Currently pending before the CJEU is a fundamental issue regarding the assessment of environmental effects of major projects: Should their impacts only be reassessed when construction takes place? Or should there also be an environmental impact assessment (‘EIA’) if an aging project is allowed to continue operation many years beyond its originally projected lifetime, without any physical alterations?
Case C-411/17 requires the Court to address its own interpretation of the EIA Directive in an earlier judgement which arguably contradicts the EU’s obligations under international law. In her Opinion published in November last year, AG Kokott has therefore urged the Court to reverse its case law.
EIA is an essential procedure to prevent environmental impacts at source and to allow for public participation in decision-making. Since many major industrial facilities, such as energy infrastructure, operate over many years, the question as to when an EIA obligation arises for existing facilities is of crucial importance. Next to posing intricate legal questions concerning the EU legal order, the case is therefore of great practical relevance to environmental protection in Europe.
This commentary presents the relevant international and EU law developments leading up to this case, discusses AG Kokott’s Opinion and reflects upon the wider implications of Case C-411/17 for the development of EU environmental law and its interaction with the international legal order. Continue reading →
On the 30th of April this year, the CJEU handed down its highly anticipated Opinion 1/17 on the compatibility of the CETA agreement with EU law. As Ankersmit details in his blogpost, the request for an opinion had been part of a widely known quarrel within Belgian internal politics, with Wallonia demanding the Belgium government to expressly consult the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the legal merits of that agreement. Respecting that decision from its regional parliament, Belgium asked the CJEU, among other things, whether such an agreement was compatible with the principle of autonomy of the EU.
I will circumscribe this post to the analysis of the precise question of autonomy and leave out many of the other troubling questions such as the ones raised by Schepel’s in his previous post. The argument I put forth is as simple as it is controversial: autonomy, due to its abstract characteristics, is often subject to power injections leading to incoherent interpretations depending on the subject-matter at hand.
Let us see how autonomy has been interpreted before Opinion 1/17 and then analyze it in that light. Continue reading →
The adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights (‘the Pillar’) in 2017 and the 20-year anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 2019 provide an auspicious moment for not only take stock of accomplishments in the field of EU equality law and critically reflect on the past, but also to look forward. The Treaty of Amsterdam expanded the legal base (current Article 19 TFEU) for adopting EU legislation to six new anti-discrimination grounds (race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation) and the recent adoption of the Pillar suggests that EU equality law and policy could now be at a pivotal point. In this brief blog post, we reflect on what, in our view, is one of the key current problems of EU equality law, namely, its (in)coherence at different levels (see Figure 1), and whether the Pillar carries the potential to -at least partially- address this issue. Continue reading →
Tjebbes is a bold and yet thoughtful judgment. It pushes the boundaries of the role of EU law in nationality matters and yet does so in a manner that both respects the primacy of the Member States in regulating this area of law, and acknowledges the genuine Union-interest in the manner in which denaturalisation decisions impact on Union citizens. It provides a follow-up and elaboration of the judgment in Rottmann, confirming the applicability of Union law in nationality law and detailing the nature of its intervention. This intervention is of both a procedural and a substantive kind, requiring an individual examination of any decision withdrawing nationality having regard to a set of consequences linked to the status of Union citizenship. Continue reading →
After its State of the Union address of 13 September 2017, in which he presented his vision for the future of the Europe Union, President Juncker announced the creation of a Task Force to reflect on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in EU policymaking and to make propositions to strengthen their role (see the President’s Decision). After several meetings and consultations, the Task Force published its findings in a final Report and the Commission released a Communication in October 2018 in which it commits to follow several of the propositions made.
This commentary presents some of these recommendations and sketches some (rough) reflections on the place of the principle of subsidiarity in the EU legal order and how to improve its role as a tool to control EU legislative activity. Continue reading →
A small change can have big consequences. Some of these changes may be unplanned and unpredictable. Some represent welcome developments that complement and contribute to long-running narratives of progress. Arguably, the recent publication of a reference to a harmonised standard in the L series of the Official Journal of the European Union belongs to the latter category. It may yet, however, prove to have unintended consequences that go beyond that which was originally envisioned.
