Duty to give reasons under EU procurement law and EU trademark law: is there a contradiction?

Even if they may seem two – rather disconnected – areas of legal practice, reading cases on EU public procurement and on EU trademark law sometimes offers interesting insights into broader issues of EU economic law or, more generally, EU law. For instance, some recent case law on the duty to provide reasons under each of the specific adminsitrative procedures that govern contract tendering and trademark registration shows what, in my view, is rather a contradiction.

On the one hand, and as commented recently here, the General Court issued his Judgment in Sviluppo Globale GEIE v Commission where it imposed a very demanding standard for the duty to give reasons in procurement cases.Continue reading

Kiobel and the Commission

As readers may know, the hot topic in many international law circles this past week was the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. case currently under consideration by the US Supreme Court. On October 1, the Supreme Court heard a second round of arguments in the case specifically concerning the issue of the extraterritoriality of the US Alien Tort Statue (ATS). While this case primarily involves US and international law, EU lawyers may be interested to know that the European Commission submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court. The brief, which is a fascinating read for anyone interested in EU foreign policy, details the EU’s position on the extraterritoriality issue. In short, it argues that (1) the US should exercise universal civil jurisdiction only in cases for which universal criminal jurisdiction would apply, and that (2) the ATS should include an exhaustion requirement.

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German Constitutional Court on the ratification of the ESM Treaty and of the Fiscal Compact

On the 12th September 2012, the German Constitutional Court issued its much-expected third judgment on the constitutionality of measures that have been taken at the level of European and international law in response to the ongoing sovereign debt crises in the Eurozone and the crisis of the currency union that resulted thereof.

Although the decision as such bears nothing revolutionary, the interesting issues of this case lay in its details, particularly the parts of the decision regarding the representation of the German parliament in the ESM and the lack of termination clauses in both treaties. This is why I am going to do a rather detailed summary of the applicants’ arguments, of the government’s opinion and the court decision first and only comment on the case in the second part of this entry.

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Risk of anti-competitive collusion after excessive level of transparency in public procurement debriefing?

In its Judgment of 4 October 2012 in case C‑629/11 P Evropaïki Dynamiki v Commission (ESP-ISEP), the Court of Justice has issued another interesting decision on what should be considered sufficient debriefing of disappointed bidders in public procurement procedures.

The Evropaïki Dynamiki (ESP-ISEP) Judgment has been issued on the basis of Article 100(2) of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities (OJ 2002 L 248, p. 1) (‘the Financial Regulation’). However, a ‘twin’ provision can be found in Article 41 of  Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts (OJ 2004 L 134, p. 114) (‘Directive 2004/18’). Consequently, the Judgment is of relevance in all areas of public procurement, and not only to that of the EU Institutions.

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The Court of Justice on religious persecution: no need to hide!

About a month ago, the Court of Justice made a long-awaited judgment in cases Y and Z. The judgment is particularly important for EU asylum law. The applicants in the main proceedings were Pakistani nationals who applied for asylum in Germany on religious grounds. They stated that because they exercised their faith as members of the Ahmadiyyah (a minority community), they would face prosecution and possible detention and therefore should be recognized as refugees. The German Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) decided to refer questions to the Court of Justice, which it asked to set out the circumstances in which an infringement of the freedom of religion may constitute an ‘act of persecution’ sufficient to grant refugee status within the meaning of Directive 2004/83/EC. This Directive seeks to establish minimum standards and common criteria for all Member States regarding the recognition of asylum seekers as refugees within the meaning of Article 1 of the Refugee Convention.

First of all, it should be noted that in international asylum law it is commonly assumed that not all human rights violations amount to acts of persecution in the sense of the Refugee Convention, but only those that are perceived as risks to the life and being of a person (for example when a person risks death or torture because of his or her political opinion). This is the main reason why this is a huge judgment in the field of asylum law: it goes into the concept of persecution, and the role that human rights play in defining the refugee.

