecting a strong condemnation of PNR schemes as such.

This blogpost intends to present the context of this procedure and the main elements of the AG’s opinion before analysing them. The question of the appropriate legal basis for the agreement, also raised by the Parliament, will not be addressed. However, before turning to the AG’s opinion, we need to briefly sketch the background of the proposed agreement. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: October 2016

Conference « New Instruments to Promote the Correct Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights »

Florence, 28 October 2016. Deadline for (free) registration : 18 October 2016.

Colloquium « Les religions et le droit du travail »

Université de Rouen, 20-21 Octobre 2016. Free access.

Conference « Computers, Privacy & Data Protection : The Age of Intelligent Machines »

Brussels, 25-27 January 2017. Deadline for submissions : 22 October 2016.

Call for Papers: ESIL Conference “The Role of the European Parliament in the Conclusion and Implementation of International Agreements on International Economic Law Issues

European Parliament, Brussels, 9 December 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 7 November 2016.

Call for papers : One Day Symposium on Transnational and International Environmental Crime – Synergies, Priorities and Challenges

University of Lincoln, 15 February 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 18 November 2016.

Call for submissions Comparative Constitutional Law and Comparative Law Quarterly

Deadline for submissions : 27 November 2016.

Housing Law Research Network 3rd Annual Housing Law Symposium: Human Rights, Housing and Dispute Resolution

Malmö University, 23-24 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 January 2017.

 

 

“In the Light of the Guidelines”: Brexit and the European Council

By Darren Harvey

During her speech at the Conservative Party conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May stated that the UK would be notifying the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU in accordance with Article 50(1) TEU by the end of March 2017 at the latest.

Earlier that day, during an interview on the BBC with Andrew Marr, the Prime Minister was asked what will happen immediately after the notification to leave the EU has been made.

The Prime Minister responded:

“Well, it’s for the European Union, the remaining members of the EU have to decide what the process of negotiation is. I hope, and I’ll be saying to them, that now that they know what our timing is going to be, it’s not an exact date but they know it’ll be in the first quarter of next year, that we’ll be able to have some preparatory work, so that once the trigger comes we have a smoother process of negotiation.”

Shortly after this announcement, European Council President Donald Tusk took to Twitter, stating that once Article 50 had been triggered, the remaining 27 EU Member States would “engage to safeguard [their] interests” – thus suggesting that no preliminary negotiations shall be conducted prior to such notification.

This exchange raises a fundamental question about the Article 50 TEU withdrawal process that has not yet been fully considered; namely, what role will the European Council play in this process? Continue reading

Hungary’s Referendum on the Migrant Quota: a ‘no’ sought to do what?

By Márk Némedi

“Do you want the European Union to be able to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian nationals to Hungary even in lack of the consent of the National Assembly?”[i] – this is the question Hungarian voters will be asked to respond to on 2 October 2016. Speculations and verbal sparring have been strengthening about what may lie ahead, and not without reason. It appears that the possible legal and political implications of a valid vote could be broader than usual. At the least, referenda should pose concrete questions which invite an answer giving political institutions a well-circumscribed mandate. They should not give national governments a blanket authorisation and a political salvus conductus to freely choose what the will of the people requires. This contribution will look at how these principles fare in the upcoming referendum on the migrant quota and what the broader implications may be for both Hungary and the Union. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: September 2016

Call for Papers: Regional Human Rights Systems in Crisis

Wisconsin International Law Journal Annual Forum, University of Wisconsin, 31 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 23 September 2016.

Call for Papers: EUSA Conference “Uncertain Destinations: The European Union at 60”

Miami, 4-6 May 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 30 September 2016.

Call for Papers: Workshop on the legislative choice between delegated and implementing rule-making

German Research Institute for Public Administration, Speyer, 20 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 10 October 2016.

Conference: An Administrative Procedure Act for the EU?

Lund University, 24 November 2016. Deadline for (free) registration: 10 November 2016.

Brexit: A Tale of Two Agreements?

