Migration crisis in the European Union: a factual reflection

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 by Teresa Alves, member of CEDU

The migration crisis in European Union brings the necessity to reflect its own existence, implying the identification of its origin, i.e., the facts that may justify its emergence. This asks for a spatial and temporal localization and for a contextualization. The challenge in this article is to make a factual reflection to understand the essence of the crisis and consequently its implications in the human rights field as the EU and its Member States are bound to them.

The migration crisis remains and, from my point of view, is, on one hand, reflection of a common European policy in the asylum field, whose configuration always showed controversial aspects. It wasn’t ready, ab initio, to deal with a massive influx of applicants for international protection. On other hand, we are also talking about a crisis of solidarity because the Member States showed that they are not able to find a common approach, to respect the measures adopted by the institutions of the Union and to cooperate with the Member States more desired by the migrants and applicants of international protection. Article 67(2), of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), binds the “common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control” to the “solidarity between Member States” and to be “fair towards third-country nationals” (stateless persons shall be treated as third-country nationals). Fulfilling this precept, Article 80 determines that this policy is governed by the solidarity principle and by the share of the responsibilities between Member States, including in the financial plan, and if necessary, the acts adopted by the EU in executing it policy “shall contain appropriate measures to give effect to this principle”.

The way that Member States and EU are managing the actual migratory context show their lack of preparation. However, the possibility of tens of thousands of refugees and immigrants to reach the coast of Europe was expected, “the official reports of Frontex and the United Nations agencies told it openly”[i].

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Competition law and tofu – the denomination of products

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 by Filipa Afonseca, member of CEDU

Competition law does not have a strict goal that is objectively qualifiable and quantifiable. This is an old debate, but it has subtly brought new life to the discussion about the functions of competition law. So, what does it have to do with veganism and vegetarianism? Everything, as shown by the Tofu Town’s ruling of the CJEU, Case C-422/16, of 14th June 2017.

The issue was that the 100% plant-based products of Tofu Town were marketed under the denomination of “milk”, “yoghurt” or “cheese”. The Court of Justice ruled favorably on the German company Verband’s argument that such expressions are reserved for products of animal origin, so that even an auxiliary expression such as “oat milk” or “soy yoghurt” would not exempt the risk of consumer confusion. According to the Court, consumers’ expectations could be affected as well as concluding that the proper identification of a product is a form of fair competition in the European Union.

In fact, this argument is not new. It reminds us of the well-known distinction of whisky and wine in the Port Charlotte case, in which the Court stated that white Oport wine does not run the risk of being confused with whiskey.

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Sitchting Brein v. Ziggo BV and XS4ALL Internet BV – after all the The Pirate Bay does communicate to the public

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by Ana Margarida Pereira, lawyer at CCM and member of CEDU

The concept of ‘communication to the public’ within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society has been much discussed by the Court of Justice[i]. One of the most recent developments, and in my opinion the one which has the most impact in the information society, is the Case C-610/15, Sitchting Brein v. Ziggo BV and XS4ALL Internet BV.

The Court decided that making available and managing on the internet a sharing platform which by means of indexation of metadata relating to protected works and the provision of a search engine allows users of that platform to locate those works and to share them in the context of a peer-to-peer network constitutes a ‘communication to the public’, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC.
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A Union based on the rule of law beyond the scope of EU law – the guarantees essential to judicial independence in Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor 
 and Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor


On 27 February 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgment in the Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses case (C-64/16), a judgment which, for its relevance for effective judicial protection and the rule of law in the EU, is already compared with Les Verts (here).

At the origin of the request for a preliminary ruling is a special administrative action brought before the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo (Supreme Administrative Court, Portugal) seeking the annulment of salary-reduction (administrative) measures of the judges of the Tribunal de Contas (Court of Auditors, Portugal). These measures were adopted on the basis of a Portuguese law of 2014 putting in place mechanisms for the temporary reduction of remuneration (and the conditions governing their reversibility) of a series of office holders and employees performing duties in the public sector, including members of the judiciary. As the Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe pointed out (here), the ECJ was in essence asked to “determine whether there is a general principle of EU law that the authorities of the Member States are required to respect the independence of the national judges and, more particularly – in the light of the circumstances of the main proceedings – to maintain their remuneration at a constant level that is sufficient for them to be able to perform their duties freely.”

