Building the ECJ puzzle on judicial independence in a Union based on the rule of law (Commission v Poland in the light of ASJP)

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor


On 27 February 2018, the ECJ delivered its judgment in the
Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses case (C-64/16).[i] It is a judgment of far-reaching consequences for effective judicial protection and the rule of law within the European Union – and, arguably, for the construction of the legal-constitutional model that supports the European integration. Mainly because the question of judicial independence was assessed without any relevance having been given to the issue of whether or not the austerity measures in question were covered by EU law.[ii] It is worth recalling the circumstances of this case law to understand the following ECJ steps.

At the origin of the request for a preliminary ruling was a special administrative action brought before the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo (Supreme Administrative Court, Portugal) seeking the annulment of salary-reduction (administrative) measures of the judges of the Tribunal de Contas (Court of Auditors, Portugal). According to the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, the measures for the temporary reduction in the amount of public sector remuneration, also applied to the members of the judiciary, were based on mandatory requirements for reducing the Portuguese State’s excessive budget deficit during the year 2011. The referring court therefore considered those measures as measures adopted within the framework of EU law or, at least, as being European in origin, on the ground that those requirements were imposed on the Portuguese Government by EU decisions granting financial assistance.

Besides, the legal action brought before the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo was accompanied with an opinion presented by me and my Colleague Pedro Froufe, two of the editors of this blog. The opinion intended to clarify the extent to which the subject matter fell within the scope of application of EU law, triggering the need to refer to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.[iii] However, this did not play any role in the interpretation which led the Court to conclude that the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU was applicable in the case in question. This is the password to understand this new standard and the following ECJ steps on judicial independence, in order to Article 19 TEU gives concrete expression to the value of the rule of law affirmed in Article 2 TEU.
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Summaries of judgments

 

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaires of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra, Mariana Tavares and Sophie Perez)
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Judgment of the Court (Sixth Chamber) of 27 March 2019, slewo – schlafen leben wohnen GmbH v Sascha Ledowski (Case C-681/17, EU:C:2019:255)

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Consumer protection — Directive 2011/83/EU — Article 6(1)(k) and Article 16(e) — Distance contract — Right of withdrawal — Exceptions — Concept of ‘sealed goods which are not suitable for return due to health protection or hygiene reasons and which have been unsealed by the consumer after delivery’ — Mattress whose protective seal has been removed by the consumer after delivery

The dispute in the main proceedings and the questions referred for a preliminary ruling

The request for a preliminary ruling was made in proceedings between slewo — schlafen leben wohnen GmbH (‘slewo’), an online trader which sells, inter alia, mattresses, and Mr Sascha Ledowski, concerning his exercise of his right of withdrawal in relation to a mattress purchased on slewo’s website.
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Summaries of judgments

 

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaires of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra, Mariana Tavares and Sophie Perez)
 ▪


Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 26 March 2019, 
SM v Entry Clearance Officer, UK Visa Section (Case C-129/18, EU:C:2019:248)

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Citizenship of the European Union — Right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States — Directive 2004/38/EC — Family members of a citizen of the Union — Article 2(2)(c) — ‘Direct descendant’ — Child in permanent legal guardianship under the Algerian kafala (provision of care) system — Article 3(2)(a) — Other family members — Article 7 and Article 24(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Family life — Best interests of the child

1. Facts

The request for a preliminary ruling was made in proceedings between a couple of French nationals and the Entry Clearance Officer, UK Visa Section, concerning the latter’s refusal to grant SM entry clearance for the territory of the United Kingdom as an adopted child. Abandoned by her biological parents at birth, SM was placed in the guardianship of the couple in 2011 under the Algerian kafala system. The application for entry clearance for the United Kingdom was refused on the ground that guardianship under the Algerian kafala system was not recognised as an adoption under United Kingdom law and that no application had been made for intercountry adoption.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was called upon to hear the case on appeal and referred to the Court of Justice questions for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (OJ 2004 L 158, p. 77).
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Summaries of judgments

 

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  (Third Chamber) of the 14th of May 2019, T-795/17, C. Moreira/EUIPO (Neymar)

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=2F7E92B2A7F19F8025819B84B2292322?text=&docid=214045&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=8873348)

EU trade mark — Invalidity proceedings — EU word mark NEYMAR — Declaration of invalidity — Bad faith — Article 52(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 (now Article 59(1)(b) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001

1. Facts

In December 2012, Mr C Moreira filed an application for registration of the word sign ‘NEYMAR’ as a EU trade mark, in respect of clothing, footwear and headgear. The mark was registered in April 2013.

In February 2016, Mr Neymar Da Silva Santos Júnior, filed an application with EUIPO for a declaration of invalidity against that mark in respect of all the goods covered by it. The application for a  declaration of invalidity was upheld by EUIPO.

Mr Moreira then brought an action before the General Court against the decision of EUIPO.

2. Decision

The Court begins to note that  it is demonstrate that Mr Neymar Da Silva Santos Júnior was already known in Europe at the relevant date and was already recognised as a very promising football player, having drawn the attention of top-flight clubs in Europe in view of future recruitment, several years before his actual transfer.

The Court also confirms that Mr Moreira possessed more than a little knowledge of the world of football, as proven by the fact that he filed an application for registration of the word mark ‘IKER CASILLAS’, a mark corresponding to the name of another famous football player, on the same day he sought registration of the mark ‘NEYMAR’.
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Algorithm-driven collusion

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 by Virgílio Pereira, collaborating member of CEDU

It has been said that digital markets are new and different.[i]  Indeed, competition enforcement reforms have already begun their journey, tackling the unorthodox dynamic of digital markets. Examples include the reforms taking place in Germany.[ii] They have entailed, among others, the possibility of setting up a digital agency, responsible for the supervision of digital markets, whose tasks would include dispute resolution in competition issues.[iii] Becoming vigilant and gathering know-how is certainly a valuable starting point.

