Summaries of judgments

 

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaires of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra, Mariana Tavares and Sophie Perez)
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Judgment of the Court (Fourth Chamber) of 29 July 2019, Hochtief Solutions AG Magyarországi Fióktelepe v Fővárosi Törvényszék, Case C-620/17, ECLI:EU:C:2019:630

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Public procurement — Review procedures — Directive 89/665/EEC — Directive 92/13/EEC — Right to effective judicial protection — Principles of effectiveness and equivalence — Action for review of judicial decisions in breach of EU law — Liability of the Member States in the event of infringement of EU law by national courts or tribunals — Assessment of damage eligible for compensation

Facts

In 2006, a call for expressions of interest for a public works contract was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. According to the call, a candidate whose balance sheet showed a negative result for more than one of the last three financial years would not fulfil the conditions for economic and financial capacity. Hochtief Solutions, which did not fulfil that criterion, challenged its lawfulness before the Közbeszerzési Döntőbizottság (Public Procurement Arbitration Committee) arguing (i) that that criterion was discriminatory and (ii) that it was not by itself capable of providing information on the financial capacity of a tenderer. The Arbitration Committee partially upheld Hochtief Solutions’ action, ordering the contracting authority to pay a fine, but did not find that that criterion was unlawful.

Hochtief Solutions brought an action against the decision of the Arbitration Committee before the Fővárosi Bíróság (Budapest High Court), which took the view that the results of the balance sheet constituted a suitable criterion for providing information about economic and financial capacity and, accordingly, dismissed the action. Hochtief Solutions then appealed against this judgment to the Fővárosi Ítélőtábla (Budapest Regional Court of Appeal), which decided to stay the proceedings and to submit the request for a preliminary ruling that led to the judgment of 18 October 2012, Édukövízig and Hochtief Construction (C‑218/11, EU:C:2012:643). The Fővárosi Törvényszék (Budapest High Court), which had meanwhile succeeded the Fővárosi Ítélőtábla, having taken account of that judgment of the Court, upheld the judgment delivered at first instance, holding that the criterion used by the contracting authority to assess economic and financial capacity was not discriminatory. The Kúria (Supreme Court) dismissed the appeal lodged by Hochtief Solutions against the judgment of the Fővárosi Törvényszék. The Alkotmánybíróság (Constitutional Court) dismissed as inadmissible the constitutional appeal lodged by Hochtief Solutions against this judgment of the Kúria.

In 2014, Hochtief Solutions filed an application before the Fővárosi Közigazgatási és Munkaügyi Bíróság (Budapest Administrative and Labour Court) for review of the above-mentioned judgment of the Fővárosi Törvényszék. In support of its application for review, Hochtief Solutions claimed that the question whether the results of the balance sheet were an appropriate indicator for assessing the economic and financial capacity of a tenderer, and the judgment of 18 October 2012, Édukövízig and Hochtief Construction (C‑218/11, EU:C:2012:643), had not, in fact, been subject to any examination. In addition to rejecting Hochtief Solutions’ request to make a reference to the Court for a preliminary ruling, the Fővárosi Közigazgatási és Munkaügyi Bíróság dismissed the application for review, finding that the facts and evidence relied on by Hochtief Solutions were not new, the conditions of national law for the admission of a review appeal not being met. Hochtief Solutions then appealed against the order dismissing its application for review before the Fővárosi Törvényszék, which confirmed the order at first instance.

Hochtief Solutions then brought an action before the Székesfehérvári Törvényszék (Székesfehérvár High Court) seeking compensation for the damages that, it argued, the Fővárosi Törvényszék had caused in exercising its jurisdiction. Hochtief Solutions claims, in this regard, that it had not been given the opportunity, in accordance with EU law, to have account taken of the facts or circumstances that it had put forward before the Arbitration Committee and in the main proceedings, but on which neither that Committee nor the national courts seised of the case had given a ruling. In those circumstances, the Székesfehérvári Törvényszék decided to refer for a preliminary ruling several questions to the Court seeking guidance on, in particular, the principles laid down by the Court concerning, on the one hand, the liability of a Member State for damage caused to individuals as a result of an infringement of EU law by a national court adjudicating at last instance, and, on the other hand, the review of national judgments which acquired the force of res judicata.

