Category: Legal Remedies

The Pilatus Bank scandal: time to reconsider banking supervision, anti-money laundering and whistle-blower’s protection in the EU

By Dimitrios Kafteranis

On Monday 23 April 2018, the European Commission released its proposal on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law. The proposal of the European Commission comes after pressure of the European Parliament and other organisations calling for a coherent protection of whistle-blowers at the EU level. This pressure results partially from different scandals that were revealed by whistle-blowers such as Panama Papers or the case of the Pilatus Bank in Malta. The Commission’s proposal aims to set common minimum standards to protect whistle-blowers when they report breaches of EU law. It has several legal bases and covers a wide-range of EU areas such as consumer protection, financial services and the protection of privacy and data. The reporting procedure follows the ‘classic’ three-tier model for whistle-blowing, that is reporting firstly internally, then to the designated authorities and as a last solution to the public. The text is innovative in the sense that it proposes a wide definition of the whistle-blower ranging from trainees to ex-employees. The European Commission regards whistle-blowing as an enforcement tool for the prevention, detection and prosecution of illegalities affecting EU law.

For the future, it is compelling to pursue the negotiations between the two co-legislators of the EU (European Parliament and Council) in order to follow the challenges on the question of whistle-blowing at the national and European level. These negotiations could take many years. This post aims to introduce the reader to the proposal for a Directive on the protection of whistle-blowers by cross-referring to the case of the Pilatus Bank where a journalist and a whistle-blower are involved. The purpose is to highlight that there is a need for an EU Directive on the protection of whistle-blowers and to demonstrate that the proposed EU Directive would have better protected the Pilatus Bank whistle-blower. Furthermore, this contribution will demonstrate the problematic nature of money laundering and banking supervision at the EU level. Following the creation of the Banking Union, the interconnectivity of banks is a fact and a problem in one country can create a domino effect to the others. For example, the Pilatus Bank scandal does not only concern Malta but the European banking system as a whole. Continue reading

C-416/17 Commission v France : failure of a Member State to fulfil its obligations under Article 267(3) TFEU

By Vincent Delhomme and Lucie Larripa

In the landmark judgement Commission v France rendered on the 8th of October, the Court of Justice condemned for the first time a Member State for a breach of Article 267(3) TFEU in the context of an infringement action, after the French administrative supreme court (Conseil d’Etat) failed to make a necessary preliminary reference. This decision is undoubtedly a crucial step towards a more complete system of remedies in the EU legal order, but may, upon closer examination, lead to detrimental consequences for judicial dialogue. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: November 2018

RENFORCE Conference “Regulation and Enforcement in the EU: Challenges, Trends and Prospects”

University of Utrecht, 22-23 November 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

Call for Papers: Journal of International Economic Law Special Issue on Trade Wars

Deadline for proposal submissions: 30 November 2018.

Conference «Die Krise des demokratischen Rechtsstaats im 21. Jahrhundert»

University of Salzburg, 24-26 April 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 December 2018.

10th Anniversary CLEER Conference – EU external relations: Tackling global challenges?

T.M.C. Asser Instituut, 6-7 December 2018. Registration necessary.

Seminar “Assessing European Union Better Regulation”

Radboud University, 18 December 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

Conference “It takes two to tango. The preliminary reference dance between the Court of Justice of the European Union and national courts”

Radboud University, 14 June 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 January 2019.

Call for Papers: Trade, Law and Development Special Issue on Trade Facilitation

Deadline for submissions:15 February 2019.

Workshop “Law and Language in EU and International Law”

University of Fribourg, 17 May 2019. (Free) registration necessary.

A FRAGMENTATION OF EU/ECHR LAW ON MASS SURVEILLANCE: INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE BIG BROTHER WATCH JUDGMENT

By Theodore Christakis

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued an important, highly anticipated judgment, condemning the United Kingdom for its mass surveillance program.

