Summaries of judgments: RT France v Council (T-125/22)

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judges and référendaire of the General Court (Maria José Costeira, Ricardo Silva Passos and Esperança Mealha)
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Judgment of the General Court (Grand Chamber), 27 July 2022

Case T-125/22[1] RT France v Council

Common foreign and security policy — Restrictive measures adopted in view of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine — Temporary prohibition of dissemination and suspension of authorisations for the dissemination of certain media content — Inclusion on the list of entities to which the restrictive measures apply — Competence of the Council — Rights of the defence — Right to be heard — Freedom of expression and information — Proportionality — Freedom to conduct a business — Principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality

1. Facts

Following the military attack perpetrated by Russia against Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted, on 1 March 2022, new restrictive measures against Russia, namely Decision 2022/351[2] and Regulation 2022/350[3].

The purpose of those acts is the temporary prohibition of actions for propaganda of that military assault by means of certain media under Russian control. Thus, any operator established in the European Union is prohibited from broadcasting content produced by legal persons, entities or bodies set out in the annexes to the abovementioned acts.

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Summaries of judgments: Openbaar Ministerie | BPC Lux 2 and Others

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaire of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra and Sophie Perez)

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Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 22 February 2022, X and Y v Openbaar Ministerie, Joined Cases C-562/21 PPU and C-563/21 PPU, EU:C:2022:100

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Urgent preliminary ruling procedure – Judicial cooperation in criminal matters – European arrest warrant – Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA – Article 1(3) – Surrender procedures between Member States – Conditions for execution – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Second paragraph of Article 47 – Fundamental right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law – Systemic or generalised deficiencies – Two-step examination – Criteria for application – Obligation of the executing judicial authority to determine, specifically and precisely, whether there are substantial grounds for believing that the person in respect of whom a European arrest warrant has been issued, if surrendered, runs a real risk of breach of his or her fundamental right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law

Facts

Two European arrest warrants (‘EAWs’) were issued in April 2021 by Polish courts against two Polish nationals for the purposes, respectively, of executing a custodial sentence and of conducting a criminal prosecution. The persons concerned were in the Netherlands and did not consent to their surrender.

The Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court, Amsterdam, Netherlands) noted that, since 2017, there have been in Poland systemic or generalised deficiencies affecting the right to a fair trial, and in particular the right to a tribunal previously established by law, resulting, inter alia, from the fact that Polish judges are appointed on application of the Krajowa Rada Sądownictwa (the Polish National Council of the Judiciary; ‘the KRS’). The referring court furthermore noted that, according to the resolution adopted in 2020 by the Sąd Najwyższy (Supreme Court, Poland), the KRS, since the entry into force of a law on judicial reform on 17 January 2018, is no longer an independent body. In so far as the judges appointed on application of the KRS may have participated in the criminal proceedings that led to the conviction of one of the persons concerned or may be called upon to hear the criminal case of the other person concerned, the referring court considered that there was a real risk that those persons, if surrendered, would suffer a breach of their fundamental right to a tribunal previously established by law.

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Can a judge’s request for a preliminary ruling be illegal and lead to disciplinary action? – The Court of Justice conclusions in case C-564/19

By Joana Gama Gomes (Master in International and European Law from the University of Coimbra / Researcher at CIDEEFF - Centro de Investigação em Direito Europeu, Económico, Financeiro e Fiscal)

The request for a preliminary ruling was submitted by a Hungarian court in criminal proceedings brought against a Swedish national, for infringement of the provisions of Hungarian law governing the acquisition or transport of firearms or ammunition. Although the facts of this case seem unrelated to the problem at hand, subsequent developments in Hungary during the course of this procedure raised a fundamental issue of EU law.

A declaration of illegality from the Hungarian Supreme Court and disciplinary proceeding against the referring judge led him to ask the Court two crucial questions – whether EU law precludes a national court of last instance from declaring as unlawful a decision by which a lower court makes a request for a preliminary ruling, and whether the principle of judicial independence precludes disciplinary proceedings being brought against a judge for having made such a request for a preliminary ruling.

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Editorial of April 2022

By Alessandra Silveira (Editor)

Rule of law and the direct effect of the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU (on the case M. F., C-508/19)


Never since the beginning of European integration, was the mission of impartial and independent courts been as important as nowadays, taking into account the war currently being waged. Therefore, it is important to consider that “It is when the cannons roar that we especially need the laws…Every struggle of the state – against terrorism or any other enemy – is conducted according to rules and law”, as stated the Advocate General Poiares Maduro in his Opinion in the case Kadi, quoting Aharon Barak, the former President on the Supreme Court of Israel (C‑402/05 P, ECLI:EU:C:2008:11, recital 45).

Last week the CJUE added a piece to the puzzle of a Union based on the rule of law. And do it from the judicial independence in which the effective judicial protection of individuals’ rights under EU law is rooted. More precisely: on 22 March 2022, in the case M. F. (C-508/19, ECLI:EU:C:2022:201), the CJEU has claimed that the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU (according to which “Member States shall provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by Union law”) must be regarded as having direct effect.

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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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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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Venezuela as a third country before the ECJ

Tiago Paixão (Master’s in Administrative Law - The Author’s opinions are his own and do not bind any other person or entity)

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (“Venezuela”) brought an action for annulment before the General Court to annul certain restrictive measures imposed by the Council of the European Union here. Those restrictive measures were imposed because of concerns about democracy, rule of law and human rights principles and are set out on Regulation 2017/2063, Regulation of Execution 2018/1653 and Decision 2018/1656.

Concretely, the General Court had to solve two major questions, before the substance of the annulment. On the one hand, to determine if Venezuela is a legal person for Article 263 TFUE and, in case of having given a positive answer, if Venezuela is directly affected by those measures.

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Review of Portuguese Association of European Law’s webinar on the rule of law protection in the European Union

by Alessandra Silveira and Joana Covelo de Abreu (Editors)

On 28 May 2021 a webinar was held at the School of Law of the University of Minho under the theme “Rule of law protection in the European Union”, organized by the initiative of the Portuguese Association of European Law (APDE). The event had the moderation of Carlos Botelho Moniz (APDE’s President) and the interventions of Alessandra Silveira (Editor), Joana Covelo de Abreu (Editor) and José Manuel Fernandes (Member of the European Parliament, EPP’s Coordinator of the Committee on Budgets and Recovery and Resilience Facility Mechanism’s negotiator). In order to keep a record for future memory, some ideas presented by the participants will be reproduced in this review.

Speakers reflected on how the European Union has been playing a relevant role on the rule of law protection and has been proclaiming itself as a “Union of law”. They started by analysing the concept of rule of law and its implications from the Treaties, the CFREU and the Court of Justice jurisprudence – mainly from Les Verts[1] and Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses[2] judgments (the later also known as “Portuguese Judges”)[3]. They also focused legal procedures that act against violations of the rule of law enshrined on Article 7 TEU, and the infringement procedure steaming from Article 258 TFEU, envisaging the possibility of Member States to explore the procedural way opened by Article 259 TFEU, namely because the political tension escalade within the European Union. But the preliminary ruling procedure of Article 267 TFEU was also mentioned as continuing to play an important role to national judicial authorities when they are facing the need to comply with EU law. Lastly, speakers also devoted their attention on the Rule of Law Conditionality (Regulation 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) and on the debate around its approval and implementation.

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