Category: Fundamental rights

The EU Single Market Information Tool: The European Commission’s new investigative power in 2018

By Gianni De Stefano and Jaime Rodríguez-Toquero

The European Commission is about to gain a new investigative power through the Single Market Information Tool (SMIT).  The SMIT will allow the Commission to request information (including factual market data or fact-based analysis) from private firms or trade associations when the Commission initiates or substantiates infringement proceedings against one or more Member State(s) that may have failed to fulfil an obligation under the applicable Single Market legislation.  This post will discuss the background of the SMIT, its purported rationale, and critically reflect on the powers granted to the Commission under the SMIT.

The Commission is at pains to clarify that the SMIT initiative does not aim to create new enforcement powers allowing it to pursue infringements of Union law in the Single Market area against individual market participants.  That said, the Single Market rules can be infringed by either Member States or private companies.  Therefore, companies responding to such information requests will not only incur administrative and financial burdens, but they will also have to be careful not to incriminate themselves in doing so, as we will see below.

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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.

PNR Agreements between Fundamental Rights and National Security: Opinion 1/15

By Arianna Vedaschi and Chiara Graziani

On July 26, 2017, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued Opinion 1/15 (the Opinion of the Advocate General on this case had been discussed previously in this blog, part I and part II) pursuant to Article 218(11) TFEU on the draft agreement between Canada and the European Union (EU) dealing with the Transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data from the EU to Canada. The draft agreement was referred to the ECJ by the European Parliament (EP) on January 30, 2015. The envisaged agreement would regulate the exchange and processing of PNR data – which reveals passengers’ personal information, itinerary, travel preferences and habits – between the EU and Canada. The adoption of the agreement is crucial because, according to Article 25 of Directive 95/46/EC as interpreted in the Schrems decision (commented here), the transfer of data to a third country (discussed here) is possible only if such country ensures an “adequate level of protection.” This standard can be testified by an “adequacy decision” of the European Commission or, alternatively, by international commitments in place between non-EU countries and the EU – as the one examined by the ECJ in this Opinion.

Not surprisingly, the leitmotiv of the Court’s Opinion is the challenging balance between liberty and security. Maintaining a realistic perspective, the Court considered mass surveillance tolerable at least in theory, because it is a necessary and useful tool for the prevention of terrorism. Yet, it insisted that there should be very strict rules as to the concrete implementation of such surveillance. For this reason, it found some provisions of the draft agreement incompatible with Articles 7 (privacy) and 8 (data protection), in conjunction with Article 52 (principle of proportionality) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU).

As a result, the agreement cannot be adopted in the current form and the EU institutions will have to renegotiate it with Canada. For sure, this renegotiation will prove to be challenging. Nevertheless, as the analysis below will show, the Luxembourg judges, by addressing particularly technical issues of the agreement, provided a detailed set of guidelines that, if respected, would ideally preserve fundamental rights – in this case, the right to privacy and to data protection – without undermining public security. Through a smooth and refined reasoning, the Court’s decision indeed suggests potential solutions to amend the draft agreement in a way that is compliant with the CFREU and, ultimately, the rule of law. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: December 2017

Conference “Constitutional Challenges in the EMU: the New Instruments of European Economic Governance”

Brussels, 29-30 March 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 January 2018.

International Electoral Observers Training

European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation, Venice, 19-24 March 2018. Deadline for registration: 15 February 2018.

Conference “Economic Constitutionalism: Mapping its Contours in European and Global Governance”

European University Institute, 14-15 June 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 28 February 2018.

Conference “Upgrading Trade and Services in EU and International Economic Law”

Radboud University, Nijmegen, 15 June 2018. Deadline for abstract submissions: 16 March 2018.

Call for papers: Utrecht Journal of International and European Law

Deadline for submissions: 9 April 2018.

The Global Fight against Impunity and the European Court of Justice: A New Approach to Tax Fraud as a Crime against Human Rights

by Giuliana Ziccardi Capaldo

Introduction

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

A Way Out for the ECJ in Taricco II: Constitutional Identity or a More Careful Proportionality Analysis?

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

Two instruments but a difficult relationship? Some upcoming decisions of the CJEU on the ne bis in idem

By Michele Simonato

The principle of the ne bis in idem in criminal matters (i.e. the right not to be prosecuted or punished twice for the same criminal conduct) is a key safeguard against arbitrary use of the ius puniendi. Furthermore, it offers an interesting perspective from which we can observe the development of an area of freedom, security and justice in Europe, and how the relationships between the two main European human rights instruments – the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (‘CFREU’) and the European Convention of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) and the related case law emanating from the courts of Luxembourg and Strasbourg – are evolving. Indeed, the way in which the CJEU will answer in the near future the questions that are submitted to it in several pending cases (see cases C-524/15, Menci; C-537/16, Garlsson et al.; C-596/16 and C-597/16, Di Puma) might have a ‘constitutional’ impact that goes well beyond the ne bis in idem principle. This post will take a closer look at some of these pending questions. Continue reading

