Category: External Relations

Antarctica: Has the Court of Justice got cold feet?

By Christina Eckes

In the period since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, Member States have more and more often and more and more passionately challenged the Union exercise of external relations powers conferred to it under the Lisbon Treaty. In the words of Advocate-General Kokott in her Opinion in the Antarctica cases legal actions are fought with ‘astonishing passion’ and ‘allegation[s are made] that the Commission wished to do everything possible to prevent international action by the Member States’, as well as that ‘the Council [was] compulsively looking for legal bases that always permit participation by the Member States’ (para 75).

On 20 November 2018, the Court of Justice ruled in the Antarctica cases on two actions of annulment brought by the Commission against Council decisions approving the submission, on behalf of the Union and its Member States, to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (‘the CCAMLR’) of a reflection paper and a common position on four proposals concerning the creation and study of marine protected areas. The Council was supported in its defence in the two cases by 9 and 10 Member States, respectively. The point of contention – as is the case in a growing body of post-Lisbon litigation – was not the substantive position but the question of on behalf of whom the paper and the positions at issue could be submitted: the Union alone or the Union together with its Member States. Continue reading

Case C-713/17 Ayubi: A refugee is a refugee is a refugee (even with temporary right of residence)

By Sarah Progin-Theuerkauf

Introduction

On 21 November 2018 the Court declared a provision of the Law on needs-based minimum income protection in Upper Austria which provides that refugees with a temporary right of residence are granted less social benefits than Austrian nationals and refugees with a permanent right of residence incompatible with Article 29 of the Qualification Directive (Directive 2011/95/EU). The case is important, as the Court also highlighted that the right of refugees to equal treatment with nationals of the respective state with regard to public relief and assistance directly stems from the Geneva Refugee Convention, which does not make the rights to which refugees are entitled dependent on the length of their stay in the respective State. The Court also emphasized that a refugee may directly rely on the incompatibility of the provision with Article 29 of the Qualification Directive before the national courts. Continue reading

Case C-244/17 – Commission v Council: the centre of gravity test revisited in the context of Article 218 (9) TFEU

By Pieter Jan Kuijper

Introduction

Case C-244/17 – Commission v Council (PCA with Kazakhstan) is one of the most recent cases in the long list of external relations cases and Opinions decided by the Court (in most cases in its Grand Chamber composition) since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (beginning with Dai-Ichi Sankyo, Case C – 414/11).  These cases have covered many aspects of the horizontal balance of competences between the political institutions of the Union, as well as the vertical distribution of powers between the Union and its Member States, in the field of the external relations of the Union.

Inevitably sometimes both aspects are touched upon, as in the present case. On the one hand, there is the question of which institutions play, or should play, a role in the decision-making under Article 218(9); on the other hand questions arise which methods of decision-making should be followed, unanimity or qualified majority voting; whether this should be determined by which legal bases such decisions should be taken and which method should be used to select such legal bases. The first question seems – and is – simple at first sight, but raises an important question about democratic legitimacy. The second question seems very complicated, but – after reflection – can be easily decided on the basis of existing precedents. 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.

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: October 2018

Workshop “Justice, Injustice and Brexit”

City University of London, 19 October 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

Conference “Sustainable Business… Tested Through Dialogue”

Taranto, 12-14 December 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 October 2018.

Conference “Modelling convergence of the EU with the world: taking, receiving and becoming EU law”

City University of London, 2 November 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

Workshop on the Advocate General at the CJEU: The Linguistic Aspect

Dublin, 5 November 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

PhD Seminar “25 Years after Maastricht: Achievements, Failures and Challenges of the EU Criminal Justice Area”

University of Luxembourg, 24-25 January 2019. Deadline for applications: 15 November 2018.

Conference “Harmonisation in Environmental and Energy Law”

University of Hasselt, 28-29 March 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 11 December 2018.

Workshop on “Counter-Terrorism at the Crossroad between International, Regional and Domestic Law”

Bocconi University, Milan, 13-14 June 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 December 2018.

Conference “Cynical International Law?”

Freie Universität Berlin, 6-7 September 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 31 January 2019.

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: August 2018

Workshop “Engaging with Domestic Law in International Adjudication: Factfinding or Transnational Law-Making?”

University of Amsterdam, 27 February-1 March 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 September 2018.

2019 ESIL Research Forum “The rule of law in international and domestic contexts: synergies and challenges”

University of Göttingen, 4-5 April 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 September 2018.

Conference “Global Politics and EU Free Trade Policy”

Brussels, 10-11 December 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 6 October 2018.

#TILT Young Academics Colloquium “What’s #Trending in International and EU Law?”

University of Verona, 23-24 May 2019. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 October 2018.

Call for submissions: Trade, Law & Development

Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2018.

Nuremberg Forum 2018 “20th Anniversary of the Rome Statute: Law, Justice and Politics”

Nuremberg, 19-20 October 2018. Registration necessary.

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: June 2018

Workshop “Constructing Legal Orders in Europe: The General Principles of EU Law”

University of Leicester, 29-30 June 2018. (Free) registration necessary.

