Competition harms created by administrative legislation: a new approach to an ancient problem

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by, María Pilar Canedo Arrillaga, Professor at the University of Deusto and Jean Monnet Chair

Competition law has a general aim of protecting markets against those actors that, for different reasons, break the rules of the game and obtain an extra-benefit harming competitors, consumers and society in general.

The traditional approach to competition law is to focus attention on undertakings – generally the most powerful because of different reasons – that find in the absolute freedom of laissez faire, the best opportunity to maximize their particular benefits not taking into consideration the general interest. Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU have been the most relevant tool to fight these practices both by the European Commission and the national or subnational authorities.

In the former 20 years attention has been given by different international Organizations (OEDC, UNCTAD) to the role played by the State in the harms generated in the markets. Article 107, TFUE (dealing with State Aid) was since the beginning of the European Market one of the concerns of the EU institutions but a new approach is needed in this field.

The many different levels of administration (central Governments, regions, provinces, mayors) have the power to create legislation that reduces competition by creating entry barriers in markets or by generating discrimination between economic actors.

Those administrations have an incredible economic power when they enter into public procurement procedures in order to guarantee services and products to de citizens. If those administrations don’t impose the principles of efficiency in their procedures, the services received by the population will be more expensive and will have lower quality.

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Judicial review of EPPO procedural acts and decisions: a disruptive and resilient architecture?

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by Luis de Lemos Triunfante, Judge-Second National Expert at Eurojust Portuguese Desk

“The creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office will enable us to have the missing tools: kick investigations across the Union and exchange of information in real time. The European Public Prosecutor will work together with the Deputy Prosecutors of each of the 17 participating countries and congregate national expertise by coordinating them at EU level. The objective is to create a strong, independent and effective body that develops expertise in the fight against financial crime throughout the EU. The 17 Member States concerned will now move the process forward, hoping that others will join soon. The Commission has always defended the interest of all Member States and this initiative is open to all”, Sharing sovereignty to combat financial crime – Jean-Claude Juncker.

DH-CII (Human Rights Centre for Interdisciplinary Research), in collaboration with CEDU (Centre of Studies in EU Law) and the Union of Magistrates of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, organised, on 18 May at the Law School of the University of Minho, an International Criminal Law Congress about “The new challenges of Judicial and police cooperation in the European Union and the implementation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office”.

The aim of that initiative was to bring to the discussion the main issues that lie today in judicial and police cooperation, mutual recognition, harmonization and the protection of human rights in the European Union. It also intended to analyse the challenges surrounding the implementation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). In a special way, a critical and prospective look was taken on the Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the EPPO under discussion, taking into account the current state of negotiations, the main aspects of substantive criminal law and substantive Criminal proceedings; the Statute and the institutional design of the EPPO (matters of institutional law) and the relations between the EPPO, Eurojust and OLAF.

One of the main issues of the EPPO is the judicial review.
Continue reading “Judicial review of EPPO procedural acts and decisions: a disruptive and resilient architecture?”

Tensions between European Union Law and Private International Law – impact on cross-border mobility of companies

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by Jorge Ribeiro, PhD candidate at Universidad de Vigo

Introduction

This essay intends to give a brief analysis on the relationship between European Union Law and Private International Law, particularly the impact on cross-border mobility of companies in the European space[i].

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) explicitly recognises freedom of establishment for companies. However, nowadays, a number of obstacles still persist regarding companies’ mobility as a result of the coexistence of the incorporation and the real seat doctrine. This is also due to the way in which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law has dealt with the free movement of companies.

It is argued that it would be welcome if the European legislator could take action, mitigating national private international law contrary to European fundamental freedoms[ii].

Dualism of rules

To determine which company law is applicable to a particular company, there are two existing theories: the real seat theory and the incorporation theory.

The real seat theory[iii] provides that the personal law of the company is the law of the country where it has its real seat (its principal place of business). Instead, according to the incorporation theory[iv] the company and its relationships are subjected to the law of the country where it has been incorporated, i.e. registered.

