New perspectives on sale of consumer goods – maximum harmonization and high protection of consumers as a condition for the further development of cross-border trade in single market

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 by Maria João Pestana de Vasconcelos, Professor at the School of Law, UMINHO 

As a part of Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe published in May 2015, the Commission adopted, on 9 December 2015, two proposals of Directives: one for a Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods (“Sales of Goods proposal” or “Sales of Goods Directive”); another for a Directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services (proposal for a “Directive on Digital Content” or “Digital Content Directive”).

These proposals are the basis of a future reform on consumer sales contracts based on the principle of maximum harmonisation while providing for a high level of consumer protection.

It is already clear that the minimum harmonization approach, adopted by the Consumer Sales Directive (1999/44/EC) [i] has proved not to be appropriate to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. Member States allowed go beyond the minimum rules, and to impose a high level of consumer protection, have acted on different elements and to different extents. As a result, national provisions transposing the Consumer Sales Directive (99/44/EC) significantly diverge today on essential elements, such as the absence or existence of a hierarchy of remedies. These disparities between the national laws of the Member States constitute one of the major obstacles to the development of the cross-border trade in Single Market given that they may adversely affect business (in particularly small and medium enterprises) and consumers[ii].
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A short introduction to accountability in machine-learning algorithms under the GDPR

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 by Andreia Oliveira, Master in EU Law (UMINHO)
 and Fernando Silva, Consulting coordinator - Portuguese Data  Protection National Commission

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be defined as computer systems designed to solve a wide range of activities, that are “normally considered to require knowledge, perception, reasoning, learning, understanding and similar cognitive abilities” [1]. Having intelligent machines capable of imitating human’s actions, performances and activities seems to be the most common illustration about AI. One needs to recognise AI as being convoluted – thus, machine learning, big data and other terms as automatization must hold a seat when discussing AI.  Machine learning, for example, is defined as the ability of computer systems to improve their performance without explicitly programmed instructions: a system will be able to learn independently without human intervention [2]. To do this, machine learning develops new algorithms, different from the ones that were previously programmed, and includes them as new inputs it has acquired during the previous interactions.

The capabilities of machine learning may put privacy and data protection in jeopardy. Therefore, ascertaining liability would be inevitable and would imply the consideration of inter alia all plausible actors that can be called upon account.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the principle of accountability is intrinsically linked to the principle of transparency. Transparency empowers data subjects to hold data controllers and processors accountable and to exercise control over their personal data. Accountability requires transparency of processing operations, however transparency does not constitute accountability [3]. On the contrary, transparency acts as an accountability’ helper – e.g. helping to avoid barriers, such as opacity.
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e-Justice paradigm and Artificial Intelligence (AI): where effective judicial protection stands?

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 by Joana Abreu, Editor

2019 marks the beginning of a new era for e-Justice.

Looking at both Council’s e-Justice Strategy (2019/C 96/04) and Action Plan (2019/C 96/05) from 2019 to 2023, we are able to understand how this European institution is engaged to establish sensitivities on Artificial Intelligence in justice fields. Furthermore, the European Commission also presented a report on the previous Action Plan (Evaluation study on the outcome of the e-Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 and the way forward – Final Report – DT4EU), where it advanced the need to bet on artificial intelligence mechanisms in the e-Justice fields.

In fact, the European Commission, when questioned stakeholders on the possibility of using Artificial Intelligence technologies in the domain of justice, 41% understood it should be used and other 41% understood its potentialities could be explored.

Taking into consideration those numbers, the Council also established the need to understand AI’s influence and potential on e-Justice fields, addressing it under the topic “Evolutivity” and relating to future perspectives.
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European Ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence in judicial systems and their environment: what are the implications of this measure?