Technical standards have long played a fundamental role in the regulation of the internal market. According to the regulatory technique of the “New Approach”, EU directives establish only the essential requirements of general interest of a product, while referring the detailed definition of technical aspects to private organizations composed of experts and representatives of the business sector, i.e. the European standard-setting organisations (ESOs). To this end, the European Commission makes a request to one of these ESOs and, where a standard satisfies the requirements set out in the request and in the corresponding Union harmonisation legislation, it publishes a reference to it in the Official Journal. Through this procedure, these standards elaborated by private European standardisation bodies are granted a presumption of conformity with the secondary EU law measures they are aimed at complementing. Consequently, they are endowed with the qualification of ‘harmonised standards’.
Recent developments in EU legislation (see Regulation EU) No 1025/2012) and in the case law (see, inter alia, Case C-171/11, Fra.bo. v DVGW) have progressively changed the view of standardization as a purely non-binding, private phenomenon. In particular, the James Elliott case established the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice with regard to the interpretation of harmonised standards in a preliminary reference under Article 267 TFEU, clarifying that harmonised standards shall be considered as “measures implementing or applying an act of EU law” and, therefore, “part of EU law”. This ruling of the Court has thus contributed to strengthen the claims of an unstoppable “juridification” of harmonized standards, fostering the debate on their legal qualification under EU law (as discussed here, here and here). Continue reading →
All is clear, then: CETA’s Investment Chapter is perfectly compatible with EU Law. According to Advocate General Bot, the agreement is wholly separate from the normative (as opposed to the factual) universe of EU law, and merely protects readily identifiable ‘foreigners’ investing in the EU in the same way as it protects readily identifiable ‘European’ investors in foreign lands. From what we know of the hearing, the Advocate General provides not much more than a useful summary of the talking points offered by the Council, the Commission and the vast majority of the 12 intervening Member States, remarkably united in a bid to save the EU’s new external trade and investment policy. Clearly, the pressure on the Court to follow suit will be enormous. And yet. It is true, CETA builds strong fences to make good neighbors. But let spring be the mischief in me: CETA cannot wall out what EU Law walls in.[i]
The EU’s exercise of its post-Lisbon competences over foreign direct investment (FDI) has been anything but smooth. In Opinion 2/15 the CJEU clarified the EU and Member State competences over the EU’s new generation free trade and investment agreements, resulting in the splitting of the EU‑Singapore agreement into a separate trade and investment agreement. Then, in Achmea the Court found investor-state arbitration (ITA) clauses under intra-EU BITs to be incompatible with EU law, which will result in the termination of almost 200 intra-EU BITs and the non-enforcement of ITA awards rendered under them within the EU. Now, everyone is anxiously awaiting the outcome of Opinion 1/17 – requested by Belgium under the insistencies of Wallonia – and whether the Investment Court System (ICS) under CETA is compatible with EU law. This opinion will not only affect the entry into force and conclusion of the trade and investment agreements with Canada, Singapore, Vietnam and Mexico, but it will have broader implications for the multilateral ISDS reform process and the EU’s investment policy.
