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) of 12 November 2019, Zubair Haqbin v Federaal Agentschap voor de opvang van asielzoekers – Case C-233/18, EU:C:2019:956

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Applicants for international protection — Directive 2013/33/EU — Article 20(4) and (5) — Serious breaches of the rules of the accommodation centres as well as seriously violent behaviour — Scope of the Member States’ right to determine the sanctions applicable — Unaccompanied minor — Reduction or withdrawal of material reception conditions


The Court of Justice ruled for the first time on the scope of the right conferred on Member States by Article 20(4) Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (OJ 2013 L 180, p. 96). The request for a preliminary ruling has been made in proceedings between Z. Haqbin and the Federaal Agentschap voor de opvang van asielzoekers (Federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers, Belgium) concerning a claim for compensation brought by the former following a decision to temporarily excluded him from material reception conditions.

Z. Haqbin, of Afghan nationality, arrived in Belgium as an unaccompanied minor and lodged an application for international protection on December 2015. He was then hosted in a reception centre. In that centre, Z. Haqbin was involved in a brawl with other residents of various ethnic origins. Following that brawl, the director of the reception centre decided to exclude Z. Haqbin for a period of 15 days from material aid in a reception facility. During that period of exclusion (between April and May 2016), Z. Haqbin, according to his own statements, spent his nights in a park in Brussels and stayed with friends.

Z. Haqbin lodged an application to suspend the exclusion measure referred above. That application was dismissed for lack of extreme urgency, since Z. Haqbin had failed to show that he was homeless. Z. Haqbin then brought an action seeking cancellation of that measure and compensation for the damage suffered. The referring court before which Z. Haqbin lodged an appeal against the first-instance ruling that dismissed his action, asked the Court of Justice whether it was possible for the Belgian authorities to withdraw or reduce material reception conditions in respect of an applicant for international protection in Z. Haqbin’s situation. Moreover, with regard to his particular situation, the question arose as to the conditions under which such a sanction can be imposed on an unaccompanied minor.


Article 20(4) of Directive 2013/33 states that Member States may determine ‘sanctions’ applicable to serious breaches, by the applicant, of the rules of the accommodation centres as well as to seriously violent behaviour of the applicant. In that regard, the Court of Justice clarified that the ‘sanctions’ referred to in Article 20(4) of Directive 2013/33 may, in principle, concern material reception conditions. However, such sanctions must, in accordance with Article 20(5) of the directive, be objective, impartial, motivated and proportionate to the particular situation of the applicant and must, under all circumstances, ensure a dignified standard of living according to Article 1 CFREU.

Therefore, a sanction that is imposed exclusively on the basis of one of the reasons mentioned in Article 20(4) of Directive 2013/33 and consists in the withdrawal, even if only a temporary one, of the full set of material reception conditions or of material reception conditions relating to housing, food or clothing would be irreconcilable with the requirement, arising from Article 20(5) of the directive, to ensure a dignified standard of living for the applicant, since it would preclude the applicant from being allowed to meet his or her most basic needs. Such a sanction would also amount to a failure to comply with the proportionality requirement under Article 20(5) of Directive 2013/33, in so far as even the most stringent sanctions, whose objective is to punish, in criminal law, the breaches or behaviour referred to in Article 20(4) of the directive, cannot deprive the applicant of the possibility of meeting his or her most basic needs. The Court added that Member States are required to guarantee continuously and without interruption a dignified standard of living and that the authorities of the Member States are required to ensure, under their supervision and under their own responsibility, the provision of material reception conditions guaranteeing such a standard of living, including when they have recourse, where appropriate, to private natural or legal persons in order to carry out, under their authority, that obligation.
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Digital publications and protection of constitutional democracy


 by Ana Aba Catoira, Professor of Constitutional Law, Universidade da Coruña

The strong impact that the irruption of digital channels has had on freedom of expression has led them to a reformulation process, because, as Lessig pointed out, “specifically the Internet has helped to show the true meaning of freedom of expression.” This profound transformation translates into a “paradigm shift” or change in the classical conception of the rights of information evident in the sender-receiver relationship of information, since all people are now active subjects in the new communicative process.

The prominence of the Internet and, more specifically, of social networks has been fundamental for the propagation of new “informative” practices that count on the invaluable help of artificial intelligence. This reality, already indicated as “information disorders”, was characterized by false news, post-truth, bots and other phenomena that distort the right to give and receive truthful information and intoxicate public opinion that is no longer free.
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Artificial intelligence and PSI Directive (EU) – open data and the re-use of public sector information before new digital demands


 by Joana Abreu, Editor and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Coordinator

In Ursula von der Leyen’s speech entitled “A Union that strives for more”, one of nowadays President of the European Commission’s priorities was to establish “a Europe fit for digital age”. In this sense, von der Leyen’s aspirations were to grasp the opportunities from the digital age within safe and ethical boundaries, particularly those deriving from artificial intelligence as “[d]igital technologies […] are transforming the world at an unprecedented speed”. Therefore, the President of the European Commission established that “[i]n my first 100 days in office, I will put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence”. Last 1st December 2019, the European Commission took office, led by President Ursula von der Leyen. As that time lapse is passing by, there is a need to understand how a Europe fit for the digital age is taking shape. There is to say, has the European Union already made efforts to meet that digital age?

In fact, recalling Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum, held in Brussels, on the 25th February 2016, Digital Single Market was thought by inception in order to materialise it as a primary public interest in action. Concerning digital public services, it was highlighted that some of them were not as transparent as they should and that “Governments need[ed] to look at how to re-use the information already available […] and open up the data they h[ad], while adapting to current trends and making use of public services easy and simple”. In order to do so, this forum established that “Member States should implement the once only principle: once only obligation, re-use of data, making the best use of key enablers and thinking cross-border services from inception”.
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The fundamental right to life in the case Soares Campos v. Portugal: where do we stand?

by Mariana Alvim, PhD candidate and member of CIDP

Brief description of the Case

The present case[i] concerned the death of Mr. Soares Campos’s son who was swept out to sea while taking part in a gathering related to Praxe[ii] in a beach in Portugal.

Mr. Soares Campos (hereafter “applicant” or “claimant”) lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights (hereafter “Court” or “ECtHR”) on the 27 May 2016.

The applicant based his complain on the procedural aspect of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (hereafter “ECHR” or “Convention”), sustaining that there was not an effective investigation capable of establishing the circumstances of his son’s death.

The claimant also grounded his complain in a substantive aspect of Article 2 of the Convention, declaring that his son’s death had been caused by the lack of a legal framework regulating Praxe activities in the Portuguese Universities.
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