Holiday break

By Editorial Board 

Dear readers,

We will be taking a short break for summer holidays. We will resume our regular publishing schedule on the week of 5 September 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: MariaAge

Notes on European defense and the signs of a new world and European order

By Pedro Pereira (Master's Student in EU Law at the University of Minho)

1. Introduction

Defense policies in the European Union (EU) and how they should be conducted are an old topic. In any case, it is defensible that i) the fact that European defense was provided by the United States of America (USA) during the historical period of the Cold War, as well as ii) the circumstance that in more recent times, European defense was materialized and operationalized through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decisively contributed to the deepening of the rights of the European citizen and to the intervention of EU Member States in the development of sociality – something that shaped the way European integration was being built around the Rule of Law and the Welfare State.

The hypothesis of a progressive gap in transatlantic relations (EU and US) – or, at least, the revival of this debate – returns whenever an external threat to European security arises. But world geopolitics may actually be at a turning point, motivated mainly by the return of war, due to the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine– which requires a reassessment of European strategies in terms of foreign policy, security and defense. Recent events, in a way, contradict the thesis of an inevitable European dependence on the US, as well as urge a restructuring of the EU’s defense – which, despite still depending on NATO, aims to be more robust and autonomous. To this extent, the change in the way the EU presents itself on the international scene may be imminent.

Continue reading “Notes on European defense and the signs of a new world and European order”

Nuclear energy is “green”: now what?

By Manuel Protásio (PhD Candidate at the University of Minho)

In the beginning of July this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of a proposal on labelling natural gas and nuclear power as climate-friendly investments. For the first time, Parliament did not object to the Commission’s Taxonomy Delegated Act to include specific nuclear energy activities, under certain conditions, in the list of environmentally sustainable economic activities covered by the so-called EU Taxonomy. Although it is still early to read anything else besides the actual change in the taxonomy of the European Commission, the truth is that this conceptual change regarding nuclear energy can be seen as a major political statement regarding the future of energy in the European Union.

From a political point of view, it can be argued that this change comes from the urgent and dramatic context we are currently in, due not only to Climate Change but also to the geopolitical shift that has risen from the Russia’s war with Ukraine. Within this new global context, European Union’s political landscape also changed, particularly in what concerns energy policy and I believe this new taxonomy given to nuclear energy is also part of this new political landscape. Nevertheless, it is not our intention to bring forward a political analysis to this shift in European policy regarding nuclear energy, but to give a brief overview of whether nuclear energy should be labelled as a green energy and a climate-friendly investment and if so, how can this change help European Union’s objectives in becoming more self-sustainable in terms of energy production as well as achieving its goals under the Green Deal.

Continue reading “Nuclear energy is “green”: now what?”

Summaries of judgments: Openbaar Ministerie | BPC Lux 2 and Others

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 Court (Grand Chamber) of 22 February 2022, X and Y v Openbaar Ministerie, Joined Cases C-562/21 PPU and C-563/21 PPU, EU:C:2022:100

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Urgent preliminary ruling procedure – Judicial cooperation in criminal matters – European arrest warrant – Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA – Article 1(3) – Surrender procedures between Member States – Conditions for execution – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Second paragraph of Article 47 – Fundamental right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law – Systemic or generalised deficiencies – Two-step examination – Criteria for application – Obligation of the executing judicial authority to determine, specifically and precisely, whether there are substantial grounds for believing that the person in respect of whom a European arrest warrant has been issued, if surrendered, runs a real risk of breach of his or her fundamental right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law

Facts

Two European arrest warrants (‘EAWs’) were issued in April 2021 by Polish courts against two Polish nationals for the purposes, respectively, of executing a custodial sentence and of conducting a criminal prosecution. The persons concerned were in the Netherlands and did not consent to their surrender.

The Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court, Amsterdam, Netherlands) noted that, since 2017, there have been in Poland systemic or generalised deficiencies affecting the right to a fair trial, and in particular the right to a tribunal previously established by law, resulting, inter alia, from the fact that Polish judges are appointed on application of the Krajowa Rada Sądownictwa (the Polish National Council of the Judiciary; ‘the KRS’). The referring court furthermore noted that, according to the resolution adopted in 2020 by the Sąd Najwyższy (Supreme Court, Poland), the KRS, since the entry into force of a law on judicial reform on 17 January 2018, is no longer an independent body. In so far as the judges appointed on application of the KRS may have participated in the criminal proceedings that led to the conviction of one of the persons concerned or may be called upon to hear the criminal case of the other person concerned, the referring court considered that there was a real risk that those persons, if surrendered, would suffer a breach of their fundamental right to a tribunal previously established by law.

Continue reading “Summaries of judgments: Openbaar Ministerie | BPC Lux 2 and Others”

REPOWER EU – A challenge and an opportunity

By Maria Barros Silva (Associate Lawyer at SRS Advogados – Energy and Competition Law) and Nuno Calaim Lourenço (Managing Associate at SRS Advogados – Energy and Competition Law)

1. Context

The energy sector is cyclical by nature. History offers several examples of market expansion followed by very sudden contractions. Unfortunately, the current crisis differs from previous ones. To put things into dire perspective, the European Union (“EU”) heavily relies on fossil fuel (gas, oil and coal) imports for its energy needs, amounting to circa 60% of gross energy consumption in the past 5 years. The EU imports 90% of its gas, with Russia previously accounting for 45% of those imports, as well as for 25% of oil and 45% of coal. Although European domestic production of renewable energy sources has increased significantly in recent years, the intermittent nature of the so-called “green energy”, coupled with limited renewable-energy storage and a drastic and intransigent reduction in the production of EU coal, lignite and gas has meant that the EU remains energy dependent.