By Hugo Flavier and Sébastien Platon

There seems to be a common assumption (see, among many others, here 3.6, here or here at 14:00) that there is a distinction between two kinds of « post-Brexit agreements », i.e. the withdrawal agreement (the divorce settlement) and the agreement regarding the future relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). However, this distinction is, in fact, not very clear. It raises, in particular, several questions related to the legal basis and the nature (exclusive or not) of the withdrawal agreement. This contribution aims to clarify the distinction between these two agreements and identify the legal difficulties arising from their articulation. It will be argued that, due to some legal uncertainties, the negotiators of these agreements should be careful of their respective contents. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: August 2016

PhD Forum “Law and Governance in a Crisis-Ridden Union

Netherlands Institute for Law and Governance, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 17 November 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions : 4 September 2016.

Call for papers “The Migration Crisis as a Challenge for Democracy

Centre for Direct Democracy Studies, University of Białystok. Deadline for abstract submissions : 10 September 2016.

The future of national data retention obligations – How to apply Digital Rights Ireland at national level?

Note by the editors: we will take a short break over the summer and resume blogging in the week of 16 August

By Vanessa Franssen

On 19 July, Advocate General (AG) Saugmandsgaard Øe delivered his much awaited opinion on the joined cases Tele2 Sverige AB and Secretary of State for the Home Department, which were triggered by the Court of Justice’s (CJEU) ruling in Digital Rights Ireland, discussed previously on this blog. As a result of this judgment, invalidating the Data Retention Directive, many Member States which had put in place data retention obligations on the basis of the Directive, were confronted with the question whether these data retention obligations were compatible with the right to privacy and the right to protection of personal data, guaranteed by Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter). Hence, without a whisper of a doubt, several national legislators eagerly await the outcome of these joined cases, in the hope to get more guidance as to how to apply Digital Rights Ireland concretely to their national legislation. The large number of Member States intervening in the joined cases clearly shows this: in addition to Sweden and the UK, no less than 13 Member States submitted written observations. The AG’s opinion is a first – important – step and thus merits a closer look. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: July 2016

Conference “The Concept of International Constitutional Law”

Vienna University of Economics and Business, 23 September 2016. Deadline for (free) registration : 16 September 2016.

Conference “Movement of People – A Comparative Conference on Migration

University of Hamburg, 23-24 September 2016. (Free) registration necessary.

Conference “An Administrative Procedure Act for the EU?”

University of Lund, 24 November 2016. Deadline for (free) registration : 10 November 2016.

After Brexit: The road ahead. A vote to leave but a decision to remain?

By Oliver Garner

On 23 June 2016, the population of the United Kingdom voted “leave” on the referendum question of whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain within the European Union.  The consequences of this vote could be that the government of the Member State triggers Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union; this will start the process of the United Kingdom becoming the first Member State to withdraw from the European Union. This seismic event poses a new challenge to our understanding of European integration as a progressive process of ever closer union.  Instead, fragmentation in the scope of integration could now occur through the rights created by European Union law no longer being enforceable in the territory of the United Kingdom, and no longer being applicable to United Kingdom citizens within the territory of the European Union.

Much has already been written in the months preceding the referendum regarding the process of the withdrawal negotiations following the triggering of Article 50. In contrast, this particular post will focus on whether the conditions for withdrawal have in fact been fulfilled, and therefore whether the United Kingdom is indeed bound to withdraw from the European Union. The result has triggered outrage from the 48% of the population who voted to remain, with calls for a second referendum, suggestions that the House of Commons could ignore the result, and a promise by the leader of the Liberal Democrats that the party would run on a platform to remain within the Union in any future general election.  Despite the exercise in direct democracy, the answer of whether the United Kingdom must now withdraw is not clear from the country’s constitution because there is no precedent for the withdrawal from a multilateral treaty regime which creates directly effective legal rights for citizens. Continue reading

After the referendum and before Brexit… Where now for workers’ rights in the EU?

