Summaries of judgments: Minister for Ecological Transition and Prime Minister | Puig Gordi e o

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


Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 22 December 2022, Ministre de la Transition écologique and Premier ministre (Liability of the State for air pollution), Case C‑61/21, EU:C:2022:1015

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Environment – Directives 80/779/EEC, 85/203/EEC, 96/62/EC, 1999/30/EC and 2008/50/EC – Air quality – Limit values for microparticles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – Exceeded – Air quality plans – Damage caused to an individual on account of deterioration of the air resulting from the exceedance of those limit values – Liability of the Member State concerned – Conditions for establishing that liability – Requirement that the rule of EU law infringed be intended to confer rights on the individuals who have been harmed – No such intention


JP argues that the deterioration of the ambient air quality in the Paris agglomeration, where he lives, was the result of a breach by the French authorities of their obligations under Directive 2008/50, in so far as the limit values for microparticles (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)  laid down in Annex XI of that directive had been exceeded. JP applied to the tribunal administratif de Cergy-Pontoise (Administrative Court, Cergy-Pontoise, France) seeking, inter alia, annulment of the implied decision of the Prefect of Val-d’Oise (France), which is part of the agglomeration of Paris, refusing to take the necessary measures to address his health problems linked to air pollution in that agglomeration, problems which began in 2003; and compensation from the French Republic for the various heads of damage which he claims to have suffered on account of that pollution.

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Editorial of February 2023

By Miguel Pereira (Master’s student in European Union Law at the University of Minho) 

Truffle hunting: finding meaning in the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade

Truffles are small, hard to find and delicate fungi that tend to grow around tree roots. Hunting and extracting them requires expert knowledge passed down through generations, persistence, attention to details and, usually, the helpful nose of a well-trained dog. For a jurist, sifting through the ever-growing body of declarations, communications, positions, resolutions and decisions of the EU institutions often requires the same level of dedication and attention to detail, in an effort to find meaning and footholds in what at first sight can be chalked up to pure political jargon – in essence, an effort to find truffles.

In December 2022, the EU institutions issued two instruments that lay out their vision for a Digital Europe and the principles that should govern its development: the Digital Decade Policy Programme 2030 (“Digital Decade Programme”) and the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade (“Declaration on Digital Rights”). Both instruments have been in the works for a while and, even though falling short of expectations due to their limited legal relevance, they’re still noteworthy as a summary of the EU’s digital ambitions, priorities and concerns. They also embody a change of paradigm that legal scholarship has strived to identify and document over the past few years: a refocusing of digital policy around the protection of fundamental rights and the adoption of a digital constitutionalist stance in the development of said policy and legislation.

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On the triggering of the EU’s conditionality mechanism: what has been done and what could follow

Gonçalo Martins de Matos (Master in Judiciary Law by the University of Minho)

            When the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered, at the beginning of the last year, the two landmark judgements Hungary v. Parliament and Council (Case C-156/21) and Poland v. Parliament and Council (Case C-157/21), the conditionality mechanism created by Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2092 for the protection of the Union’s budget[1] definitely gained the green light for its implementation, in the sequence of which the Commission adopted the guidelines of application of said mechanism. On 27 April of the same year, the European Commission formally announced it would be triggering the conditionality mechanism against Hungary. After an intense period of negotiations between Brussels and Budapest, the European Commission adopted, on 18 September, a proposal on measures for the protection of the Union budget against breaches of the principles of the rule of law in Hungary[2] (COM(2022) 485 final), following which the Council of the EU adopted, on 18 September, an implementing decision on the measures proposed by the Commission.

            Before we proceed with the analysis of the proposed measures and their impacts on the protection of the rule of law, we must briefly provide the necessary legal framework. As we have discussed before, the intention behind the adoption of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2092 is “the protection of the Union budget in the case of breaches of the principles of the rule of law in the Member States”, as is set out in Article 1 of the same Regulation. Article 3 of this Regulation establishes situations that may indicate a breach of the principles of the rule of law, and Article 4 stipulates the conditions for the adoption of the necessary measures to protect the same principles. Article 5 lays down the measures that can be adopted in case the Commission finds that the principles of the rule of law have been breached under the described terms, following the procedure set out in Article 6 of the Regulation. We further add that Article 5(3) enshrines a principle of proportionality when adopting those protective measures. Article 6(1) determines that the Commission may resort to the conditionality mechanism unless it considers that other procedures set out in Union legislation would allow it to protect the Union budget more effectively. Seeing that the European Commission has already resorted to Article 7 TEU and to several infringement procedures regarding the Hungarian government’s various breaches, the conditions were met to activate the conditionality regime.

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