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Editorial of April 2018

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 by Joana Whyte, Associate Lawyer at SRS Advogados and member of CEDU


Fashionistas rejoice, it’s the end of Geo-Blocking!

In a vote of 557 for and 89 against, Regulation 2018/302 of the European Parliament and the Council of 28 February 2018, which addresses unjustified geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market, was approved. The new set of rules will apply from December 2018.

The end of Geo-Blocking has been a priority for the EU in the creation of a digital single market. This Regulation aims to address unjustified geo-blocking by removing certain barriers to the functioning of the internal market.

This is good news not only for fashion consumers but also for consumers of other services/ industries. The new set of rules also applies to the offline provision of services by hotels and car rental companies and the online sale of event tickets, as well as to the provision of electronic services (cloud services, data storage, website management).

Put simply, Geo-blocking is the practice that prevents consumers in one Member State from buying a good or service sold online in another Member State. This practice has been harming fashion consumers by preventing them from purchasing from websites and apps from other Member States and also by the application of different general conditions of access to goods and services to customers from other Member States – e.g. refusal to deliver abroad, to accept payment, rerouting and website access blocks.
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Insular regionalism and its presence on the European federative model: island regions and their autonomic role and challenges on the European construction

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 by Rui Vieira, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

The European integration, from its early stages, has always been seen as a federative construction with its supranational elements being seen as a result of the reshaping of the traditional notion of the nation State. In fact the idea of a European Federation was one of the inspirational ideas of the Schuman Declaration of 9th May of 1950, although it has always been a sensitive issue since then. In any case, throughout the last centuries, there has been an increase of federative forms of political structuring, the largest and most populated States in the planet have some form of federative arrangement. Nowadays, nearly 80% of the world’s population is living in countries with some forms of federal commitment[i].

Some view the European integration as a supranational entity shaped by the agglomeration of its continental nation States, a peculiar form of a federative State, similar to the idea of a United (Nation-)States of Europe. However, despite this view of a macro-political entity has always been insufficient and too limited to address all the Post-Modern socio-political transformations. The European construction did not have only supranational repercussions, but also infra-national effects with the recent uprising of regionalism, decentralization and autonomic pretentions and forms of political structuration.

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The evolution of European agencies’ competences in civil aviation

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 by José Ricardo Sousa, member of CEDU

Over the last years, the European Union (EU) has dealt with a structural metamorphosis to face the new contemporary challenges, together with the will to continue the idea of Europe conceived by Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer or Altiero Spinelli. This situation can be seen pretty well on the economic area, where interactions between EU institutions and Member States (MS) have been rising in the last decades in order to accomplish the economic goals set for both parties and to protect and to ensure the EU single market.

The process of agencification established in the late 90’s of the previous century by Romano Prodi, former President of the EC, is a good example of Governance and Multi-Level Administration inside EU. The so-called “Prodi Reform” began as a response to the polemic involved with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) disease that showed how inefficient EU’s role were in supervise all economic sections and guarantee the high-standard of security for all goods that were produced and sold to all EU citizens, due to the overload of workings. Moreover, the foreseen EU enlargement to the East was seen as another reasonable motive to reform all the European Commission (EC) workings. So, EC, as the EU institution responsible for safeguarding the principles and rules of the EU Treaties, has the duty to assess (together with DG Comp) the single European market and to evaluate cases that are incompatible with provisions of the Treaties, as well as other legislative acts emanating from it, as set out in Article 17(1) TEU. For that reason, EC felt the need to decentralise its competences and sub-delegate some of the powers to non-democratic bodies which carries out all tasks needed to accomplish the proposed objectives, such as regulatory power, inspective powers, inter alia.
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The EU and the challenges of the digital economy

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 by Iva Guterres, PhD student at the University of Leeds

In 1995 Don Tapscotts coined the term Digital Economy in his book, “The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence”. At the time, he was far for imagining just how the future would be dictated by the internet and technological development (then still in its infancy). In the meantime, the internet has become a huge part of the global economy.  Tapscotts’ book established the connection between the internet and the way economic models would change the way business was done and seen from there onwards.