Decision

As regards, on the one hand, the principles relating to the liability of a Member State for damage caused to individuals as a result of an infringement of EU law by a national court adjudicating at last instance, the Court of Justice recalled that that liability is governed by the conditions laid down by the judgment of 30 September 2003, Köbler (C‑224/01, EU:C:2003:513), without excluding the possibility that the State in question might incur liability under less strict conditions on the basis of national law. The Court of Justice also recalled that that liability is not precluded by the fact that the judicial decision in question has acquired the force of res judicata. In the context of the enforcement of that liability, the judgment reaffirms previous case-law according to which it is for the national court or tribunal before which the action for damages has been brought to determine, taking into account all the factors which characterise the situation in question, whether the national court or tribunal adjudicating at last instance committed a sufficiently serious infringement of EU law by manifestly disregarding the relevant EU law, including the relevant case-law of the Court. The judgment also clarifies that EU law precludes a rule of national law which generally excludes the costs incurred by a party as a result of the harmful judicial decision from damage which may be the subject of compensation.

As regards, on the other hand, the second set of questions referred for a preliminary ruling, the Court interpreted EU law as not precluding legislation of a Member State which does not allow review of a judgment, which has acquired the force of res judicata, which has ruled on an action for annulment against an act of a contracting authority without addressing a question the examination of which was envisaged in an earlier judgment of the Court in response to a request for a preliminary ruling made in the course of the proceedings relating to that action for annulment. However, when the applicable domestic rules of procedure include the possibility for national courts to reverse a judgment which has acquired the force of res judicata, for the purposes of rendering the situation arising from that judgment compatible with an earlier national judicial decision which has become final –– where both the court which delivered that judgment and the parties to the case leading to that judgment were already aware of that earlier decision –– that possibility must, in accordance with the principles of equivalence and effectiveness, in the same circumstances, prevail in order to render the situation compatible with EU law, as interpreted by an earlier judgment of the Court of Justice.

Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 12 September 2019, Cofemel – Sociedade de Vestuário SA v G-Star Raw CV, Case C-683/17, EU:C:2019:721

Request for a preliminary ruling from the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça – Freedom of establishment – Freedom to provide services – Approximation of laws – Intellectual, industrial and commercial property –  Directive 2001/29/EC – Article 2, c)

The Case C-683/18 dealt with a question referred by the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça (Portugal) on whether the directive on copyright precludes provisions of national legislation whereby that protection is granted if a specific condition is satisfied, namely that designs must, over and beyond their practical purpose, produce a specific aesthetic effect.

The case before the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça (Portugal) concerned a dispute between Cofemel – Sociedade de Vestuário, SA (‘Cofemel’) and G-Star Raw CV (‘G-Star’), two companies which are both active in the sector of design, production and sale of clothing. The dispute concerns compliance with copyright claimed by G-Star, which accuses Cofemel of producing and selling jeans, sweatshirts and t-shirts copying some of its own designs.

The Court of Justice answered the question referred by the Supremo Tribunal de Justiça in the affirmative.

The Court recalled that any original subject matter constituting the expression of its author’s own intellectual creation can be classified as a ‘work’, within the meaning of the directive on copyright. Consequently, a design may also, in a particular case, also be classified as a ‘work’. However, the Court then recalled that the protection of designs, on the one hand, and copyright protection, on the other, pursue different objectives and are subject to distinct rules. Therefore, the Court explained that the grant of protection, under copyright, to subject matter that is already protected as a design must not undermine the respective objectives and effectiveness of those two sets of rules, which is why the cumulative grant of such protection can be envisaged only in certain situations. In this context, the Court explained that the aesthetic effect that may be produced by a design does not constitute a factor that is relevant to the determination, in a particular case, of whether that design can be classified as a ‘work’, since such an aesthetic effect is the product of an intrinsically subjective sensation of beauty experienced by each individual who may look at the design in question.

The Court underlined that the classification as ‘work’ does, however, require that, first, there exists a subject matter which is identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity, and, second, that subject matter constitutes an intellectual creation reflecting the freedom of choice and personality of its author. As such, the fact that designs produce, over and above their practical purpose, a specific aesthetic effect, does not, in itself, require that such designs can be classified as ‘works’.

 

Editorial of December 2019

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by João Marques, member of the Portuguese Data Protection National Commission


Portuguese DPA won’t apply the country’s GDPR law

In spite of its nature[i], the GDPR leaves some room of manoeuvre to the Member States. This European legal instrument has even been called a hybrid[ii] between a directive and a regulation, precisely because there is a significant amount of issues where national legislation can in fact diverge from the general solutions the GDPR brings to the table. Although such leeway is not to be misunderstood for a “carte blanche” to the Member States, there is nevertheless a relevant part to be played by national legislators.