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 by Amanda Espiñeira, Master Student at University of Brasília

Artificial intelligence has become a topic of great interest for the advancement of the information society and automation. Through various themes, from art, gastronomy, the world of games, the various mechanisms that involve AI allow the expansion of human creativity and capabilities, and are very important, especially when it comes to judicial systems. A field that for a long time has remained closed to innovations and digital transformations, today it opens and allows that there is more celerity and transparency to the decisions of the legal world. In other words, AI promises to fill a gap in the area, which still has plastered processes, such as the registry offices, which are almost synonymous with bureaucracy.

However, the importance of the theme and its efficiency, debating ethical aspects in this area is extremely relevant because AI can extract insights, we could never come up using traditional data mining techniques. And is even more important in the context of recent data protection regulation, especially GDPR- General Data Protection Regulation.

Thus, the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe has adopted the first European text setting out ethical principles relating to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in judicial systems, published on December 4, 2018[1].
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Algorithm-driven collusion

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 by Virgílio Pereira, collaborating member of CEDU

It has been said that digital markets are new and different.[i]  Indeed, competition enforcement reforms have already begun their journey, tackling the unorthodox dynamic of digital markets. Examples include the reforms taking place in Germany.[ii] They have entailed, among others, the possibility of setting up a digital agency, responsible for the supervision of digital markets, whose tasks would include dispute resolution in competition issues.[iii] Becoming vigilant and gathering know-how is certainly a valuable starting point.

Recently, the Council adopted the Commission’s proposal intended to empower Member States’ competition authorities to be more effective enforcers.[iv] It includes reinforcing competition authorities’ investigative powers, including their power to collect digital evidence. Discussion on the unorthodoxy of digital markets and challenges arising from them should take place within the context of the implementation of the Directive, or more generally, within the context of the European Competition Network.
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Brexit and the possibility of “withdrawing the withdrawal”: a hypothetical question?

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor

In case C-621/18, Wightman and others, pending judgment by the ECJ, the request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 50 TEU. It has been made in proceedings where the opposing Scots parties are Andy Wightman and o., on the one hand, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, on the other, raising the question whether it is possible to revoke the notification of the intention of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to withdraw from the European Union. The Court of Session, Inner House, First Division (Scotland), seeks, in essence, to ascertain whether, where a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with Article 50 TEU, EU law permits that Member State to unilaterally revoke its notification before the end of the period of two years referred to in that Article. If so, the referring court is uncertain as to the conditions governing such a revocation and its effects relative to that Member State remaining within the European Union.

The referring court states that, under Section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the withdrawal agreement which might be concluded between the United Kingdom and the Union under Article 50(2) TEU, setting out the arrangements for that withdrawal, may be ratified only if that agreement and the framework for the future relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Union has been approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The referring court states that, where the withdrawal agreement is not approved by that Parliament, and if no other proposal is made, the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union will nonetheless take effect as from 29 March 2019. The referring court adds that it is uncertain whether it is possible to revoke the notification unilaterally and to remain within the European Union. That court also states that an answer from the ECJ will clarify the options open to the parliamentarians when they vote on those matters.
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LM judgment – effective judicial protection as general principle and fundamental right

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 by Joana Covelo de Abreu, Editor

2018 is the year when effective judicial protection undertakes several new developments.

In this sense, the Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses’ judgment (ASJP) set the tone to great developments under effective judicial protection dimension concerning the independence of courts. In this decision, the Court of Justice understood effective judicial protection as not only a fundamental right, but also a general principle of EU law. In fact, the Court of Justice preferred to set this jurisprudence based on the general principle – as enshrined Article 19 (1) (2) TFEU – because that was the way to liberate effective judicial protection from the methodical difficulties brought by Article 51 CFREU.

In this decision, the Court of Justice reasoned based on Article 2 TEU (concerning the values of the EU), Article 4 (3) TEU (principle of sincere cooperation) and Article 19 (1) TEU, emphasising Article 19 (1) TEU as a “concrete expression to the value of the rule of law stated in Article 2 TEU” and acknowledging the integrated nature of the EU judiciary system – composed both by ECJ as EU organic court and national courts as EU functioning courts.

But when we thought the Court of Justice had already enough developed effective judicial protection, we are surprised with the LM judgment (case C-216/18 PPU).

