Union in a time of war: On the Judgment “Violetta Prigozhina”, Case T-212/22

Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor)


On 8 March 2023, the General Court delivered a judgment in the case of Violetta Prigozhina (Case T-212/22),[1] whose applicant is an octogenarian lady and mother of the well-known Russian “war entrepreneur” who leads the pro-Kremlin mercenary group called the “Wagner Group”.

The European Union (EU) has always had a sufficiently clear and assertive position towards the invasion of Ukraine by the military forces of the Russian Federation, which began on 24 February 2022. Support for Ukraine stems from many factors, not least the Ukrainian people’s desire to move closer to the European way of life. The so-called “Euromaidan revolution” that began in Kiev in 2014 reacted against the former President Víktor Yanukóvytch for having refused to sign the agreements on trade cooperation and, in general, greater openness to the EU, apparently under pressure from Moscow.[2] On the other hand, the military action (aggression) unleashed in 2022 by Russia against Ukraine calls into question the international order and the assumptions of peace built up after the Second World War. From the perspective of the EU (and the political and civilisational bloc currently referred to as the “West”, associated with the framework of the democratic rule of law), this is a serious violation of international law.

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New CitDig website

The Editorial Team

On 1 October 2022 the European Commission awarded a “Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence” to the University of Minho under the Erasmus+ Programme. It is entitled “Digital citizenship and technological sustainability: pursuing the effectiveness of the CFREU in the digital decade” (CitDig) and is coordinated by Alessandra Silveira. In this context, CitDig presents its new website and electronic repository entitled “Espaço UNIO”, under which content related to European Union law will be made available, through various formats that record the interaction between its researchers.

You may find CitDig’s new website and the Espaço UNIO repository here: http://citdig.direito.uminho.pt/en/.

Sustainability and trade marks

Maria Miguel Carvalho (Associate Professor with Habilitation, School of Law, University of Minho, Portugal. Director of Research Centre for Justice and Governance, School of Law, University of Minho, Portugal)


The importance of intellectual property [IP] in the pursuit of goal 9 of the 2030 Agenda (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation) is often mentioned and, upon the initiative of the World Intellectual Property Organization [WIPO], was already the leitmotif of the World IP Day in 2020 (“Innovate for a Green Future”)[1], although for the most part only patents and utility models are mentioned. However, due to a growing awareness on the part of consumers [the “green” consumers (LOHAS consumers)][2] on the impact of their choices, in recent years the role that trade marks might play in this domain is also emerging[3] (e.g., the 2022 MARQUES Annual Conference theme: “Celebrating marks: How sustainability and technology will shape the future of brands”).

Trade marks are distinctive signs of products or services that provide relevant information to consumers. They can therefore play a highly relevant role concerning, in particular, the increased choice of products or services distinguished with “green” signs, and thus also encourage companies to adopt (more) sustainable practices. Companies, aware of this fact, have been increasingly adopting the so-called green branding, which consists in using trade marks that suggest that the products or services they indicate are environment-friendly (green marks, eco marks), for example, because they are recyclable.

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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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Lula’s presidency: what to expect from the European Union – Brazil relationship

José Manuel Fernandes (Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Federative Republic of Brazil)

Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil’s 2022 presidential elections is an opportunity for the strengthening of relations between the European Union and Latin America’s largest country. Taking advantage of the new Brazilian government taking office on January 1, 2023, as well as the unfortunate events of January 8, when protesters invaded Brazilian institutions. In this text, I propose to address what I hope and wish for the bilateral relations between the EU and Brazil in the coming years. For my part, and as Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Federative Republic of Brazil, I take what I write not only as analysis, but also as political commitment.

The size and importance of Brazil continues to elude most Europeans, even the main political leaders. We perpetuate a distant and incomplete vision of what Brazil actually is: a country that represents half of Latin America, both geographically and demographically; the 10th economy in the world; one of the five largest agricultural producers in the world. It is time to recognize Brazil as a global giant, and to treat it as such.

The key word must be “cooperation”. Without paternalism, by mutually recognizing potentialities and weaknesses. Cooperation must have as common ground the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and the uncompromising defence of human dignity and human rights. Environmental sustainability and inclusion are also essential elements for the economic development we must conquer.

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The role of associations of judges in defending the rule of law: legitimacy of unconditional locus standi in situations where they seek to obtain effective jurisdictional protection in areas regulated by European Union law

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 

On 24 November 2022, the Pitești Court of Appeal referred two preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the first of which concerns the legitimacy of locus standi and the procedural interest of professional associations of judges in order to promote and defend the independence of judges and the rule of law, as well as to safeguard the status of the profession, in situations where associations seek to obtain effective jurisdictional protection in areas regulated by Union law.

The litigation initiated by the Romanian Judges’ Forum Association respectively by the Movement for Defending the Status of Prosecutors Association, two of the most important associations of Romanian judges and prosecutors, seeks the annulment of administrative acts regarding the appointment within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice of prosecutors who will conduct criminal investigations in corruption cases regarding judges and prosecutors, given that, in Romania, the competence of the National Anticorruption Directorate in this field has been completely removed.

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New UNIO issue now online

By the Editorial Team

The Editorial Board is happy to announce that a new issue of the UNIO – EU Law Journal is now online. The 8(1) issue of UNIO mixes contributions from highly respected scholars and from young scholars and addresses issues such as democracy and rule of law, protection of the environment, discrimination and equality, intergenerational solidarity  and  social  sustainability, consumer protection, and research in humanist legal sciences.

This issue also marks a major change in the publishing schedule at UNIO. UNIO wants to be able to continue delivering high-quality publications while keeping their timeliness. For this reason, we will start publishing on a rolling basis. That is to say, papers will be published as we receive them and compiled in an issue afterwards.

We hope this new system pleases both our readers and authors and would like to remind you that we are accepting submissions at UNIO and also at our blog.

You may find UNIO’s 8(1) issue here.

Lula da Silva is President of Brazil once again: are we closing a cycle of lawfare?

By Guilherme Torrentes (Master in Human Rights from the University of Minho)

On January 1, 2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as President of Brazil for the third time, after one of the fiercest electoral disputes since the re-democratization of the country (which occurred in 1985), in which Lula da Silva defeated Jair Bolsonaro. It is perhaps the end of a cycle of “lawfare” – a term that can be defined as the strategic use of law for the purpose of delegitimizing, harming, or annihilating an enemy[1] – that is, the perverse use of legal rules and procedures for the purpose of political persecution. This cycle of lawfare was initiated in a tentative way by what became known as “Mensalão” (a “mega” or “maxi” judicial process that culminated in the conviction of several political members of Lula’s first government for corruption) and worsened with the impeachment process of President Dilma Roussef and “Operação Lava Jato” (another “mega” judicial process that culminated in the illegal imprisonment of Lula for 580 days).

This cycle of lawfare has jeopardized the continuity of the democratic rule of law, as the Brazilian judiciary and criminal process have been instrumentalized by the exception and subjectivity undesirable to its performance, in order to achieve the desired political ends. It is worth noting that in 2018, the Brazilian State failed to comply with a recommendation of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee to guarantee Lula the right to run for the presidential elections of that year, invoking its domestic laws to not apply Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which guarantees every citizen the right and the opportunity, without unreasonable restrictions, to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors).[2]

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