The major difference between the two theories is their effect on the cross-border transfer of the company seat, both from the home and host state perspective. The real seat theory brings limitations to the cross-border transfer of the real seat by making the company subject to different national legal order each time its real seat moves to another state[v]. Likewise a company from an incorporation state that wishes to move its administrative seat to a real seat state may not be recognized as a company in this host state, without dissolution in the home state.

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European Union and Turkey: judicial independence at a crossroads

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

“In the little world in which children have their existence”, says Pip in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, “there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt, as injustice.” (…) But the strong perception of manifest injustice applies to adult human beings as well. What moves us, reasonably enough is not the realization that the world falls short of being completely just – which few of us expect – but that there are clearly remediable injustices around us which we want to eliminate.” – Amartya Sen, “The idea of Justice” (preface).

As V. Skouris [former President of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)] brilliantly explained in his speech at the conference Assises de la Justice (November 21, 2013), when analysing matters related to judicial independence, there is a traditional distinction between personal independence and substantive or functional independence. The former essentially refers to the personal qualities of the judge and is destined to ensure that in the discharge of his or her judicial function, a judge is subject to nothing but the law and the command of his or her conscience. The latter of this is the functional independence which refers also to the judicial institution as a whole; it means that the terms and conditions of judicial service are adequately secured by law so as to ensure that individual judges are not subject to any executive control. Judicial independence within the European Union legal order concerns not only the CJEU but also national courts at all levels, since national judges are also what we call in French “juges de l’Union du droit commun“.

Unfortunately, the situation in Turkey is characterized by an affront towards basic standards of judicial independence. Turkey was one of the first countries, in 1959, to seek close cooperation with the then very recent European Economic Community. This cooperation was realised in the framework of an “Association Agreement”, known as the Ankara Agreement, which was signed on September 12, 1963. The CJUE was already called to focus precisely on this Association Agreement for instance in relation to the issue of their limits (Judgement Dereci and others v Bundesministerium für Inneres, Case C-256/11, EU: C:2011:734). This associative status implies that European Union naturally concerns about matters involving Turkey, and what happens with the Turkish citizens concerns the EU citizens. However, the idea “a judge is subject to nothing but the law and the command of his or her conscience” – to use the language of V. Skouris – is today completely marginalized in Turkey as pointed out by different European entities. Some concrete examples can be provided in this regard:

I) In December 8, 2016 the European Network of Councils of Judiciary (ENCJ) decided, in General Assembly, to suspend, with no Council voting against, the observer status of the Turkish Judicial Council (HSYK). Thus the HSYK is now excluded from participation in ENCJ activities. The reasoning of the ENCJ was impressive: “it is a condition of membership, and for the status of observer, that institutions are independent of the executive and legislature and ensure the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice. (…) taking into account the failure of the HSYK to satisfy the ENCJ that its standards have been complied with, the statements of the HSYK, as well as information from other sources including the reports and statements of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe and Human Rights Watch and the Venice Commission, the ENCJ decided that the actions and decisions of the HSYK, and therefore the HSYK as an institution cannot be seen to be in compliance with European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary. Therefore, the HSYK does not currently comply with the ENCJ Statutes and is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and legislature ensuring the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice.” Security of tenure of office is a core element of the independence of a judge and the dismissal of judges should be used only in case of misuse of the exercise of office (e.g. UN Basic principles on the Independence of Judiciary, Opinion para 95, 92, 63, Rec para 49 and 50). However, HSYK adopted a decision with only 62 pages of reasoning sufficient to dismiss thousands of judges. The decision is totally inadequate when the criminal investigations used as motive to sack those judges are still in a pre-trial stage; the principle of the presumption of innocence, which is enshrined in Article 5 of the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR), was consequently completely ignored, if not violated.

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The Almaraz debate – it’s not in Spain, it’s not in Portugal, it’s all around…

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

The risk society is a non-knowledge society. Ulrich Beck has long demonstrated that the explosion of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl (26 April 1986) coincided with an «explosion of non-knowledge» in an entanglement that requires a rethinking of the conceptual and institutional constants of the modern world, such as the concepts of rights and human dignity, as well as those of sovereignty and state government[i].

