Sometimes a book wins you over, and José Luís Da Cruz Vilaça’s EU Law and Integration: Twenty Years of Judicial Application of EU Law (Oxford/Portland, Hart 2014), is such a book.
I must admit that I had some reservations at first over the concept of the book, which is in essence an overview of the legal career – both as a legal scholar and a judge – of José Luís Da Cruz Vilaça, on the basis of a series of articles on different topics written over the course of two decades. Books like this only stand out if they can avoid three traps. Continue reading →
Parody is one of the limitations on copyright, contained in Article 5(3)(k) of the InfoSoc Directive (‘the Directive’). The list of limitations in Article 5 of the Directive is optional, meaning that the Member States are free to decide which of the limitations from the list they will implement into their national laws. The judgment in Deckmyn v. Vandersteen, issued on September 3rd, is about the concept of parody in the EU copyright law and it is meant to clarify two issues: the scope of harmonization of the parody limitation in the Directive and the criteria to be looked at when applying this limitation. The potential impact of the judgment, however, goes well beyond the pure sphere of copyright: at stake here was also the issue of balancing of the fundamental rights, in particular the balance between copyright and freedom of speech. The Advocate General went further than the Court and also looked at the conflict between the right of ‘human dignity’ (para. 82 of the Opinion) or ‘deepest convictions of European society’ (para. 85 of the Opinion) and the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the brevity with which the CJEU addressed the most controversial aspects of this case, leaves many questions unanswered. Continue reading →
The Court has recently decided on the appeals in two seminal cases: MasterCard MIF (MasterCard) and Groupement des Cartes Bancaires (CB). Both cases result from Commission decisions that found Article 101 TFEU to have been infringed by the decisions taken within those schemes with regard to fees that form part of the working of these payment systems. To understand both cases it is necessary to first set out the background to the MasterCard and CB systems. After that we will examine the procedure and finally the judgments themselves. This will reveal essentially three interesting issues:
In October 2012 I wrote an entry about the General Court judgment that annulled the Commission decision in the Greek Lignite-saga, concerning the Greek state-owned electricity company DEI that benefitted from the exclusive right to mine for lignite (brown coal) which, according to the Commission, distorted competition. In a nutshell I found that the judgment did little to clarify the obscure clarity or clear obscurity of Article 106 TFEU, but it was certainly good news for DEI, the state-owned electricity company that benefitted from the exclusive right to mine for lignite. In that blog I wrote that the Commission should appeal so that the Court could clarify its own case law (instead of the General Court second-guessing what the Court could have meant). Well, the Commission did appeal, but I’m not sure whether the Court clarified its own case law. One thing that is for sure it that Article 106 TFEU may well have been given a new lease of life. This turns on the question whether actual abuse by the public undertaking must be shown in Article 106 TFEU-cases. This follows from the fact that Article 106 TFEU is addressed to the Member States, but is an empty norm that only gets substance when it is read in conjunction with another Treaty provision. In this regard Article 102 TFEU is by far the most popular norm to be mated to Article 106 TFEU as the exclusive right mentioned in Article 106 TFEU is easily equated to a statutory monopoly for the public undertaking and thus dominance within the meaning of that provision.
The free movement of capital provision of Art. 63 TFEU applies ratione loci ‘worldwide’: to both capital movements within EU’s internal market and to movements from the internal market to third countries (and vice versa). Or perhaps almost worldwide, since the question arises whether the free movement of capital also applies to the British, Danish, Dutch and French Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), which are not part of the internal market but associated with the EU?
In 2011, the CJEU decided in Case C-384/09 Prunus that Art. 63 TFEU also applied to the OCTs as if they were third countries; they are not third countries, since they áre part of the EU Member States (such as the Caribbean island of Curacao which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, both constitutionally as under public international law; under EU-law, Curacao is an OCT).
Now, only three years later, the CJEU has decided otherwise in joined cases C-24/12 and C-27/12 X BV and TBG Limited. It came to the conclusion that not Art. 63 TFEU applies to the OCTs, but that a special capital movement provision which is contained in the OCT Association Decision applies in relation to the OCTs. This latter provision liberalises – in my view – ‘less’ than Art. 63 TFEU, since it ‘only’ applies to ‘direct investments in companies’, whereas Art. 63 TFEU also applies to (at least) 12 other categories of capital movements, such as investments in immovable property.
