Case C-817/21, Inspecția Judiciară. Compatibility of the organization of an authority competent to carry out the disciplinary investigation of judges, which is under the total control of a single person, with the rules of the rule of law

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 

The saga of requests for preliminary rulings by Romanian courts on the rule of law and the independence of judges continues, although, under pressure from the Romanian Constitutional Court’s decisions, ordinary judges have begun to refuse to apply European Union law. Failure to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court constitutes a disciplinary violation, a legislative solution that allows total disregard of the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, for fear of disciplinary action. A climate of fear among judges was created by disciplinary actions initiated without any reservations by the Judicial Inspection against the judge of the Pitești Court of Appeal who dared to apply the CJEU decision of 18 May 2021, but also the judges who proposed and/or referred to the CJEU in this case.

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The national judge as judge of the Union (a view of the Judges’ Forum 2021 – CJEU)

Irene das Neves (Appeal Court Judge of the Northern Administrative Central Court - Tax Litigation Section), Dora Lucas Neto (Appeal Court Judge of the Southern Administrative Central Court - Administrative Litigation Section), and Isabel Silva (Judge of the Administrative and Fiscal Court of Braga - Tax Litigation)

The reference for a preliminary ruling, provided for in Article 19(3)(b) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), is a fundamental mechanism of EU law.[1] It is an “incident” within national proceedings that obliges the national judge to stay the proceedings because it is faced with the need to obtain a “preliminary” ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the interpretation of EU law or the validity of the acts of its bodies, institutions or agencies, with a view to the proper administration of justice within the EU. To that extent, the national courts playing the role of guardians of EU law, ensuring the effective and homogenous application of the law, and seeking to avoid divergent interpretations by the various courts of the Member States.

It was on this theme of the reference, focused on the reference for the interpretation of EU law, that the President of the CJEU, Koen Lenaerts, opened the 2021 Judges’ Forum, which was held at the CJEU from 21 to 23 November and brought together judges from the courts of first instance and the appeal courts of the Member States, recalling that the reference for a preliminary ruling is an instrument of judicial cooperation by means of which the national judge and the EU judge are called upon, within the scope of their respective powers, to contribute to a decision ensuring the uniform application of EU law by the Member States.

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Evaluating the legal admissibility of data transfers from the EU to the USA

Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and João Marques (Lawyer, former member of Portuguese Data Protection Supervisory Authority)

1. The feud between Maximillian Schrems and the Irish Data Protection Supervisory Authority (Data Protection Commission – DPC), with Facebook always lingering in, has been detrimental to frame the legality of data flows from the European Union (EU) to the United States of America (USA), but also to any third country that replicates the shortcomings relating to the inexistence of a “level of protection essentially equivalent to that guaranteed within the European Union (…), read in the light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union” [in the words of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)].[1]

2. The sole action of one man has brought down two different and sequential “transfer tools”, created in tandem by both the European Commission (EC) and the United States’ Government. In case C-362/14 the CJEU declared the Safe Harbour decision (Commission Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000) invalid, as the Court found that the USA’s legislation did not offer an essentially equivalent level of protection to that of the EU, also reminding all Data Protection Supervisory Authorities that their work is never done and that it is, in fact, upon their shoulders the task and the responsibility to constantly monitor if any given third country complies and remains compliant with the need to offer such an equivalency.

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Directive 2020/1828: a new era for “European class actions”?

Diego Agulló Agulló – Assistant Professor of Private International Law – Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid, Spain) 

1. Introduction

Consumer protection is a pillar of the regulatory strategy of the European Union legislator. In this context, one of the issues that has been debated for many years is the possibility of introducing representative actions for consumer protection, a European version of American class actions, in the different Member States. The goal of this legal transplant is, on the one hand, to favor access to justice for consumers in scenarios of mass damages and, on the other hand, to deter future wrongdoings harmful to consumers by companies operating in the European Union.