At the beginning of the 1990s one major question rose on the legal landscape. What would the challenges be for global e-commerce and the tax rules or even global digital taxation? In 1996, David Tillinghast[i] wrote an article in which he questioned how traditional tax rules or policies would react to cross-border e-commerce.

Since then, history has witnessed radical changes in society and in the economy, which took Klaus Schwas, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, to write the book, “The fourth Industrial Revolution in 2016”.

In recent years, the EU and the OECD have been keeping an eye on business activities, especially since 2013, through the BEPS project (The Base Erosion and Profit Shifting). This was motivated by the behaviour of multinationals attempting to avoid paying tax in their home countries by taking their businesses abroad to low and no-tax jurisdictions. This generated practices and behaviors of schemes indicting aggressive fiscal planning.
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Editorial of March 2018

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 by Tiago Cabral, member of CEDU

Homeopathic Democracy: The European Power Struggle over the Spitzenkandidaten

1. According to article 17(7), TEU “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members”. There are several issues in this article, some of them we even had the opportunity to discuss before.

2. In fact, when talking about the President of the European Commission (EC) it is quite a stretch to state that there is an “election” by the European Parliament (EP). Politically inspired wording notwithstanding, the truth is that the European Council (ECON) holds most of the cards in the selection of EC’s President and the balance of power tends to favour this institution. There are also some notorious similarities between the position of the EP in relation to the ECON in the selection of the President of the EC and the position of the EP in relation to the Council in the consent legislative procedure. While it is possible to argue that there is an “indirectly-indirect election”[i], we believe that it would be more accurate to state that the Parliament approves and has veto power over the ECON’s choice.

3. However, the 2014 elections to the EP brought with them a rather interesting innovation: the Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidate). This procedure aims to give “direct” or at least “quasi-direct” democratic legitimacy to the President of the EC by tying the nomination to the EP’s elections. First the political parties choose their leading candidate, then the people vote, then the ECON and EP obey their will by confirming candidate chosen by the citizens[ii]. There is some debate on who should be nominated by the ECON and approved by the EP, the candidate from the party who won the most seats in the elections or the candidate from the coalition best placed to guarantee a passing majority. Under the current Spitzenkandidaten rules the second choice seems to make the most sense. Nevertheless, it seems likely that in the current European political climate the candidate from the biggest party will also be the best positioned to achieve a solid majority.
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The EU and the adoption of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): heading towards a vetocracy?

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 by Francisco Pereira Coutinho, Professor at the NOVA Law School, UNL

Few would disagree that signing free trade agreements (FTAs) is one of the raisons d ´être of the European Union (EU). As the United Kingdom will probably discover after leaving the EU, the bargaining power of a State, even a member of the G8, is far inferior to that of the world largest economy, which is also the one that most imports, exports, receives and sends foreign direct investment. Ever since the Rome Treaty (1957) granted ius tractum to the European Economic Community, dozens of FTAs were adopted. The latter are pivotal to the European economy: around 31 million employments in the EU (1/7 of the total) depend, direct or indirectly, from the external trade.

The Lisbon Treaty broadened the legal capacity of the EU to adopt ‘new generation’ FTAs, which are trade agreements which contains, in addition to the classical provisions on the reduction of customs duties and of non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services, provisions on various matters related to trade, such as intellectual property protection, investment, public procurement, competition and sustainable development (ECJ, Opinion 2/15, para. 17).

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a ´new generation’ bilateral FTA that was signed on 30 October 2016 between Canada, of one part, and the EU and the Member States, of the other part. It is expected to increase EU-Canada trade in goods and services by 23% and boost EU GDP by about €12 billion a year.
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