Conference “EU external relations: Tackling global challenges?”

TMC Asser Institute, 6-7 December 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 June 2018.

Call for Papers “EuConst Colloquium 2018”

Amsterdam, 5 October 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 1 July 2018.

Conference “Waiting for Brexit: Open issues in the Internal Market and in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice”

University of Milan-Bicocca, 19 October 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 July 2018.

Conference “Religion and Ethnicity on the International Bench”

University of Oslo, 4-5 October 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 18 July 2018.

PhD Seminar “The External Dimension of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice”

University of Luxembourg, 25-26 October 2018. Deadline for submissions: 5 September 2018.

Call for Papers “The Visegrád Group”

Anglo-American University Law Review. Deadline for submissions: 1 October 2018.

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

Case C-355/16 Picart: The narrow interpretation of the Swiss-EU Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons as a lesson for Brexit?

By Benedikt Pirker

Last week, the Court handed down a decision on the provisions of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU. It denied that a French national who had moved to Switzerland and who wanted to rely on the AFMP’s freedom of establishment provisions to challenge a French legal mechanism of exit taxation on unrealised capital gains could do so. The case is of interest for those following Swiss-EU relations, as the ECJ had (and missed) the opportunity to say more on the rather specific version of freedom of establishment enshrined in the Agreement. At the same time, there are also certain lessons to be learned for the interpretation of future agreements of the EU with third countries dealing with access to the internal market and the free movement of persons (looking at you, Brexit). Arguably, there is a certain meandering in the reasoning of the Court on the AFMP, and this latest case seems to demonstrate a return to the early days of a more restrictive interpretation, based to a substantial degree on the fact that Switzerland has said no to the internal market. Below, I will briefly explain the facts of Picart and the decision of the Court. Then, I will examine in more depth the above claim on the Court’s shift in interpretive methodology and the alternative approaches to the interpretation of the AFMP that could have been taken. 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.

AG Wathelet in C-284/16 Achmea: Saving ISDS?

By Andrea Carta and Laurens Ankersmit

A few months ago, AG Wathelet delivered a remarkable defence of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in international investment agreements between Member States in his Opinion in C-284/16 Achmea. The case concerned a preliminary reference by a German court (the Federal Court of Justice, or Bundesgerichtshof) regarding the validity of an award rendered by an ISDS tribunal under the Dutch-Slovak bilateral investment treaty (BIT). This monetary award against the Slovak government was  the result of the partial reversal of the privatisation of the Slovak health care system. The Opinion is the latest development in the legal controversies surrounding ISDS and EU law after the Micula cases and, of course, the recent Request for an Opinion by Belgium (Opinion 1/17) on the compatibility of CETA with the EU Treaties. Although many aspects of this Opinion merit critical commentary, this post will focus on two issues:

  1. the question whether ISDS tribunals set up under intra-EU BITs should be seen as courts common to the Member States and are therefore fully part of the EU’s judicial system.
  2. whether  the discrimatory access to ISDS in the Dutch-Slovak BIT is compatible with Article 18 TFEU and justified under EU internal market law.  Continue reading

Case C-600/14, Germany v Council (OTIF). More Clarity over Facultative ‘Mixity’?

By Hannes Lenk and Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi

  1. Setting the context

Opinion 2/15 on the division of requisite competences between the Union and its Member States for the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA has most certainly caused a flurry of academic discussions. Amongst the various topics discussed, two come to mind that are important for this short analysis. First, did the CJEU intend with its reasoning to effectively abolish ‘facultative mixity’ and ‘facultative EU-only’ agreements? (see here, here and here). Second, by placing almost all aspects of the EU-Singapore FTA under exclusive EU competences, with the exception of ISDS and non-direct foreign investment, did the Court of Justice implicitly determine the future of EU trade and investment policy? (see here, here and here). In other words, with a Commission that is determined to prioritize EU-only agreements, is the conclusion of mixed investment agreements in parallel to exclusive trade agreements a logical consequence of Opinion 2/15? Continue reading

POMFR: L. Ankersmit, Green Trade and Fair Trade in and with the EU: Process-based Measures within the EU Legal Order (Cambridge: CUP, 2017)

By Thomas Horsley

Green Trade and Fair Trade in and with the EU: Process-based Measures within the EU Legal Order, by Laurens Ankersmit (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, ISBN 9781107191228); 294 pp.; £85.00

This monograph examines the position of ‘process-based measures’ within the EU legal order. PBMs (also known as ‘process and production method’ rules) are characterised as public and private initiatives that, in the context of international trade, seek to address environmental and social concerns that arise externally; in other words, beyond the territory of the regulating state. Examples include, bans on the importation and sale of cosmetics tested on animals; national and regional product labelling schemes; and private initiatives such as Fairtrade and the Marine Stewardship Council certification programme. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: November 2017

Roundtable discussion “Modelling Divergence(s) and Convergence(s) of the EU in the World”

City University, London, 24 November 2017. Registration necessary.