Following Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the United States-United Kingdom intelligence surveillance and intelligence sharing programme, 16 organizations and individuals (including the NGO Big Brother Watch) filed an application against the United Kingdom before the ECtHR. The 212page-long judgment published on September 13, 2018 is rich and deals with a great variety of important issues. Several among them are directly linked to some major legal questions examined in the past by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) or currently pending before it – not to mention the ongoing debate about whether the EU-US data transfer agreement known as Privacy Shield provides an “adequate level of protection”. The objective of this piece is to provide some first thoughts focusing on the strategic place of this judgment in the European legal landscape. Continue reading

EU-Morocco Trade Relations, Western Sahara and International Law: The Saga Continues in C-266/16 Western Sahara Campaign UK

By Anne-Carlijn Prickartz and Sandra Hummelbrunner

This February, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a judgment in which, one year after the C-104/16 P Council v Front Polisario judgment, once more the EU’s trade relations with Morocco took centre stage. Whereas in Front Polisario the Court was faced with the question of the validity of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement (AA) and Liberalisation Agreement (LA), this time the Court was tasked with determining the validity of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA), the 2013 Protocol thereto and the EU implementing acts in the context of a preliminary ruling procedure requested by the British High Court. The national proceedings were brought by the voluntary organization Western Sahara Campaign UK, which sought to challenge certain British policies and practices implementing the aforementioned legal acts, as far as they pertained to goods originating in and fisheries policy related to Western Sahara. As in Front Polisario, the main issue was the application of these agreements to the territory of and products originating in Western Sahara, a non-self-governing territory to be decolonised in accordance with the principle of self-determination, but considered by Morocco to be an integral part of its sovereign territory (for background, see our Article on T-512/12 Front Polisario v Council).

Given that this is the first request for a preliminary reference concerning the validity of international agreements concluded by the EU and their acts of conclusion, it also raised some new procedural questions, especially concerning the Court’s jurisdiction. In this case, the Court readily accepted that it has jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings on the interpretation and validity of all EU acts, ‘without exception’. This is noteworthy in and of itself, as it firmly establishes the Court’s jurisdiction when it comes to reviewing the EU’s international agreements in light of international law, albeit indirectly in the context of ruling on the validity of the EU act approving the international agreement in question (Judgment paras 48-51). Such jurisdiction is in line with the Court’s recent case-law that provides for the Court’s comprehensive jurisdiction, especially in light of the Court’s finding that the Treaties have created a ‘complete system’ of judicial review entrusted to the Courts of the EU (Rosneft para 66). Continue reading

From Conflicts-Rules to Field Preemption: Achmea and the Relationship between EU Law and International Investment Law and Arbitration

By Harm Schepel

Introduction

Investment Tribunals called upon to resolve intra-EU disputes are getting used to the European Commission showing up at their doorstep to try to convince them to decline jurisdiction. Though the range of arguments is wide and varied depending on the circumstances of the case and the underlying Investment Treaties, the overarching theme is simply that EU Law reigns supreme in relations between Member States and overrides all international law commitments that individual Member States- and the EU itself in the case of the Energy Charter Treaty- have entered into.  The Commission has occasionally met with success: in Electrabel, a long learned discussion on the relationship between EU Law and the ECT was concluded with the bombshell that EU law ‘would prevail over the ECT in case of any material inconsistency’  (para. 4.191). Other times, it is summarily dismissed. ‘Should it ever be determined that there existed an inconsistency between the ECT and EU Law’, observed the Tribunal in RREEF Infrastructure, ‘the unqualified obligation in public international law of any arbitration tribunal constituted under the ECT would be to apply the former. This would be the case even were this to be the source of possible detriment to EU law. EU law does not and cannot “trump” public international law.’[i]

The most interesting point about these wide divergences between different Tribunals on rather fundamental points of EU and international law is how little they seem to matter.  In both RREEF and Electrabel and numerous other intra-EU cases, the Tribunals disposed of the matter by pointing out that, in casu, there was no relevant material inconsistency, no conflict, no need to rule on matters of EU law, no incompatibility of obligations under different Treaties, and/or nothing that could not be solved by ‘harmonious interpretation.’ It might make sense to think of this Tribunal practice as devising conflicts-rules.

There are good reasons for the Court of Justice not to want to play this game. A case by case analysis of whether a particular award passes muster through national enforcement proceedings, or a Treaty-by-Treaty analysis of whether a particular dispute settlement or applicable law clause is compatible with EU law, is bound to be time consuming and labor-intensive, and will inevitably be unpredictable and lead to legal uncertainty.    Continue reading

Achmea – A Perspective from International (Investment) Law

By Pekka Niemelä

A week has passed since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rendered the landmark Achmea judgment. A number of posts analyzing the judgment have already appeared in the legal blogosphere (see e.g. here, here, here and here). Much of this commentary has focused on describing the Court’s reasoning and on analyzing the judgment’s broader implications. Most commentators agree that there was nothing unexpected in the Court’s conclusion that the arbitration clauses in the less than two hundred intra-EU BITs have, as the Court put it, an ‘adverse effect on the autonomy of EU law’ (para. 59).

