Note from MEP José Manuel Fernandes regarding European Parliament resolution of 10 March 2022 on the rule of law and the consequences of the ECJ ruling

José Manuel Fernandes (Member of the European Parliament)

The principle of the rule of law is not just one among other basic principles of our democracy. It is more than that: it is a sine qua non condition for the recognition of all other fundamental rights. There is no effective freedom of speech, of association, of conscience, among others, in a community that is not governed by law. Where there is no “rule of law”, there is arbitrariness and lack of security. In such conditions, there is no freedom.

When the “rule of law” is abandoned, explicitly or implicitly, we embark on a path that leads from civility to barbarism, from equality before the law, to the rule of the strongest; from the liberal democratic system built and perfected over the last decades, to alternative, authoritarian regimes that restrict freedoms. Whoever foregoes the “rule of law” necessarily foregoes the fundamental principles on which the Portuguese constitutional order and the European Union Treaties are founded (see art. 2 TEU). Therefore, respect for the rule of law is not an option but an obligation in order to be eligible to be a member of the European Union.

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Once again about the priority of the EU law in Romania: “Amédée ou comment s’en débarrasser”

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)]. 

1. Introduction

In “Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It (Amédée ou comment s’en débarrasser)”, written by Eugène Ionesco (“Théâtre, Volume I”, Paris, Gallimard, 1954), Amédée and his wife Madeleine discuss how to deal with a continually growing corpse in the other room. That corpse is causing mushrooms to sprout all over the apartment and is apparently arousing suspicion among the neighbours. The audience is given no clear reason why the corpse is there.

Like Amédée and Madeleine, in the “priority of the EU law in Romania” saga, we are simply in a play in which nothing changes, but everything transforms.

Under pressure from the Constitutional Court’s decisions, ordinary judges refuse to apply CJEU judgments, and the example is provided by the High Court of Cassation and Justice and Craiova Court of Appeal.

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European e-Justice in the Digital Decade – building a Digital citizenship (some remarks on the importance of European e-Justice to Digital citizenship effectiveness)

Joana Covelo de Abreu (Editor and Jean Monnet Module eUjust Coordinator), Alessandra Silveira and Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editors and Key Staff Members of the Jean Monnet Module eUjust)

The European Union established that, until 2030, it will pursue a Digital Decade as one of its primal public interests. In fact, COVID-19 fastened digitalization path in the European Union since it made digital environment as imperative in our daily lives as offline engagement. However, if it showcased major digital opportunities, it also exposed vulnerabilities of the digital space and enhanced a new phenomenon: the one relating to digital poverty, focusing on those that, by lacking infrastructural and/or educational background, are left outside the digital world. This is one of the visible faces of a larger problem of this decade: the one related to the digital divide which, besides emerging on infrastructural level – not only between well-connected urban areas and rural and remote territories, but also between those that can fully benefit from an enriched, accessible and secure digital space with a full range of services and those who cannot –, it also appears, nowadays, with i) a commercial repercussion, between those businesses with online expression and those that have not reached that point; and ii) a literacy lack, between those that grasp, at least, basic digital skills from those that do not possess them.

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Editorial of March 2022

By Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor)

Europe and war

They do not know that dreams are a constant of life

As concrete and defined as any other thing (…)

They neither know nor dream that dreams command life![1]

(António Gedeão)

The history of European integration is made up of moments of war, manifestations of collective irrationality, and the permanent reaction to and overcoming of such instances. In fact, Europe itself, “the daughter of mythology and war”, was gradually built as a stage for violent and disastrous wars and, simultaneously, for virtuous and great conquests.[2]

The success of this 71-year-long integration can be illustrated by the fact that we are dramatically surprised by Russia’s war against Ukraine! European integration was born out of the debris of World War II, trying to permanently bury it. Its great merit was, after all, and as Jean Monnet said, to try to unite Men, more than to unite States.[3] Thus, we have been living in the illusion that the supreme inhumanity and irrationality of war would be definitively overcome. At least, on the European continent (not only in the European Union) and among sovereign states.

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European Union Taxonomy: what is it and how will it work?

Nataly Machado (Master’s student in EU Law at UMinho). 

Taxonomy: where does this word come from? “The term is derived from the Greek taxis (“arrangement”) and nomos (“law”). Taxonomy is, therefore, the methodology and principles of systematic botany and zoology and sets up arrangements of the kinds of plants and animals in hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups”[1] In accordance to Maria da Gória F.P.D. Garcia:“it is the verification by scientists emerging from the community and from various quarters, sometimes against each other, that warns of the need to base political decisions on scientific knowledge if the very continuity of life in society is to be preserved.”[2] (free translation)

Let us make a brief Taxonomy’s history background. The first records of biological classification, which gave rise to taxonomy, the area of biology responsible for identifying, naming and classifying living beings, take us back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). However, it was in the 18th century that the botanist Carolus Linnaeus developed the binomial nomenclature system, written in Latin, which is still used today. A well-known example that identifies us as a species: Homo sapiens.

