The latest on the Zambrano front – the Chavez-Vilchez judgment

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

Back in 2011, the ECJ delivered a pivotal decision in the Zambrano case. With reference to the Rottmann case, the ECJ held that “Article 20 TFEU precludes national measures which have the effect of depriving citizens of the Union of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status as citizens of the Union.”

By this criterion are included within the scope of application of EU law situations which, a priori, fall within the competence of the Member States (the so-called purely internal situations). The Zambrano-criterion indeed allows EU citizens to rely on their status as EU citizens against their own Member States of nationality even when they have not exercised their rights of free movement. The immediate consequence of the Zambrano ruling was to preclude Member States (in casu, Belgium) from refusing third country national parents of minor EU citizens a right of residence in the Member State of residence and nationality of those children in so far as such decisions would result in the children having to leave the territory of the Union as a whole.

The subsequent case-law gave a rather narrow interpretation to the criterion, as can be confirmed by the judgments delivered in McCarthy, Dereci, Iida, O and S, Ymeraga, Alokpa and NA. The ECJ held the Zambrano-criterion as a specific criterion as it relates to “very specific situations” in which a right of residence may not, exceptionally, be refused to a third country national without the EU citizenship enjoyed by (minor) Member States nationals being (fundamentally) undermined. It thus follows that any right of residence conferred on third country nationals pursuant to Article 20 TFEU are rights derived from those enjoyed by the EU citizen of which they are members of the family and have, in particular, “an intrinsic connection with the freedom of movement and residence of a Union citizen”.

Without calling into question or reversing this line of jurisprudence, the ECJ seems however willing to revive the Zambrano-criterion in more recent cases, addressing some issues so far left in the open. In CS and Rendón Marín, though admitting the possibility of limiting the derived right of residence flowing from Article 20 TFEU to third country nationals (limitation based on grounds of public policy or public security), the ECJ framed the scope of such a limitation, making its application conditional on a case-by-case analysis and upon respect for fundamental rights as protected by the CFREU, namely Articles 7 and 24(2) CFREU. The ECJ further clarified the scope of the Zambrano-criterion as the ultimate link with EU law for the purposes of the protection of fundamental rights in the Chavez-Vilchez judgment delivered last week.
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Humanitarian Visas and the X and X v. Belgium judgment (Case C-638/16 PPU)

 

by Teresa Alves, masters' student at University of Minho

The judgment in Case C-638/16 PPU, delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union, on 7th March 2017[i] could represent a milestone in the history of the European Union, opening the door to an important legal path of access to international protection in the Member States and improving the Europe’s asylum policy. Particularly in a context of migration crisis that the European Union is trying to solve, adopting different measures. These measures include strengthening border controls, preventing human trafficking and trying to dismantle illegal forms of access to Member States’ borders through organized networks. Another measure is the EU-Turkey Statement that, despite some legal doubts, intends, not only, but also, to create a legal path of access to international protection in the Member States.

The story dates back to October 2016, when a Syrian family (mother, father – married to one another – and their three young children, from Aleppo) applied for a humanitarian visa at the embassy of Belgium in Lebanon. They hoped, with this, to legally enter in Belgium and to request asylum. They claimed that one of them had been abducted by an armed group, beaten and tortured, before being released on payment of a ransom. They emphasized, specially, the deterioration of the security situation in Syria, in general, and in Aleppo, in particular, as well as the fact that, as Orthodox Christians, they were at risk of persecution because of their religious beliefs. This family added that they could not register as refugees in neighboring countries, particularly in view of the fact that the Lebanese-Syrian border had been closed in the meantime.

The competent Belgian authorities promptly rejected the request, explaining that (i) the applicants planned to remain in Belgium for more than 90 days, and under the Visas Code, in accordance with Article 1, the issue of transit visas or visas within the territory of the Member States shall not exceed 90 days in a period of 180 days; (iii) in addition, Article 3 of the ECHR, according to which «no one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment», shall not require States Parties to admit «persons living a catastrophic situation» and, lastly, they considered that (iii) Belgian diplomatic posts are not part of the authorities to which a foreigner may apply for asylum. For the reason that, authorizing an entry visa to the applicants in the main proceedings, for the purpose of submitting an application for asylum in Belgium, would be equivalent to allowing them to request this application for asylum in the diplomatic post.

