Editorial of July 2016

brexit-1477615_960_720

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

Every cloud has a silver lining. On the referendum able to push forward the unity of the Europe and the disunity of the Kingdom

Modern democracy, with which the West has lived since the liberal revolutions, is representative – exceptionally accompanied by moments of semi-direct democracy through referenda or popular consultations. Such exceptionality is based on the very survival of democracy as referenda hardly ever manage to escape high doses of manipulation and abuse. When Hans Kelsen was asked once about the rightfulness of popular consultation, he allegedly answered that, despite they make sense in certain situations, it should not be forgotten that an uninformed population preferred Barabbas over Jesus Christ. This metaphor illustrates one of the main assumptions of the democratic theory (which no one described as brilliantly as Norberto Bobbio): the excess of democracy may kill it.

This becomes crystal clear in the referenda (supposedly) on European issues, tendentiously instrumentalized by national political elites that convert them in arenas to internal disputes. The day the world awaked in astonishment with the results of the British referendum, the top questions at the social networks and search engines in the United Kingdom on the European Union since the Brexit result was officially announced were: “What is the European Union? What does it mean to leave the European Union?” That reveals that many British have voted without really knowing what the EU is or what it stands for in their daily life.

And so 17 million British, deceived by the most despicable demagogy, decided about the destinies of 500 million European, subverting the most elementary democratic rule of a polity – the one of majority will. They did so openly for the worst reasons – fear, hostility, xenophobia, all wrapped in the sovereignty narrative –, offering weapons for the Leftist and Rightist populisms all over Europe to wield a speech against the Brussels’ technocracy. The same technocracy that will stop paying grants to British agriculturists, that will cease supporting research in the British universities, that will discontinue the stimulation for the movement of British Erasmus students, that will interrupt law-making towards promoting equality and non-discrimination among the British.
Continue reading “Editorial of July 2016”

Advertisements

Protecting our personal data in the 21st century: why the new EU legal framework matters

by Rita de Sousa Costa, law student at UMinho
and Tiago Sérgio Cabral, law student at UMinho

Most people do not have any idea how much the processing of their personal data affects their daily life. In today’s world, our e-mail has the ability to distinguish between important and unimportant e-mails based on our previous communications. When we want to read the news our phones and tablets are able to predict the events and sources that we would be interested in. Facebook knows more about our friends than we do. If you want to watch a movie, Netflix has a broad selection and may give you some tips based on your previously watched list, same with Youtube. If we have a favorite supermarket chain it probably knows what we like to buy through our customer cards. Our keyboards are able to predict the very words we will type[i].

We would find a rather different scenario if we looked to the world in 1995. Twenty years ago, the Internet was still in its early stages of development and was rather different from what we know and use today[ii]. E-mail and instant messaging were unknown to the general population. Google and search engines did not exist. Social networking and smartphones did, but only in science fiction movies. With this in mind, it is rather astonishing that the EU legal framework regarding the protection of personal data managed to stay, more or less, unchanged for more than twenty years. In these twenty years, the Directive 95/46/CE ensured the protection of personal data for EU citizens fulfilling the required by the article 16. of the TFUE and the article 8. of the EUCFR[iii]/[iv].

Continue reading “Protecting our personal data in the 21st century: why the new EU legal framework matters”

On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts

 

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

(text in the memory of Jo Cox, British MP, 41, upholder of refugees’ rights and the continuation of United Kingdom in the EU, who was appallingly killed on 16th June).

Jo Cox’s murder was a senseless attack on democracy itself“, via The Telegraph.

Jo Cox MP death: David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn unite in tributes“, via BBC.

Jo Cox death: ‘The well of hatred killed her,’ Corbyn says – latest updates“, via The Guardian.

Jo Cox’s tragic death may halt pro-Brexit momentum, analysts say“, via CNBC.

The price of caring“, via The Economist blog.

Jo Cox’s death should make us reflect on our polluted, abusive politics“, via Mirror.

After Jo Cox’s Killing (…)“, via The Wall Street Journal.

Before the adversities we have been facing in Europe lately – financial speculation, migratory boom, terrorism, Euroscepticism, populism, intolerance, Brexit, etc. – sometimes it seems it could not get worse. A sort of perfect storm, as it is said. But it can always get worse. In fact, it was worse in the past. We can acknowledge that by simply reading Stefan Zweig’s memoirs, The World of Yesterday. In it the author gives us a nostalgic picture of a missing world, the one of Europe pre-1914 which is opposed to heinous period of the wars, interleaved by a short time of peace and hope in the European renaissance. It was during the exile in England, and then Brazil, where the Jewish Austrian wrote his memories – as well as the iconic Brazil, land of the future, in deep demonstration of gratitude to the country that hosted him.

At this time of profound consternation due to the harrowing assassination of Jo Cox, this “world of yesterday” described by a war refugee in the end of the 1930s proves that there is still space for a normative approach of the European integration process, inclined to create solutions that help neutralize the fragmentation forces against which the Union is being confronted, and mobilize its cohesion forces.