By Rebecca Zahn

The British referendum on the country’s continued membership of the EU has dominated the political and media landscape both in the UK and abroad for the last few months. There has been a plethora of academic commentary on the possible consequences of a British exit (‘Brexit’). On 23 June, based on a turnout of 72%, 52% of the electorate voted for Leave, while 48% supported Remain. This narrow majority disguises dramatic differences between different regions: Scotland, Northern Ireland and large parts of London voted to Remain whereas substantial sections of Wales and most of England voted to Leave.

In the run-up to referendum day, workers’ rights were invoked repeatedly by both sides of the campaign as either a reason to back or oppose Brexit. Leave campaigners, such as Patrick Minford, Professor of Economics at Cardiff Business School, argued that the UK needed to reset its relationship with the EU to ‘jettison excessive protection and over-regulation, notably in the labour market’. Domestic employment laws originating from the EU legislature, such as the much vilified Working Time Directive, have often been described as a burden on business, inflexible, uncompetitive and inefficient. On the other hand, Remain campaigners such as Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), warned repeatedly that ‘working people have a huge stake in the referendum because workers’ rights are on the line’ and the link between the UK’s membership of the EU and better protection of workers’ rights featured heavily in campaign material opposing Brexit. Continue reading

A post-Brexit analysis

By the editors

The British people voted by a majority of just over million people to leave the EU. Some have hailed this unprecedented decision as a return to sovereignty and a reassertion of British prominence on the global stage. Others mourn the outcome, believing it to represent a lurch towards splendid isolation and irrelevance. The vote laid bare a number of hard truths for both sides. While the close margin was largely anticipated, a negative and divisive campaign has meant that there is little common ground on which both the Remain and Leave camps can build. The results also exposed the extent of the inter-generational divide within the UK. Young voters chose by a large majority to remain while older voters chose to leave. This has led to the obvious recrimination that having reaped the benefits of EU membership for decades, older voters are depriving younger generations of these opportunities and deepening existing inequalities. The EU may, however, take some hope from this vote of confidence from the British youth.

 Beyond the political, economic and social implications of the result within the UK and for the EU, the vote will have significant legal consequences. In the coming months, we will attempt to identify the legal questions that Brexit will entail. A few spring to mind: Is the UK bound to invoke the Article 50 procedure? (The political establishment in the UK appear to think not.) What happens to the international (trade) agreements concluded jointly by the EU and the UK?  How will the border between Northern Ireland – which voted to Remain but will become an external border of the EU – and the Republic of Ireland be policed and what impact will this have on the Good Friday Peace Agreement? What – if any – immediate implications will this have for British MEPs, the CJEU, Commission officials, for the Council and – of course – for the British Presidency of the Council in 2017? Will Assange no longer have to fear for extradition to Sweden? What will happen to the more than one million UK citizens living and working in Europe? And what will happen to EU citizens living and working in the UK (including, for instance, professional football players)?  How will the UK’s environmental law and policy be affected, as, for instance, REACH will no longer be applicable in the UK? How will the Brexit vote affect the development of the digital single market or the future funding of scientific research?

 A particularly worrying feature of the UK referendum campaign, visible in the US Presidential Elections and elsewhere – is the vilification of ‘experts’ and the willing disregard of evidence. Nevertheless, as lawyers we must continue to rely on such evidence and expertise to negotiate the legal issues this vote will raise. All contributions to this blog on these legal implications are very welcome – informed expert opinion matters. 

POMFR: What form of government for the European Union and the Eurozone? (Fabbrini et al, eds.; Hart Publishing 2015).

By Daniela Jaros

A couple of months ago, an interesting volume edited by Federico Fabbrini, Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Han Somsen entitled „What form of government for the European Union and the Eurozone?“ appeared on the EU law book market. Containing contributions of many renowned scholars of EU law and EU politics, it seeks to explore the impact of the Euro-crisis on the institutional setting, the distribution of competences and the balance of power as well as issues of legitimacy and accountability within the Eurozone and ultimately within the European Union. Continue reading