Brexit, Fundamental Rights And The Future Of Judicial And Police Cooperation

By Cristina Saenz Perez

The future of EU-UK judicial cooperation in criminal matters is far from certain. In her Florence speech, Theresa May affirmed that one of the goals of the UK government was to establish a “comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation” after Brexit. In the government’s ‘Future Partnership Paper’, the government also expressed the need of concluding a separate agreement that guarantees the future of cooperation in police and security matters between the UK and the EU. Despite all the efforts, the latest decisions have shown how difficult an agreement in this area will be. Continue reading

Third country law in the CJEU’s data protection judgments

By Christopher Kuner

Introduction

Much discussion of foreign law in the work of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has focused on how it deals with the rules, principles, and traditions of the EU member states. However, in its data protection judgments a different type of situation involving foreign law is increasingly arising, namely cases where the Court needs to evaluate the law of third countries in order to answer questions of EU law.

This is illustrated by its judgment in Schrems (Case C-362/14; previously discussed on this blog, as well as here), and by Opinion 1/15 (also discussed on this blog, part I and part II), a case currently before the CJEU in which the judgment is scheduled to be issued on 26 July. While these two cases deal with data protection law, the questions they raise are also relevant for other areas of EU law where issues of third country law may arise. The way the Court deals with third country law in the context of its data protection judgments illustrates how interpretation of EU law sometimes involves the evaluation of foreign legal systems, despite the Court’s reluctance to admit this. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: June 2017

Call for papers “The Process of European Integration between Limits and Antinomies: Citizenship, Immigration and National Identities”

Review “Freedom, Security & Justice: European Legal Studies”. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 June 2017.

Call for expressions of interest – Members of the Scientific Committee of the Fundamental Rights Agency

Vienna. Deadline for applications: 7 July 2017.

Workshop on “Current and Future Challenges of EU Agencification”

Brussels, 20 September 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 7 July 2017.

EJLS 10th Anniversary Conference Call for Papers “60 Years of European Integration: Reflections from Young Legal Scholars”

European University Institute, 16 November 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 July 2017.

Call for submissions “Trade, Law and Development”

Deadline for submissions: 20 September 2017.

Cautious Openness: the Spanish Constitutional Court’s approach to EU law in recent national case law

By Mario García

In recent months, the Spanish Constitutional Court (SCC) has issued a series of decisions related to EU law that show an interesting combination of both openness toward the European legal order and a certain degree of apprehension to the growing role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in constitutional matters. In these cases the SCC has arrived at fairly pro-EU results: the SCC decided that preliminary references from Spanish courts to the CJEU take precedence over constitutional questions submitted to the SCC, and that a non-transposed, directly-effective EU Directive can be taken as a factor in the interpretation of a constitutional provision. But, as discussed below, the details subtly suggest that the SCC does not fully agree with the ways in which the CJEU has asserted its institutional position, and prefers to avoid potential conflicts in the future. Continue reading

Case C-133/15 Chávez-Vílchez and Others – Taking EU Children’s Rights Seriously

By Maria Haag

Can the Netherlands deny a third-country national (TCN), who is the primary carer of Dutch children, the right to reside? Two weeks ago, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held in Chávez-Vílchez and Others that under EU law it cannot. In this important Grand Chamber decision, the CJEU has reaffirmed and expanded its landmark Ruiz Zambrano decision. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: April 2017

Conference “Le droit pénal et la procédure pénale face aux défis de la société numérique”

University of Liège, 28 April 2017. Deadline for (partly paid) registration: 27 April 2017.

Call for papers “First EU Business Law Forum – The Influence and Effects of EU Business Law in the Western Balkans”

Széchenyi István University, 15-16 June 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 4 May 2017.

Call for papers “International Society for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy World Congress – Peace Based on Human Rights”

Lisbon, 16-21 July 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 May 2017.

Achbita v G4S: Religious Equality Squeezed between Profit and Prejudice

By Gareth Davies

And below: Bougnaoui v Micropole: Mildly Surreal Thoughts on Competence and Clothes (particularly when worn by women)

The two cases were decided on the same day by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice. Although they both concern essentially the same fact set – a firm wishing to dismiss an employee who insists on wearing an Islamic headscarf – the questions referred were different, and the substantive discussion is found in Achbita. Bougnaoui, briefly noted at the end of this blog, addresses just one, odd, point: the Court confirmed that the fact that a Muslim woman wears a headscarf does not make her incapable of doing her work. That is little comfort though – since Achbita decided that she can probably be dismissed anyway.

Achbita

In Achbita v G4S the Court of Justice was asked whether a private firm could prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves by employees who dealt with customers, or whether this violated the ban on religious discrimination in the workplace, found in Directive 2000/78. The claimant, Ms Achbita, worked as a receptionist for G4S in Belgium. When she began wearing a headscarf she was warned that it was against company policy, which disallowed all religious, political or philosophical signs in the workplace. When she continued, she was dismissed.

The Court found that under the right circumstances a company might be entitled to have a policy of this sort. One condition was that the policy must be in writing – in the interests of certainty and clarity. Another condition was that it must apply without distinction to all beliefs. 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).

