Editorial of December 2022

By Nataly Machado (Master in European Union Law from the School of Law of the University of Minho)

What if mechanisms of solidarity had more effectiveness beyond the borders of the European Union? At least for the climate crisis?

On 24 November last, the European Union (“EU”) energy ministers reached an initial agreement, albeit with some differences[1], on the content of the proposed Council regulation on enhanced solidarity for further temporary emergency measures aimed at curbing high energy prices through better coordination of joint gas purchases on world markets, with the objective of the Member States not competing with each other. Furthermore, they decided on gas exchanges across borders, with “measures enabling Member States to request solidarity from other Member States in cases where they are unable to secure the quantities of gas essential to ensure the operability of their electricity system[2], and reliable price reference standards, which will provide stability and predictability for Liquified Natural Gas “LNG” transaction prices, with the new index until 31 March 2023. Also, the EU energy ministers agreed on the content of a Council regulation laying down a temporary framework to accelerate the permit-granting process and the deployment of renewable energy projects[3].

The abovementioned shows that solidarity in the context of the EU should have a more pragmatic and concrete approach – and explained by the cooperation between Member States –, since it imposes legal obligations, such as being loyal in mutual relations and undertaking all necessary efforts to achieve common goals. In other words, the possibility of justification for an imposition of solidarity linked to legal duties remains clear, since it is a question of a sharing of common tasks/responsibilities[4].

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Editorial of October 2022

By Editorial Team 

Digital citizenship and technological sustainability (CitDig) –
Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence

As of October 1, 2022 the University of Minho (UMinho) is running a “Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence” coordinated by Alessandra Silveira (Editor of UNIO’s blog) entitled “Digital citizenship and technological sustainability: achieving CFREU effectiveness in the digital decade” (CitDig) under the Erasmus+ Programme. UMinho was deemed to be in a position to investigate pressing issues around the digital decade, advancing and developing synergies among various areas. What is the background and rationale of the CitDig Centre of Excellence?

Digitalization is understood as the way in which many domains of social life are restructured around digital communication and media infrastructures – or the way in which these media structure, shape and influence the contemporary world.[1] In the Communication “2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade” [COM(2021) 118 final], the European Commission (EC) notes that digital technologies and services must respect the values intrinsic to the “European way”. Furthermore, the human-centered, secure and open digital environment should enable people to enforce their fundamental rights.

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Editorial of September 2022

By Alessandra Silveira and Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editors) 

The (near) future of the European Union: Remarks on the “State of the Union” Address, September 14, 2022

On September 14, 2022, Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, delivered her third “State of the Union” address in Strasbourg. The two previous addresses by the President of the Commission were marked by the pandemic. Another kind of crisis conditioned this year’s “State of the Union” address: war. One key idea emerged from the address and was underlined by the President of the Commission: the war we face – which gives rise to many of the problems the Union and its citizens will have to deal with – was caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Quite clearly, there is a direct perpetrator of the war being waged in Europe and, in a similar vein, an indirect culprit for the subsequent economic crisis, inflation, and the social and migratory crisis triggered by the war and which the Union will have to overcome: the Russian Federation and the Russian power centered and personalized in Putin. In other words, there was an assertion of political principle at play here; an attempt to make the Union’s geopolitical position clear. Similarly, Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed the impossibility of the European Union (i.e., the historical and values-based framework of integration) being defeated: “this is about autocracy against democracy.” In that sense, unless we relativise the preconditions of integration and the “Union of law”, there is an irreconcilability in conceptual and civilizational perspective that determines the proclamation that Ukraine cannot succumb in these terms.

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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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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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