Europe at the crossroads: the importance of the elections to the European Parliament

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by Carlos Botelho Moniz, Chairman - Portuguese European Law Association
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European Union citizens will be called to the ballot boxes between 23 and 26 May 2019 to elect the members of the European Parliament for a new 5-year term that will last until 2024. It will be the ninth time, since the first direct election in 1979, that the members of the European Parliament are directly elected by citizens through universal suffrage, in elections held during the same time period in all the Member States of the European Union.

It is the largest example of transnational democracy at work in the world, involving hundreds of millions of voters and its mere occurrence on a continent that over the centuries, particularly in the 20th Century, was plunged into devastating conflicts between the States that today comprise the EU, is a powerful reminder of the strength of democratic ideals and the fundamental importance of the European Union to guarantee peace, security, justice and a balanced, sustainable economic development of our continent. ​
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Europe’s hopes and fears

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by Mariana Canotilho, Editor
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According to the latest Eurobarometer, published in December 2018, immigration is the EU citizens’ main concern at the moment. With terrorism quickly falling, citizens are increasingly worried about Member States’ public finances (again!), the economy, and climate change (which is reaching new highs in every barometer).

The common feature between all these concerns is the fear of losing one’s way of life. European democracies are supposed to be about just that – democracy – but also about social cohesion, a broad catalogue of fundamental rights (including social and economic rights), freedom and peace. A citizen of a EU Member State expects to ‘live a good life’; a safe and prosperous life, using his or her capabilities to the fullest. A life that is free from fear of poverty, of economic and social turmoil and of uncertainty.

The multiple and complex crises of the last decade have highlighted that such a life is no longer possible for many people, in the EU. In a way, all the crises have flown into the big sea of the Union’s fundamental problem, which seems to be a crisis of solidarity. Solidarity towards migrants, who flee from war and disaster, but also towards southern countries dealing with economic and social upheaval (due to decisions that were not only their fault) or eastern European countries facing a scary turn in the direction of ‘illiberal democracies’. The Union’s answers have been late and not nearly enough.
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e-Justice paradigm under the new Council’s 2019-2023 Action Plan and Strategy – some notes on effective judicial protection and judicial integration

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by Joana Covelo de Abreu, Editor


Information and Communication technology (ICT) and digital tools are shaping the way new solutions are being implemented in EU Procedure and justice, in all European Union. In fact, through the Digital Single Market (DSM) political goal, new technological and digital approaches have been adopted and are now being widespread.

Under DSM’s strategy, e-Justice appeared as a paradigm to be settled using a method: the one of interoperability. But this method was also acknowledged by the 2016 e-Government Action Plan as a general principle of EU law: in fact, alongside elder ones such as transparency or efficiency others were settled, truly built on this new digital approach it is being aimed to be accomplished: the one of interoperability by default, the one of digital by default and the once-only principle. In fact, first approaches to stakeholders revealed the importance of the latter since, in an EU settled and developed around fundamental freedoms, economic agents were able to raise awareness among stakeholders of the need to overcome administrative barriers to similar proceedings in different Member States or before the European institutions. In fact, they were able to devise that they had to provide, for as many times as they initiated a proceeding, the same information and documents, when, in fact, the proceeding was similar, the petition was the same… That determined the emergence of the once-only principle, based on the need of reusing data across the EU. However, to do so stakeholders also understood those public services had to work through interconnected databases and operative systems – otherwise, the reuse of data would come difficult and the once-only principle would never get out of the table of intended measures. That was the perfect setting to bet on digital components, considering the first services to start this digitalisation update were public services.
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MAY be… MAY be not!

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by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor

We are a short time away from the European Parliament Election. We are also just over two months until the date of the formal implementation of Brexit. If all were going as desirable and planned, the United Kingdom would cease to be a member of the European Union at eleven o’clock of 29th March – if all were going as intended, as it was thought, after the no vote (to stay in the EU) in the referendum. But it is not! In fact, we don’t even know how the European elections will be disputed: with or without British candidates; how many MEPs to elect.