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A Burning Desire to Clarify(?) the Law for Public Undertakings: The Judgment in Greek Lignite (Case T-169/08)

The General Court has finally handed down the judgment in the Greek Lignite (brown coal) case. This is a long-running case resulting from a complaint (dating from 2003) concerning the exploitation of lignite in Greece. As it happens, lignite is the most abundant fuel in Greece, and access to lignite is essential for the production of (relatively) cheap electricity. Greek lignite reserves amount to approximately 4 million tonnes of which about half can be exploited by DEI, the Greek Public Power Company. No such rights have been assigned for the remaining 50% of the lignite reserves, and DEI operates all power plants in Greece that use lignite. The Commission found the exclusive rights for lignite contrary to Article 106(1) in connection with 102 TFEU in what is a broad and teleological reading of the Court’s jurisprudence in this field. The General Court, however, has a rather different reading of this case law, resulting in annulment of the Commission Decision.

Because Greece has liberalised its electricity market, all companies intending to supply electricity to the Greek wholesale market must hand in daily  price-quantity offers. By examining these offers along with the forecast demand for electricity, the network operator determines the amount of electricity needed to meet demand. This electricity is then fed into the grid. Renewable electricity receives first priority, following which conventional electricity producers get to feed their electricity into the grid, with the cheapest offer coming first and the rest following in the order of their ascending prices. The price-quantity offer quoted by the last production unit to feed into the grid will determine the market price.  In these circumstances, having access to lignite as a fuel for electricity production is required for the production of cheap electricity, which in turn is required to ensure that this electricity will actually be sold on the market.

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The diversion of the Acheloos river under EU environmental law

The CJEU handed down an important judgment two weeks ago on EU water policy which concerns a number of interesting definitional issues as well as the more general issue of legal effects of directives prior to their transposition deadline. The case concerned a preliminary reference from a Greek court in legal proceedings between the central Greek government and local authorities on the diversion of the river Acheloos in the north-west of Greece.

 Authorities and local environmental groups have been fighting each other for over 20 (!) years concerning this diversion project, with those in favour of the diversion at the losing side (I call upon our Greek readers to share with us any information on what on earth is going on there).

Anyway, in the current legal proceedings the question arose whether the government measures leading to the partial diversion of the Acheloos river for water supply and electricity generation purposes was in conformity with a number of EU directives on water policy. The judgment is way too extensive to deal with in a single blog post, so I would like to discuss two aspects of the judgment:

  • The legal effect of directive 2000/60 before the transposition period has expired (the Inter-Environment Wallonie doctrine);
  • The definition of ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’ in article 6 (4) of Directive 92/43 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

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T-154/10: GC backs the Commission in finding “bankruptcy-proofness” as a (new) source of (illegal) State aid

In its Judgment of 20 September 2012 in case T‑154/10 French Republic vs. European Commission, the General Court of the EU (GC) has established a new test of “bankruptcy-proofness” as an advantage contrary to Article 107(1) TFEU that may generate a significant shake up in the control of State aid granted (implicitly) to establishments of an industrial and commercial character (EICC, or EPIC in their French acronym)–ie legal entities governed by public law which have distinct legal personality from the State, financial independence and certain special powers, including the performance of one or more public service tasks.

 In a nutshell, the controversy concerned the Commission’s position that there is (illegal) State aid where the legal form and status of EICCs shield them from general rules on bankruptcy and winding up under the relevant national legislation (in the case, French law). Indeed, in the view of the Commission as summarised by the GC,

 [the EICC concerned (La Poste)] was not subject to the ordinary law rules governing the administration and winding-up of firms in difficulty and that, according to point 1.2, second paragraph, fourth indent of the 2008 Notice [on the application of Articles 87 [EC] and 88 [EC] to State aid in the form of guarantees (OJ 2008 C 155, p. 10)], there is aid in the form of a guarantee where more favourable credit terms are obtained by undertakings whose legal status rules out bankruptcy or other insolvency procedures (T-154/10, at para. 23, emphasis added).

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