Next Generation EU: the empowerment of the Executive(s) and the weakening of the Legislator(s)? A national perspective

Pedro Petiz Viana (Master in Law and Informatics from UMinho / LL.M student in European Law at the University of Leiden). 

Von der Leyen: ‘A lot of work ahead of you…’

António Costa: ‘Now I can go to the bank?’

Von der Leyen: ‘You can go to the bank’

News Conference on the approval by the Commission of Portugal’s Recovery Plan, July 2021.

This dialogue summarizes the increased importance of the Commission stemming from Next Generation EU. In the first line, the Commission takes on its technocratic, ‘administrative-executive’ role, guiding the Member States in their path to economic reforms. In the remaining dialogue, the Commission assumes a more political role, as the guardian of the 750 billion euros vault: Von der Leyen, ‘cheque’ in hand, flying across the Union and holding various press conferences, showing the European public that the Commission is the symbol of European funds to come. Alongside the Commission, national governments have also been empowered by NextGenEU, having been tasked with drafting national recovery plans.

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Case C-817/21, Inspecția Judiciară. Compatibility of the organization of an authority competent to carry out the disciplinary investigation of judges, which is under the total control of a single person, with the rules of the rule of law

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 

The saga of requests for preliminary rulings by Romanian courts on the rule of law and the independence of judges continues, although, under pressure from the Romanian Constitutional Court’s decisions, ordinary judges have begun to refuse to apply European Union law. Failure to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court constitutes a disciplinary violation, a legislative solution that allows total disregard of the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, for fear of disciplinary action. A climate of fear among judges was created by disciplinary actions initiated without any reservations by the Judicial Inspection against the judge of the Pitești Court of Appeal who dared to apply the CJEU decision of 18 May 2021, but also the judges who proposed and/or referred to the CJEU in this case.

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Editorial of January 2022

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

Talking openly about the federative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU integration

Jean Monnet stated that Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises. Crisis is the natural condition of Europe, and, as in every crisis the EU has survived in recent times – be it the sovereign debt crisis, the migration crisis, or the identity crisis with Brexit – at the beginning of the health crisis the imminent collapse of the EU was again proclaimed. And oddly enough, or not, those who were most critical of the EU’s initial silence were the same ones who traditionally postulate the least possible integration[1].

However, the existential risk at this time was also sensed by politicians and academics unsuspicious of any Euroskepticism – such as Mario Monti, Jacques Delors or Giscard d’Estaing[2] – which made that historical moment especially unique. The public opinion in the various Member States called for concerted EU action in the area of public health, in accordance with its competencies under the TFEU [both shared competencies (Article 4/2/k) and the so-called complementary competencies (Article 6/a), both set out in Article 168 under the heading “public health”], in order to fight a virus that knew no borders, endangered the health and lives of citizens, and threatened to cause an economic crisis of unimaginable proportions, foreseeably more serious than the recession crisis of the 1930s.

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Summaries of judgments: Consorzio Italian Management e Catania Multiservizi and Catania Multiservizi| IS (Illégalité de l’ordonnance de renvoi)

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaire of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra and Sophie Perez)

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Judgment of the ECJ (Grand Chamber) of 6 October 2021,  Case C-561/19, Consorzio Italian Management and Catania Multiservizi,  EU:C:2021:799

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Article 267 TFEU – Scope of the obligation on national courts or tribunals of last instance to make a reference for a preliminary ruling – Exceptions to that obligation – Criteria – Question on the interpretation of EU law raised by the parties to the national proceedings after the Court has given a preliminary ruling in those proceedings – Failure to state the reasons justifying the need for an answer to the questions referred for a preliminary ruling – Partial inadmissibility of the request for a preliminary ruling

Facts

In proceedings between Consorzio Italian Management and Catania Multiservizi SpA, the successful tenderers for a public contract for cleaning services for the national railway infrastructure, and Rete Ferroviaria Italiana SpA, the Consiglio di Stato (Council of State, Italy) made a reference to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling. The ECJ delivered its judgment in 19 April 2018, Consorzio Italian Management and Catania Multiservizi (C‑152/17, EU:C:2018:264). However, the parties to those proceedings asked the Consiglio di Stato to refer other questions for a preliminary ruling.

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Holiday break

By Editorial Board 

Dear readers,

We will be taking a short 1-week break for holidays. We will resume our regular publishing schedule on 3 January 2022.

In the meantime, we are always open to receiving new academic contributions from our readers. If you have an innovative, dynamic, thoughtful piece that you believe would fit in this blog, feel free to send it to us at: unio.cedu@direito.uminho.pt.

If you would like to catch up on some reading on EU matters please check our news, commentsessaysreviews, and case law of the ECJ sections. Do not forget to subscribe to the blog by filling your email on the “FOLLOW THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF UNIO” section in the sidebar so you can be updated on all our latest posts.