The political standoff in which the UK and the EU are immersed is the result of a classical democratic practise in its original context and dynamics. A national border-limited state, closed in itself and its people (its nationals), follows the idea that it holds a non-influenced sovereignty. Such un-limitedness would mean that nothing beyond its borders matter. Absolutely nothing could interfere with its presence as under this traditional and sovereign-ist political cosmovision nothing exists unless it is subject to the autonomous exercise of such sovereignty. However, the autonomous political decision of ‘disintegrating’ is, as many others, no longer a strictly encircled affair to be kept inside a territorial frame of political national frontiers. Today world’s dynamics is not national nor even inter-national. It is transnational, if not a-national. And rigorously speaking a decision made in an internal referendum never produces effects confined in such frontiers. The political decision made after the referendum is not a British decision and regards only British citizens – it is now clear in practical terms given the standoff we are all immersed in.
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Indirect taxation on 3D printing – A new challenge for the European Union

IFA 2015

 by Andreia Barbosa, PhD candidate at UMINHO

3D printing (or rapid prototyping) is a form of additive manufacturing technology through which a three-dimensional model (height, depth and width, maxime, embossed) is created by successive layers of material. Think of the production of a computer mouse. The traditional production of this property implies that, in the first instance, the respective components are separately produced and subsequently assembled, giving rise to the mouse. Differently, through 3D printing the mouse for the computer will be printed as a whole, layer by layer – making the assembly process obsolete – and with the possibility of the product being customized, according to the model that has been developed.

That said, it is easy to conclude that in the case of models for 3D printing there is no corporeality to which we refer, so that, then, there will be no merchandise, which will only assume this quality when it is actually printed. That is to say, the 3D printing model, which is the subject of an international transaction, will not be regarded as a ‘good’ for customs purposes. Consequently, as customs duties constitute charges imposed on goods on the ground that they have crossed a customs line, no customs duties may be levied by the transmission of the model to be printed (which will be carried out electronically).
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The first steps of a revolution with a set date (25 May 2018): the “new” General Data Protection regime

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by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor


1. Homo digitalis[i] is increasingly more present in all of us. It surrounds us, it captures us. Our daily life is digitalising rapidly. We live, factually and considerably, a virtual existence… but very real! The real and the virtual merge in our normal life; the frontiers between these dimensions of our existence are bluring. Yet, this high-tech life of ours does not seem to be easily framed by law. Law has its own time – for now barely compatible with the speed of technologic developments. Besides, in face of new realities, it naturally hesitates in the pursuit of the value path (therefore, normative) to follow. We must give (its) time to law, without disregarding the growth of homo digitalis.

2. Well, today (25 May 2018) the enforcement of Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) begins. Since 25 January 2012 (date of the presentation of the proposal for the Regulation) until now the problems with respect to the protection of fundamental rights – in particular the guarantee of personal data security (Article 8 CFREU) – have been progressively clearer as a result of the increase in the digital dimension of our lives. Definitely, the personal data became of economic importance that recently publicized media cases (for example, “Facebook vs. Cambridge Analytics”) underline. Its reuse for purposes other than those justifying its treatment, transaction and crossing, together with the development of the use of algorithms (so-called “artificial intelligence” techniques) have made it necessary to reinforce the uniform guarantees of citizens, owners of personal data, increasingly digitized.
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Past a “Great Perhaps”, the transnational lists for the European Parliament Election become a great doubt

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by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor

Considering the “Great Perhaps” – as Rabelais stated in his very last words when passing away to the final destination – surrounding Brexit, one great doubt has just emerged. Yesterday, the European Parliament voted and approved in plenary (431 x 182. There were 61 abstentions) the report on the new seats distribution of MEPs for the period after the UK withdrawal. Yet, the inclusion of a joint constituency comprising the entire territory of the Union, the well-known transnational lists topic, was rejected. Previously and long evaluated, the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) had approved (17 x 8) the future structure in Jan., 24th. That would mean that in the next elections, besides the usual ballot, there’d be one separate “section” in which the European citizens and residents would vote for representatives not on a Member State-by-Member State basis, but on a general basis instead. Such “section” would have 27 seats (ideally with preannounced runners) to be fulfilled by the most voted candidates in the ballots across the whole Union without national divisions. The Council still would have to unanimously agree on the issue before the new system entered into force (and the Parliament would need to vote again confirming) but the proposal is in this part (for) now off the table.

