Editorial of January 2021

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

Editorial of January 2021 – Heresy, realpolitik, and the European Budget

1. The negotiation preceding the final approval of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (hereinafter, “MFF” or “Budget”) has marked by a significant number of twists, turns and eleventh-hour surprises. From the beginning this would always be a difficult negotiation. Being the first budget without the UK as a Member State, on one hand there was the need to show a united European Union after Brexit, but, on the other hand, there was the always unpleasant matter of redistributing the bill among remaining Member States.

2. In 2018, the Juncker Commission proposed a Budget with the value €1 135 Billion. Parliament considered the proposal not to be ambitious enough, an made a reinforced “counter-offer”, naming a much higher price for its consent in its November 2018 Interim Report on the Budget. However, in Council negotiations, the proposal was on track to be severely reduced. Plenty of factions were formed around the budget discussion such as the frugals (who wished to cap the budget at 1% of the GNI) or the friends of cohesion (who were not satisfied with cuts or shifting of funds from cohesion). Europe’s farming industry also lobbied against the decline in importance of the Common Agricultural Policy, and especially direct payments in the budget. At the end, things certainly seemed to be going into a pretty disappointing direction. The most likely result appeared to be a non-innovative budget pushed through after plenty of (arguably) petty squabbling.

Continue reading “Editorial of January 2021”

Editorial of December 2020

Alessandra Silveira, Joana Covelo de Abreu and Pedro Madeira Froufe (eUjust Jean Monnet Module Members - https://eujust.direito.uminho.pt). 

Brief insights on e-Justice paradigm and the de facto digitalization of justice in the European Union – answers for the plural crisis (the endemic and the pandemic)?

e-Justice is a paradigm that has been strengthened since the adoption of the latter Council’s e-Justice Action Plan and Strategy for the period of 2019-2023, where digital platforms and technological instruments are perceived as the way to further deepen reciprocal trust in the EU administration of justice (following previous arrangements made under e-Justice Action Plan 2014-2018).

However, as the Commission points out, the “[e]xperience with the COVID-19 crisis shows the need for justice systems [to] function under challenging circumstances” since, insofar, “[e]ffective access to justice in the EU is hampered by paper exchanges and the need to be physically present” and it needs to be scalable to a new development environment as “[d]igital technologies have the potential to make justice systems more accessible and efficient”.

Continue reading “Editorial of December 2020”

Editorial of November 2020

Alessandra Silveira, Editor and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Law at UMinho is one of the promoters of this manifesto that is being republished here. To find more about the other promoters please follow this link. To read the original manifesto click here. 

The Universal Right to Internet Access Manifesto

Against digital and cognitive gaps

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has revealed various strengths and weaknesses of international education and communication systems and it is, without a doubt, in these crises, where, out of sheer need for survival, inventiveness and ability to create new opportunities to ensure progress.

The fact that more than 40% of the world population has been forced to confine themselves in their homes for a long period of time, a situation unknown until now for current generations, has forced a change in the life strategies for a large group of people, families and companies.

One of the consequences of this crisis has been the significant intensification of the use of Internet as a means of communication, by increasing videoconferencing tools unimaginable just four months ago, or the constant use of mobile telephones, both to keep in touch with family and friends, and to be able to follow certain work routines linked to this new way of working or simply for leisure reasons. Similarly, it has highlighted the importance of social networks in shaping climates of opinion.

Continue reading “Editorial of November 2020”

Editorial of October 2020

by Filipe Marques, President of MEDEL (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés)

Rule of Law in the European Union: the danger of a systematic change of the concept?

In the last day of September 2020, the European Commission publicly presented the first Rule of Law Report, intended to give an overview of the situation of Rule of Law in all twenty-seven EU Member States[i]. In the introductory words of this document, it is stated the Rule of Law, together with fundamental rights and democracy, “are the bedrock of our societies and common identity”.

The report came out just two weeks after President Ursula Von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union speech before the European Parliament Plenary, recognized that “the last months have also reminded us how fragile [Rule of Law] can be” and pledged to “always be vigilant, to care and nurture for the rule of law” [ii].

