A trial run for the EU’s co-regulatory approach: the Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation

By Miguel Pereira (Master in European Union Law from the School of Law of the University of Minho)

On the 16 June 2022 the Strengthened Code of Practice on Disinformation was signed and presented to the European Commission, marking the end of a year long process that revamped the original 2018 Code of Practice on Disinformation.

The Strengthened Code, following the lines of the 2018 Code, is a self-regulatory and voluntary mechanism by which participants of the digital economy assume commitments to combat disinformation online. It forms part of a wider strategy that has been developed by the EU institutions since 2018 but has assumed a central role in the EU’s response to phenomenon. The 2018 Code was particularly important to highlight the mechanisms that online platforms had developed (and could develop) to address the issues this threat posed to their services and allowed for closer cooperation between its signatories and the Commission, with special focus around two events: the 2019 European Parliament election and the Covid-19 crisis.

Notwithstanding the successes we have highlighted and the groundbreaking nature of the initiative, a 2020 assessment of the implementation of the code levied criticism at the lack of oversight, erratic reporting practices, vagueness of the commitments, relatively disappointing adherence by industry players and difficulty in evaluating its effectiveness and enforcing the commitments vis-á-vis its signatories. Based on this assessment, the Commission issued a guidance calling for a strengthening of the Code’s structure and commitments and laying out specific areas which merited improvement. The signatories heeded the call and led the review process, with the resulting Strengthened Code closely following the recommendations laid out in the Commission’s Guidance.

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Editorial of July 2022

By Pedro Madeira Froufe, Alessandra Silveira, Joana Covelo de Abreu (Editors), Carlos Abreu Amorim (Professor of Administrative and Environmental Law, UMinho) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor) 

“European bloc” vs. “European network” – on the enlargement of the EU

The European Council of 23-24 June 2022 approved the granting of “candidate for accession” status to both Ukraine and Moldova. Prior to the granting of such status, there was a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans with the aim of preparing the environment and conditions for another prospective enlargement, involving Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Some of these States (such as Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) are already formal candidates for membership – Turkey too possesses such a status. Georgia had formally expressed its wish to join and therefore applied for candidate status. However, the European Council felt that, for the time being, and particularly in view of the few guarantees provided that the problems linked to corruption would be overcome relatively easily, it was not yet appropriate to consider it as a candidate State, although it was felt that it should be given a “European perspective”.

It should be noted that the accession of a new State to the “European bloc” follows a set rules and is part of a dynamic of political consensus and commitment on the part of both parties –  i.e. the Union and the candidate State – and it is certain that this animus or firm and consensual political will ultimately be decisive, irrespective of compliance with the existing and legally enshrined criteria [Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)]. Thus, a candidate State will not succeed if it does not profess, clearly and with commitment, the values which guide integration and which are a kind of “identity” of the Union: democracy, freedom, human dignity, equality, rule of law, respect for human rights and guarantee of protection of minorities (in essence, the values referred to in Article 2 of the TEU).

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Rainbow families: pioneering ruling on legal recognition to same sex parentage across all EU Member States

By Kosha Doshi and Naga Sumalika Rangisetti (3rd year students at Symbiosis Law School - India)

1. Introduction

Europe in general and the European Union (EU) in particular, have seen a remarkable surge in the prevalence of countries that provide legal recognition to informally cohabiting (same-sex) partners, as well as the number of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry or at least enter into a form of registered partnership. However, even in some countries where same-sex marriage is accepted, same-sex parentage is questioned. Pride month is celebrated every year in June and, within this context, it is important to remember that the rights of bisexuals, trans and LGBTQI+ parents have not been treated on par as heterosexual parents’ families. This is a complex and delicate subject that touches on human rights, religion, morality, and tradition, as well as constitutional concepts like equality, autonomy, and human dignity.