The judgment’s reception has also varied in accordance with the view one has of the underlying purposes of investment treaties – do they promote the international rule of law or narrow corporate interests at the expense of the public interest? Accordingly, those critical of investment treaties and arbitration have welcomed the judgment, whereas the proponents of investment treaties have argued that the judgment leads to less ‘rule of law within the EU’.[1] On a higher level of abstraction, the plausibility of the Court’s reasoning also depends on the view one has of the EU in general: is it an autonomous constitutional order based on the protection of fundamental rights and certain foundational values? Or should the EU demonstrate more openness towards other international law regimes, as it is just one such regime among others? Depending on the view one has over these two intertwined general questions, Achmea can either appear as a logical corollary of EU constitutionalism or as a breach of the EU’s commitment to the international rule of law.

What this blogpost strives to do is to take issue with the Court’s understanding that arbitral tribunals interpret and apply EU law in ways that pose a threat to its autonomy. The point is not to argue that the Court’s reasoning and conclusions are incorrect, but to shed light on the ways in which arbitral tribunals have actually ‘used’ EU law, and to show that the Court’s understanding (with which most commentators sympathize) that investment arbitration poses a threat to the autonomy of EU law is somewhat inflated. Continue reading

Don’t Lead with Your Chin! If Member States continue with the ratification of CETA, they violate European Union law

By Christina Eckes

 After last week’s Achmea ruling of the Court of Justice (CJEU) Member States can no longer legally go ahead with ratifying CETA – the mixed Free Trade Agreement that the EU and its Member States agreed with Canada. Achmea casts serious doubts on the legality of CETA’s investment chapter, which allows investors from one Party to submit to an arbitral tribunal a claim that the other Party has breached an obligation under CETA. By simply going ahead with the ratification, they violate the principle of loyalty under European Union law.

On 6 March, the CJEU declared in its Achmea ruling that the investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the bilateral investment treaty between the Netherlands and Slovakia (NL-SK-BIT) as incompatible with EU law. A request by Belgium is pending before the CJEU asking for clarification on the legality of the new Investor Court System in CETA (Opinion 1/17). Achmea is a clear indication that the CJEU in Opinion 1/17 is likely to find also the Investor Court System in CETA problematic for the autonomy of EU law.

No general obligation exists for Member States to halt national ratification of mixed agreements when their compatibility with EU is questioned before the CJEU. Yet, CETA is different. The clear indication of incompatibility in Achmea imposes an obligation on national Parliaments to halt the CETA ratification process and wait for Opinion 1/17. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: February 2018

Call for submissions – European Papers

No deadline.

Conference “Looking to the Future and Beyond: New Approaches to ADR”

University of Leicester, 10 May 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 28 February 2018.

Dimensions and Identities Summer School “Dimensions of Human Rights”

University of Salzburg, 23-27 July 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 March 2018.

Colloquium “Current Challenges for EU Cross-Border Litigation in a Changing Procedural Environment”

Max-Planck-Institute Luxembourg for International, European and Regulatory Procedural Law, 26 September 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 April 2018.

Conference “Le règlement des différends dans les accords de l’UE avec des pays tiers”

University of Fribourg, 2 May 2018. Deadline for registration: 18 April 2018.

Summer School: “Venice School of Human Rights”

EIUC Venice School, 9-16 June 2018. Deadline for registration: 23 April 2018.

Summer School “Recent Developments on Financial Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering: European and International Perspectives”

University of Thessaloniki, 4-12 July 2018. Deadline for applications: 30 April 2018.

Implementation of the Aarhus Convention by the EU – An Inconvenient Truth from the Compliance Committee

By Benedikt Pirker

Introduction

Arguably one of the most important international environmental agreements of our days, the Aarhus Convention (AC), obliges its contracting parties to provide access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. Based on a communication by the NGO ClientEarth, the Compliance Committee – the compliance mechanism put in place under the AC – handed down an important decision (called ‘findings and recommendations’ in the Aarhus terminology) with regard to the European Union on 17 March 2017. The present post aims to highlight the most important findings of the Committee, which – in no uncertain terms – criticized a number of features of current EU law as a failure to implement the AC. Continue reading

Brown Bears II: Aarhus and the Charter show their teeth

By Laurens Ankersmit

In a significant win for access to justice in environmental matters, the Court’s Grand Chamber found that Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (the right to an effective remedy), read together with the Aarhus Convention, precluded the application of national procedural rules allowing for swift decision-making at the expense of rights granted to environmental NGOs. The case’s procedural history is very complex (the Advocate General referred to it as either Kafkaesque or tilting windmills like Don Quixote, depending on your point of view), so after only a brief factual discussion I will focus on the two major constitutional issues that the Court had to deal with:

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

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

Could it all have been avoided? Brexit and Treaty-permitted restrictions on movement of workers

By Gareth Davies

Of course, it wasn’t all about immigration. But that claimed flood of Eastern Europeans was certainly at the heart of the leave campaign, and, unusually for an immigration debate, it was their right to work in the UK that was the political issue: there were too many of them, they were pushing down wages, they were keeping the low-skilled native out of work, they were costing the government a fortune in in-work benefits, they were making towns and villages unrecognisable and alienating the more established inhabitants.

Whether or not they were true, a lot of these claims seemed to be shared by both sides. Cameron didn’t so much deny them, as offer counter-claims (but they do add to the economy) and promises of change (if you vote remain, we’ll have a new deal and be able to do something about it!).

So the question is this: if the government thought that free movement of workers was causing such terrible problems, why didn’t it impose restrictions years ago when the post-Enlargement flood was at its high point and the issue first became prominent? Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: June 2016

Call for papers “The reform of the rules of procedure of the EU Courts”

University of Milan, 16 December 2016. Deadline for abstract submission: 10 August 2016.

Call for papers: “Human rights in the EU’s conditionality policy towards enlargement countries in the Western Balkans”

Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 July 2016.

Call for papers “Young Researchers Master Class on Agencification of EU executive governance”

European University Institute, Florence, 9 November 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions : 30 June 2016.

Call for papers: “Conference on Constitutionality, powers and legitimacy of EU agencies or agency-like bodies”

European University Institute, Florence, 10-11 November 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions : 30 June 2016. Continue reading

Harmonised European Standards and the EU Court of Justice: Beware Not to Open Pandora’s Box

By Bardo Schettini Gherardini

As already stressed by Megi Medzmariashvili in her post of 1st March 2016, the question of whether the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘the Court’ or ‘CJEU’) has jurisdiction to give a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of a harmonised technical standard (‘HTS’) adopted by the European Committee for Standardisation (‘CEN’) is, for the first time, raised in Case C-613/14, James Elliot Construction Ltd v Irish Asphalt Limited.

As Director – Legal Affairs of both CEN and CENELEC (the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization), I would like to give an insider’s view on the European standardization system and to expose a more critical approach to the Opinion delivered by the Advocate General (‘AG’) Campos Sanchez-Bordona on 28 January 2016.  The AG suggested, in reference to the first question referred for a preliminary ruling, that the Court must declare that it has jurisdiction for the main reason that the HTSs should be regarded as acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union for the purposes of Article 267 of the Treaty on the functioning of the Union (‘TFEU’), which is the primary law basis of the cooperation between the CJEU and the national courts via the preliminary ruling system. The opinion of the AG is based on three arguments that I would like to comment on, just after insisting on some essential elements of background on the way HTSs are produced and how CEN and the other European standardisation bodies are working.   Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: January 2016

Seminar „Rethinking EU Competences“

Inter-University Center, Dubrovnik, 17-23 April 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 January 2016.

Conference „Europe’s crisis: What future for immigration and asylum law and policy“

Queen Mary University of London, 27-28 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 February 2016.

LCII Conference „Regulating Patent ‘Hold-up’“

Brussels, 29 February 2016. Deadline for (paid) registration: 25 February 2016.

ASIL Interest Group Meeting „Regional Approaches to International Adjudication“

Washington, 30 March-2 April 2016 (exact date TBD). Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 February 2016.

Top ten most read posts of 2015

By the editors

As is becoming a tradition with our blog (albeit a bit late this year), we present to you our top 10 most read posts of the last year. We have had another good year of blogging behind us: more readers contributing to the content of the blog with 33 posters coming from approximately 14 different countries this year. Equally important is that readership is steadily increasing according to Google Analytics (plus: we now have almost 1600 email subscribers and 2400 followers on twitter). Most of you are from the UK, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Italy, Sweden, France, Ireland and Poland, respectively.

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 2015 list of most read posts of the year: Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: December 2015

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

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

CJICL Conference „Public and Private Power“

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

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

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

Conference „Building Consensus on European Consensus“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion 2/13 of the Court of Justice on Access of the EU to the ECHR – One step ahead and two steps back

By 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).

Continue reading

POMFR: José Luís Da Cruz Vilaça, EU Law and Integration: Twenty Years of Judicial Application of EU Law

By Tim Corthaut

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