On January 16, the Portuguese government filed a complaint to the European Commission against Spain concerning the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility at the Almaraz nuclear power plant (the news can be found here). Operating since the early 1980s, the Almaraz nuclear power plant is located along the Tagus River about 100 kilometres from Portugal, bordering the districts of Castelo Branco and Portalegre. The construction of the storage facility is intended to extend the operation of the Almaraz nuclear power plant, which has been presenting several problems, especially security problems. Portugal claims that there has been a violation of the EIA Directive, in addition to requesting the suspension of the construction of the Almaraz nuclear waste storage facility.

The EIA Directive – Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 – applies to the assessment of environmental effects of certain public and private projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment. It updates 4 earlier directives (Directives 85/337/EEC, 97/11/EC, 2003/35/EC and 2009/31/EC) and applies from 17 February 2012. Furthermore, Directive 2011/92 has been amended in 2014 by the Directive 2014/52/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014. The revised EIA Directive entered into force on 15 May 2014 and Member States shall bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with it by 16 May 2017. It should also be mentioned that safety of nuclear installations is also regulated by EU law, namely by the Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom of 25 June 2009 establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations (transposition deadline expired since 22 July 2011), amended by the Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom of 8 July 2014 (transposition deadline expires the 15 August 2017).

As stated above, Portugal claims that there has been a violation of the EIA Directive. The EIA procedure laid down in this directive can be summarized as follows: i) the developer (the applicant for authorisation for a private or public project which falls within the scope of application of the EIA Directive) may request the competent authority to say what should be covered by the EIA information to be provided (scoping stage); ii) the developer must provide information on the environmental impact (EIA report); iii) the environmental authorities and the public (and, as will be explained below, the eventually affected Member States) must be informed and consulted; iv) the competent authority decides, taken into consideration the results of consultations. The public is then informed of the decision taken and can challenge it before the courts.

Continue reading “The Almaraz debate – it’s not in Spain, it’s not in Portugal, it’s all around…”

R (Miller) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) : Realpolitik and the Revocation of an Article 50 TEU Notification to Withdraw

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by John Cotter, Senior Lecturer at University of Wolverhampton Law School

The opening lines of a judgment – in common law jurisdictions, at least – can very often be revealing of a court’s concerns. The first five paragraphs of the collegiate High Court judgment (Lord Thomas CJ, Sir Terence Etherton MR and Sales LJ) in Miller indicate very clearly the judges’ worry that their judgment would be misunderstood by sections of the media and the wider public. This judgment did not have “any bearing on the question of the merits or demerits of a withdrawal of the [UK] from the [EU]”, the Court stated. Rather, the question before the Court was a narrow constitutional issue, and a purely legal matter: whether the government could use Royal prerogative powers to give notification of withdrawal from the EU pursuant to Article 50 TEU or whether this was a matter for the Houses of Parliament. On this question, the High Court ruled that the notification under Article 50 TEU may not be given by means of Royal prerogative; rather, such notification is a matter for Parliament exclusively. While the conducting of international relations and the signing of and withdrawal from international treaties were powers generally to be exercised by the executive on behalf of the Crown, the High Court reasoned that where withdrawal from a treaty would result in changes to domestic law (as withdrawal from the EU would), such withdrawal could not be effected without Parliament.