Pictures credits: cocoparisienne

The national judge as judge of the Union (a view of the Judges’ Forum 2021 – CJEU)

Irene das Neves (Appeal Court Judge of the Northern Administrative Central Court - Tax Litigation Section), Dora Lucas Neto (Appeal Court Judge of the Southern Administrative Central Court - Administrative Litigation Section), and Isabel Silva (Judge of the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Braga - Tax Litigation)

The reference for a preliminary ruling, provided for in Article 19(3)(b) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), is a fundamental mechanism of EU law.[1] It is an “incident” within national proceedings that obliges the national judge to stay the proceedings because it is faced with the need to obtain a “preliminary” ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the interpretation of EU law or the validity of the acts of its bodies, institutions or agencies, with a view to the proper administration of justice within the EU. To that extent, the national courts playing the role of guardians of EU law, ensuring the effective and homogenous application of the law, and seeking to avoid divergent interpretations by the various courts of the Member States.

It was on this theme of the reference, focused on the reference for the interpretation of EU law, that the President of the CJEU, Koen Lenaerts, opened the 2021 Judges’ Forum, which was held at the CJEU from 21 to 23 November and brought together judges from the courts of first instance and the appeal courts of the Member States, recalling that the reference for a preliminary ruling is an instrument of judicial cooperation by means of which the national judge and the EU judge are called upon, within the scope of their respective powers, to contribute to a decision ensuring the uniform application of EU law by the Member States.

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Blockchain: a small introduction and a legal perspective

Catarina Ferreira (Master’s student in European Union Law at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

1. The blockchain technology

Blockchain is commonly known as the underlying technology used in Bitcoin. This “new” and revolutionary technology, whose roots are ancient, has been introduced (as we know it) in 2008 when Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoins’ white paper. In the white paper, Nakamoto presented a decentralized payment model based on cryptography and using blockchain technology. This idea would allow a move forward from the traditional model, based on trust and relying on an impartial third, and achieving currency decentralization (being possible to perform direct transactions between two parts).

It cannot be denied that blockchain is a new paradigm, a new information technology with tiered technical levels and multiple applications for any form of asset[1], going beyond the financial sector. Nowadays, blockchain’s impacts are being compared to the ones that followed the development of the Internet. So, understanding what is blockchain and the ideology behind it, is a requirement for those who want to apply the law without damaging the technology.

Before clarifying what blockchain is, it should be noticed that since Bitcoin’s blockchain many others have arisen. Nonetheless, there are commonalities between all blockchains, and in this work, we’ll be discussing all those commonalities and not a specific blockchain. 

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Evaluating the legal admissibility of data transfers from the EU to the USA

Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and João Marques (Lawyer, former member of Portuguese Data Protection Supervisory Authority)

1. The feud between Maximillian Schrems and the Irish Data Protection Supervisory Authority (Data Protection Commission – DPC), with Facebook always lingering in, has been detrimental to frame the legality of data flows from the European Union (EU) to the United States of America (USA), but also to any third country that replicates the shortcomings relating to the inexistence of a “level of protection essentially equivalent to that guaranteed within the European Union (…), read in the light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union” [in the words of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)].[1]

2. The sole action of one man has brought down two different and sequential “transfer tools”, created in tandem by both the European Commission (EC) and the United States’ Government. In case C-362/14 the CJEU declared the Safe Harbour decision (Commission Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000) invalid, as the Court found that the USA’s legislation did not offer an essentially equivalent level of protection to that of the EU, also reminding all Data Protection Supervisory Authorities that their work is never done and that it is, in fact, upon their shoulders the task and the responsibility to constantly monitor if any given third country complies and remains compliant with the need to offer such an equivalency.

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Editorial of December 2021

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

AI systems and automated inferences – on the protection of inferred personal data

On 23 November 2021 the European Commission published the consultation results on a set of digital rights and principles to promote and uphold EU values in the digital space – which ran between 12 May and 6 September 2021.[1] This public consultation on digital principles is a key deliverable of the preparatory work for the upcoming “Declaration on digital rights and principles for the Digital Decade”, which European Commission will announce by the end of 2021. The consultation invited all interested people to share their views on the formulation of digital principles in 9 areas: i) universal access to internet services; ii) universal digital education and skills for people to take an active part in society and in democratic processes; iii) accessible and human-centric digital public services and administration; iv) access to digital health services; v) an open, secure and trusted online environment; vi) protecting and empowering children and young people in the online space; vii) a European digital identity; viii) access to digital devices, systems and services that respect the climate and environment; ix) ethical principles for human-centric algorithms.  

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Directive 2020/1828: a new era for “European class actions”?

Diego Agulló Agulló – Assistant Professor of Private International Law – Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid, Spain) 

1. Introduction

Consumer protection is a pillar of the regulatory strategy of the European Union legislator. In this context, one of the issues that has been debated for many years is the possibility of introducing representative actions for consumer protection, a European version of American class actions, in the different Member States. The goal of this legal transplant is, on the one hand, to favor access to justice for consumers in scenarios of mass damages and, on the other hand, to deter future wrongdoings harmful to consumers by companies operating in the European Union.

Since the publication in 2008 of the White Paper on damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules, many legislative instruments of different types have been published within the European Union in the field of consumer collective protection. Also in 2008, the Green Paper on consumer collective redress and, a year later, Directive 2009/22/EC — the latter marking a turning point in the European regulatory framework for collective redress– stand out. Directive 2009/22/EC urges Member States to ensure the implementation in their respective legal systems of actions for injunctions for acts of non-compliance with EU law that harm consumers. Mention should also be made of the Commission’s important Recommendation on Common Principles applicable to collective injunctions or redress mechanisms in the Member States in the event of infringement of rights recognized by European Union law.

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