The family appealed against the decision before the Conseil du Contentieux des Étrangers (Council for asylum and immigration proceedings, Belgium), which decided to refer to the Court of Justice questions relating to the granting of humanitarian visas. That is, «must Article 25(1)(a) of the Visa Code be interpreted as meaning that, subject to its discretion with regard to the circumstances of the case, a Member State to which an application for a visa with limited territorial validity has been made is required to issue the visa applied for, where a risk of infringement of Article 4 and/or Article 18 of the Charter or another international obligation by which it is bound is established?», «Does the existence of links between the applicant and the Member State to which the visa application was made (for example, family connections) affect the answer to that question?».
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Unveiling the meaning of freedom of religion in the workplace – or, unveiling the Achbita and Bougnaoui judgments

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by Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

Our editorial of November 2016 related to two preliminary references proceedings at the time pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concerning the question of religious expression at work and, particularly, the highly sensitive issue of the wearing of Islamic headscarves (and not the full veil) in the workplace. The issues raised in both cases required the interpretation of the concept of ‘discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief’ within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Directive – the Directive 2000/78[i]. Let us recall the fundamental questions at issue: is a private employer allowed to prohibit a female employee of Muslim faith from wearing a headscarf in the workplace?; is the dismissal of an employee who refuses to comply with such rules restricting the wearing of religious symbols at work unlawful?

On 14 March 2016, the Grand Chamber delivered both the Achbita (C-157/15) and the Bougnaoui (C-188/15) judgments, two significant decisions in relation to discrimination in employment on grounds of religion. The facts at the origin of each case were slightly different.

In the first case, Ms Achbita started to work for G4S as a receptionist in 2003 and complied with the rule according to which workers could not wear visible signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace, an unwritten rule at the time. In 2006 Ms Achbita informed her employers that she intended, in future, to wear an Islamic headscarf at work and, in reply, was informed that such intention was contrary to G4S’s position of neutrality. Shortly afterwards, the above mentioned unwritten rule was written down: the workplace regulations thus stipulated that «employees are prohibited, in the workplace, from wearing any visible signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs and/or from engaging in any observance of such beliefs». Shortly after the amendment was approved, Ms Achbita was dismissed on account of her continuing insistence that she wished to wear the Islamic headscarf at work.

In the second case, Ms Bougnaoui was informed at a student recruitment fair by a representative of Micropole that the wearing of an Islamic headscarf might pose a problem when she was in contact with customers of the company. When Ms Bougnaoui began to work at Micropole in 2008 as an intern, she was initially wearing a bandana and subsequently an Islamic headscarf. Micropole nevertheless employed her at the end of her internship. Almost a year later, Ms Bougnaoui was dismissed. A customer of Micropole’s with whom Ms Bouganoui had worked informed her employers that her wearing the headscarf had upset some of their employees and requested that there should be «no veil next time». Despite the request of her employers, Ms Bouganoui refused to agree not to wear the headscarf in the future and was thus fired in 2009.

Continue reading “Unveiling the meaning of freedom of religion in the workplace – or, unveiling the Achbita and Bougnaoui judgments”

European Union and Turkey: judicial independence at a crossroads

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

“In the little world in which children have their existence”, says Pip in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, “there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt, as injustice.” (…) But the strong perception of manifest injustice applies to adult human beings as well. What moves us, reasonably enough is not the realization that the world falls short of being completely just – which few of us expect – but that there are clearly remediable injustices around us which we want to eliminate.” – Amartya Sen, “The idea of Justice” (preface).

As V. Skouris [former President of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)] brilliantly explained in his speech at the conference Assises de la Justice (November 21, 2013), when analysing matters related to judicial independence, there is a traditional distinction between personal independence and substantive or functional independence. The former essentially refers to the personal qualities of the judge and is destined to ensure that in the discharge of his or her judicial function, a judge is subject to nothing but the law and the command of his or her conscience. The latter of this is the functional independence which refers also to the judicial institution as a whole; it means that the terms and conditions of judicial service are adequately secured by law so as to ensure that individual judges are not subject to any executive control. Judicial independence within the European Union legal order concerns not only the CJEU but also national courts at all levels, since national judges are also what we call in French “juges de l’Union du droit commun“.