Since the publication in 2008 of the White Paper on damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules, many legislative instruments of different types have been published within the European Union in the field of consumer collective protection. Also in 2008, the Green Paper on consumer collective redress and, a year later, Directive 2009/22/EC — the latter marking a turning point in the European regulatory framework for collective redress– stand out. Directive 2009/22/EC urges Member States to ensure the implementation in their respective legal systems of actions for injunctions for acts of non-compliance with EU law that harm consumers. Mention should also be made of the Commission’s important Recommendation on Common Principles applicable to collective injunctions or redress mechanisms in the Member States in the event of infringement of rights recognized by European Union law.

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A tax deal for the digital age – are we ready for this?

Marina Barata (Master's in Law)

1. The deal

On October 8, 2021, the world woke up with the news that the OECD/G20 has agreed a two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy, marking the first rewriting of international tax rules in a generation.

We might as well talk about a Generational Achievement.

The framework updates key elements of the century-old international tax system, which is no longer fit for purpose in a globalised and digitalised 21st century economy.  The two-pillar package – the outcome of negotiations coordinated by the OECD for much of the last decade – aims to ensure that large Multinational Enterprises[1] (MNEs) pay tax where they operate and earn profits, while adding much-needed certainty and stability to the international tax system. The proposal established a 15% global minimum tax, starting in 2023, and was designed to discourage tax-motivated profit shifting and base erosion by digital corporations that operate worldwide.

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On the reform of sexual offences in Spain

Julia Ropero Carrasco and Sandra López de Zubiría Díaz (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid)

The regulation of so-called “sexual crimes” has traditionally been accompanied by significant and heated debates. If we refer to its historical regulation, it is possible to see how “honour” or “morality” have clouded adequate protection of the victim, essentially due to the mistaken identification of the harmfulness of these acts. From 1995 onwards, with the so-called “Penal Code of Democracy”, it seemed that the regulation had been translated into important improvements, especially by consolidating “sexual freedom” as the legal right to be defended, instead of the previous obsolete conceptions. However, despite the commendable effort to abandon the conventional “sexual morality”, the truth is that this reform brought with it a lack of protection for victims, especially in the area of minors and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, which led to different revisions accompanied in turn by controversy over the timeliness of the reforms.

For this reason, the controversies surrounding the regulation (and its application) of sexual offences have not ceased to be present, although it is in the wake of the well-known case of “La Manada[1]” and the various sentences issued on the matter that Spanish society has been particularly rallied and, with it, the debate on the appropriateness of criminal reform in this area has been reignited.

As a current context, it is necessary to pay attention to the data extracted from the 2019[2] Macro-survey on violence against women, as well as from the Report on Social Perception of Sexual Violence[3], which shows the prominence of sexual violence in women’s lives, the problem of under-reporting of the facts and, more worryingly, the maintenance of stereotypes about sexual violence (especially with regard to the conception of the “rapist” as a sick person and not as one of the perverse derivations of a patriarchal order that maintains a strong discrimination against women in the sexual sphere and a definition of roles that promotes male domination).

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The priority of the EU law in Romania: between reality and Fata Morgana

Dragoș Călin (Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal and co-president of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association)

1. Are ordinary judges afraid to apply CJEU judgments?

The judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union, delivered in the joined cases C-83/19, C-127/19, C-195/19, C-291/19, C-355/19 and C-397/19, Asociația Forumul Judecătorilor din România și alții, on 18 May 2021, has caused a real earthquake in Romania.

It was so intense that, in order to maintain the previous state of affairs, the Constitutional Court of Romania immediately intervened, by Decision no. 390/2021, contrary to the CJEU judgment, ordering that national ordinary judges may not analyse the conformity of a national provision, which has already been found to be constitutional by a decision of the Constitutional Court, in relation to the provisions of European Union law.

More specifically, invoking the disregard of the national constitutional identity, “as a guarantee of a fundamental identity nucleus of the Romanian Constitution and which should not be relativised in the process of European integration”, the Constitutional Court of Romania found that “the CJEU, declaring the binding nature of Decision 2006/928/EC [establishing the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) for Romania], limited its effects from a double perspective: on the one hand, it established that the obligations resulting from the decision fall within the responsibility of the competent Romanian authorities that have the competence to cooperate institutionally with the European Commission (paragraph 177 of the decision), therefore within the responsibility of the political institutions, the Romanian Parliament and Government, and, on the other hand, that the obligations shall be exercised under the principle of sincere cooperation, provided by Article 4 of TEU. From both perspectives, the obligations cannot be incumbent on the courts, State bodies that are not authorized to cooperate with a political institution of the European Union.” It was therefore established that the “implementation of paragraph 7 of the operative part of the judgment, according to which a court is authorized to set aside ex officio a national provision falling within the scope of Decision 2006/928 and which it considers, in the light of a Court judgment, to be contrary to this decision or to the second subparagraph of Article 19 (1) TEU, has no basis in the Romanian Constitution”.

