Covid-19: a matter of security

by Rafaela Figueiredo Garcia Guimarães (Master’s student in Human Rights at University of Minho)

We must declare war on this virus”, asserted the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, when commenting on the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, on March 13, 2020[1]. On April 23, 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that “the war against Covid-19 is far from won by the Planet[2]. By the same token, Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor on Organizational Change to the WHO Director-General, also stated at a press conference on March 26, 2021, that “we are at war with the virus, not against each other, and the common goal is to end the coronavirus[3]. Josep Borrell, the High Representative on behalf of the European Union (EU), in his declaration on April 3, 2020, proclaimed that “this is a time when we should spend all of our energy and resources in the fight against this common global threat – the coronavirus[4]. Likewise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her speech to the nation on March 18, 2020, acknowledged that “there has not been a challenge like this since World War II, which depends so much on a joint action of solidarity[5], and the French President, Emmanuel Macron, on March 16, 2020, openly declared that “we are at war and that the enemy, although invisible, is here[6]. “This is a war! It is really a war we are dealing with,” assures the Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on March 18, 2020, in his message to the Portuguese people[7]. Last but not least, the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, on January 21, 2021, stated publicly the endorsement of a “large-scale war effort to fight the pandemic[8].

Since WHO’s public announcement, on March 11, 2020, the disease caused by the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus and on the fact that we were in the face of a pandemic, Covid-19 has been treated as a security issue, with coronavirus being the global enemy that needs to be tackled and eliminated. Thus, the health crisis Covid-19 gave rise to came to be considered a threat to global security.

Continue reading “Covid-19: a matter of security”

“Fintech”: in search of a legal definition

by Carlos Goettenauer (PhD Candidate at University of Brasília)

During the last decade, the term “fintech” gained popularity and became a topic of discussion among market agents and financial regulators all around the world. The term’s origin, however, can be traced to the early 1990s, when Citigroup established the “Financial Services Technology Consortium”[1]. As with any other nascent buzzword, its meaning remains a subject of debate and controversy among many social actors. Market agents tend to associate the term “fintech” with innovations on financial systems and on so-called “market disruptions”, linking it to other common Silicon Valley tropes, such as “disintermediation” and “consumer-empowerment”. On the other hand, financial industry incumbents, and even its regulators, may wish to broaden the meaning of the term “fintech”, in order to fit all sorts of technological innovation under its umbrella. Considering its many possible meanings, it is time we ask whether there is space for a legal definition of “fintech”.

The law often plays a major role in reducing polysemy in contested expressions. Legal predictability and normative stability require terms to be precisely defined and agreed upon. This way, a legal definition (or even a statutory definition) of “fintech” would aid authorities in grounding their regulatory efforts, thus producing a more stable and predictable legal environment for both entrants and incumbents.

Continue reading ““Fintech”: in search of a legal definition”

The importance of a conceptual reform in the regulation of emerging technologies

by Manuel Resende Monteiro Protásio (LL.M Law & Technology, Tilburg University)

Whenever a different situation or circumstance emerges in society, we, as a group of individuals, instinctively react by trying to comprehend it. The first individual and social construction that we build to understand reality in a consensual way is language itself.

Although our thoughts and concerns on how we perceive society may differ, as language, legal concepts try to establish a consensus between Law and almost every aspect of human life. If we add a new element to our human interactions, like technology, one should ask the question if this new element in our reality requires new language to understand it, or new legal concepts to regulate it.

The need to conceptualize the way we interact with our environment is inherent to our nature. In fact, Language and Law are the most established and sophisticated social constructions that people designed to control their interpersonal relations as well as the environment around them. Both are models of interpretation of our reality and tools that we created to control what we perceive. If we consider the impact of emerging and disruptive technologies in our society, we must assume that the need for a new conceptual approach to regulate technologies is undeniable.

