By Oliver Garner
This piece is cross-posted by kind permission of the DCU Brexit Institute blog. The original version of the post may be accessed here.
On 10 December 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgment in the Wightman case on the revocation of a notification of an intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 TEU. Extraordinarily, the expedited process adopted by the CJEU upon the request of the referring Scottish Inner Court of Session has seen a judgment delivered barely three months after the original preliminary reference request was made in the domestic judgment on 21 September 2018. This is a reaction to the time-sensitivity of the political end-game of Brexit. The UK House of Commons had been scheduled to hold its ‘meaningful vote’ on adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the future relationship on 11 December before the postponement of this vote by the government. This vote provided the factual background to the dispute in the case. The petitioners, including Scottish MPs, sought an answer to the question of whether legally there existed the third option of revocation rather than the dichotomy of either accepting the Withdrawal Agreement or else exiting the EU via the automatic operation of Article 50(3) TEU upon the elapse of the two-year time period on 29 March 2019. The full-court judgment has upheld the Advocate-General’s Opinion of 4 December that a Member State is free to revoke unilaterally a notification of intention to withdraw from the EU made under Article 50(2) TEU. Indeed, the final judgment has recognised a right to revoke that is even more receptive to the sovereign discretion of the withdrawing Member State than in the Opinion. This post will first summarise the judgment, before providing some comments thereupon. The Wightman decision has filled a lacuna in EU law; it remains to be seen whether this legal clarity will help to assuage the political chaos currently engulfing the United Kingdom. Continue reading
By Chloé Brière
A few days before the vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement, scheduled for December 11th, 2018, the debates are still vivid both in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The possibilities of holding a second referendum or stopping the withdrawal process have been repeatedly raised as alternatives should the Withdrawal Agreement be rejected by the House of Commons.
In this context, the pending case Wightman and others before the Court of Justice of the EU is of crucial importance. After the judgment of the UK Supreme Court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which followed the submissions of counsel regarding the irrevocability of a withdrawal notification, the request for a preliminary reference from the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland could be a game changer. The Opinion of Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona delivered on December 4th, 2018, invites the Court to rule in favour of the possibility for the UK to unilaterally revoke its notification of withdrawal, potentially opening up a third way. Continue reading
By Manolis Perakis
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
By Koen Bovend’Eerdt
The Commission established OLAF (Office de Lutte Anti-Fraude), an administrative investigative service of the Commission, in 1999, in the wake of the fall of the Santer Commission, to strengthen the fight against illegal activities affecting the Union’s financial interests. One of the shortcomings in OLAF’s legal framework on the conduct of on-the-spot inspections, one of the service’s main investigative powers, is that it refers back to national law at various instances, requiring OLAF to cooperate with national authorities which operate on the basis of national law. A question that has lingered in academic circles for some time is when precisely – and to what extent – national law applies. In the recent Sigma Orionis case the General Court shed light on this issue. The General Court’s solution has been embraced by the Commission in its recently published proposal to amend the rules which govern OLAF’s investigations. The Commission´s proposal, as a result of the Court´s judgment, places OLAF shoulder to shoulder with other Union bodies – at least when it comes to the applicable law – in the business of enforcing Union law by means of inspections. Continue reading
by Zane Rasnača
Today on 17 November 2017 the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission will proclaim the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). Accused of going much too far by some and for falling disappointingly short by others the EPSR has caused a stir. This turmoil, however, has mainly been political, and the EPSR has received comparatively little attention from EU lawyers. Probably duly so because the EPSR, despite its political salience, is a soft law instrument without legally binding force and such instruments are rarely noticed.
Here, however, I argue that while its overall impact on the EU acquis in all likeliness will be underwhelming, the EPSR nevertheless deserves a closer look, especially when the context of the initiative and the CJEU’s case law on similar soft law measures are considered. A closer look also allows one to find at least some hope concerning its enforceability. The future of the EPSR depends largely on how it will be treated by the stakeholders, and here the judicial arenas should be activated if there is no meaningful enforcement actions following from the EU political actors and the member states. Continue reading
By Oliver Garner
I. Introduction: A New Initiative for UK nationals After Brexit?
On 11 January 2016, the European Commission registered a European Citizens Initiative to create a “European Free Movement Instrument”. The purpose of the Initiative is to lobby the European Union institutions to create a mechanism by which individuals may be directly granted the rights of free movement provided by EU citizenship, which is currently predicated upon nationality of a Member State in accordance with Article 20 TFEU. The proposers of the Initiative – the “Choose Freedom Campaign” – outline that their intention is not to reform the nature of Citizenship of the European Union; they concede that “the EU isn’t a government, and only Nation states can issue Citizenship”. Instead, their ambition is more limited – they argue that the European Union should institute a “Universal Mechanism” in order to provide individuals with a European Union passport: “we beg the Commission to delineate a method by which all Europeans of good standing may be granted a signal & permanent instrument of their status and of their right to free movement through the Union by way of a unified document of laissez-passer as permitted by Article (4) of Council Regulation 1417/2013, or by another method”.
