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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Much ado about the Social Summit?

by Graça Enes (Faculty of Law of the University of Porto and CIJE)

The Porto Social Summit was the high point of the Portuguese Presidency, a two-day event (May 7-8th) intended to achieve a strong commitment from Member States, European institutions, social partners, and civil society towards the implementation of the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights[1]. Several side events occurred along the weeks before the Summit, in Portugal and elsewhere[2], anticipating the debate.

In the days before, important members of the Portuguese Government made public statements stressing the ambition of the event. Ana Paula Zacarias, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, stated that the Porto Social Summit could “move principles to action”.

On May 7th, the Summit webpage announced: “Porto Social Summit starts today, defining EU policies for the next decade”. The stakes were high.

During the afternoon of the first day, a High-Level Conference was held for an extended debate, involving members of the Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, Heads of Government, and social partners. In addition to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, issue that was addressed by the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmitt, the discussion focused around three major subjects: work and employment; skills and innovation; welfare state and social protection. The participation in the debate went beyond the European Union, with the presence of the Director-General of the International Labour Organization and the Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The works of the conference were live streamed, and everyone could follow the debates taking place at the Alfândega building. At the opening session, António Costa declared: “We are here today to renew the European social contract, making a commitment, each one at their own level, to develop innovative and inclusive responses”. At the end of the day, Ursula von der Leyen stated: “The Porto Social Summit is our joint commitment to build a social Europe that is fit for our day and age and that works for everyone”. The tangible outcome of this debate was the “Porto Social Commitment”[3], an encompassing compromise of the EU institutions, Member States and European social partners that was being prepared for weeks and was solemnly presented by the three Presidents on the evening of May 7th.

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The importance of the European Banking Authority in harmonising the credit moratorium regime

by Marina Barata (Master's in Law)

The pandemic outbreak caused by COVID-19 and the government measures taken by several European Union countries to address or mitigate the spread of the disease had, and continue to have, dramatic consequences for the economy.

Individuals and companies were affected by the economic crisis arising from the successive states of confinement, which created situations of default, even if in some cases temporary, of their financial obligations.

This possible and imminent lack of liquidity on the part of debtors would have a devastating impact on credit institutions, since loans defaults would lead to an increase in the number of defaulters and greater and heavier capital requirements for institutions.

For this reason, credit moratoria were implemented broadly by most of the European Union’s Member States.

Traditionally, a moratorium is the granting of an extension of a line of credit’s payment period, whereby the payment of the instalments is suspended for the period during which the moratorium lasts and the deadline for their full payment is extended for the same period. In the expression of the law, the moratorium is the deferment of the fulfilment of the beneficiaries’ obligation towards the banking system.

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Options for keeping the Common Agricultural Policy within the Green Deal

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

1. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goals within the Green Deal

Presented in 2019, the Green Deal intends to pave the road for a sustainable European Union, cutting emissions by 40% until 2030 and achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050. At her first State of the Union speech, commissioner Ursula Von der Leyen updated the 2030 goal to 55%, following the Parliament’s goal of cutting emissions by 60%.  Within the Green Deal, the Commission revealed several strategic plans including the “Farm2Fork Strategy” and “Biodiversity Strategy”. These plans unveiled the most ambitious goals ever when it comes to reducing the environmental impacts of food production, such as a 50% reduction in pesticide use until 2030; 50% reduction in soil nutrient loss; 50% reduction of antibiotic use in animal farms; increase of the total share of organic farming land to 25%; establish 30% of land and sea as protected areas; plant 3 billion trees; halt and reverse the decline of pollinators; and invest 20 billion euros per year on biodiversity.

Despite the bold target setting, several issues related to the implementation of the necessary measures have been raised. Mainly the compatibility of the proposed Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 and the established goals. The first proposal by the Commission, published in 2018 showed some improvement in agri-environmental measures but was largely classified as insufficient[i],[ii] even for the less demanding goals at the time. In its “How the future CAP will contribute to the EU Green Deal” document, the Commission refrained from further developing the proposal, repeating the previously announced measures. That said, a later published Staff Working Document[iii] concluded that the proposed CAP could have a potential contributory effect to the Green Deal goals, as long as it was approved by the Parliament and the Council in the exact terms proposed, or more demanding ones. Problem is, historically, CAP proposals are diluted in the trilogue and this time was no different. At the end of 2020, a final agreement was reached, and the new CAP was voted in what has been classified by NGO’s as “a kiss of death” for nature in Europe[iv]. Both, the Parliament and the Council voted to soften the proposed agri-environmental measures leading to public outrage and campaigns such as “#votethisCAPdown” and “scrapthisCAP”. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) accused the European Union’s institutions of ignoring the Green Deal and the evidence when it comes to agriculture’s environmental impacts[v]. For Greenpeace, the new CAP represents the death of small farmer’s and possibly the Green Deal[vi].