Continue reading “The importance of a conceptual reform in the regulation of emerging technologies”

Millennials and Covid-19 pandemic: an exploratory analysis

by Felipe Debasa and José Ramón Saura (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos) 

Youths has traditionally been considered the period that precedes human maturity. However, the Baby boomer generation, the one we find after World War II, changes the term. Youth will be considered by them as the end of childhood, the culmination stage of human development. This change in point of view is the origin of the rebellious behaviors and a spirit of freedom that mark the decades of the 60s and 70s so approached by literature, music and cinema. The Baby Boomer generation in the United States and in Europe is the first generation that does not suffer a war in its own territory and that does not suffer from a shortage of food or services. Youth leisure and a consumer society focused on young people became widespread, something unthinkable at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result of this scenario, the characteristic cultural movements of an era that has marked the development of the Western world until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the USSR appear. Faced with this new non-war scenario, there are also youth movements protesting against their model of life. Especially against the consumer society, the rigidity of social norms and the wars in other parts of the world for which they blame Western societies. This is how countercultures were born in the 1950s and 1960s, such as beats or hippies. However, some authors[i] point out that the Maoist ideas that circulated in May 68 crossed borders and oceans and reached Latin America. There they would be the germ of many revolutionary and terrorist movements that would shake Latin America during the last third part of the 20th century.

Continue reading “Millennials and Covid-19 pandemic: an exploratory analysis”

“All the world began with a yes”: on the EU strategies towards an environmental citizenship

by Nataly Machado (Master's student in EU Law, UMinho)

In a year of so many turbulences and uncertainties, the last month of 2020 contained dates that must be remembered and questioned about how is possible to improve what was once idealized and started. These are events that reveal changes in growing recognition of the global climate crisis as well as the EU strategies towards achieving environmental protection. 

1 year ago: on 11 December 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal. It is a response with the objective of tackling climate and environmental-related challenges to transform the EU into the first climate neutral continent by 2050 with a just and inclusive transition, a clean, affordable, and secure energy supply, a modernized EU industry, a clean and circular economy and sustainable and smart mobility, with the protection of biodiversity[i].

5 years ago: on 12 December 2015, the Paris Agreement has signed and, as a legally binding international treaty on climate change, is a landmark in the multilateral climate change, in which all abiding nations commit to undertake efforts to combat climate change, in order to limit global warming preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels[ii].

Continue reading ““All the world began with a yes”: on the EU strategies towards an environmental citizenship”

Neuro-rights

by Felipe Debasa (University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid)

The history of social evolution is also the history of social rights achievements and in this equation the role of technology must be taken into account. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether the technology that exists at any given moment shapes social evolution or whether it is society that creates the technology it needs for its development. We think that it is available technology that shapes society, and in this respect, we could cite how the geographical limits of the provinces in Spain and Portugal were marked according to the technology of displacement existing at the time: the horse. Probably if the limit were set today, it would not be on the basis of the distance a person can travel to and from the place in a single day.

By legal system or law, we are referring to the set of rules that regulate human relations in society and which are imposed by States in a coercive manner. But in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the era in which social changes occur in a rapid and disruptive manner, the law is also the regulator that allows these social changes to be accelerated or slowed down. Thus, with regard to new technologies, perhaps we could explain why Anglo-Saxon countries implement technology in society much more quickly than Latin countries. Remember Cordeiro, J. L, that in Anglo-Saxon countries what the law does not explicitly prohibit is basically allowed; while in Roman-based legal systems what is not expressly regulated is basically prohibited.

Continue reading “Neuro-rights”

The EU and geopolitical Europe: from Belarus to Nagorno-Karabakh

by Sandra Fernandes (Professor at UMinho/Researcher of the CICP)

Two years ago, I commented on the gloomy prospects for the engagement of the European Union (EU) in its Eastern (and Southern) neighbourhood. Looking East, the challenges for the EU were “closely related to the degradation of the relations with Russia and to the unsatisfying deliveries of the European Neighbourhood Policy in the partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine)”. Current developments in most of these countries take this observation to a higher level of seriousness. From the societal upheaval in Belarus to the existence of overt violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU sees unrest in all its Eastern vicinity. In parallel, relations with Moscow have not happening in any way that could be considered positive dialogue.

In this context, and considering the democratic revindications of the Belarus people, much is awaited from a big neighbour that defends liberal values and the respect for the United Nations Charter. Brussels is expected to act in order to support the will of an oppressed population, mostly as the use of violence by the Lukashenko regime against its own population has been internationally condemned. So far, the Union has adopted sanctions against individuals directly involved in repression and intimidation and built plans for economic support for a democratic Belarus. The most visible stance consists in the non-recognition of the presidential election results of August 9.

Continue reading “The EU and geopolitical Europe: from Belarus to Nagorno-Karabakh”

Artificial intelligence: 2020 A-level grades in the UK as an example of the challenges and risks

by Piedade Costa de Oliveira (Former official of the European Commission - Legal Service)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are purely personal and are the exclusive responsibility of the author. They do not reflect any position of the European Commission

The use of algorithms for automated decision-making, commonly referred to as Artificial Intelligence (AI), is becoming a reality in many fields of activity both in the private and public sectors.