Conference “Citizenship, Citizenships and New Types of Personal Status: International and European Aspects, and National Developments”

University of Salerno, 18-19 January 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 25 November 2017.

Workshop “Unpacking the ‘Accountability Paradox’ in Expert-based Decision-making”

Erasmus University Rotterdam, 30 November-1 December 2017. Registration necessary.

Erasmus Early-Career Scholars Conference 2018 “New business models and globalized markets: Rethinking public and private responsibilities”

University of Rotterdam, 11-13 April 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 7 January 2018.

Call for papers: Inaugural Issue of the Nordic Journal of European Law

Deadline for submissions: 31 March 2018.

Call for papers: Comparative Constitutional Law and Administrative Law Quarterly

Deadline for submissions: 2 January 2018.

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: October 2017

Call for Papers : Workshop on Challenges and Opportunities for EU Parliamentary Democracy – Brexit and beyond

Maastricht University, 18-19 January 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions : 20 October 2017.

Workshop « The Political and Legal Theory of International Courts and Tribunals »

University of Oslo, 18-19 June 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions : 1 November 2017.

Workshop: « Resolving the Tensions between EU Trade and Non-Trade Objectives: Actors, Norms, and Processes »

Utrecht University, 10 November 2017. Deadline for registration: 3 November 2017.

Conference « The future of free movement in stormy times »

The Hague University of Applied Sciences, 21 November 2017. Deadline for (free) registration: 13 November 2017.

Call for Participants : European Law Moot Court 2017-2018

Deadline for team registrations : 15 November 2017.

Call for Papers: « The neglected methodologies of international law »

University of Leicester, 31 January 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 November 2017.

Call for nominations: International Society for Public Law Book Prize

Deadline for nominations: 31 December 2017.

Call for Papers : ESIL Annual Conference « International Law and Universality »

University of Manchester, 13-15 September 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions : 31 January 2018.

Case C 142/16 Commission v Germany: the Habitats Directive meets ISDS?

By Laurens Ankersmit

Recently, the ECJ has found Germany in breach of its obligations under the Habitats Directive for authorising the operation of a coal-fired power plant near Hamburg, Germany without an appropriate environmental impact assessment. The case is the latest addition to a series of legal battles surrounding the environmental impact of the plant. On the one hand, the negative environmental impact, in particular for fish species in the Elbe river, has led to litigation opposing the authorisation of the plant, including these infringement proceedings before the ECJ. On the other, Swedish power company Vattenfall has opposed the environmental conditions attached to its water use permit before a national court and before an ISDS tribunal which in its view would make the project ‘uneconomical’. This post will discuss the general legal background of the case, the ECJ judgment, and comment on the wider implications of these legal battles for the relationship between investment law and EU law. Continue reading

A Joint EU-UK court for citizens’ rights: A viable option after and beyond Brexit?

The European Law Blog will be taking a summer recess. We’ll be back end of August with new commentaries, including on key Summer developments. Please do send us on your contributions throughout this period and we will get back to you in due course. Happy Holidays to all our readers!

By Oliver Garner

Introduction

An impasse in Brexit negotiations exists between the United Kingdom and the European Union regarding the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This post will consider the legal viability of a proposed solution to this stalemate: a joint EU-UK court to adjudicate upon citizens’ rights. Although the proposals have limited the substantive remit of such a potential court to citizens’ rights, due to this area being the most contentious between the EU and the UK, in principle one could envisage a joint court with jurisdiction over all aspects of the withdrawal agreement. It may be argued that such a solution would be politically unacceptable for the European Union as it allows the United Kingdom to “have its cake and eat it” through a substitute for the Court of Justice over which the withdrawing state has far more influence. However, this post will focus on the legal rather than political viability of the proposal. This post will consider the proposal with a particular focus on whether the joint court could violate the Court of Justice’s stringent conditions for protecting the autonomy of the EU legal order. A comparison will be drawn to the similar proposals for an EEA court in the original EEA agreement, and the eventually established EFTA court. Finally, beyond the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, the post will move on to consider whether the idea of a joint national and European court could provide a solution to the problems that arise from the unique composite nature of the EU legal order. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: July 2017

Brussels Summer School on EU competition law

Brussels, 4-9 September 2017. (Paid) registration required.

Conference « Metamorphosis of the European Economic Constitution »

University of Luxembourg, 21-22 September 2017. Registration required.

Conference « Protecting European Union Values: Breaches of Article 2 TEU and Their Consequences »

University of Warsaw, 14-15 September 2017. (Free) registration required.

Seminar : « The EU FTAs : Do you really want to know ? A dialogue on transparency »

King’s College London, 14 July 2017. (Free) registration required.

Call for papers : Special issue on European Law

Utrecht Journal of International and European Law. Deadline for submissions : 25 August 2017.

Call for papers : Comparative Constitutional Law and Administrative Law Quarterly

Deadline for submissions : 1 September 2017.

Call for papers: European Data Protection Law Review 2017 Young Scholars Award

Deadline for submissions: 15 October 2017.