The Court’s attempt to avoid misinterpretation of its role appears, however, to have fallen on deaf or wilfully closed ears, with the judges being subjected to attacks in sections of the media that were astonishing even by the standards of Britain’s rather histrionic tabloid press (one publication’s front page contained the headline “Enemies of the People” along with photographs of the three judges). To many of those advocating Brexit, the judgment was an unelected court playing politics and frustrating the will of the people (even though the European Union Referendum Act 2015 had not provided that the referendum result be binding). To the Court’s defenders, the judgment was the latest in a line of rulings in which the courts upheld the supremacy of Parliament over Royal prerogative powers. It is certainly the case that the High Court judgment, if upheld by the Supreme Court (which is due to hear an appeal in early December), has the potential to make the giving of the Article 50 notification a more lengthy and complex process. It is conceivable that both Houses of Parliament could use their leverage to require the government to reveal more detail on their post-notification negotiating aims. However, as a matter of realpolitik, the judgment is unlikely prevent Article 50 being triggered: Labour, the largest opposition party in the Commons has indicated that it will not vote against a Bill to give notification under Article 50, and it is unlikely that the Lords would provoke further questions about their relevance in modern Britain by blocking Brexit.

Continue reading “R (Miller) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) : Realpolitik and the Revocation of an Article 50 TEU Notification to Withdraw”

The need of tax harmonization within the wealth taxation in the European Union

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by Hugo Flores da Silva, Assistant Professor at Law School of UMinho


1. Introduction and wealth taxation characterization

Though widely used in the European Union, the wealth taxes account for a relatively small part of the EU Member States’ tax revenue, when compared with the main sources of revenue[i]. At the same time, the political debate and the scientific research developed in the field of wealth taxation is very incipient, when compared to another taxation bases[ii]. Not even the fact that this kind of taxation constitutes one of the oldest ways employed by the states to obtain revenue was able to counter the identified trend[iii].

However, in the current time of fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic adjustment, taxation of wealth is gaining momentum. The lack of alternatives capable of generating an increase in tax revenue within the income and consumption taxation[iv], the growing interest in the fairness and redistributions aspects of the tax system[v] and the need to adjust the tax system to make it more growth friendly[vi], can be pointed out as the main reasons for the recent academic and political debate on wealth taxation.

When we talk about wealth taxation we’re referring to a very complex reality, capable of reunite a very large group of different taxes[vii]. Although there are many types of wealth taxes, and with very different characterization between them, we consider that they can be grouped into two major categories[viii]: taxes on wealth transfers; and taxes on wealth itself. Inside these two main categories it is possible to identify a wide variety of distinct taxes.

The taxes on wealth transfers usually assume the following characterization[ix]: (i) taxes on onerous transfers – as the onerous movable transfers are subject to VAT, in this subcategory we include the taxes levied on onerous immovable transfers[x]; (ii) and taxes on gratuitous transfers – in this subcategory we include the inheritance and gift taxation[xi]. The taxes on wealth itself can be classified as follows[xii]: (i) taxes levied on the holding or ownership of specific assets – usually immovable property[xiii]; and (ii) taxes levied on the taxpayer’s aggregate net-wealth[xiv].
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EU Citizenship and Protection of Social Rights in the Court of Justice case-law

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by Cinzia Peraro, PhD student in European Union Law at the University of Verona

1. Introduction

This post aims at analysing the fundamental freedom of movement of workers and the protection of social rights in light of the recent EU Court of Justice case-law. The arising question is whether fundamental social rights may assume the same hierarchical level as general principles when a balancing test is exercised within the assessment of compatibility of national measures with EU law.

The definition of EU citizenship and the codification of rights granted to EU citizens are covered by the Treaties, namely by Article 9 TEU, Article 18 ff. TFEU and Chapter V of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. EU citizens can freely move across the Union in order to work or look for a job or establish their place of work in one Member State different from the one of origin, where they can enjoy the rights granted by the EU. Indeed, EU citizenship creates rights upon EU citizens and therefore could be defined as a “comunidade de direitos”[i].

Nowadays, the free movement of citizens became a core issue within the debates on present threats and challenges that the EU is facing, amongst which the EU immigration policy that is not only linked to the free movement of persons, but also to the underlying process of integration. In general, a more positive approach should be welcomed when addressing current issues.