Therefore, Advocate General Bot’s extensive opinion delivered on 29 January 2019 (first commentaries here and here) in which it found the CETA ICS to be compatible with EU law deserves scrutiny. I will only focus on the AG’s arguments concerning the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Justice over the definitive interpretation of EU Law. In a separate post, Harm Schepel will focus on the AG’s arguments on non‑discrimination. Continue reading →
In the domain of politics, trial and error are frequent occurrences. Through trial and error we tend to discover that political decisions, policy choices and even customary ways of doing things are no longer sustainable and thus in need of revision. There is nothing wrong in recognising mistakes or misjudgments and changing course. The doors of perception are not always fully open for human beings; information asymmetries, errors of judgement, ideological standpoints and self-interest often lead individuals to poor visualisations of the future and thus to imprudent actions. Continue reading →
Part II of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement provides extensive protection of the rights in the United Kingdom and the EU-27 that EU citizens currently derive from Article 21 TFEU. However, the Agreement is silent on the preservation of the rights to vote and stand as candidates in municipal and European Parliament elections that EU citizens derive from Article 22 TFEU. This ossifies a conception of EU citizenship as a status of passive ‘juridical objectity’ to the detriment of a conception of the status as one of political self-determination. This means that following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union the voting rights of EU citizens within the United Kingdom and UK citizens within the EU-27 will revert to the discretion of the national legal orders. Therefore, I will argue in this piece that it would be more normatively desirable for the European Union’s legislature to adopt measures in order to preserve these electoral rights for UK citizens. The first section below will detail the arguments for why this would be acceptable, before the second section considers the legal methods by which this could be implemented. Continue reading →
Some have assumed that one of the consequences of Brexit is that EU citizens, who can currently vote in all elections in the UK except for those which choose MPs in the UK Parliament, will lose that right once, and if, the UK leaves the EU. In fact, Brexit will not automatically mean EU citizens in UK will lose the right to vote in elections for local government and the devolved legislatures. That is because the right of EU citizens to vote in local government elections is set out in the UK’s own domestic legislation. Therefore, all the rights of EU citizens to vote in other member states arises out of EU law, because that right is now contained with UK law, the fact that UK will no longer be a member of the EU does not change that provision giving EU citizens the right to vote in local elections. In that respect, they will join the citizens of many other countries who, although they have no right deriving from a treaty to vote in UK elections, nevertheless have such a right. For example Commonwealth citizens, if they have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or do not require such leave, can register, vote, and stand in all UK elections even though there may not be any reciprocal right for UK citizens to vote in elections in that Commonwealth country. Continue reading →
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 30th March 2019 at midnight, Brussels time, by automatic operation of EU law (Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union(TEU) and, indeed, according to section 20(1) of the UK’s EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Consequently, the UK will not be participating in the May 2019 European Parliamentary (EP), Elections. Its 73 MEPs, including the 3 MEPs representing Northern Ireland, will be gone. This post appraises, first, the ramifications of Brexit for electoral rights of EU-27 citizens resident anywhere in the UK as a ‘third country’ and, second, the unique electoral predicament of residents in Northern Ireland. It argues that, unless Member States (MS) act promptly, hundreds of thousands of their citizens, qua Union citizens, stand to be disenfranchised this coming May – a democratic outrage that can and should be averted. Continue reading →
On 22 October 2018, New Europeans and the Federal Trust held the event ‘EU citizenship rights in the shadow of Brexit’. Since that date, the end-game of Brexit has gathered pace. On 14 November, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU was published. The UK government announced that a ‘meaningful vote’ would be held in the House of Commons on 11 December, before postponing on the eve of the vote leading to the Prime Minister weathering a vote of no confidence by Conservative MPs and the announcement that the vote would be held in the third week of January. Part 2 of this Agreement provides extensive protection for the legal rights of UK nationals in the EU-27 and EU citizens in the UK; however, it may be argued that this ossifies a conception of EU citizenship as one of juridical objectity rather than political self-determination. At the European level, the Court of Justice of the European Union held in its Wightmanjudgment on 10 December that the United Kingdom would be free to unilaterally revoke its notification under Article 50 in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. Continue reading →
All eyes were on the Wightman case in recent days. This may have somewhat overshadowed a second interesting development: On Friday 7 December the Swiss government (the Federal Council) decided to publish the result of its negotiations with the European Union on a Framework Agreement (FA) for their bilateral relationship. Such an agreement would form a sort of governing structure for the most important of the Bilateral Agreements that currently link the EU and Switzerland.
There is a complex political context to the negotiations of this draft agreement that I will deliberately leave aside for the present post (see for a recent overview over Swiss-EU relations here). To put it in a nutshell, since 2008 the EU requests this step from Switzerland, and since 2014 the EU and Switzerland have been negotiating a special agreement to cover the most crucial current and future (market-access oriented) agreements among the Bilateral Agreements currently in force between Switzerland and the EU. The goal is to create a more reliable framework (1) for Switzerland’s incorporation of EU legal acts in the relevant domains, (2) for the uniform interpretation and application of the Agreements and the EU law referenced therein, (3) for the surveillance of the application of those norms and (4) for the settlement of disputes (Article 1 (3) FA). Presently, I want to highlight two elements that seem to be of relevance beyond the confines of Swiss-EU relations: the solution found for the interpretation and dispute settlement of the FA and the law it covers. Continue reading →