By Michał Krajewski
To err is human and so it is with judges, even the highest ones. Take the long awaited ECJ’s judgment in case C-42/17, M.A.S. & M.B. (Taricco II). This is already a second ruling on the Italian statutes of limitation applicable to pending criminal proceedings regarding VAT fraud. The statutes of limitations turned out too short for the Italian justice system, facing workload and efficiency problems. As a result, a significant number of persons guilty of serious VAT fraud might go unpunished. This in turn would undermine the effective protection of the financial interests of the EU (Article 325 TFEU). Previously, in case C-105/14, Taricco I, the ECJ had obliged Italian criminal courts to disapply the statutes of limitations in VAT cases, in order to give full effect to Article 325 TFEU. However, following the firm opposition from the Italian Constitutional Court (the ‘ICC’), the ECJ revoked the said obligation in Taricco II.
In this blog post, I will point to ambiguities in the ECJ’s reasoning in Taricco II and to further problems that this ruling may generate. I will argue, however, that the shortcomings should not overshadow the generally positive conclusion that we may draw from the Taricco saga. In my view, this saga illustrates a positive side to the ‘conditional’ acceptance of EU law primacy by national constitutional courts as the latter provide checks and balances on the ECJ’s enormous judicial power. By threatening to disapply EU provisions, they can force the ECJ to seriously engage in a deliberative process, eventually leading to the correction of mistakes that the ECJ will surely commit from time to time. Continue reading
By Eduardo Gill-Pedro
In her recent entry on this blog, Prof. Capaldo criticised the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in Taricco II by arguing that there exists, in international law (or what the author calls ‘global law’), a fundamental human right to policies that criminalise tax fraud. According to the author, the Court presented in its judgment a false dichotomy between the need to ensure the effective application of EU law and the need to ensure the protection of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the accused. This is because the effective application of EU law also entails the protection of ‘social human rights’, presumably by the proper use of the taxes for public expenditure. In this blog entry I argue that Prof. Capaldo’s argument presupposes a particular understanding of human rights, and that this understanding of human rights is problematic from the perspective of democratic theory.
The understanding of human rights as socially beneficially outcomes which are to be ensured through the proper expenditure of tax revenue, sees human rights as policy goals. Such policy goals are then to be optimized and balanced against other policy goals situated on the same level. This is made clear in the blog entry, which argued that there was a need to “balance[e] the rights under these articles [social rights which would be secured through tax collection] and the accused’s individual rights guaranteed by the legality principle”. Continue reading
by Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldo
This contribution is a comment to the blog posts of Maxime Lassalle on Taricco I and Michal Krajewski on Taricco II. In the following, I summarize some reflections developed in my article entitled “Lotta globale all’impunità e Corte di giustizia europea: un nuovo approccio alla frode fiscale come crimine contro i diritti umani”, that touch upon the core of the Taricco dispute between the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Italian Constitutional Court concerning the prosecution of value added tax (VAT) fraud.
Two very closely related issues are considered in this regard. One is that the ECJ’s view in Taricco I on the interpretation and application of the obligation to combat fraud, imposed on Member States by Article 325 TFUE, opens the way to a new approach to tax fraud as a crime against human rights. The second, logically connected, is that the alleged conflict between the interpretation of Article 325 TFEU given by the ECJ and Italian Constitutional law (the principle of legality in criminal matters as laid down by Article 25(2) Const.) is a false problem for which I present a solution. Continue reading
By Michal Krajewski
The final countdown to the announcement of the long awaited judgment in case C-42/17, M.A.S. & M.B. (Taricco II) on 5 December 2017 has begun. The preliminary reference (for an overview see Bassini and Pollicino), by which the Italian Constitutional Court (the ‘ICC’) challenged the judgment of the European Court of Justice (the ‘ECJ’) in C-105/14, Taricco I, has already generated a heated debate online (see for instance here and here). The most fascinating question is whether for the first time the ECJ will authorise a national court to disapply an EU legal provision to protect its national constitutional identity or higher national standards of fundamental rights’ protection. My aim in this post is to question the compatibility of Taricco I judgment with the EU law itself. I will first argue that the ECJ’s judgment in Taricco I is problematic under EU law because the ECJ left out from its reasoning the general principle of legal certainty and ensuing limits to the direct applicability of EU provisions. Second, I will explore whether the ECJ can still withdraw from its stance taken in Taricco I without opening the Pandora’s box of exceptions to the EU law primacy: either due to national constitutional identity (Article 4(2) TEU) or higher national standards of fundamental rights’ protection (Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights). Continue reading
By Maxime Lassalle
The case C-105/14 Ivo Taricco and Others delivered on 8 September 2015 is a new example of activism of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU). It draws consequences from Åkerberg Fransson C-617/10 (already commented on this blog here and here), but this time goes in another direction as it extends the obligation of Member States in the field of criminal law for a more effective penalisation at the expense of national criminal procedure. Once again the obligations related to VAT collection are at stake, as was the case in Åkerberg Fransson, however this time from the point of view of the protection of the financial interests of the Union. In this field, the Member States have indeed the duty to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union (Article 325 (1) TFEU), the so-called “PIF fraud” (where PIF is a French acronym for ‘protection des intérêts financiers de l’Union’). In particular, they are required to “take the same measures to counter fraud affecting the financial interests of the Union as they take to counter fraud affecting their own financial interests” (Article 325 (2)). In this Grand Chamber ruling, the Court took an opportunity to clearly express its will to include VAT fraud in the definition of PIF fraud and to significantly extend the obligations of the Member States to effectively penalize such fraud. Given the difficulties related to the ongoing negotiations on the project of PIF Directive, this decision is very timely. Continue reading