Editorial of January 2021

Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor) 

Editorial of January 2021 – Heresy, realpolitik, and the European Budget

1. The negotiation preceding the final approval of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (hereinafter, “MFF” or “Budget”) has marked by a significant number of twists, turns and eleventh-hour surprises. From the beginning this would always be a difficult negotiation. Being the first budget without the UK as a Member State, on one hand there was the need to show a united European Union after Brexit, but, on the other hand, there was the always unpleasant matter of redistributing the bill among remaining Member States.

2. In 2018, the Juncker Commission proposed a Budget with the value €1 135 Billion. Parliament considered the proposal not to be ambitious enough, an made a reinforced “counter-offer”, naming a much higher price for its consent in its November 2018 Interim Report on the Budget. However, in Council negotiations, the proposal was on track to be severely reduced. Plenty of factions were formed around the budget discussion such as the frugals (who wished to cap the budget at 1% of the GNI) or the friends of cohesion (who were not satisfied with cuts or shifting of funds from cohesion). Europe’s farming industry also lobbied against the decline in importance of the Common Agricultural Policy, and especially direct payments in the budget. At the end, things certainly seemed to be going into a pretty disappointing direction. The most likely result appeared to be a non-innovative budget pushed through after plenty of (arguably) petty squabbling.

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Summaries of judgments: Privacy International | La Quadrature du Net and Others | R.N.N.S. and K.A. v Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken

Summaries of judgments made in collaboration with the Portuguese judge and référendaire of the CJEU (Nuno Piçarra and Sophie Perez)
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Judgments of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 6 October 2020 Privacy International (C‑623/17, EU:C:2020:790) and La Quadrature du Net and Others (C‑511/18, C‑512/18 and C‑520/18, EU:C:2020:791)

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Processing of personal data in the electronic communications sector – Providers of electronic communications services – Hosting service providers and Internet access providers – General and indiscriminate retention of traffic and location data – Automated analysis of data – Real-time access to data – Safeguarding national security and combating terrorism – Combating crime – Directive 2002/58/EC – Scope – Article 1(3) and Article 3 – Confidentiality of electronic communications – Protection – Article 5 and Article 15(1) – Directive 2000/31/EC – Scope – Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Articles 4, 6, 7, 8 and 11 and Article 52(1) – Article 4(2) TEU

Facts

Following its judgments of 8 April 2014, Digital Rights Ireland and Others, C‑293/12 and C‑594/12, EU:C:2014:238, of 21 December 2016, Tele2 Sverige and Watson and Others (C‑203/15 and C‑698/15, EU:C:2016:970), and of 2 October 2018, Ministerio Fiscal (C‑207/16, EU:C:2018:788), the ECJ ruled on four requests for a preliminary ruling from jurisdictions in three Member States in proceedings concerning the lawfulness of legislation adopted by those Member States in the field of processing of personal data in the electronic communications sector, laying down in particular an obligation for providers of electronic communications services to retain traffic and location data for the purposes of protecting national security and combating crime.

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The “speciality” of Social Rights: guarantees of public employment in the Portuguese Constitution before European Union Law

by Ricardo Sousa da Cunha, PhD (JUSGOV/UMinho, ESG/IPCA)

The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic (CRP) enshrines in article 47.º, n.º 2 a guarantee of public employment after a public tender that has been challenged in the application of European Union Law by the domestic courts.

This constitutional guarantee was the basis for the decision of the Constitutional Court n.º 368/00, of 11 July 2000, which upheld the challenges on the constitutionality of legal provisions (art. 10.º, n.º 2 of Law n.º 23/2004, of 22 June, and art. 14 of DL n.º 427/89, of 7 December) determining the nullity of labor contracts of public entities with civil servants that had not been selected by a public tender. The basis for this decision was the fulfilment of the constitutional principle of equal sharing of public benefits and costs as a consequence of the principle of the rule of law.

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Summaries of judgments: Casino, Guichard-Perrachon and AMC v. Commission |Intermarché Casino Achats v. Commission | Les Mousquetaires and ITM Entreprises v. Commission

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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Judgments from General Court (Ninth Chamber Extended Composition) of 5th October 2020: T – 249/17, Casino, Guichard-Perrachon et Achats Merchandises Casino SAS (AMC)/Comission, T- 254/17, Intermarche Casino Achats/Comission e T- 255/17, Les Mousquetaires e ITM Entreprises/Comission

Competition – Administrative Procedure – Decision ordering an inspection– Illegality of Article 20 of Regulation (CE) n.º 1/2003 – Right to an effective remedy – Principle of equality of arms – Obligation to state reasons for the inspection decisions – Right to inviolability of the home – Sufficient strong evidence – Proportionality – Refusal to protect the confidentiality of data relating to private life

Facts

After receiving information about the existence of change of information between several undertakings and associations of undertakings from the food and non-food distribution sector the Commission in the scope of the powers conferred by Article 20, paragraphs 1 and 4 of Regulation (CE) no 1/2003 adopted, in February 2017, several decisions requesting inspections to several undertakings.

