The EU reaction to Covid-19 crisis

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 by Joaquim Freitas da Rocha, Professor of Tax Law, University of Minho

With the spread of the COVID-19 disease, Europe is facing an unprecedented and unparalleled crisis which requires special and exceptional solutions, particularly with restrictive effect. For sure, this is not an exclusive European problem, quite the contrary – it is a real pandemic situation, with global extent, threating and affecting all continents; even so, the following considerations will take into account only the European context and the European Union (EU).

This emergency crises requires special and exceptional solutions, carried out either by the EU itself and by the Member States, but, in any case, legal, temporary and proportional. Even in a context like this, it cannot be forgotten that the EU and all its Member States are democratic systems and all of them are based on the rule of law. Consequently, unconstitutional, disproportional and disruptive measures shall be avoided. Probably this is not the best moment to say so, but the COVID-19 cannot be the justification to put aside the European civilizational model based on solidarity, equality and democratic freedoms.
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Citizens pro Europe’s letter to the EU institutions

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Dear Presidents,

In the face of the health crisis lashing Europe and the world, and costing the lives of thousands of citizens, Citizens Pro Europe, a non-governmental organisation present in 10 EU-Member countries, would like to present a number of considerations, for this crisis calls for determination and courage from political leaders and democratic institutions, the industry, and European civil society. In these times of great need, we are all called upon to contribute our bit.

Firstly, we must work to save lives. Member States are the first line of defence. We want to thank all workers who make it possible for our fellow European citizens to be taken care of. In order for all national health systems to be able to absorb the avalanche of those seriously affected by COVID-19, these workers must have at their disposal all the necessary financial and material means.

Secondly, we would like to highlight the importance of a joint action by all Member States and European Institutions in this grave moment. We make an appeal to their political leaders to act, at all times, with solidarity, Europe’s true hallmark. In this sense, we regret some Member States’ decisions to ban the sale and distribution of essential equipment to other Member States. We are pleased to see that, owing to the European Commission’s intervention, these bans will not be put in place and that mutual assistance mechanisms are being implemented. In these times of great need, it is critical to maintain channels for trade and the distribution of essential goods on the common market open. We congratulate the European Institutions for their proposal of green corridors ensuring the transit of these goods. We condemn the obstacles to the freedom of movement of these merchandises taking place at the borders of several Member States. This is a very serious error that jeopardizes citizens’ lives and will notably hinder the economic recovery once this health crisis abates. The common market is a source of prosperity for all and a relying factor on the speedy recovery of our economies after this crisis. Today, it is an instrument that can save many lives.
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The European Union and covid-19

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 by Teresa Freixes, Professor of Constitutional Law and Jean Monnet Chair ad personam

In these difficult days, many of us look up at the European Union, as no country is oblivious to this health crisis that we are facing. Many wonder what the EU is doing while the virus crosses borders, endangers the health and life of citizens and also likely causes a major economic crisis. More coordinated action by the EU is lacking in this regard, but we must remember all the framework: the EU has pre-standards that it is applying; it has reached important agreements to deal with the various issues in place and it is planning future policies so that the effects of the health crisis and its economic outcomes are as limited as possible.

To start, it should be noted that Decision 1082/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on serious cross-border threats to health provides that: “Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states, inter alia, that a high level of human health protection is to be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities. That Article further provides that Union action is to complement national policies, is to cover monitoring, early warning of, and combating serious cross-border threats to health, and that Member States are, in liaison with the Commission, to coordinate among themselves their policies and programmes in the areas covered by Union action in the field of public health”.
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Artificial intelligence and PSI Directive (EU) – open data and the re-use of public sector information before new digital demands

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 by Joana Abreu, Editor and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Coordinator


In Ursula von der Leyen’s speech entitled “A Union that strives for more”, one of nowadays President of the European Commission’s priorities was to establish “a Europe fit for digital age”. In this sense, von der Leyen’s aspirations were to grasp the opportunities from the digital age within safe and ethical boundaries, particularly those deriving from artificial intelligence as “[d]igital technologies […] are transforming the world at an unprecedented speed”. Therefore, the President of the European Commission established that “[i]n my first 100 days in office, I will put forward legislation for a coordinated European approach on the human and ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence”. Last 1st December 2019, the European Commission took office, led by President Ursula von der Leyen. As that time lapse is passing by, there is a need to understand how a Europe fit for the digital age is taking shape. There is to say, has the European Union already made efforts to meet that digital age?

In fact, recalling Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum, held in Brussels, on the 25th February 2016, Digital Single Market was thought by inception in order to materialise it as a primary public interest in action. Concerning digital public services, it was highlighted that some of them were not as transparent as they should and that “Governments need[ed] to look at how to re-use the information already available […] and open up the data they h[ad], while adapting to current trends and making use of public services easy and simple”. In order to do so, this forum established that “Member States should implement the once only principle: once only obligation, re-use of data, making the best use of key enablers and thinking cross-border services from inception”.
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Judicial independence in Poland and Hungary – Going, Going, Gone? Preliminary Requests and Disciplinary Procedures – A shocking development

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

1. Stating the obvious

The reference for a preliminary ruling, provided for Article 19(3)(b) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is an essential instrument for the European Union and, in particular, for national judges.

It is aimed to guarantee the uniform interpretation and application of EU law by offering to the courts and tribunals of Member States a procedure to acquire from the Court of Justice of the European Union a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of EU law or the validity of acts adopted by the institutions of the Union.

As easily predictable, the impact of a preliminary ruling procedure in EU legal system is immense also because the rulings of European Court of Justice (ECJ) are assumed as generally binding.

The ECJ itself does not have a power to enforce the accurate application of EU law; this is the reason why national courts or tribunals are obliged to bring the matters in question before the Court as frontrunners of the application of EU law.

The reference for a preliminary ruling is the only way for the national judges to directly convey with ECJ. This procedure helps the ECJ control on how the national courts apply EU law providing the uniformity and certainty essentials to the success of our Union.

Another aspect of major significance could be furthermore underlined: the preliminary ruling also ensures the protection of the rights of individuals. EU laws, in particular the criminal law, fall to be interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Article 6(1) of the Treaty of European Union affirms: “The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union … which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties”. In general terms, the Charter applies to Member States when they implement Union law (Case C-292/97 Karlsson and Others); therefore, the interpretation of the Charter provisions tends to be, if not now, in the foreseeable future, a fertile ground for the use of the preliminary ruling procedures.

The Member States are bound to respect fundamental rights in judicial cooperation, for instance, if a Member State is extraditing someone to another Member State in accordance with the scheme established by the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.
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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

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 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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