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The future of Europe: “citizens with real experience” and the European Political Community

By Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor)

1. The expression “citizens with real experience”, was used by President Emmanuel Macron in his speech on 9 May 2022 at the European Parliament.[1] 

This speech was delivered at the European Parliament’s traditional Europe Day session. This year, this session also marked the closing of the Conference on the Future of Europe. In fact, President Macron used that expression, addressing all those who were involved in the work of the Conference, highlighting the democratic exercise that meant the active participation of citizens, concretised in several proposals. According to Macron, these proposals are creative, as indeed the times we live in in Europe require.

2. The first striking feature of this speech has to do directly with the temporal contextualisation of President Macron’s programmatic ideas. A time of war. A time of war that effectively demands “creative efforts” in the search for European responses to the crisis that, from the outset, erupted because of the war. “Creative efforts’ which, undoubtedly and according to Macron, are more necessary today than they were in the past.

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Editorial of June 2022

By Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor) 

Brexit: “Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland”

1. On May 5 of this year, elections were held for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the regional parliament usually referred to as Stormont (by allusion to its physical space, the Stormont Castle). In fact, since the separation (“partition”) of the island of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as we know them today, the regional legislative power is concentrated in that Assembly. This is a democratically elected single-chamber unicameral body consisting of 90 members since 2016. In addition to exercising legislative power, the Assembly is also responsible for electing the Northern Ireland Executive.

The most recent Assembly elections resulted in the first victory for a party representing the republican and catholic “cluster” in the 101 years of existence of autonomous Northern Ireland (“post-partition” of the island, which occurred in 1921). In fact, Sinn Féin, the party that wants the reunification of the island of Ireland into one state and independence from the United Kingdom, won 27 seats in the Assembly against the 24 won by the Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP. We will not analyze, for now, the rationale behind this unprecedented victory of the Catholic Republicans which, for many analysts, represents a “seismic” result, opening the way to a possible rupture in politics and, consequently, in Northern Ireland society.[1]

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The material competence of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and its extension to organized crime as terrorism, human and drug trafficking

Catarina Vilarinho (Master in EU Law, School of Law, University of Minho)

1. Initial thoughts

The start of operation of a new European body such as the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, hereinafter EPPO, on 1 June 2021 is a sign that the Member States of the European Union (EU) are increasingly aligning themselves to create a stronger and more resilient Union, perhaps, in this case, due to the need to combat transnational crime, for which we will not find a sufficiently effective solution without strong and structured intervention at European level[1].

In this way, the battlefield is prepared for a battle of equal arms, as cross-border crime can now be tackled by an equally cross-border authority[2].

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Case C-205/22, C.D.A. Direct application by the national courts of the European Commission reports issued under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

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)]. 

Very recently, on March 10, 2022, the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal – Administrative and Fiscal Litigation Section ordered the referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union, based on art. 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, with a new preliminary ruling in close connection with the Rule of law (Case C-205/22, C.D.A.).

In fact, the Romanian court’s request tends to ascertain mainly whether, in the interpretation of the CJEU, the principle of judicial independence enshrined in the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU with reference to Article 2 TEU and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the principle of sincere cooperation, laid down in Article 4 TEU, preclude a national provision, such as that of Article 148(2) of the Romanian Constitution, as interpreted by the Romanian Constitutional Court, by Decision No 390/2021, according to which national courts cannot take account of the provisions of European Commission Decision 2006/928 and the recommendations made in the CVM Reports for the implementation of the benchmarks, on the ground that “national courts are not empowered to cooperate with a political institution of the European Union.”

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The instrumentalization of Human Rights in electoral processes as a marketing tool for the dominance of political elites

Sérgio Salazar  (Master's Student in Human Rights at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

States organize themselves by the political, social, and economical domination of their elites. Whether they are democratic, authoritarian, totalitarian, etc. In other words, all individuals are ruled by an elite.[1] For the effects of this article, our focus will be on political elites.

By political elites it is to be understood, individuals that, by their own merit, intellect, economic or social advantages or privilege, achieved or occupy positions of high importance on the political stage. And, due to that, hold a disproportional amount of power over the political direction of the State.[2]  

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