The current and ongoing situation in the EU, however, is much too serious to be tackled only with nice words in a speech or data collected in a report. The events and signs coming directly from the ground clearly show us that the time to act is now, before we reach a point of no return.

Continue reading “Editorial of October 2020”

Editorial of September 2020

europe-palace-5414751_1920

by Alessandra Silveira, Joana Abreu and Pedro M. Froufe, Editors and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Team


The German Presidency of the Council of the European Union – the European digital path in justice fields in times of COVID-19


On the 1st July 2020, the Federal Republic of Germany has received the task of holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union until the 31st December 2020, as this European Institution operates through a system of rotating presidency. This Member State will be closely working in a group of three – the so-called “trio” – which will also be composed by Portugal and Slovenia.  

Therefore, as the world is still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is experiencing a “time of unprecedented crisis”, which has to be strongly addressed by this presidency and has to be perceived as its transversal priority so a more resilient European Union can emerge from this challenge.

Insofar, the motto of this Germany’s presidency is “Together for Europe’s recovery” since, as Chancellor Merkel underlined, “[w]e know that we can only master this extraordinary crisis in the best possible way if we work together”, “together” has to mean the engagement of governments, parliaments and citizens all across Europe.

Under the Programme for Germany’s presidency[i], “[o]nly by containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the long term, investing in Europe’s economy, fully exploiting our innovative potential and strengthening social cohesion can the European Union and its Member States overcome the crisis effectively and permanently”. As crisis were always doors that led to new opportunities in the European Union, this presidency believes there is a need to “focus [the] attention on the major transformation processes of our time such as climate change, digitalisation and the changing world of work”.

Continue reading “Editorial of September 2020”

Editorial of July 2020

play-button-3248390_1920

 by Joana Abreu, Editor and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Coordinator


e-Justice in times of COVID-19 – someone pushed fast-forward?
Follow-up on the eUjust Jean Monnet Module “EU Procedure and credits’ claims: approaching electronic solutions under e-Justice paradigm”

We have already stressed the impact new information and communication technologies (ICT) are able to have on justice administration throughout Europe.

In fact, when Digital Single Market was developed, and interoperability was the method adopted, the EU established the need to pursue the paramount of e-Justice.

Insofar, as derived from the Council’s 2019-2023 Strategy on e-Justice, e-Justice paradigm “aims at improving access to justice in a pan-European context and is developing and integrating information and communication technologies into access to legal information and the working of judicial systems” since “[p]rocedures carried out in a digitised manner and electronic communication between those involved in judicial proceedings have become an essential component in the efficient functioning of the judiciary in the Member States” (paragraph 1).

In order to achieve this, the elected method was the one of interoperability, which was firstly recognised in the implementation of e-Government. However, as the time went by, it was elevated to a general principle of EU law, not only relevant on e-Government but also on e-Justice fields (see, on the matter, paragraphs 8 to 11 and 24 of the mentioned e-Justice Strategy), as it was perceived to be the less expensive and the most capable mean to put national digital solutions communicating among each other and to interconnect them to equivalent systems running before EU institutions, bodies and agencies.
Continue reading “Editorial of July 2020”

Editorial of June 2020

light-bulb-leaf-chlorophyll-green-preview

 by Carlos Abreu Amorim, Professor of Administrative and Environmental Law, UMinho


The European Green Deal as a model of world leadership in the recovery of Covid-19 crisis

In July 2019, the candidate for President of the European Commission, the German Ursula von der Leyen, presented a program entitled “My Agenda for Europe, Political Guidelines for the Next European Commission 2019-2024”. Concrete goals were set there during her tenure, such as “An European Green Deal”; “An economy that works for people”; “A Europe fit for the digital age”; “Protecting our European way of life”; “A stronger Europe in the world”; “A new push for European democracy”. Those axis were reaffirmed on 1st December 2019, when she took office as president of the new college of commissioners.

Although these priorities are necessarily interlinked and can be considered as similar challenges, we highlight the European Green Deal as a remarkable turning effort in the institutional logics of environmental protection adding a desired projection of the will of the European Union (EU) to assert itself as a world leader in the defense of the values of justice, solidarity and quality of life, amongst which safeguarding the environment is the indispensable background of our times.