From the definition of a minimum legal age for children’s consent to be considered valid for its personal data to be processed (in relation to information society services), which can vary between 13 and 16 years of age, to the waiver on fines being applied to the public sector (Article 83, 7), there is a vast array of subjects left for the Member States to determine. In fact, a whole chapter of the GDPR[iii] is dedicated to these subjects, namely: Processing and freedom of expression and information (Article 85); Processing and freedom of expression and information (Article 86); Processing of the national identification number (Article 87); Processing in the context of employment (Article 88); Safeguards and derogations relating to processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes (Article 89); Obligations of secrecy (Article 90) and Existing data protection rules of churches and religious associations (Article 91).

Additionally, matters of procedural law, according to the Principle of Conferral (Article 5 of the Treaty on the European Union) are almost entirely left for Member States to regulate, with few exceptions such as the deadlines and the (in)formalities of the reply to a data subject rights request (Article 12) and, most notably, the one-stop shop procedure (instated in Article 60) and all its related and non-related issues that are undertaken by the European Data Protection Board, the new European Union Body provided by the GDPR (section 3 of Chapter VII).

The task that lied ahead of the Portuguese legislator, concerning the national reform of the Data Protection Law[iv], was therefore demanding but framed in a way that should have helped steer its drafting in a comprehensive and relatively straightforward manner[v].

The legislative procedure in Portugal took some time to be jumpstarted and it wasn’t until the 22nd of March 2018 that a proposal from the government was finally approved and forwarded to the Parliament, as this is a matter of its competence under Article 165(1)(b) of the Portuguese Constitution.
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Dumping in the internal market

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 by Maria Isabel Silva, Judge at the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Braga, Portugal


The term d
umping is associated with competition law and trade policy of the European Union (EU). It takes place when an exporter in a third country sells a particular product into the Union market at a price below its own market price provoking damages to the EU’s industry, which is demonstrated through an investigation procedure currently governed by Regulation (EU) No 2016/1036 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

Dumping is the result of the globalization of international markets, of predatory pricing by exporters that contaminate the internal market and the EU industry, therefore claiming action by the European institutions, Member States and entities such as OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office), culminating in provisional or definitive anti-dumping duties as a means of counteracting this unfair commercial practice and protecting the interests of the EU industry in relation to the same or similar product. It is in this context that anti-dumping measures on such imports arise within the European Customs Area thus addressing the adverse effects of Dumping to which Regulation No 2016/1036 concerns.
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Judicial independence in Poland and Hungary – Going, Going, Gone? Preliminary Requests and Disciplinary Procedures – A shocking development

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 by José Igreja Matos, President of the European Association of Judges

1. Stating the obvious

The reference for a preliminary ruling, provided for Article 19(3)(b) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is an essential instrument for the European Union and, in particular, for national judges.

It is aimed to guarantee the uniform interpretation and application of EU law by offering to the courts and tribunals of Member States a procedure to acquire from the Court of Justice of the European Union a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of EU law or the validity of acts adopted by the institutions of the Union.

As easily predictable, the impact of a preliminary ruling procedure in EU legal system is immense also because the rulings of European Court of Justice (ECJ) are assumed as generally binding.

The ECJ itself does not have a power to enforce the accurate application of EU law; this is the reason why national courts or tribunals are obliged to bring the matters in question before the Court as frontrunners of the application of EU law.

The reference for a preliminary ruling is the only way for the national judges to directly convey with ECJ. This procedure helps the ECJ control on how the national courts apply EU law providing the uniformity and certainty essentials to the success of our Union.

Another aspect of major significance could be furthermore underlined: the preliminary ruling also ensures the protection of the rights of individuals. EU laws, in particular the criminal law, fall to be interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Article 6(1) of the Treaty of European Union affirms: “The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union … which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties”. In general terms, the Charter applies to Member States when they implement Union law (Case C-292/97 Karlsson and Others); therefore, the interpretation of the Charter provisions tends to be, if not now, in the foreseeable future, a fertile ground for the use of the preliminary ruling procedures.