2. Free movement of workers

Originally, the four fundamental freedoms were established with the aim of increasing and developing the European internal market and workers were granted rights abroad. The Union offered workers the possibility to move across Member States in order to provide their services or capabilities or establish their place of work. Then, the personal dimension was considered and individual rights were recognised, such as the right to family reunification. Thus, the free movement of workers should not be seen in macroeconomic terms, that is to say linked to the development of the internal market, but rather as a personal freedom to choose the country in which citizens want to work.[ii]

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On the CJEU’s case-law concerning the “social tourism” that preceded the Brexit referendum – between forces of cohesion and fragmentation

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by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

One week prior to the scheduled date of the referendum about the UK leaving the EU a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union was published. The decision was to dismiss an action for failure to fulfil an obligation (article 258, TFEU) which had been filed by the European Commission against the UK seeking the conviction of such Member State for violating the prohibition of non-discrimination on ground of nationality[i]. Throughout the year of 2008, the European Commission received several complaints by citizens from other Member States living in the UK with objections about the refusal of British authorities to provide them social benefits due to the absence of proof of the right to reside. Following that, the EC accused the UK of not fulfilling the Regulation 883/2004 (on the coordination of social security systems) because it subjected the applicants of certain social benefits – namely the dependent child allowance or the child tax credit – to the so-called test of right to reside. The Commission considered that requirement incompatible with the meaning of the mentioned Regulation – once it makes reference to a habitual residence and not a legal residence – and, simultaneously, discriminatory towards the nationals from other Member States as such requirement is automatically fulfilled by the British nationals living in the UK.

The core of the case was to evaluate if a Member State’s permission to attribute certain social benefits only to the people who legally reside in its territory is in itself discriminatory under the terms of article 4 of the Regulation 883/2004. Under the title “equality of treatment”, the article states that, unless otherwise provided for by the own Regulation, persons to whom it applies shall enjoy the same benefits and be subject to the same obligations under the legislation of any Member State as the nationals thereof. All in all, in every situation comprised by the ratione materiae domain of application of the EU Law, any European citizen may invoke the prohibition of discrimination on ground of nationality which shows in article 18, TFEU and it is materialised in article 4 of the Regulation 883/2004. Those situations include the ones deriving from the exercise of the freedom to move and to reside in the territory of the Member States, which are laid in articles 20 (2), 1º§, a) and 21, TFEU.

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A Perspective on Brexit

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by Elaine Dewhurst, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Manchester

and Dimitrios Doukas, Reader in Law, University of Manchester

If there are two words that characterise the sentiments of many British-based academics anticipating Brexit, they would be ‘uncertainty’ and ‘sadness’. In the widest sense, there is uncertainty about the future of the EU as a project, and the place of non-British EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. Since the referendum result, the careers and livelihoods of those who benefit from EU research funding and collaboration and/or whose expertise lies predominantly or exclusively in areas of EU law have been marred by fear and doubt. Within the legal profession, for example, UK lawyers face an uphill challenge of seeking admission to a second Bar or Law Society, such as in Ireland, to enable them to continue enjoying the freedom to provide their services within the EU. Within legal academia, there is much speculation surrounding the furtherance of existing research projects, and recent studies suggest that collaborations and funding are at risk of termination as a result of the referendum. In addition, there is uncertainty over whether a post-Brexit Britain will retain a migration stream for academics which would match the free movement principles in terms of its encouragement of cross-border movement. For many, it is not just the professional difficulties that may deter academics from working in Britain. Some also have considered leaving Britain as they fear (or have already experienced) a rise in racism and xenophobia, a problem which may also discourage others from seeking work in Britain. More widely than this, there is fear of increasing and unchecked populist politics and anti-immigrant sentiment in the United Kingdom, an apprehension heightened because of Britain’s unadulterated majoritarian democracy in which EU law with its extensive judicial controls has heretofore performed an enforceable moderating influence. Uncertainty also mars the student experience. British universities have, and continue to, benefit financially and culturally from the many EU students who come to Britain every year to study. Reports suggest that the numbers of EU students applying to British universities has dropped since the referendum, and existing students have had to receive assurances as regards their position. Equally affected by this uncertainty are those British students wishing to participate in Erasmus programmes (a programme which has already benefitted over 200,000 British students).

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