Although the information on the Initiative on the Commission’s website and the accompanying press release do not explicitly link the putative Free Movement Mechanism to Brexit, it seems clear that such a competence for the European Union to directly issue EU passports would address the loss of rights that will be attendant to UK nationals losing the status of EU citizenship provided to them through nationality of a Member State once the United Kingdom has withdrawn in accordance with Article 50 TEU. Continue reading
By Megi Medzmariashvili
Is a harmonised technical standard (HTS) developed in response to the Commission’s mandate, a provision of EU Law? Up until recently, this issue has not been raised before the CJEU, much to academics’ surprise working in this field. Contractual litigation in James Elliott Construction became a trigger for the inquiry about the legal nature of HTS. The Court handed down its judgment on 27 October 2016, nine months after the Advocate General’s (AG) Opinion was published. Two blog posts discussed the AG’s Opinion and offered divergent analysis thereof.
The judgment, in essence, followed the AG’s Opinion resulting in the finding that an HTS is a part of EU law. The Court’s line of argumentation, as opposed to the AG’s, is remarkably cautious. In short, the Court regarded privately produced technical rule-HTS, as a provision of EU law. At the same time, the ECJ was extremely keen to prevent an HTS from having effects on a contractual relationship or on the Irish Law on Sale of Goods. Continue reading
By the editors
As is becoming a tradition with our blog, we present to you our top 10 most read posts of the last year. Blogging in 2016 on EU law was no doubt marked by Brexit. The result of the UK’s advisory referendum on EU membership on 23 June 2016, which returned a slim majority in favour of ‘Brexit’ provoked much discussion on this blog (10 posts so far) and elsewhere about the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the future of the EU itself. It is therefore no surprise that three of this year’s top 10 blog posts dissect this momentous moment. But Brexit was surely not the only topic that gathered the attention of our readers.
Keeping in mind that there is a certain bias in favour of older posts which have had more time to become popular, this is the 2016 list of most read posts of the year: Continue reading
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
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
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.
Conference “Soft law before the European courts : Discovering a common pattern ?”
Maastricht University Campus Brussels, 19-20 November 2015. Registration required.
Conference “Frontex : Legal Questions and Current Controversies”
University of Luxembourg, 27 November 2015. Deadline for (free) registration : 26 November 2015.
Young Scholars’ Conference 2016 “Law on the Move”
University of Michigan, 8-9 April 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions : 31 December 2015.
Call for Papers for a Symposium on “Constitutionalism Under Extreme Conditions”
University of Haifa, 18 July 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 February 2016.
By the editors
On Wednesday Koen Lenaerts was elected President of the European Court of Justice by the Judges of the Court for the term of three years. Mr Lenaerts succeeds Vassilios Skouris who had been president for the last twelve years. Mr Lenaerts is the second Belgian President of the Court after Josse Mertens de Wilmars (1980-1984) and had been Vice-President for the past three years. Also elected: Mr Tizzano as the new Vice-President of the Court and the Presidents of the different chambers.
[Edit: there is an interesting interview with Mr Lenaerts by Wall Street Journal journalist Valentina Pop. You can find it here.]
We take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Lenaerts, Mr Tizzano and the other elected Presidents and discuss some of the institutional and historical aspects of today’s elections. Continue reading
By Kanad Bagchi
With each passing day scores of lives are either ended by bodies being washed ashore or are lost in the faceless congregation of ‘refugees/migrants’ on the peripheries of Europe and beyond. Both the ‘European family’ and the ‘European Fabric’ has laid itself bare in the face of the uncontainable refugee crisis brewing in the heart of Europe, uncovering the stark divide between the East and the West. Amidst the melancholy that has reached the shores of Europe, it is vital to take pause and query whether the present catastrophe could have been contained and what steps are being taken by the European Union (hereinafter referred to as “EU”) towards this end. In this regard, Juncker’s State of the Union address 2015 (hereinafter referred to as “Union address”/ “Address”) comes at an auspicious time and has been met with pensive eagerness. The Union address rightly devotes significant attention towards the refugee crisis and has proposed a slew of measures, both immediate and long term, to alleviate the present situation. This post looks through these developments and assesses whether the measures adopted thus far and proposed for the immediate future are sufficient to improve the current circumstances and prepare the EU and its member states (hereinafter referred to as “MS”) to effectively deal with the continuing crisis.