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Defining disinformation in the EU: a matter beyond linguistics

Miguel Pereira (Master’s student in European Union Law at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

The EU has been a trailblazer in what regards combating disinformation. Through initiatives involving online platforms and drafting of long-term strategies tackling multiple fronts, it has recognized the issue and attempted to address it through non-regulatory policy making. The instruments that have been put forth to combat the phenomenon are often controversial (as is to be expected in all discussions impacting freedom of expression and information) and their effectiveness hard to assess. The debate surrounding these instruments tends to absorb most of the attention, leaving less room to discuss the actual definition of disinformation. This concept is, nonetheless, vital to the successful implementation of policies in this area and to an adequate protection of fundamental rights in the EU, meriting a closer look.

Disinformation is often wrongly equated to, and used interchangeably with, “fake news”. This approach muddles the debate with imprecision and can be particularly pernicious for two reasons. On one side, it does not adequately capture the full scope of the problem which goes well beyond fake news reporting and includes a wide array of:

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The architecture of direct effect: an introduction

Miguel Pereira (Master’s student in European Union Law at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

1. Direct effect: paving the road for the European integration

On 5 February 1963, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”)[1] issued a judgment that would become a cornerstone of the European Union (“EU”), notwithstanding the fact that the substance of the matter under judgement was quite mundane: was the import duty applied to the import of a chemical component, used mostly to produce adhesive materials, contrary to Article 12 of the European Economic Community Treaty (“EEC Treaty”)[2]?

In all likelihood, most of us would have gone by without ever reading the word “ureaformaldehyde” but fate, and mostly the Court, would have it another way. As it stands, the judgment of the Court in Case 26/62, commonly known as Van Gend & Loos (owing its designation to the plaintiff in the main action in the national court), introduced a new fundamental principle of EU Law, the principle of direct effect, which may be broadly defined as “the capacity of a provision of EU law to be invoked before a national court”[3]. To this broad definition we might add that those provisions must confer rights or impose obligations on those that seek the recognition of direct effect of a given provision[4]. The conditions under which direct effect might be conferred to a provision of EU law are specific and relate to the content and wording of the provision itself, the source of said provision and the nature of the parties in the dispute.

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The rule of law and the defense of citizens against any power: on the case C-650/18 Hungary v European Parliament

by Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and Maria Inês Costa (Master´s student in Human Rights at the University of Minho)

The expression rule of law means that the exercise of public power is subject to legal norms and procedures – legislative, executive, judicial procedures –, which allow citizens to monitor and eventually challenge the legitimacy of decisions taken by the public power. The basic idea of the value of the rule of law is to submit power to law, restraining the natural tendency of power to expand and operate in an arbitrary manner – be it the traditional power of the State, or the power of novel political structures such as the European Union, be it the power of private organizational complexes – such as market forces, internet forces, sports forces, etc.

The procedure provided by Article 7 TEU is the most emblematic political instrument to defend the rule of law in the European Union. Article 7(1) TEU constitutes the initial phase in the procedure in the event of a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the common values enshrined in Article 2 TEU. Article 7(2) TEU governs the next stage in which a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values laid down in Article 2 TEU can be established. Article 7(3) TEU ultimately provides for the issuing of sanctions against the Member State concerned.

Article 7(1) TEU provides that on a reasoned proposal by the European Parliament, the Council acting by a majority of 4/5 of its members may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the common values of the Union referred to in Article 2 TEU. Moreover, Article 7(5) TUE provides that the voting arrangements applicable to the European Parliament are laid down in Article 354 TFEU – which provides that the European Parliament shall act by a 2/3 majority of the votes cast, representing the majority of its component Members.

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