Unfortunately, the situation in Turkey is characterized by an affront towards basic standards of judicial independence. Turkey was one of the first countries, in 1959, to seek close cooperation with the then very recent European Economic Community. This cooperation was realised in the framework of an “Association Agreement”, known as the Ankara Agreement, which was signed on September 12, 1963. The CJUE was already called to focus precisely on this Association Agreement for instance in relation to the issue of their limits (Judgement Dereci and others v Bundesministerium für Inneres, Case C-256/11, EU: C:2011:734). This associative status implies that European Union naturally concerns about matters involving Turkey, and what happens with the Turkish citizens concerns the EU citizens. However, the idea “a judge is subject to nothing but the law and the command of his or her conscience” – to use the language of V. Skouris – is today completely marginalized in Turkey as pointed out by different European entities. Some concrete examples can be provided in this regard:

I) In December 8, 2016 the European Network of Councils of Judiciary (ENCJ) decided, in General Assembly, to suspend, with no Council voting against, the observer status of the Turkish Judicial Council (HSYK). Thus the HSYK is now excluded from participation in ENCJ activities. The reasoning of the ENCJ was impressive: “it is a condition of membership, and for the status of observer, 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. (…) taking into account the failure of the HSYK to satisfy the ENCJ that its standards have been complied with, the statements of the HSYK, as well as information from other sources including the reports and statements of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe and Human Rights Watch and the Venice Commission, the ENCJ decided that the actions and decisions of the HSYK, and therefore the HSYK as an institution cannot be seen to be in compliance with European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary. Therefore, the HSYK does not currently comply with the ENCJ Statutes and is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and legislature ensuring the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice.” Security of tenure of office is a core element of the independence of a judge and the dismissal of judges should be used only in case of misuse of the exercise of office (e.g. UN Basic principles on the Independence of Judiciary, Opinion para 95, 92, 63, Rec para 49 and 50). However, HSYK adopted a decision with only 62 pages of reasoning sufficient to dismiss thousands of judges. The decision is totally inadequate when the criminal investigations used as motive to sack those judges are still in a pre-trial stage; the principle of the presumption of innocence, which is enshrined in Article 5 of the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR), was consequently completely ignored, if not violated.

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Summary of Internationale Handelsgesellschaft – 11/70

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: Deposit, Export licence, force majeure

Court: CJEU| DateDecember 12nd 1970 | Case: 11/70 | Applicants: Internationale Handelsgesellschaft mbH vs Einfuhr- und Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel

Summary:  Internationale Handelsgesellschaft is an import-export undertaking. The company obtained 20 000 metric tons of maize meal with validity until 31st December 1967. According to article 12 of Regulation No 120/67 in what concerns to market of cereals. When the licence expired and the company delivered approximately 11 000 metric tons of cereal. After, Einfuhrund Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel declared the deposit forfeited according to Regulation No 473/67/EEC. The undertaking brought an action to court against this decision. The Court suspended the action and sent to CJEU the following questions:

Are the obligation to export, laid down in the third subparagraph of Article 12 (1) of Regulation No 120/67/EEC of the Council of 13 June 1967, the lodging of a deposit, upon which such obligation is made conditional, and forfeiture of the deposit, where exportation is not effected during the period of validity of the export licence, legal? Continue reading “Summary of Internationale Handelsgesellschaft – 11/70”

Summary of Tetra Pak – T-51/89

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: Common Market, Abuse, Dominant Position, European Commission, Exemption.

Court: CJEU, General Court | DateJune 10th 1990 | Case: T-51/89 | Applicants: Tetra Pak Raussing S.A. vs European Commission

Summary: On 26th July 1988, European Commission declared that Tetra Pak Raussing S.A. was in breach of article 86 of the EEC Treaty because by purchasing LiquiPak, they would have access to LiquiPak’s exclusivity contract of patent. This exclusive licence relates to a new UHT milk-packaging process. On 26th June 1986, EloPak made a complaint to the European Commission contesting TetraPak act according to articles 85 and 86 of the EEC Treaty. European Commission concluded that TetraPak infringed article 86 of the EEC Treaty by abusing its dominant position. TetraPak contested the decision and appealed to First Instance Court based on the argument that European Commission couldn’t disallow the deal based on article 86 when this deal is an exemption to n.3 of article 85 of the EEC Treaty. This argument is separated in three sub-categories:

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Summary of Brasserie du Pêcheur & Factortame – C-46/93 and C-48/93

 

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: liability of the state; legislator; claims; repair; individual’s rights

Court: CJEU | DateMarch 5th 1996 | Cases: C46/93 and C-48/93 | Applicants: Brasserie du Pêcheur vs Federal Republic of Germany

Summary: This judgment contains two similar cases connected to the same matter: liability of the State.