Stefan Reitemeyer and Benedikt Pirker
The present contribution is a translated and somewhat simplified version of an article that appeared in German on 23 March 2015 in the Swiss legal online-journal Jusletter. The authors thank the Jusletter for their kind permission to republish the article and Markus Kern and the European Law Blog’s editorial team for valuable comments on earlier versions.
Readers of this blog will nearly inevitably already have been confronted with this decision. The reactions to the Court’s Opinion have been vivid, to say the least. What did the Court say exactly on this draft agreement for accession to the ECHR? And is the current predominantly negative reaction (see for an exception here) justified? The main aim of the present post is to provide a concise summary of the Court’s findings, but also to provide some early assessment and criticism of the reactions on particular points. After a brief historical introduction to the context of the Opinion, we follow the sequence of analysis of the Court and thus examine in turn:
- the arguments of the Court on the autonomy of the EU legal order;
- the monopoly on dispute settlement established by Article 344 TFEU;
- the co-respondent mechanism;
- the procedure for the prior involvement of the CJEU and the specific characteristics of EU law concerning judicial review in matters of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
By Michael Ioannidis
Few elections have as their core issue an international arrangement. The Greek election of 25 January 2015 was one of these exceptions. In 2010 and 2012, Greece agreed with its Eurozone partners and the IMF to accept two large bailout packages conditioned on the fulfilment of far-reaching, austerity-oriented reforms. It also agreed to submit to a monitoring mechanism comprised by officials from the European Commission, the IMF, and the ECB that would supervise its compliance with the conditions and regularly revise them. This monitoring and rule-making structure became known as the Troika.
The second of the bailout agreements, concluded in 2012, was due to expire on 28 February 2015. Unlike Portugal or Ireland, Greece had not established access to the bond market by the end of its Adjustment Programme. Ending international financing support at the end of February would thus possibly prompt a Greek default. What the next step after the expiry of the 2012 bailout programme should be was put to a national vote on 25 January.
This post will offer an overview of the recent major developments concerning the Greek part of the Eurozone crisis. It will discuss how the Greek government tried to challenge basic elements of the new European economic governance and the outcome of this challenge. In the first part of the post, I present the starting position of the new Greek government (1.), then the legal and political context in which the negotiations took place (2.), and finally the agreement of 20 February 2015 (3.). In my conclusion, I take the position that opponents of austerity should wait to celebrate a victory. “Strict conditionality”, the necessary counterpart of financial assistance according to EU law, proved to be much stricter than many actors thought, both in economic and institutional terms (4.). Continue reading
Seminar “The Future of EU Free Movement”
University of Edinburgh, 26 March 2015. No deadline for registration.
Call for Papers: “Soft Law before the European Courts”
Maastricht University, November 2015. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 March 2015.
Call for Papers: “The Extraterritorial Application of EU Law”
Vigo, 18-19 June 2015. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 April 2015. Continue reading
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
By Gijsbert Vonk
Case-note on C-333/13, Elisabeta Dano v Jobcenter Leipzig
The Dano case goes right to the heart of the debate on social tourism. Are economically inactive EU-citizens, residing in a Member State of which they are not a national, entitled to social assistance which is granted to nationals of that host Member State? Directive 2004/38/EC (the EU Citizenship Directive) does not oblige Member States to provide for such assistance, but Art. 18 TFEU, Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security and the Charter of Fundamental Rights might do so in the end. These were the elements at stake in the Dano case.
On 2 October 2013, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe opened for signature Protocol no. 16 to the European Convention on Human Rights. This new Protocol, which has been referred to as the “Protocol of the dialogue” by Dean Spielmann, the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), creates the possibility for supreme courts of the Contracting States to the Convention to request an advisory opinion from the ECtHR on “questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or the protocols thereto”.
Even though the material scope of Protocol no. 16 is clearly confined to the Convention and its protocols, some concerns have been expressed in the recent past, notably at the recent hearing held by the ECJ on the draft agreement on EU Accession to the Convention (“DAA”), that the use of this new instrument of consultation by courts of the EU Member States might be problematic from the point of view of EU law. More specifically, the question was raised in this context whether Protocol no. 16 would not threaten the autonomy of EU law and the monopoly of the ECJ on the interpretation of EU law, by allowing supreme courts of the Member States to engage in a kind of “forum shopping” between the Luxembourg and Strasbourg courts. This contribution purports to demonstrate that those concerns are unjustified and should not be allowed to undermine the further development of the Convention system initiated by Protocol no. 16. Continue reading