The Member States are bound to respect fundamental rights in judicial cooperation, for instance, if a Member State is extraditing someone to another Member State in accordance with the scheme established by the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.
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Summaries of judgments

 

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judges and référendaire of the General Court (Maria José Costeira, Ricardo Silva Passos and Esperança Mealha)
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Judgments of the General Court (Fifth Chamber) of the 12th of July 2019, 
T-762/15, T-763/15, T-772/15, T-1/16 and T-8/16

Competition – Agreements, decisions and concerted practices –  Market for optical disk drives – Decision finding an infringement of Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement – Collusive agreements relating to bidding events concerning optical disk drives for notebook and desktop computers – Infringement by object – Essential procedural requirements and rights of the defence – Jurisdiction of the Commission –  Obligation to state reasons – Unlimited jurisdiction – Principle of good administration – Fines – Geographic scope of the infringement – Single and continuous infringement – 2006 Guidelines on the method of setting fines – Particular circumstances – Error of law

1 – Facts

On 21 October 2015, the European Commission adopted the Decision C(2015) 7135 final, relating to a proceeding under Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement (Case AT.39639 – Optical Disk Drives, hereinafter “ODDs”) and, more specifically, to collusive agreements relating to bidding events concerning ODDs for computers organised by two computer manufacturers. Eight ODDs suppliers were covered by this decision, which imposes fines totaling EUR 16 million.

ODDs are used in computers produced by Dell and Hewlett Packard, the two main worldwide manufacturers in the market.

According to the Commission, between June 2004 and November 2008, the suppliers Philips, Lite-On, Philips & Lite-On Digital Solutions (their joint venture), Hitachi-LG, Data Storage, Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology, Sony, Sony Optiarc and Quanta Storage coordinated their behaviour in procurement tenders organised by the two computer manufacturers referred to above. During that period, they exchanged commercially sensitive information, communicated to each other their bidding strategies, and shared the results of procurement tenders.
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Editorial of November 2019

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 by Allan F. Tatham, Professor at Facultad de Derecho, Universidad San Pablo CEU


“Does Britain have a great future behind it?”: The stress of Brexit on a (Dis)United Kingdom

Introduction

Whatever the results of the British general election on 12 December 2019, Brexit will have major implications for the populations and governance arrangements of the four nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and their continuing membership of the United Kingdom (UK). The present author has already discussed the constitutional implications of a vote to leave the European Union (EU).[i] This discussion instead will briefly highlight how the results of that referendum and the ensuing three years or so have increasingly led two of the smaller “devolved” nations (England makes up over 85% of the UK’s total population of some 66.5 million people) to reassess their position in the UK.

The Brexit referendum itself of June 2016 revealed both inter-nation and intra-nation division. According to the figures,[ii] majorities in England and Wales voted to leave, while most voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland (as well as Gibraltar) opted for remain. Yet even these results are more nuanced than first appear: London also voted to remain as did some other cities (e.g., Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle) though by differing margins. Moreover recent research[iii] has shown that in Wales, areas with predominantly Welsh-speakers had voted to remain (as did Cardiff) while many of the 21% English-born voters had voted leave. The picture in Northern Ireland was no less complex: there, the nationalist community voted overwhelmingly for remain, while the unionist community voted largely (though much less decisively) for leave.

Northern Ireland

Of the four nations, this is the one most directly affected by Brexit since it will be the only part of the UK with an external border with the EU (Ireland). It is also the only devolved nation, according to the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Peace Agreement, that has in effect the legal right to secede from the UK, once a referendum has been held. In fact the most intractable issue in the Brexit negotiations has proved to be finding a solution to the Northern Irish trilemma: fulfilling the UK Government’s promise to leave the EU customs union and single market; to preserve British “territorial integrity”; and to continue its commitment to the peace agreement. However, leaving the customs union and single market would have meant the re-imposition a hard (or physical) border between the North and the South of the island of Ireland, entailing checks and customs duties: this represented for all parties a direct threat to the peace agreements. A way forward out of this trilemma was needed in order to avoid (or at least minimise) the immense social and economic dislocation implicit in a no-deal Brexit; this presented the negotiators with an immense task.
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Digital public services in the European Union: eHealth through the lens of administrative interoperability

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 by Joana Abreu, Editor and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Coordinator


Digital Single Market appears as the common good to be achieved, in the political level, in the European Union which was also embraced by all its Member States, since national and European political agents understood new ICT tools changed the way the world works and how people relate to each other. Furthermore, its establishment allowed overcoming gaps that were appearing between national efforts on digitalization of their internal sectors, particularly when there was a need to make those sectors transnational, by connecting them in a cross-border dimension.