It is common ground that AI raises considerable challenges not only for the area for which it is operated in but also for society as a whole. As pointed out by the European Commission in its White Paper on AI[i], AI entails a number of potential risks, such as opaque decision-making, gender-based bias or other kinds of discrimination or intrusion on privacy.

In order to mitigate such risks, Article 22 of the GDPR confers on data subjects the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing which produces legal effects concerning them or similarly significantly affects them[ii].

Continue reading “Artificial intelligence: 2020 A-level grades in the UK as an example of the challenges and risks”

Labor Apartheid: the next frontier of social inequality and the role of European Union

Maria Fernanda Brandão, Master's degree student in EU Law at UMinho
 ▪

 

Guiding the reasoning by the dialectic theory, in the perspective of Hegel and Marx, it is possible to contemplate the history of humanity as an inexhaustible class struggle. The conflict between dominant and dominated groups is one of the main legacies of the human action throughout the time. Thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, this seems to be the endless plot of the path taken by man.

The perspective of what is a ruling class is modified routinely over the centuries. In the last two, the polarization have been between the owners of the productive ways and assets and the wage-earning workers, which is, by the way, the feature of the capitalism and its intrinsic contradiction and, despite the conflict, the existence of both classes is necessary for the maintenance of the economic system.

However, several social transformations that occurred throughout the 20th century created new outcast groups in need of society’s attention for its integration. This was the case of women, in the search for effective equality in terms of labor rights, or the disabled and ethnic minority groups, and their notorious difficulty in employability. The State’s action, in all these cases, has been affirmative policies, such as the setting of quotas, subsidies and social integration campaigns.

However, the fourth industrial revolution sheds new light into these issues since a significant portion of the existing jobs is currently at risk of extinction due to the extreme robotization associated with the existence of artificial intelligence (AI). What can be seen, therefore, is a complete change of paradigm that places individuals of the most diverse shades on the same losing side, concentrating people of different races, genders, ages, social strata and schooling in the same group, deepening the inequality that has only skyrocketed since the welfare state collapsed in most parts of the world. This is what we call labor apartheid, due to the profound segregation of human beings from work and consumption caused by their productive unavailability. Continue reading “Labor Apartheid: the next frontier of social inequality and the role of European Union”

Competition and corona crisis in Spain

recession-2530812_1280

 by María Pilar Canedo Arrillaga, Professor of Law, University of Deusto

1. Spain is one of the countries that has been more seriously affected by the COVID19. In order to protect the health of citizens, the Spanish Government adopted some rules that radically limit the social and economic activity in Spain imposing the obligation to stay at home for citizens for a long period and ordering what has been called “the hibernation of the economic activity” for 15 days in all the non essential sectors (mostly health services, security and food)[i]. Those rules are having a dramatic effect in the economy especially in the labour market. This has implied the most relevant rise in the unemployment figures in Spain since the arrival of democracy in 1978[ii]. Also, they are having huge implications in the protection of legal certainty and social and personal rights of the citizens. Those consequences have a more relevant impact in the weaker actors in society both from the social and economic perspective and therefore the Government has decided to take measures with the aim of reducing the impact of the crisis in economy in general and, in particular to help those more harmed by the situation[iii].

2. It is evident that the most relevant overriding reason of general interest, which is human life, needs protection. That implies limits in the rights of the people that we could not foresee some months ago and those radical changes in social and economic behaviours will have impact in our business and industrial economy not only in the short term.

In these circumstances we can hear more radical voices claiming for a change in our economic model towards one in which the public sector controls different aspects of society, including company’s ownership[iv]. Others claim for public control of economic activity and/or business behaviour[v]. Others claim for higher protection to the companies so they can contribute to lower the destruction of employment[vi].

Also, we can witness some (infrequent) business behaviours that profit the situation of need and legal exception and maximize their benefits in abusive ways that fall under different prohibitions of the law. Some of them, with criminal implications, others, with labour, tax, social security or competition law[vii].

Dealing with the latter, there is an increasingly relevant movement that asks for a more lenient application of the competition law rules and principles in reference both with the administrative and legislative measures adopted to tackle with this situation and its application and with the enforcement activities conducted by the competition authorities.
Continue reading “Competition and corona crisis in Spain”