By Johannes Graf von Luckner
From North to South, from national governments to the Commission: EU Institutions and Member States are in agreement that a reform of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is high on the political agenda. One aspect of such a reform is the integration of the Fiscal Compact into the EU legal framework, which the Member States committed to in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG). With a French Government that is pushing for reforms, a German government that is finally in place, and a proposal for a directive drafted by the EU Commission on the table, it is likely that the topic will gain importance.
In three somewhat distinct steps, this post aims to explain the obligation to incorporate the Fiscal Compact into EU law (1.), explore one viable option to do so, which some of the treaty-drafters might have had in mind, namely the Enhanced Cooperation mechanism (2.), and analyse the (rather surprising) Commission proposal on the topic (3.). Continue reading
On 17 July 2013 the European Commission launched its proposal on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (‘Proposed EPPO Regulation’). With this proposal, the Commission aims at improving the enforcement of offences affecting the EU’s financial interests and thereby at increasing the deterrent effect of law enforcement. At present, those offences are investigated and prosecuted by national prosecution authorities, to be brought to trial before national courts. This approach is however deemed inadequate. Offences affecting the EU budget are usually complex cases with a cross-border dimension and ‘of secondary importance’ for national prosecutors. Moreover, statistics used by the Commission show substantial differences in enforcement between the various Member States. With the establishment of an EPPO, this should change significantly. Most notable is the shift from administrative investigations, as they are now conducted by OLAF (i.e., the EU’s antifraud office), to criminal investigations by the EPPO, a new EU judicial body.
The idea of an EPPO is far from new. The first concrete proposals in that direction saw the light in the Corpus Juris (1997, finalised in 2000). This research project proposed an extensive harmonisation of national criminal procedure, which was politically unacceptable at the time. In 2001, the European Commission presented a Green Paper, which took an entirely different approach based on the principle of mutual recognition. The EPPO would apply national criminal procedure rules when investigating, prosecuting and bringing to trial offences against the Union’s financial interests. After a very critical public consultation, which revealed numerous pitfalls, the EPPO ‘dream’ was shelved for a few years, until it resurfaced in the Lisbon Treaty. Article 86 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’) now provides an explicit formal basis for the creation of an EPPO. It determines the applicable legislative procedure and instrument, as well as the scope and competence of the future EPPO. Other aspects are left to the wisdom and discretion of the EU legislator. The current Commission proposal is based on Article 86 TFEU, and draws inspiration from the Draft Model Rules, which resulted from a triple EPPO research project funded by the Commission.
The idea of a ‘multi-speed Europe’ finds its concrete expression in a range of European Union (EU) policy fields from the single currency to EU criminal law. As the product of specific treaty authorizations, these examples of ‘enhanced cooperation’ have become a familiar means by which European integration has deepened while allowing individual states to avoid being bound by measures adopted in a new field of cooperation. With the Amsterdam Treaty, a new capacity was created to deploy enhanced cooperation on a more ad hoc policy issue basis, particularly where legislative negotiations had failed to resolve disagreements between Member States.
Yet the new capacity remained unused until after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which amended the provisions on enhanced cooperation (now Article 20 TEU and Articles 326-334 TFEU). The new provisions were deployed for the first time to permit a group of states to adopt a regulation on the law applicable to divorce and legal separation. However, it was the second authorization of enhanced cooperation in the area of the EU unitary patent which was more controversial and which gave rise to legal actions by Spain and Italy seeking an annulment of the authorizing decision. Both states had objected to the proposal to restrict the languages used for submission of patent applications to English, French and German. In the absence of the unanimity required for the establishment of the language regime (Article 118 TFEU), legislative negotiations had reached a stalemate and so the decision was taken by the Member States – with the exception of Spain and Italy – to authorize enhanced cooperation. The two countries then brought legal proceedings seeking the annulment of the authorizing decision.
This post considers the implications of this litigation for the use of enhanced cooperation with a particular eye towards the legal action which has been launched by the United Kingdom challenging the use of enhanced cooperation for the adoption of the controversial Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). Continue reading