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Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: March 2017

Doctoral Workshop “The EU as a Global Actor in …”

University of Geneva, 6-7 July 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 27 March 2017.

Conference “Article 7 TEU, the EU Rule of Law Framework and EU Values: Powers, Procedures, Implications”

University of Warsaw, 13-15 September 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 30 April 2017.

Conference “Economic Evidence in Competition Law and the Future of the ‘More Economic Approach’”

University College London, 12 May 2017. Deadline for registration: 10 May 2017.

Call for Papers “Comparative Constitutional Law and Administrative  Law Quarterly”

Deadline for submissions: 10 May 2017.

Summer School on EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy

Brussels, 3-14 July 2017. Deadline for applications: 10 June 2017.

Summer School “People on the Move in an Evolving Europe – EU Law and Policy on Mobility, Migration and Asylum”

University of Fribourg, 21-25 August 2017. Deadline for applications: 15 April.

CJEU Case C-638/16 PPU, X and X – Dashed hopes for a legal pathway to Europe

By Margarite Zoeteweij-Turhan and Sarah Progin-Theuerkauf 

On 7 March 2017, the CJEU announced its judgement in case C-638/16 PPU (X and X / Belgium) and dashed all hopes for an extensive interpretation of the EU Visa Code in the light of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. To summarize the facts of the case, X and X and their three small children are an Orthodox Christian family living in rebel-held Aleppo. In October 2016 X leaves Aleppo to apply for a visa with limited territorial validity ex Article 25(1) of the EU Visa Code at the Belgian embassy in Beirut (Lebanon). The application states that the aim of entry into Belgium is to apply for asylum. X returns to his family in Aleppo immediately after lodging the application. Less than a week later, they are served with a negative decision from the Belgian authorities, against which they appeal. The court of appeal refers the case to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 25 of the Visa Code. In its rather short judgment the CJEU determines, contrary to what AG Mengozzi (see detailed analyses of this Opinion here and also here) argued with regard to this case, that the applications of X and X fall outside the scope of the EU Visa Code, even if they were formally submitted on its basis. Continue reading

Neues aus dem Elfenbeinturm: February 2017

Workshop Series “Current Issues in EU External Relations”

University of Luxembourg, 31 March/19 May/29 May 2017. Deadline for proposal submissions: 6 March 2017.

Conference “Comparative Public Law in Europe – Opportunities and Challenges”

University of Essex, 14 March 2017. Deadline for (free) registration: 10 March 2017.

Radboud Economic Law International Conference “Digital Markets in the EU”

Radboud University, 9 June 2017. Deadline for abstract submissions: 24 March 2017.

Summer Schools “Venice Academy of Human Rights – Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as an Answer to Rising Inequalities” and  “Venice School of Human Rights – Human Rights as Our Responsibility”

EIUC Venice, 3-12 July and 9-17 June 2017, respectively. Deadline for applications: 19/27 April 2017.

AG Mengozzi’s Opinion On Granting Visas to Syrians From Aleppo: Wishful thinking?

By Margarite Zoeteweij-Turhan and Sarah Progin-Theuerkauf 

Introduction

The opinion of AG Mengozzi in the case of X and X v. Belgium, so far only available in French, has created quite a stir throughout the European Union. In a nutshell, the AG found that, when third country nationals apply for a visa with limited territorial validity (‘LTV’) under Article 25 of the Visa Code with the aim of applying for international protection once they have arrived in a Member State’s territory, the Member State’s immigration authority should take the circumstances of the applicant into account and assess whether a refusal would lead to an infringement of the applicant’s rights as protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Although the AG makes an effort to cover all the arguments brought up by the parties, this blogpost focuses mainly on the issues directly related to the margin of discretion left to the Member States by Article 25(1) of the Visa Code. Continue reading

Tele2 Sverige AB and Watson et al: Continuity and Radical Change

By Orla Lynskey

Introduction

The CJEU delivered its judgment in Tele2 Sverige AB and Watson on 21 December 2016. The Court had been asked by a Swedish and British court respectively to consider the scope and effect of its previous judgment in Digital Rights Ireland (discussed here). The judgment reflects continuity in so far as it follows in the line of this, and earlier judgments taking a strong stance on data protection and privacy. Yet, the degree of protection it offers these rights over competing interests, notably security, is radical. In particular, the Court unequivocally states that legislation providing for general and indiscriminate data retention is incompatible with the E-Privacy Directive, as read in light of the relevant EU Charter rights. While the judgment was delivered in the context of the E-Privacy Directive, the Court’s reasoning could equally apply to other EU secondary legislation or programmes interpreted in light of the Charter. This judgment will be a game-changer for state surveillance in Europe and while it offered an early Christmas gift to privacy campaigners, it is likely to receive a very mixed reaction from EU Member States as such. While national data retention legislation has been annulled across multiple Member States (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Germany and Romania), this annulment has been based on an assessment of the proportionality of the relevant measures rather than on a finding that blanket retention is per se unlawful. For those familiar with the facts and findings, skip straight to the comment below. Continue reading