In the first case, the French company Brasserie du Pêcheur was obliged to cease their exportations from Germany due to German authorithies’ allegations that the beer did not fulfill purity requirement. European Comission interfered in this case and stated that this provisions were contrary to article 30 of EEC Treaty and brought an infringement proceedings against German Federal Republic. On 12th March 1987, the court confirmed EC’s arguments and consequently condemned the German act. Therefore, Brasserie du Pêcheur moves another action to reclaim their losses. The Court had doubts related to the limits of liability of the State and internal law and so they decided to send a question to the CJEU.

In the second case, Factortame intented an action in High Court of Justice with the purpose to challenge the compatibility of Part II of the Merchant Shipping Act with article 52 of the EEC Treaty. This law predicted a new register for British fishing boats and it pretended to obligate vessel’s registration, including those already registered, according to some conditions relating to nationality. The boats that couldn’t be registered were forbidden to fish. In another previous judgement, CJEU considered that this law was contrary to Communitary law, but it was not contrary that all the boats in UK suffered more controled by the authorities. On 4th August 1989, European Comission brought infringement proceedings against UK to suspend nationality requests because they were contrary to articles 7, 52 and 221 of the EEC Treaty. Afterwards, the Court decided to call the intervenients to show the amount of claims, however the Court had doubts in what refers to include a claim for inconstitutional behaviour and send a question to CJEU.

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Summary of Costa/ENEL – 6/64

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: primacy; competition rules; non-discrimination; nationalisation; state aid.

Court: CJEU | DateJuly 15th 1964 | Case: 6/64 | Applicants: Faminio Costa vs Ente Nazionale Energica Elettrica

Summary: The Italian Republic nationalized the production and distribution of electric energy. In the middle of the proceedings, Mr Costa, shareholder of an energy company affected by the sector nationalization requested the application of article 177 of EEC Treaty to obtain the interpretation of articles 102, 93, 53 and 37 of the same treaty. To Mr Costa, this nationalization infringed the articles mentioned above. The Giudice Consiliatore decided to send a question to CJEU:

“Having regard to Article 177 of the Treaty of25 March 1957 establishing the EEC, incorporated into Italian law by Law No 1203 of 14 October 1957, and having regard to the allegation that Law No 1643 of6 December 1962 and the presidential decrees issued in execution of that Law (No 1670 of 15 December 1962, No 36 of 4 February 1963, No 138 of25 February 1963 and No 219 of 14 March 1963) infringe Articles 102, 93, 53 and 37 of the aforementioned Treaty, the Court hereby stays the proceedings and orders that a certified copy of the file be transmitted to the Court of Justice of the European Economic Community in Luxembourg.’”

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Summary of Simmenthal – 106/77

by José Ricardo Sousa, student of the Master's degree in EU Law of UMinho

Keywords: EU law application; national law; legal orders; uniformity; free movement of goods.

Court: CJEU | DateMarch 9th 1978 | Case: 106/77 | Applicants: Simmenthal S.p.A. vs Amministrazione Delle Finanze pello Stato

Summary: On 26th July 1973 Simmenthal imported beef for human consumption from France and they had to pay its respective fee importation for public health inspection. About this matter, it was Simmenthal’s opinion that this inspection clearly violated the fundamental principles of Common Market (in this case, free movement of goods). So, Simental brought an action to court with the intention to be repaid for the mentioned illegal (for their point of view) fee. The Court, Pretore di Suza accepted Simmenthal arguments and condemned Administrazione delle Finanze pello Stato (therefore, administrazione) to repay the company. Not satisfied with the decision, Admnistrazione appealed against the order to repay arguing with some rulings by the constitutional jurisdiction regarding the conflict between Community law and National law. The Court suspended and referred a question to CJEU:

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