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Protecting Children’s Rights in the Digital Age: the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+)

By Maria Inês Costa (Master in Human Rights from UMinho)

Given the rapid technological evolution in the so-called Digital Decade, and the need for legal regulation in view of the emerging needs and circumstances that this evolution has brought about, the European Union has been taking a position to strengthen the protection of children’s rights in this context. One of the most recent paradigmatic examples of this approach is the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+), published in May 2022, about two years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which increased the use of digital media.

According to Article 24(2) of the CFREU, “in all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration[1], and to that extent, the digital transition should be carried out keeping in mind the advantages that these bring to children, for example, as a source of inexhaustible knowledge, but also the dangers it entails and the exacerbation of inequalities it leads to, when there is no governance of its use and access.

As per item 3 of the UN’s General comment N.º 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment,[2] the children consulted asked questions regarding the new developments in the digital age that directly affect them – “I would like to obtain clarity about what really happens with my data… Why collect it? How is it being collected?”; “I am… worried about my data being shared” – and in the subsequent paragraph (item 4) one can read: “innovations in digital technologies affect children’s lives and their rights in ways that are wide-ranging and interdependent (…)”.

Continue reading “Protecting Children’s Rights in the Digital Age: the new European strategy for a better internet for kids (BIK+)”

Can a judge’s request for a preliminary ruling be illegal and lead to disciplinary action? – The Court of Justice conclusions in case C-564/19

By Joana Gama Gomes (Master in International and European Law from the University of Coimbra / Researcher at CIDEEFF - Centro de Investigação em Direito Europeu, Económico, Financeiro e Fiscal)

The request for a preliminary ruling was submitted by a Hungarian court in criminal proceedings brought against a Swedish national, for infringement of the provisions of Hungarian law governing the acquisition or transport of firearms or ammunition. Although the facts of this case seem unrelated to the problem at hand, subsequent developments in Hungary during the course of this procedure raised a fundamental issue of EU law.

A declaration of illegality from the Hungarian Supreme Court and disciplinary proceeding against the referring judge led him to ask the Court two crucial questions – whether EU law precludes a national court of last instance from declaring as unlawful a decision by which a lower court makes a request for a preliminary ruling, and whether the principle of judicial independence precludes disciplinary proceedings being brought against a judge for having made such a request for a preliminary ruling.

Continue reading “Can a judge’s request for a preliminary ruling be illegal and lead to disciplinary action? – The Court of Justice conclusions in case C-564/19”

The other side of War: disinformation

Ricardo de Macedo Menna Barreto (Guest Professor at the University of Minho Law School) 
 

Last Tuesday, March 8, 2022, during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Josep Borrell, EU diplomacy chief, warned that the Russian government will systematically lie about Ukraine’s military situation. At his intervention, Borrell defended that: “(…)accompany Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, spreading false information among their own population about why this invasion has taken place and what is the situation in Ukraine(…) it not just bombing houses, infrastructure, the bodies of the people; they are bombing their minds, they are bombing their spirits”.[1] The EU diplomacy chief underlines a problem that, in his opinion, is getting worse as our lifetime goes by: the daily battle in the informational field. A battle whose main characteristic is the manipulation of information, a particular form of abuse of power, that is, of social domain. According to Teun van Dijk, manipulation is a form of illegitimate influence, achieved through discourse, in which manipulators make the manipulated believe in (or even do) things that are of special interest to the manipulator (and usually against the interests of the manipulated). In this sense, we can consider discursive manipulation as a complex social phenomenon, involving interaction and abuse of power (domination) between certain groups and social actors. It is also a complex phenomenon, taking into account that it presents itself in two ways: a) as a cognitive phenomenon, since it implies manipulation of the participants’ minds; b) as a discursive-semiotic phenomenon, since it can be expressed in the form of text, conversation or visual messages.[2]   

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Note from MEP José Manuel Fernandes regarding European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2022 on the rule of law and the consequences of the ECJ ruling

José Manuel Fernandes (Member of the European Parliament)

The principle of the rule of law is not just one among other basic principles of our democracy. It is more than that: it is a sine qua non condition for the recognition of all other fundamental rights. There is no effective freedom of speech, of association, of conscience, among others, in a community that is not governed by law. Where there is no “rule of law”, there is arbitrariness and lack of security. In such conditions, there is no freedom.

When the “rule of law” is abandoned, explicitly or implicitly, we embark on a path that leads from civility to barbarism, from equality before the law, to the rule of the strongest; from the liberal democratic system built and perfected over the last decades, to alternative, authoritarian regimes that restrict freedoms. Whoever foregoes the “rule of law” necessarily foregoes the fundamental principles on which the Portuguese constitutional order and the European Union Treaties are founded (see art. 2 TEU). Therefore, respect for the rule of law is not an option but an obligation in order to be eligible to be a member of the European Union.

Continue reading “Note from MEP José Manuel Fernandes regarding European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2022 on the rule of law and the consequences of the ECJ ruling”

The EU Circular Economy Strategy: a strong step towards more ecological products design and manufacturing?

Beltrán Puentes Cociña (PhD Candidate at the University of Santiago de Compostela) 

Humanity has been engaged in the struggle for sustainability for at least 30 years. Since the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, there have been many political, economic, and social initiatives for a sustainable development that makes human activities compatible with the ecological limits of the planet. One of the latest and most relevant is the circular economy strategy[i]/[ii].

1. The first EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy (2015)[iii]

The current model of production and consumption follows a linear sequence. It is based on the extraction of natural resources, the mass manufacture of products, the over-consumption of short-lived products and the generation of a huge amount of waste that is either incinerated or landfilled. Growth policies encourage the demand for more and more products, so that a country’s economy grows when its consumption and production increase.[iv]

Continue reading “The EU Circular Economy Strategy: a strong step towards more ecological products design and manufacturing?”