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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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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Editorial of April 2022

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

Rule of law and the direct effect of the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU (on the case M. F., C-508/19)


Never since the beginning of European integration, was the mission of impartial and independent courts been as important as nowadays, taking into account the war currently being waged. Therefore, it is important to consider that “It is when the cannons roar that we especially need the laws…Every struggle of the state – against terrorism or any other enemy – is conducted according to rules and law”, as stated the Advocate General Poiares Maduro in his Opinion in the case Kadi, quoting Aharon Barak, the former President on the Supreme Court of Israel (C‑402/05 P, ECLI:EU:C:2008:11, recital 45).

Last week the CJUE added a piece to the puzzle of a Union based on the rule of law. And do it from the judicial independence in which the effective judicial protection of individuals’ rights under EU law is rooted. More precisely: on 22 March 2022, in the case M. F. (C-508/19, ECLI:EU:C:2022:201), the CJEU has claimed that the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU (according to which “Member States shall provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by Union law”) must be regarded as having direct effect.

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Editorial of March 2022

By Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor)

Europe and war

They do not know that dreams are a constant of life

As concrete and defined as any other thing (…)

They neither know nor dream that dreams command life![1]

(António Gedeão)

The history of European integration is made up of moments of war, manifestations of collective irrationality, and the permanent reaction to and overcoming of such instances. In fact, Europe itself, “the daughter of mythology and war”, was gradually built as a stage for violent and disastrous wars and, simultaneously, for virtuous and great conquests.[2]

The success of this 71-year-long integration can be illustrated by the fact that we are dramatically surprised by Russia’s war against Ukraine! European integration was born out of the debris of World War II, trying to permanently bury it. Its great merit was, after all, and as Jean Monnet said, to try to unite Men, more than to unite States.[3] Thus, we have been living in the illusion that the supreme inhumanity and irrationality of war would be definitively overcome. At least, on the European continent (not only in the European Union) and among sovereign states.

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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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Editorial of January 2022

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

Talking openly about the federative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU integration

Jean Monnet stated that Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises. Crisis is the natural condition of Europe, and, as in every crisis the EU has survived in recent times – be it the sovereign debt crisis, the migration crisis, or the identity crisis with Brexit – at the beginning of the health crisis the imminent collapse of the EU was again proclaimed. And oddly enough, or not, those who were most critical of the EU’s initial silence were the same ones who traditionally postulate the least possible integration[1].

However, the existential risk at this time was also sensed by politicians and academics unsuspicious of any Euroskepticism – such as Mario Monti, Jacques Delors or Giscard d’Estaing[2] – which made that historical moment especially unique. The public opinion in the various Member States called for concerted EU action in the area of public health, in accordance with its competencies under the TFEU [both shared competencies (Article 4/2/k) and the so-called complementary competencies (Article 6/a), both set out in Article 168 under the heading “public health”], in order to fight a virus that knew no borders, endangered the health and lives of citizens, and threatened to cause an economic crisis of unimaginable proportions, foreseeably more serious than the recession crisis of the 1930s.

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Editorial of December 2021

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

AI systems and automated inferences – on the protection of inferred personal data

On 23 November 2021 the European Commission published the consultation results on a set of digital rights and principles to promote and uphold EU values in the digital space – which ran between 12 May and 6 September 2021.[1] This public consultation on digital principles is a key deliverable of the preparatory work for the upcoming “Declaration on digital rights and principles for the Digital Decade”, which European Commission will announce by the end of 2021. The consultation invited all interested people to share their views on the formulation of digital principles in 9 areas: i) universal access to internet services; ii) universal digital education and skills for people to take an active part in society and in democratic processes; iii) accessible and human-centric digital public services and administration; iv) access to digital health services; v) an open, secure and trusted online environment; vi) protecting and empowering children and young people in the online space; vii) a European digital identity; viii) access to digital devices, systems and services that respect the climate and environment; ix) ethical principles for human-centric algorithms.  

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Editorial of November 2021

By Rafael Leite Pinto (Master in EU Law – University of Minho)

The regional impacts of climate change in the European Union – a cohesion perspective

Although concern about climate change is typically a higher priority in western countries, especially in Europe, the understanding of its regional impacts is not widespread. The prevailing line of thinking is that developing countries will be the most affected and Europe will experience minor changes. While it is clear that developing countries will be affected the most, the lack of knowledge about local impacts can lead many citizens and politicians to delay taking concrete action. In this article, based on the new IPCC report and the new visual tools provided, we summarize the impacts of climate change in Europe, on rising temperatures, sea level, precipitation, and the incidence of extreme events with an overarching view on the internal cohesion policy for climate change to guarantee a fair and just transition, within the European Union.

1. The IPCC report

The new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[1] made headlines as being the most frightening and alarming ever. In fact, nothing should concern us more than a report based on more than 14,000 high-quality studies, which clearly states that “each of the last four decades has been successively warmer[2]” and that human action is to blame.

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Editorial of October 2021

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor)

Strange times and the need to remember the obvious…on the recent decision of the Polish Constitutional Court

The recent judgment of the Polish Constitutional Court calls into question one of the base pillars of the European legal order – namely the primacy of EU law over national law. As a result, it is likely that the European Commission will bring infringement proceedings against Poland. If the CJEU finds that Poland has not complied with its judgment, it may impose a financial penalty.

However, there is a possibility for de-escalation which would allow for this imbroglio to be first be resolved politically. This was the case regarding the German Constitutional Court’s astonishing decision of 5 May 2020, concerning the ECB’s bond buying programme for purchasing Member States’ public debt on the secondary market. The crux of the matter was that the German Constitutional Court’s judgment followed a judgment by CJEU which settled the issue of the validity of the ECB’s bond buying programme. The German Constitutional Court in its decision disregarded the decision of the competent court under Article 19(1) TEU, according to which the CJEU ensures that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of EU treaties. It did not take long for the so-called “illiberal democracies” in Europe to welcome the ruling of the German Constitutional Court, using it to subvert judicial independence and freedom of expression as recognised by the EU. Fortunately, the good sense of the German governmental and parliamentary authorities under Angela Merkel’s leadership prevailed – and the European institutions did not have to act accordingly (at least immediately). It is important to note that in a second decision regarding the ECB’s bond buying programme also appeared to walk back from the edge of the cliff.

In any case, such episodes recommend revisiting the elementary notions of European integration law, because there are occasions when certain civilisational achievements still need to be defended, and the reason behind some choices needs to be recalled. What functional reason justifies the primacy of Union law over national law? Does Union law take precedence over national constitutional norms (or, on the contrary, can it be declared unconstitutional or set aside on the grounds of alleged unconstitutionality)?

Continue reading “Editorial of October 2021”