This is not the first European plan for environmental protection, of course. The history of the EU’s environmental policy is long, notably since the Paris Summit, held from 19th to 21st October 1972, following the then hopeful and innovative success of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which took place a few months earlier in Stockholm from 5 to 16 June, through the modifications of the Treaties which enabled the express consecration of the protection of environmental values with the Single European Act (1986) until the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2007).[i] In this context, the EU has already approved seven multi-annual environmental action in the field of the environment since  1973, the latter of which was adopted by the Council and Parliament in 2013  to be in force until 2020.
Continue reading “Editorial of June 2020”

Editorial of May 2020

hourglass-4666692_1920

by José Igreja Matos, President of the European Association of Judges


“With all due respect, I have no time for this”. The Hungarian Case

1. The Pandemic Crisis in Hungary. Background.

In Hungary, like in many other countries, the Covid19 pandemic and the envisaged measures to prevent its expansion determined the approval of emergency laws.

The Hungarian Government declared the state of danger on 11 March 2020. On that occasion the power to issue decrees in order to suspend the application of certain laws and to take other extraordinary measures was granted for a period of 15 days, except if the Government – on the basis of an authorization from Parliament – decided to extend the effect of the decree. In effect, on 30 March 2020, this extension has been granted by the Parliament on broad terms: “until the endangering situation cease to exist.”

It is now undisputable the absence of any defined time limit for the extensive powers conceded to the national Government.

In the particular case of the functioning of the courts, on 14 March, the Government declared an extraordinary period of judicial vacations. This means that for the duration of judicial vacation, no regular trial hearing should be scheduled except in urgent court cases. Hearings must be held by videoconference. If the personal contact during the hearing is unavoidable a special protocol were applicable for the protection of health.
Continue reading “Editorial of May 2020”

Editorial of April 2020

scope-microscope-camera-experiment-sience

by Alessandra Silveira, Editor


Health-related personal data – regarding COVID-19 and digital surveillance

Article 9 of the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 – General Data Protection Regulation (hereinafter, “GDPR”) prohibits the processing of special categories of personal data, amongst them (and the ones relevant for the subject of this essay): genetic data; biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person; and data concerning health. However, this prohibition shall not apply if processing is necessary for the purposes of medical diagnosis; the provision of health care or treatment;  the management of health care systems; or pursuant to contract with a health professional, in accordance to point h), of Article 9/2 of GDPR and under the further conditions established in Article 9/3. In particular, the general prohibition shall not apply if the “processing is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, such as protecting against serious cross-border threats to health or ensuring high standards of quality and safety of health care and of medicinal products or medical devices”, under point i), of Article 9/2.
Continue reading “Editorial of April 2020”

Editorial of March 2020

29947891017_e916795278_o

by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor


An “idea of Europe” – on George Steiner and Brexit

The result of the 2016 UK referendum (Brexit) undoubtedly posed a series of questions and triggered a set of concerns that, in a way, were already underlying European collective thinking – rectius, underlined and involved the dynamics of European integration.

Following the Brexit referendum, many considered (or even predicted) the progressive disintegration of the Union, a contagious effect on the rest of integrated Europe, especially in the face of the emergence of outbreaks of nationalist populism in countries such as Italy, Poland, Hungary, Malta, Spain, as well as the strengthening of these political currents in other Member States – with the already traditional Front National in France, besides Holland and Germany.

However, instead of these forecasts, during the entire negotiation period of the exit agreement, until January 31, 2020, the contagion effect occurred in the opposite direction to what these currents (which bet on the breakdown) supposed. There was a political reinforcement of the Member States’ common position to renew the will to maintain and deepen the integration process. In other words, a position with a single voice from all the remaining 27 Member States, so that, in that plan, Brexit represented – despite everything and until now – a factor of strengthening the union around the need, commonly felt, to maintain the “European dream” (expression by George Steiner, in a posthumous interview, published in the newspaper El País, on February 7, 2020). So, being naturally a disastrous mishap, Brexit can also be a positive event. There are thorns that oblige us, at times, to pay more attention – treating it with more care – to the beauty of the rose (because “there are no roses without thorns”!).
Continue reading “Editorial of March 2020”