This decision, issued on the July 25th 2018, was developed under a preliminary reference made in order to interpret the limits concerning the enforcement of three European Arrest Warrants. They aimed at arresting and surrendering LM to Polish authorities for the purpose of conducting criminal prosecutions (concerning trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances).
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The security at sports events: an important issue for the European Union

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by Álvaro Alzina Lozano, PhD candidate and Lecturer of Criminal Law at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

On the occasion of the celebration of sporting events in the European Union of such high magnitude as the (UEFA) Champions League, we must analyze how the Union itself has provided cooperation mechanisms to the Member States in order to eradicate possible violent acts in stadiums, because we all remember the lousy images of the last football games in the 2016 European Championship held in France where groups of ultras coming from different cities started urban wars.

The concerns of the European institutions to eliminate the violence generated by hooligans has its origin in the tragedy of Heysel, in which during the 1985 Champions League final at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels (Belgium) 39 fans died after an avalanche caused by the Liverpool hooligans. Furthermore, we must add that two weeks later another 56 fans died in a football stadium in Valley Parade due to a fire.

These main facts caused a movement of concern in the European institutions to prevent these sorts of incidents, and the Council of Europe approved in that year the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches, which was modified in 2015 by a more updated one.
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Amending social security coordination – challenges of the Regulations (EC) No. 883/2004 and No. 987/2009

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 by Joel Lacerda Azevedo, master in EU Law at University of Minho

Ensuring the right to social security when exercising the right of free movement has been a major concern of the Member States in the EU. In order to achieve this, it was necessary to adopt social security measures which prevent Union citizens who work or reside in a Member State other than their own from losing all or part of their social security rights, thereby contributing to the improvement of their quality of life.

The EU provisions on social security coordination do not replace national social security systems with a single European system, such harmonization would not be possible since the social security systems of a Member State are the result of long-standing traditions deeply rooted in the culture and national preferences[i]. Consequently, instead of harmonizing social security systems, EU provisions provide for their coordination. Each Member State is free to decide who is a beneficiary under its legislation, what benefits are granted and on what conditions, how those benefits are calculated and what contributions are to be paid[ii].

In order to grant EU citizens the social and health benefits to which they are entitled, coordination between the social security systems of the Member States is necessary. However, the current Regulations (EC) Nº 883/2004[iii] and (EC) Nº 987/2009[iv] no longer reflect the changing national social security systems and the case law of the European Court of Justice.
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Migration crisis in the European Union: a factual reflection

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 by Teresa Alves, member of CEDU

The migration crisis in European Union brings the necessity to reflect its own existence, implying the identification of its origin, i.e., the facts that may justify its emergence. This asks for a spatial and temporal localization and for a contextualization. The challenge in this article is to make a factual reflection to understand the essence of the crisis and consequently its implications in the human rights field as the EU and its Member States are bound to them.

The migration crisis remains and, from my point of view, is, on one hand, reflection of a common European policy in the asylum field, whose configuration always showed controversial aspects. It wasn’t ready, ab initio, to deal with a massive influx of applicants for international protection. On other hand, we are also talking about a crisis of solidarity because the Member States showed that they are not able to find a common approach, to respect the measures adopted by the institutions of the Union and to cooperate with the Member States more desired by the migrants and applicants of international protection. Article 67(2), of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), binds the “common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control” to the “solidarity between Member States” and to be “fair towards third-country nationals” (stateless persons shall be treated as third-country nationals). Fulfilling this precept, Article 80 determines that this policy is governed by the solidarity principle and by the share of the responsibilities between Member States, including in the financial plan, and if necessary, the acts adopted by the EU in executing it policy “shall contain appropriate measures to give effect to this principle”.

The way that Member States and EU are managing the actual migratory context show their lack of preparation. However, the possibility of tens of thousands of refugees and immigrants to reach the coast of Europe was expected, “the official reports of Frontex and the United Nations agencies told it openly”[i].

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