The path to make European efforts on digital domains more effective was to firstly modernise public services, by resorting to ICT tools – that would make them, and especially their relations with individuals, simpler and more flexible. Digitalization of public services was, then, approached through the lens of interoperability – method adopted in order to link national administrations amongst themselves and with European institutions.

Interoperability was proclaimed in the ISA2 Programme through article 1 (1) of the Decision 2015/2240: “[t]his Decision establishes, for 2016-2020, a programme on interoperability solutions and common frameworks for European public administrations, businesses and citizens (‘the ISA2 programme’)”. In this sense, a new paramount was born: the one of e-Government.

In order to meet e-Government goals, European and national agents have made particular efforts to develop other secondary public interests, that would rely on Public Administrations to concretize, implement and regulate them.

eHealth was one of them.
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Regulating liability for AI within the EU: Short introductory considerations

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 by Francisco Andrade, Director of the Master's in Law and Informatics at UMinho
 and Tiago Cabral, Master's student in EU Law at UMinho

1. The development of Artificial Intelligence (hereinafter, “AI”) brings with it a whole new set of legal questions and challenges. AI will be able to act in an autonomous manner, and electronic “agents” will be, evidently, capable of creating changes in the legal position of natural and legal persons and even of infringing their rights. One notable example of this phenomena will be in data protection and privacy, where a data processing operation by a software agent may be biased against a specific data subject (eventually due to a faulty dataset, but also due to changes in the knowledge database of the “agent” under the influence of users or of other software agents ) and, thus, infringe the principles of lawfulness and fairness in data protection, but due to difficulties in auditing the decision one may never find why (or even find that there was a bias). More extreme examples can be arranged if we put software agents or robots in charge of matters such as making (or even assisting) decisions in court or questions related to the military.

2. One does not have to seek such extreme examples, in fact, even in entering into an agreement, a software agent may, by infringing the law, negatively affect the legal position of a person.
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Summaries of judgments

 

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaires of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra, Mariana Tavares and Sophie Perez)
 ▪

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) 24 June 2019, Commission V Poland, (Case C- 619/18, EU:C:2019:531)

Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations — Second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU — Rule of law — Effective judicial protection in the fields covered by Union law — Principles of the irremovability of judges and judicial independence — Lowering of the retirement age of Supreme Court judges — Application to judges in post — Possibility of continuing to carry out the duties of judge beyond that age subject to obtaining authorisation granted by discretionary decision of the President of the Republic.

Facts

On 3 April 2018, the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court (‘the Law on the Supreme Court’) entered into force. Under that law, the retirement age for Supreme Court judges was lowered to 65. The new age limit applied as from the date of entry into force of that law, and included judges of that court appointed before that date. It was possible for Supreme Court judges to continue in active judicial service beyond the age of 65 but this was subject to the submission of a declaration indicating the desire of the judge concerned to continue to carry out his duties and a certificate stating that his health allowed him to serve, and had to be authorised by the President of the Republic of Poland. In granting that authorisation, the President of the Republic of Poland would not be bound by any criterion and his decision would not be subject to any form of judicial review.
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From Visual Arts to Virtual Arts – some insights about Law, Art & Technology

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 by Marcílio Franca, Professor at the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil

Leonardo Da Vinci’s life and work show us that innovation and technology have always been close to art and artists. Over the past few decades, however, deep technological innovations are modifying art in strange, new ways. The development and access to new technologies have radically changed not only the ways of producing art but also the ways of consuming, preserving, collecting and restoring art nowadays. Obviously, all this has complex legal repercussions.

Right at the University of Minho, for example, the researcher and multimedia artist João Martinho Moura is a world reference in digital art and computational aesthetics. For the past 15 years, he has been adopting new digital ways to represent audiovisual artifacts, with special interest in the human body. Some of his award-winning works can be seen at  http://jmartinho.net/. Light art, lasers, AI created art, artist robots, e-museums are also good examples the ways in which technology is making its impact in the art world and in the legal systems.

The complexity of authorship and the relevance of the dematerialization of artwork in the field of contemporary visual arts have already secured the birth of at least three Digital Art Biennials. The older is “The Wrong Art Biennale” (https://thewrong.org), a global, digital event aiming to create, promote and push forward-thinking contemporary digital art among artists, curators, collectors and institutions located in virtual pavilions. There is also the International Digital Art Biennial (BIAN), in Montréal, created in 2012. The younger Digital Art Biennial will happen in Brazil for the first time in 2020, but was born ten years ago in Belo Horizonte, as a Digital Art Festival.
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