The GDPR may no longer be a paper tiger

Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor). 

1. It is a known fact that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has suffered from an enforcement problem. The theoretical administrative fines of up to €20 000 000, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 % of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, that appear impressive on paper largely failed to properly materialize in the first few years of application of the “new” data protection framework.

2. Fines under the GDPR finally overcame the €1 billion threshold in 2021, a sevenfold increase from 2021. In fact, fines under the GDPR have been steadily growing since 2018. Of course, one should not forget that a significant percentage of the total amount of fines levied in 2021 is comprised by the €746 million fine levied by Luxembourg Data Protection Supervisory Authority (DPA) against Amazon and the €225 million fine levied by the Irish DPA against Whatsapp. In addition, the total amount of the fines still pales in comparison with other areas, such as competition law.

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Editorial of February 2022

By Sandra Fernandes (Professor at UMinho - School of Management and Economics /Researcher of the CICP)

Making the Europeans visible again: on the Ukrainian-Russian crisis

The world has its eyes turned to the uncertain faith of Ukraine, a country whose geopolitical situation has settled as an “in-between” State in post-soviet Europe. Since the annexation-reintegration of Crimea in 2014, and the war in Donbass and Luhansk, Kiev has de facto lost sovereignty over parts of its territory. The growing mobilization of Russian military resources at the Ukrainian border since 2021 has escalated the crisis, together with straightforward Russian demands on a new security pact for Europe with less NATO.

In this context, the media have been underlying that the European Union (EU) and the Ukrainians themselves are the noticeable absents from the tentative dialogues amid the diplomatic iron arm that is ongoing between Washington and Moscow. How to make sense of this apparent void? A few days ago, the words of the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, helped us in addressing this question.

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Next Generation EU: the empowerment of the Executive(s) and the weakening of the Legislator(s)? A national perspective

Pedro Petiz Viana (Master in Law and Informatics from UMinho / LL.M student in European Law at the University of Leiden). 

Von der Leyen: ‘A lot of work ahead of you…’

António Costa: ‘Now I can go to the bank?’

Von der Leyen: ‘You can go to the bank’

News Conference on the approval by the Commission of Portugal’s Recovery Plan, July 2021.

This dialogue summarizes the increased importance of the Commission stemming from Next Generation EU. In the first line, the Commission takes on its technocratic, ‘administrative-executive’ role, guiding the Member States in their path to economic reforms. In the remaining dialogue, the Commission assumes a more political role, as the guardian of the 750 billion euros vault: Von der Leyen, ‘cheque’ in hand, flying across the Union and holding various press conferences, showing the European public that the Commission is the symbol of European funds to come. Alongside the Commission, national governments have also been empowered by NextGenEU, having been tasked with drafting national recovery plans.

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Holiday break

By Editorial Board 

Dear readers,

We will be taking a short 1-week break for holidays. We will resume our regular publishing schedule on 3 January 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: cocoparisienne

Much ado about the Social Summit?

by Graça Enes (Faculty of Law of the University of Porto and CIJE)

The Porto Social Summit was the high point of the Portuguese Presidency, a two-day event (May 7-8th) intended to achieve a strong commitment from Member States, European institutions, social partners, and civil society towards the implementation of the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights[1]. Several side events occurred along the weeks before the Summit, in Portugal and elsewhere[2], anticipating the debate.

In the days before, important members of the Portuguese Government made public statements stressing the ambition of the event. Ana Paula Zacarias, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, stated that the Porto Social Summit could “move principles to action”.

On May 7th, the Summit webpage announced: “Porto Social Summit starts today, defining EU policies for the next decade”. The stakes were high.

During the afternoon of the first day, a High-Level Conference was held for an extended debate, involving members of the Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, Heads of Government, and social partners. In addition to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, issue that was addressed by the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmitt, the discussion focused around three major subjects: work and employment; skills and innovation; welfare state and social protection. The participation in the debate went beyond the European Union, with the presence of the Director-General of the International Labour Organization and the Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The works of the conference were live streamed, and everyone could follow the debates taking place at the Alfândega building. At the opening session, António Costa declared: “We are here today to renew the European social contract, making a commitment, each one at their own level, to develop innovative and inclusive responses”. At the end of the day, Ursula von der Leyen stated: “The Porto Social Summit is our joint commitment to build a social Europe that is fit for our day and age and that works for everyone”. The tangible outcome of this debate was the “Porto Social Commitment”[3], an encompassing compromise of the EU institutions, Member States and European social partners that was being prepared for weeks and was solemnly presented by the three Presidents on the evening of May 7th.

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Editorial of May 2021

Alessandra Silveira, Joana Covelo de Abreu, Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editors) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor)

Conference on the future of Europe and the defence of European values

On March 10th, 2021, following a long negotiation, the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission signed the “Joint Declaration” on the “Conference on the Future of Europe”, holding its joint presidency.[1] The Conference will be officially launched on May 9th, 2021 in an inaugural session in Strasburg and it will be extended until the Spring of 2022. It aims at creating a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with Europeans around the issues that matter to them and affect their everyday lives. A new Special Eurobarometer, published one day before the signing of the Joint Declaration, focuses on the Conference and measures attitudes towards it and some of the key themes to be covered.[2]

Three-quarters of Europeans consider that the Conference will have a positive impact on democracy within the EU: 76% agree that it represents significant progress for democracy within the EU, with a clear majority supporting this view in every EU Member State. The very vast majority of Europeans (92%) across all Member States demand that citizens’ voices are “taken more into account in decisions relating to the future of Europe”. While voting in EU elections is clearly regarded (by 55% of respondents) as the most effective way of ensuring voices are heard by decision-makers at EU level, there is very strong support for EU citizens having a greater say in decisions relating to the future of Europe. 45% of Europeans declare themselves “rather in favour of the EU but not in the way it has been realised so far”. Six in ten Europeans agree that the Coronavirus crisis had made them reflect on the future of the EU while 39% disagree with this.

Continue reading “Editorial of May 2021”