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.
Where to draw the line between delegated acts and implementing acts? That has been the one million dollar question since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. But I did not dare to ask this important question at the final exams of my students a few weeks ago. Why not? Because nobody, not even their teacher (after having spent years of research on the subject), had a plausible answer. However, on 18 March 2014, the Court of Justice in Commission v Parliament and Council, made a first attempt to answer this question. So would I now consider including this question in my next exam? Probably not, because the Court’s answer in this eagerly awaited judgment turns out to be quite hermetic and largely incomplete. Moreover, unfortunately, also the Opinion of the Advocate General – despite its deep analysis and ambitious tenor – failed to provide the necessary clarification to this endless and unsolved conundrum. Having said that, let me provide a brief analysis of this judgment and measure its most immediate impact.
It is common knowledge that, barring exceptional circumstances, only EU citizens who exercise their free movement rights can invoke the right to be joined or accompanied by close family members. An EU citizen who moves to another Member State can take his close family members along, even if the latter are not EU citizens themselves; the same is true when the EU citizen later returns to his home Member State. So far, everything is pretty much clear.
However, there still remains a large degree of uncertainty as to how much ‘movement’ is in fact required in order to be able to invoke this right. Does it suffice to go on a daytrip to another Member State (e.g. to visit an amusement park)? Does it suffice to work in another Member State without moving there? Is it necessary to reside in the other Member State for a number of months or even years?
‘to take the opportunity afforded by these two references to give clear and structured guidance as to the circumstances in which the third country national family member of an EU citizen who is residing in his home Member State but who is exercising his rights of free movement can claim a derived right of residence in the home Member State under EU law.’
In what follows, I will briefly discuss the CJEU’s judgments and analyse their key points. As will become clear, the Court did in fact respond to the AG’s call, by providing further clarification on this point. Continue reading →
In its eagerly anticipated judgment in the Digital Rights Ireland case, the European Court of Justice held that the EU legislature had exceeded the limits of the principle of proportionality in relation to certain provisions of the EU Charter (Articles 7, 8 and 52(1)) by adopting the Data Retention Directive. In this regard, the reasoning of the Court resembled that of its Advocate General (the facts of these proceedings and an analysis of the Advocate General’s Opinion have been the subject of a previous blog post). However, unlike the Advocate General, the Court deemed the Directive to be invalid without limiting the temporal effects of its finding. This post will consider the Court’s main findings before commenting on the good, the bad and the ugly in the judgment. Continue reading →
On the face of it, one might consider the outcome of this Grand Chamber ruling unsurprising. The Court held that EU law precludes German legislation which establishes an authorization requirement for undertakings established in another Member State to provide services in Germany. That authorization requirement was not required for German undertakings, was established for reasons of protecting the national economy (!) and did not factually recognize an operating license granted on the basis of EU legislation by another Member State.
Yet, this ruling concerned the regulation of air transport services, which is not only subject to a particular regime under free movement law, but is also politically highly sensitive (national airlines are still seen as a source of pride by many) and still operates much in an international regulatory context which is not always in line with EU law and policy. The Court was therefore still required to answer some tough legal questions, in particular how to reconcile article 58 (1) TFEU (the prohibition on restrictions to provide services of article 56 TFEU does not apply to transport services which has its own regime) with article 18 TFEU (the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality). The issue was further complicated by the fact that the authorization requirements were only required with respect to flights from and to third countries.
What this case states (linking to freely available content on the internet is permissible) is so obvious that at first one might think: how could this ever have been a problem? There would have been a problem, however, if the Court had decided otherwise and had followed what in particular some copyright holders deem sensible: that permission from the copyright holder is needed for redirecting internet users via hyperlinks to freely available information. So, whereas the Svensson-case for EU scholars and practitioners is not of particular relevance, it is an important verdict for all EU citizens.
Case C-466/12, Svensson v. Retriever Sverige AB, published on 13 Feb. 2014, deals with the question whether a copyright holder may forbid people to link to public information. At first sight this seems absurd: how could merely directing internet users to information that can be found freely elsewhere ever be relevant from a copyright perspective? We have to keep in mind, however, that while European copyright used to be the intellectually oriented “droit d’auteur”, in recent years we followed in the footsteps of the American tradition of the economically oriented “right to copy”.