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Analyzing informal care from an EU perspective

Maria Inês Costa (Master’s student in Human Rights at UMinho). 

A 2018 report by the European Commission highlights that the European Pillar of Social Rights “makes explicit the commitment to people providing care, including their rights to flexible working and access to care services“,[1] bearing in mind that data suggests that most long-term care in Europe – around 80% –  is provided by informal carers, this is, people who care for dependent or elderly people, to whom they offer support in basic and/or instrumental activities of daily living. These caregivers are not trained in health care and presumably do not receive compensation for doing this work, neither do they possess a formal work agreement.[2]

In fact, the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, whose goals are to be achieved by 2030, addresses the fact that the resilience of long-term care is being put to the test, not only by the additional strain of the pandemic, but also by demographic trends that suggest an increasingly ageing European society, requiring rapid and effective responses in terms of health care services, their quality and distribution across the territory.[3] Eurocarers, the European network representing informal carers and their organizations, reacted positively to the proposal of the European Pillar of Social Rights, highlighting in a written contribution that support provided to informal carers was key to the sustainability of the health and long-term care systems through participation and integration policies focusing on their well-being, employment and empowerment.[4] In a letter sent to the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in April 2021, the European network insisted on the importance of implementing the principles outlined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, and called for the urgent development of a global EU strategy on care, comprehensive enough to address all aspects of formal and informal care, including the current shortages in the informal care sector and the need to ensure support for informal carers to improve their situation, given their crucial role in providing care across the EU.[5]

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The relevance of judicial institutions in upholding the Rule of Law

Gonçalo Martins de Matos (Master’s student in Judiciary Law at University of Minho) 

Between the 15th and the 16th of February 2022, two landmark decisions were issued by two distinct courts: one regarding EU law, by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and the other regarding Portuguese law, by the Portuguese Constitutional Court. We shall look at both of them and analyse what they introduce (or establish) regarding the defence of the Rule of Law.

We shall start with the CJEU’s decision. On 16 February 2022, the CJEU rendered its judgment in Cases C-156/21 Hungary v. Parliament and Council and C-157/21 Poland v. Parliament and Council. Both Cases emerged from two actions for annulment brought by the Republic of Poland and Hungary concerning Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2092 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2020 on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget[1]. This Regulation adopted several provisions linking access to EU funding and the respect for the Rule of Law, with a view to “protect the EU budget from financial risks linked to generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States[2].

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The EU Circular Economy Strategy: a strong step towards more ecological products design and manufacturing?

Beltrán Puentes Cociña (PhD Candidate at the University of Santiago de Compostela) 

Humanity has been engaged in the struggle for sustainability for at least 30 years. Since the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, there have been many political, economic, and social initiatives for a sustainable development that makes human activities compatible with the ecological limits of the planet. One of the latest and most relevant is the circular economy strategy[i]/[ii].

1. The first EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy (2015)[iii]

The current model of production and consumption follows a linear sequence. It is based on the extraction of natural resources, the mass manufacture of products, the over-consumption of short-lived products and the generation of a huge amount of waste that is either incinerated or landfilled. Growth policies encourage the demand for more and more products, so that a country’s economy grows when its consumption and production increase.[iv]

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The GDPR may no longer be a paper tiger

Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor). 

1. It is a known fact that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has suffered from an enforcement problem. The theoretical administrative fines of up to €20 000 000, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 % of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher, that appear impressive on paper largely failed to properly materialize in the first few years of application of the “new” data protection framework.

2. Fines under the GDPR finally overcame the €1 billion threshold in 2021, a sevenfold increase from 2021. In fact, fines under the GDPR have been steadily growing since 2018. Of course, one should not forget that a significant percentage of the total amount of fines levied in 2021 is comprised by the €746 million fine levied by Luxembourg Data Protection Supervisory Authority (DPA) against Amazon and the €225 million fine levied by the Irish DPA against Whatsapp. In addition, the total amount of the fines still pales in comparison with other areas, such as competition law.

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Editorial of February 2022

By Sandra Fernandes (Professor at UMinho - School of Management and Economics /Researcher of the CICP)

Making the Europeans visible again: on the Ukrainian-Russian crisis

The world has its eyes turned to the uncertain faith of Ukraine, a country whose geopolitical situation has settled as an “in-between” State in post-soviet Europe. Since the annexation-reintegration of Crimea in 2014, and the war in Donbass and Luhansk, Kiev has de facto lost sovereignty over parts of its territory. The growing mobilization of Russian military resources at the Ukrainian border since 2021 has escalated the crisis, together with straightforward Russian demands on a new security pact for Europe with less NATO.

In this context, the media have been underlying that the European Union (EU) and the Ukrainians themselves are the noticeable absents from the tentative dialogues amid the diplomatic iron arm that is ongoing between Washington and Moscow. How to make sense of this apparent void? A few days ago, the words of the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, helped us in addressing this question.

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