The general seat change has happened because the composition of the EP needed to go through modifications given the MEPs from the United Kingdom end their terms in 2019 and will not be candidates again following Brexit.
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Reclaiming the Truth: the role of European citizens on countering fake news

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by Rui Vieira, master's student in EU law at University of Minho

The epidemic of unrestrained fake News on social medial in the latest years has revealed itself to be a major concern for the European democratic culture. The same way there is a massive amount of information circulating, there is also a massive amount of misinformation and sensationalistic, unreliable information flowing through Social Networks. The repercussions and negative effects on public opinion are varied. From social tension to the promotion of demagogy, uncertainty and pessimistic skepticism on the public opinion.

Facing such global-scaled problems, the Commission wants its citizens to feedback on fake news and online disinformation. A Public consultation on the ways to tackle this online problem is available between November and February.

The demand for possible regulation for this problem came after a 2017 Resolution by the European Parliament calling on the Commission to analyse in depth the current situation and legal framework with regards to fake news and to verify the possibility of legislative intervention.

In fact, the advent of Social Networks did nothing more than to increase older concerns. In the last century, it was already discussed if there is a conceptual distance between news and the truth and if a democratic public opinion is compatible with a free press and the search for the truth[i].

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The right to withdraw the notification to leave the European Union under Article 50 TEU: can we still save the marriage?

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by Mariana Alvim, PhD candidate at University of Lisbon

The 29 March 2017 will be always recalled as the date the United Kingdom has served divorce papers on the European Union, following a referendum that took place on the 23 June 2016 where the majority of the British people decided to leave the EU.

The EU institutions and the Member States have limited instruments at their disposal to persuade other Member State to remain a member of the Union against their will; therefore if exit cannot be prevented at least it can be regulated.

The decision to depart is always taken in accordance with the Member State’s domestic law but once Article 50 TEU is triggered the law of the European Union governs the withdrawal process and the departure itself.

And despite its rapid rise to fame in the result of the British referendum, this sparsely worded Treaty provision still raises more questions that it answers.

It is important to underline that Article 50 TEU imposes substantive and procedural conditions on the withdrawing Member State. But once it has given notice under Article 50(1) TEU, all that the withdrawing Member State is apparently required to do, before the Treaties cease to apply, is to wait out the two-year period stipulated in Article 50(2) TEU.

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Is Europe alone?

by João Alexandre Guimarães, Erasmus student at UMinho

After the US Election and confirmation of Donald Trump as president, the current President Barack Obama visited Europe and raised an issue … Is Europe alone?

In an interview, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said,

“Trump has, among other things, praised Vladimir Putin, questioned the principle of NATO, and suggested creating a database of Muslims in America.[…] We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works,’ he continued, adding that Americans usually had no interest in Europe. […] I think we will waste two years before Mr Trump tours the world he does not know”, via Metro.

In Berlin and after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, current President Barack Obama recalled the priorities of his eight-year term, saying he hoped that his successor, Donald Trump, would not call into question projects such as the transatlantic free trade agreement or commitments to NATO and the Paris climate deal.

‘‘The committement of the United States to Europe is enduring and it is rooted in the values that we share. The values that Angela just mentioned. Our commitment to democracy, our commitment to the rule of law, our commitment to the dignity of all people. In our own countries and around the world our alliance with our NATO partners has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy for nearly 70 years, in good times and bad, and through presidents of both parties, because the United States has a fundamental interest in Europe’s stability and security,” he said, via Euronews.

Mark Leonard told the Social Europe that “this will be a tough agenda to adopt – not least because Europe is facing its own brand of populist nationalism. France’s far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, was among the first to congratulate Trump on his victory, and Trump has said that he would put the UK at the front of the queue after Brexit. But even Europe’s most Trump-like leaders will find it harder to defend their national interest if they try to go it alone. To survive in Trump’s world, they should try to make Europe great again.”