This important constitutional case of last week deals with the legal limits of the proliferation of agencies within the EU and their powers imposed by EU constitutional law, and in particular with the Meroni (1958) and Romano (1981)judgments as well as the new constitutional structure created with the Lisbon Treaty with respect to delegated and implementing powers. The case presented an opportunity for the Court, as the Advocate General had put it, ‘to balance the functional benefits and independence of agencies against the possibility of them becoming “uncontrollable centres of arbitrary power”’(para 19). The Court concluded that the fears of the United Kingdom in relation to the powers of the European Securities and Market Authority (‘ESMA’) to intervene in the financial assets and securities markets were unfounded, and by doing so clarified that articles 290 and 291 TFEU do not present a closed system of delegating regulatory powers. The judgement solidifies the legality of much of the EU’s practice in having recourse to specialized agencies to deal with issues which require a certain level of expertise. In this blog post, I will highlight the three main aspects of the judgement:
the compatibility of the EU’s delegation of powers to ESMA with the Meroni and Romano judgments;
its compatibility with articles 290 and 291 TFEU;
its compatibility with the principle of conferral of powers in relation to article 114 TFEU. Continue reading →
In what circumstances is it possible for the EU to introduce a directive which limits the exercise of fundamental rights guaranteed by the EU Charter? This is just one of the many questions of constitutional significance which the Court is asked to address in Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12. In his Opinion delivered on 12 December 2013, Advocate General (AG) Cruz Villalón provides plenty of food for thought for the Court. For instance, the Opinion offers interesting yet contestable insights into the relationship between the rights to privacy and data protection in the EU legal order.
An interesting case not only for ‘Sons of Anarchy’ fans was handed down by the EFTA-Court this week. The scenario is somewhat similar to the early, well known Van Duyn case law, where the Church of Scientology was at issue. In the present case, a member of the Norvegian Hells Angels was denied entry into Iceland because the Icelandic authorities argued that he played a central role in the final stage of accession of an Icelandic motorcycle club as a new charter in Hells Angels. The Supreme Court of Iceland referred a number of questions to the EFTA Court, most interesting to us regarding the interpretation of Article 27 of Directive 2004/38/EC. To quite some extent, the EFTA Court reiterates here what it had already established in Van Duyn long ago. However, there are three points I find interesting: The insistence on the need for the individual in question to constitute a genuine and sufficiently serious threat; the treatment of the dangerous organization by the State in question; and finally the findings on the alleged discrimination of non-nationals.
The case Giersch, decided on the 20th of June, dealt with residence-based restrictions on financial aid for students. According to Luxembourg law, students received financial aid if they were residents in Luxembourg, regardless of nationality. The measure was challenged on the basis of Article 7(2) of Reg No 1612/68 (now Reg No 492/2011), which requires equal treatment in regard to social advantages, which also includes financial grants for children of workers who are students (Bernini).
The plaintiffs were children of frontier workers employed in Luxembourg, who would not receive student aid, however, because they had not resided in Luxembourg. The Court found the residence requirement to be indirectly discriminatory. Luxembourg replied that the measure was justified as a means of „increasing the proportion of residents with a higher education degree in order to promote the development of the economy“. The Court accepted this as a legitimate objective able to justify differential treatment, and also recognized that a residence requirement could be an appropriate instrument to achieve that goal.
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.
In a second round of cases in Luxembourg, a number of seal hunters failed (yet again) to convince the General Court to annul the EU-wide ban on trade in seal products. In a nutshell, the seal hunters argued that the EU acted ultra vires by adopting the ban on the basis of article 114 TFEU (harmonization of rules for the establishment and functioning of the internal market). Moreover, the applicants argued that the ban violated their fundamental rights and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. According to the applicants, the EU-wide ban was not aimed at improving the functioning of the internal market, but rather at safeguarding the welfare of animals, an objective for which no legal basis exists within the EU Treaties.
In dismissing the arguments put forward by the seal hunters, the General Court made a number of interesting statements regarding the EU’s ability to severely restrict trade of an ‘exotic import’ (a product not made within the EU) within the EU’s internal market on grounds of protecting the welfare of animals living outside the EU. In this post I will focus on the competence issue by discussing the particularities of EU constitutional law and the (modest) challenge a ban on the sale of exotic imports such as seal products poses for EU legislative competence.