Recently, the Council adopted the Commission’s proposal intended to empower Member States’ competition authorities to be more effective enforcers.[iv] It includes reinforcing competition authorities’ investigative powers, including their power to collect digital evidence. Discussion on the unorthodoxy of digital markets and challenges arising from them should take place within the context of the implementation of the Directive, or more generally, within the context of the European Competition Network.
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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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Chronos vs. Brexit: why extending Article 50 and delaying Brexit might not be a feasible solution for the EU

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 by Tiago Cabral, Member of CEDU

1. If everything goes according to plan, the United Kingdom (UK) is currently set to leave the European Union (EU) on 29 March 2019 at 11.00 p.m. That is the date enshrined on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the British Government has a deal that, in theory, allows the UK to leave in the planned timeframe. Remarkably, the EU has managed to keep an extremely (and surprising) united front regarding the Brexit negotiations. It is noteworthy that the message from the Chairman of the Austrian People’s Party and current Austrian Prime-Minister Sebastian Kurz perfectly mirrors the one expressed by Jean-Claude Juncker or Donald Tusk.

2. However, in the UK nothing is going according to plan for Prime-Minister Theresa May. After the deal was announced and its contents revealed a number of ministers – both brexiters and remainers – resigned from the cabinet. Seizing the opportunity to press for a harder Brexit, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the current chairman of the “European Research Group” (a group of hard-Brexit leaning MPs) started pushing for a vote on May’s leadership of the conservative party and (in practice) premiership. Said attempted failed to get the backing of enough MPs (for now) but could find new breath if the current deal is rejected by parliament. On that note, the current deal is most likely than not to be indeed rejected. About 100 conservative MPs have already stated on record that they would vote against it, and most of the opposition parties (including the DUP that has been keeping the government afloat) promised to do the same. The vote is set to happen on 11 December.
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Editorial of December 2018

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 by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor

Multiannual financial framework, budgets and elections: is there room for convergence?

Current status of EU politics barely hides that convergence seems more and more dramatic, as the elections next May are rapidly approaching amidst uncertainty, Brexit and national populisms. Despite the signal Emmanuel Macron attempted to send recently by addressing the German Bundestag – the first French president to do so in 18 years – in favour of unity against chaos, there is little doubt that the moment is of euro-tension, somewhat of pre-storm. Italy is (literally) stepping on the European Commission’s budgetary recommendations; Brexit withdrawal agreement conclusion is an incognita on the British side (there is also the preliminary reference on its revocability under appreciation in CJEU); Steve Bannon is trying to fund extremist right-wing candidates for the European Parliament election; Poland is disguising its real commitment to implement CJEU interim measures; new migration rules are not settled, etc.

On top of that, there is an ongoing negotiation for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) and in parallel proposals for a Eurozone specific budget as of 2021 – which was the underlying pretext for Macron’s speech at the Bundestag. The original idea of the French president was to equip the Eurozone with a separate budget to assist Member States experiencing instabilities in their economies. In other words, it would serve as a sort of debt mutualisation guarantee in critical times. This was only insidiously mentioned in the Meseberg Declaration, but it was mentioned nevertheless. The motivation for this tool was to provide an enhancement of the general balance between European economies so that the different levels of development in the EMU could be compensated for the benefit of Euro (stabilisation, prices) and trade flow in the internal market.
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Brexit and the possibility of “withdrawing the withdrawal”: a hypothetical question?

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor

In case C-621/18, Wightman and others, pending judgment by the ECJ, the request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 50 TEU. It has been made in proceedings where the opposing Scots parties are Andy Wightman and o., on the one hand, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, on the other, raising the question whether it is possible to revoke the notification of the intention of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to withdraw from the European Union. The Court of Session, Inner House, First Division (Scotland), seeks, in essence, to ascertain whether, where a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with Article 50 TEU, EU law permits that Member State to unilaterally revoke its notification before the end of the period of two years referred to in that Article. If so, the referring court is uncertain as to the conditions governing such a revocation and its effects relative to that Member State remaining within the European Union.

The referring court states that, under Section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the withdrawal agreement which might be concluded between the United Kingdom and the Union under Article 50(2) TEU, setting out the arrangements for that withdrawal, may be ratified only if that agreement and the framework for the future relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Union has been approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The referring court states that, where the withdrawal agreement is not approved by that Parliament, and if no other proposal is made, the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union will nonetheless take effect as from 29 March 2019. The referring court adds that it is uncertain whether it is possible to revoke the notification unilaterally and to remain within the European Union. That court also states that an answer from the ECJ will clarify the options open to the parliamentarians when they vote on those matters.
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Poland and the Crisis of Rule of Law: “Alea Jacta Est?”

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

October 19th 2018. The Vice-President of the Court of Justice ordered the Republic of Poland to immediately suspend provisions of the recent Polish law on the Supreme Court that lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges to 65 years, which would have the effect of removing nearly one-third of the Court’s judges.

One month has passed. Nothing happened.

Quite the opposite, in fact: on 9th November 2018 the new Polish National Council of Judiciary issued a resolution that concretely blocks the interim measure of October 19th. To be more precise, the resolution contains a threat of disciplinary responsibility for the reinstated Supreme Court Judges, if they perform official duties. Obviously this resolution may have a considerable negative impact on the way the order of the Vice-President of the CJEU is being carried out.

In this context, it must be underlined that, on 17th September 2018, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), after considering that an essential condition of ENCJ membership is “that institutions are independent of the executive and legislature and ensure the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice” decided to suspend the membership of the Polish National Judicial Council, the KRS, in the ENCJ.
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