Within the scope of those inspections, Commission visited the undertakings offices and obtained copies of the IT records.

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Summaries of judgments: Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri v BV | Cali Apartments

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 16 July 2020, Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri v BV, Case C-129/19, EU:C:2020:566

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Directive 2004/80/EC – Article 12(2) – National schemes on compensation to victims of violent intentional crime guaranteeing fair and appropriate compensation – Scope – Victim residing in the Member State in which the violent intentional crime was committed – Obligation for the national compensation scheme to cover that victim – Concept of “fair and appropriate compensation” – Liability of Member States in the event of a breach of EU law

Facts

This request for a preliminary was made in proceedings between the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri (Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Italy) and BV concerning the claim of non-contractual liability brought by BV against the Italian Republic for loss alleged to have been caused to BV owing to the failure to transpose Council Directive 2004/80/EC, of 29 April 2004, relating to compensation to crime victims (OJ 2004, L 261, p. 15) into Italian law.

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European citizenship in the recent JD judgment: on the public reason of the “Union based on the rule of law”

by Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and Nataly Machado (Master's student in EU Law, UMinho)

“This is a time to take part
Time of parted humans (…)
The laws are not enough
The lilies do not arise from the law”
[i]
(“Our time”, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, 1902-1987)

In a poem written during the horrors of the Second World War, the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade depicted one of those historic moments in which people and institutions must take up a political position, to take sides[ii]. At a time when the European Union “is going through an unprecedented public health crisis, to which the Member States must answer by demonstrating equally unprecedented solidarity[iii], in the JD case, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was asked about the extent of the social assistance which a host Member State must provide to a former migrant worker seeking employment who is the primary carer of his two children attending school in that State.

This judgment helps us to unravel the public reason of the European Union, i.e., the criteria/standards by which we can seek the legitimacy of the exercise of power. As John Rawls explained, “[t]he idea of public reason specifies at the deepest level the basic moral and political values that are to determine a constitutional democratic government’s relation to its citizens and their relation to one another. In short, it concerns how the political relation is to be understood[iv].

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Taricco continues – between constitutional national identity and highest level of protection of fundamental rights, where does effectiveness of EU law stand?

Stone Tower Layered Cairn Stones Stacked Balance

 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor 
 and Sophie Perez Fernandes, Junior Editor

In September 2015, and in the wake of the case-law set in Fransson, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) detailed in Taricco the scope of the Member States’ obligations to combat VAT fraud (see comment here). The ECJ is now faced with the repercussions of said judgment as the Corte costituzionale [the Italian Constitutional Court (ICC)] questions the compatibility of the solution established therein with supreme principles of the Italian constitutional order.

As is well known, the Taricco case called into question the Italian regime on limitation periods for criminal offenses. The national provisions in question were such that, given the complexity and duration of criminal proceedings, defendants accused of VAT evasion constituting serious fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests were likely to enjoy de facto impunity as a result of the expiration of the limitation period. Having established that the Italian regime in question was not in conformity with EU law, the ECJ interpreted Article 325 TFEU as having “the effect, in accordance with the principle of the precedence of EU law, in their relationship with the domestic law of the Member States, of rendering automatically inapplicable, merely by their entering into force, any conflicting provision of national law”. Therefore, national courts were to “ensure that EU law is given full effect, if need be by disapplying those provisions (…), without having to request or await the prior repeal of those articles by way of legislation or any other constitutional procedure”. The ECJ significantly added that, if a national court decides to disapply the national provisions at issue, “it must also ensure that the fundamental rights of the persons concerned are respected” as penalties might be applied to them, which, in all likelihood, would not have been imposed under those national provisions. In this regard, the ECJ did not consider that such a disapplication of national law would infringe the rights of the accused as guaranteed by Article 49 CFREU on the principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties.

The Taricco judgment caused some stir within the Italian legal community. A few days after the delivery of the judgment, the Corte d’appello di Milano (Court of Appeal of Milan), instead of applying the solution formulated therein in a case pending before it concerning serious fraud in relation to VAT, stayed the proceedings to raise a question of constitutionality before the ICC, which would be followed months later by the Corte suprema di cassazione (Court of Cassation). Both courts have doubts as to the compatibility of the case-law established in Taricco with supreme principles of the Italian constitutional order and with the requirement to respect inalienable human rights as laid down by the Italian Constitution, with particular reference to the principle of legality in criminal matters [Article 25(2) of the Italian Constitution]. Hearing such concerns, the ICC sought a preliminary reference from the ECJ (here and here) according to an expedited procedure, the application of which was deferred (here). Advocate-General Yves Bot recently rendered its Opinion (here).

Continue reading “Taricco continues – between constitutional national identity and highest level of protection of fundamental rights, where does effectiveness of EU law stand?”