Continue reading “On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts”

Fundamental freedom and names in the EU

by George Rosa-Acosta, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Case law from the European Court of Justice demonstrates that in the domain of establishing identity and citizenship, the names of natural persons are paramount. Naming practices straddle public and private law: they are the means by which a state identifies its citizens and by which those citizens embark upon most joint activities with others. In order to rationalise these practices, European Union harmonisation through its long historical arc — helped along copiously and often quietly by the ECJ — involves an evolving system of principles for answering the politically charged imbroglios provoked by disputes over naming rights and formulae. Three cases are of singular importance in defining this emerging EU naming regime: Konstantinidis v Stadt Altensteig, Garcia Avello v Belgian State and Sayn-Wittgenstein v Landeshauptmann von Wien. These cases demonstrate that the ECJ is willing to oblige Member-State liberalisation in conformity with the emerging EU personal nomenclature regime, but not at the point of surrendering bedrock cultural-juridical values that are consistent with the progressive ideology of EU human rights principles.

Continue reading “Fundamental freedom and names in the EU”

Subsidiarity, democratic deficit and posting of workers

workers-construction-site-hardhats-38293-large

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

The Lisbon Treaty introduced new contents to the role of national parliaments in the EU decision making process alongside the respect for the principle of subsidiarity by the European institutions. According to article 5, No. 3, TEU under the scope of non-exclusive competences, the Union only intervenes if the objectives of certain action (i) cannot be sufficiently achieved by Member States (efficiency criterion) and (ii) can be better achieved by the EU due to its dimension or intended effects (added value criterion).

So, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, Protocols No. 1 and No. 2 annexed to the treaties allow that national parliaments evaluate the compliance of the European draft legislative acts with the principle of subsidiarity – and if they conclude that there is incompliance, the respective reasoned opinion shall address this understanding. Under the ordinary legislative procedure, if the reasoned opinions represent at least a simple majority of the votes allocated to the national parliaments, the European Commission proposal must be reviewed. It can be amended, withdrawn or sustained (Article 7, No. 3, Protocol No. 2).

Nevertheless, it is important to test the national parliament’s arguments in order to confirm if (i) they have legal grounds to claim the infringement of subsidiarity and (ii) the result of such parliamentary intervention can be regarded as positive to the EU legal system as a whole. Even though this proposed exercise does not compromise, theoretically, the democratic relevance of national parliament’s participation in the EU’s decision making process, it can point out some fragilities concerning (i) the appreciation of the European integration process by national parliamentary authorities and (ii) the adequacy of the EU democratic deficit narrative and the instruments created so far to face it.

Continue reading “Subsidiarity, democratic deficit and posting of workers”

National Parliaments’ yellow card to posted workers reform

Social rights are at the core of current debates on the EU, from budgetary deficit limits to mechanisms fighting unemployment, passing by the “Brexit/Bremain” referendum.

Recently, some national parliaments have expressed their opinions about one relevant aspect to the social model of the EU, the posted workers’ rights which may undergo a revision after the Commission issued a proposal.

Here is a sample of how the parliaments consider the matter.

Eleven EU member states have shown a yellow card to the European Commission over its recent proposal to warrant equal pay to posted workers“, via euobserver.

 

According to several European diplomats, the national parliaments of 11 countries, including Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have enough votes under EU rules to trigger the “yellow card” procedure against the Commission’s revised new text on so-called “posted workers. It would be only the third time the yellow card procedure has been used since it was set up under the Treaty of Lisbon“, via politico.eu.

 

An attempt by the European Commission to revise the contentious Posted Workers directive is likely to fail, as the national parliaments of at least ten member states from Central and Eastern Europe are reported have used a yellow card to stop the legislation“, via euractiv.

Editorial of June 2016

 

6914441342_775b4ab9a7_o

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

The right to be remembered – Directive 95/46/CE begins its twilight and makes way for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

It was on May the 4th that the EU paradigm regarding personal data protection started to write its chapter in the common book of legal unification. As the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 [together with Directive (EU) 2016/680] finally got published in the Official Journal of the EU, a new era is jumpstarted. The first “victim” of the new paradigm is the old Directive 95/46/CE, which for the past 20 years has served European citizens honourably.

Although it faced a challenging task, Directive 95/46/EC was generally capable of protecting EU citizens against the predatory instincts of our world regarding their personal data. A suitable testament in this regard is the fact that the principles enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Directive have been, for the most part, kept almost unchanged. Lawful processing, purpose specification and limitation, data quality, fair processing and accountability remain as the bedrock of data protection under the new legal framework.

As ever, the CJEU case-law has been of paramount importance in the consolidation of a European perspective in which the citizen’s fundamental rights are at the forefront of the Union’s responsibilities, with the recent case C-362/14 (Schrems V. Data Protection Commissioner and Digital Rights Ireland Ltd) being yet another example of the approach for which the court is well known.

Continue reading “Editorial of June 2016”