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The transversality of mental health in a “European Health Union”

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

The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU 2021 Program reinforces the need to strengthen cooperation between Member States in the field of health, to support actions needed to increase the responsiveness of health services to threats to public health.[1] In the debate regarding a “European Health Union” it is important to underscore that mental health is a transversal approach to all health policies. However, despite the many targeted resolutions covering urgent aspects of mental health,[2] the debate on this issue never found its way to a comprehensive European framework.[3] Indeed, it is critical to consider the impediments to mental healthcare, the costs of neglecting mental healthcare, and Covid-19 impact on increasing fatigue and its consequences on mental healthcare.[4]

Above all, it is important to ponder that many mental disorders are shaped, to a large extent, by social, economic, and environmental factors[5] – that is, many of the causes and triggers of mental disorders reside in the Europeans daily life conditions.[6] According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the response to social, environmental, and economic determinants of health requires multisectoral approaches anchored in a human rights perspective. Multisectoral action is central to the SDG (“sustainable development goals”) agenda because of the range of determinants acting upon people’s health – such as socioeconomic status, gender, and other social determinants.[7]

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The Court of Justice of the European Union is facing a new challenge: compliance with the rule of law or not as a result of the effects of decisions delivered by the Constitutional Court of Romania

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

1. Some decisions of the Constitutional Court of Romania and the requests for preliminary ruling filed by the courts in Romania

In Romania, the decisions of the Constitutional Court (CCR) have been the subject of endless public discussion in recent years.

Most recently, due to the fact that, according to a press release issued at the beginning of June by the National Anticorruption Directorate, the public opinion found out that, in a number of 801 criminal files regarding the offence of abuse of office, the solution of discontinuance of proceedings was ordered, as an effect of CCR Decision no. 405/2016, according to which, when establishing that the offence of abuse of office was committed, the judicial bodies must take into account only the infringement of the normative prescriptions of the law, and not also the infringement of certain obligations provided by Government decisions or other infra-legal rules. The value of the damage established during the criminal investigation, which has remained unrecovered, according to the Romanian prosecutors, amounts to RON 1,380,564,195, EUR 118,467,830 and USD 25,636,611.

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Short notes regarding the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union: the agreement in principle between the EU and China

by Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor)

Friday, 15 January, marked the first day of the second (relatively general) lockdown in Portugal. At the same time, Lisbon hosted a number of European Commissioners, including the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, for an in-person event with significant political relevance.

The Commissioner’s visit, signaling the beginning of a Member State’s presidency of the Council is, in fact, a tradition. In a manner carrying out some symbolism, this visit to Portugal, by accident coinciding with the second lockdown in the country, can also be seen as a sign of what is expecting the EU in the first semester of 2021. Notwithstanding, the priorities officially set out by the Portuguese presidency, the pandemic narrows down the possible paths. We have to overcome, to remake ourselves, and Europe must keep being Europe, deepening integration (especially now) with pride in the European project.

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The “speciality” of Social Rights: guarantees of public employment in the Portuguese Constitution before European Union Law

by Ricardo Sousa da Cunha, PhD (JUSGOV/UMinho, ESG/IPCA)

The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (CRP) enshrines in article 47.º, n.º 2 a guarantee of public employment after a public tender that has been challenged in the application of European Union Law by the domestic courts.

This constitutional guarantee was the basis for the decision of the Constitutional Court n.º 368/00, of 11 July 2000, which upheld the challenges on the constitutionality of legal provisions (art. 10.º, n.º 2 of Law n.º 23/2004, of 22 June, and art. 14 of DL n.º 427/89, of 7 December) determining the nullity of labor contracts of public entities with civil servants that had not been selected by a public tender. The basis for this decision was the fulfilment of the constitutional principle of equal sharing of public benefits and costs as a consequence of the principle of the rule of law.

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European citizenship in the recent JD judgment: on the public reason of the “Union based on the rule of law”

by Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and Nataly Machado (Master's student in EU Law, UMinho)

“This is a time to take part
Time of parted humans (…)
The laws are not enough
The lilies do not arise from the law”
[i]
(“Our time”, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, 1902-1987)

In a poem written during the horrors of the Second World War, the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade depicted one of those historic moments in which people and institutions must take up a political position, to take sides[ii]. At a time when the European Union “is going through an unprecedented public health crisis, to which the Member States must answer by demonstrating equally unprecedented solidarity[iii], in the JD case, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was asked about the extent of the social assistance which a host Member State must provide to a former migrant worker seeking employment who is the primary carer of his two children attending school in that State.

This judgment helps us to unravel the public reason of the European Union, i.e., the criteria/standards by which we can seek the legitimacy of the exercise of power. As John Rawls explained, “[t]he idea of public reason specifies at the deepest level the basic moral and political values that are to determine a constitutional democratic government’s relation to its citizens and their relation to one another. In short, it concerns how the political relation is to be understood[iv].

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