Lula’s presidency: what to expect from the European Union – Brazil relationship

José Manuel Fernandes (Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Federative Republic of Brazil)
 

Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil’s 2022 presidential elections is an opportunity for the strengthening of relations between the European Union and Latin America’s largest country. Taking advantage of the new Brazilian government taking office on January 1, 2023, as well as the unfortunate events of January 8, when protesters invaded Brazilian institutions. In this text, I propose to address what I hope and wish for the bilateral relations between the EU and Brazil in the coming years. For my part, and as Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Federative Republic of Brazil, I take what I write not only as analysis, but also as political commitment.

The size and importance of Brazil continues to elude most Europeans, even the main political leaders. We perpetuate a distant and incomplete vision of what Brazil actually is: a country that represents half of Latin America, both geographically and demographically; the 10th economy in the world; one of the five largest agricultural producers in the world. It is time to recognize Brazil as a global giant, and to treat it as such.

The key word must be “cooperation”. Without paternalism, by mutually recognizing potentialities and weaknesses. Cooperation must have as common ground the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and the uncompromising defence of human dignity and human rights. Environmental sustainability and inclusion are also essential elements for the economic development we must conquer.

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Lula da Silva is President of Brazil once again: are we closing a cycle of lawfare?

By Guilherme Torrentes (Master in Human Rights from the University of Minho)

On January 1, 2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as President of Brazil for the third time, after one of the fiercest electoral disputes since the re-democratization of the country (which occurred in 1985), in which Lula da Silva defeated Jair Bolsonaro. It is perhaps the end of a cycle of “lawfare” – a term that can be defined as the strategic use of law for the purpose of delegitimizing, harming, or annihilating an enemy[1] – that is, the perverse use of legal rules and procedures for the purpose of political persecution. This cycle of lawfare was initiated in a tentative way by what became known as “Mensalão” (a “mega” or “maxi” judicial process that culminated in the conviction of several political members of Lula’s first government for corruption) and worsened with the impeachment process of President Dilma Roussef and “Operação Lava Jato” (another “mega” judicial process that culminated in the illegal imprisonment of Lula for 580 days).

This cycle of lawfare has jeopardized the continuity of the democratic rule of law, as the Brazilian judiciary and criminal process have been instrumentalized by the exception and subjectivity undesirable to its performance, in order to achieve the desired political ends. It is worth noting that in 2018, the Brazilian State failed to comply with a recommendation of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee to guarantee Lula the right to run for the presidential elections of that year, invoking its domestic laws to not apply Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which guarantees every citizen the right and the opportunity, without unreasonable restrictions, to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors).[2]

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Editorial of December 2022

By Nataly Machado (Master in European Union Law from the School of Law of the University of Minho)

What if mechanisms of solidarity had more effectiveness beyond the borders of the European Union? At least for the climate crisis?

On 24 November last, the European Union (“EU”) energy ministers reached an initial agreement, albeit with some differences[1], on the content of the proposed Council regulation on enhanced solidarity for further temporary emergency measures aimed at curbing high energy prices through better coordination of joint gas purchases on world markets, with the objective of the Member States not competing with each other. Furthermore, they decided on gas exchanges across borders, with “measures enabling Member States to request solidarity from other Member States in cases where they are unable to secure the quantities of gas essential to ensure the operability of their electricity system[2], and reliable price reference standards, which will provide stability and predictability for Liquified Natural Gas “LNG” transaction prices, with the new index until 31 March 2023. Also, the EU energy ministers agreed on the content of a Council regulation laying down a temporary framework to accelerate the permit-granting process and the deployment of renewable energy projects[3].

The abovementioned shows that solidarity in the context of the EU should have a more pragmatic and concrete approach – and explained by the cooperation between Member States –, since it imposes legal obligations, such as being loyal in mutual relations and undertaking all necessary efforts to achieve common goals. In other words, the possibility of justification for an imposition of solidarity linked to legal duties remains clear, since it is a question of a sharing of common tasks/responsibilities[4].

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Do spinach and smart cities benefit your health?

By Cecília Pires (PhD Candidate at the School of Law of the University of Minho)

The pure and simple acquisition of technologies to make the city smarter is a bit like the analogy employed by Arnstein[1] and resembles eating spinach – at first nobody is against it because, after all, it is only beneficial to one’s health. So how can these positive effects be denied? Indeed, it is not simply because a solution proposes to be smart that it will in fact be so for everyone. Hence, what is the real goal of a smart city?

Smart cities emerge as a new urban planning paradigm that seeks to incorporate information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address urban issues in an innovative, sustainable, and resilient way to promote the quality of life for all citizens.

Cities have been given a central a role due to the need for effective responses to urban problems, mainly the high levels of energy consumption and CO2 production. Yet, there is no single definition for a smart city: it is a polysemic concept that can be understood from different perspectives, according to different areas of knowledge. Therefore, the understanding of what smart cities entail is gradually being built.

The Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities (2007),[2] the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015),[3] the United Nations New Urban Agenda (2017),[4] the Urban Agenda for the European Union (2019/2021),[5] and the New Leipzig Charter (2020),[6] and other commitments and pacts are strategic references. Those instruments function as normative guidelines for urban planning, urban public policies, and actions by the EU Member States.

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EU Carbon Border Tax Mechanism: a potential Boon or Bane for India

By Aaiysha Topiwala (third year undergraduate student at Gujarat National Law University - India) 

As the world grapples with the rising frequency of catastrophic climate effects, all the nations have realized the urgent need for global efforts to tackle the mammoth challenge of climate change. In this scenario, the European Union (EU) has emerged as an environmental leader at the global level. The environmental laws and policies adopted by the EU are considered one of the most ambitious policies in the world. The recent policy brought out by the EU last year is yet another proof of its determination to remain at the forefront of tackling climate change. The European Parliament, in July 2021, announced that it would levy a carbon border tax on all imported carbon products. After almost a year of the announcement of this policy and with less than half a year left for the transition period set to begin in 2023, it becomes essential to revisit this policy and determine its effect on India along with the possible solutions.

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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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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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Editorial of November 2021

By Rafael Leite Pinto (Master in EU Law – University of Minho)

The regional impacts of climate change in the European Union – a cohesion perspective

Although concern about climate change is typically a higher priority in western countries, especially in Europe, the understanding of its regional impacts is not widespread. The prevailing line of thinking is that developing countries will be the most affected and Europe will experience minor changes. While it is clear that developing countries will be affected the most, the lack of knowledge about local impacts can lead many citizens and politicians to delay taking concrete action. In this article, based on the new IPCC report and the new visual tools provided, we summarize the impacts of climate change in Europe, on rising temperatures, sea level, precipitation, and the incidence of extreme events with an overarching view on the internal cohesion policy for climate change to guarantee a fair and just transition, within the European Union.

1. The IPCC report

The new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[1] made headlines as being the most frightening and alarming ever. In fact, nothing should concern us more than a report based on more than 14,000 high-quality studies, which clearly states that “each of the last four decades has been successively warmer[2]” and that human action is to blame.

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Editorial of August 2021

By Daniel Silva (Master’s student in EU Law, UMinho) 

The fight against greenwashing in the EU

In January of 2021, the European Commission and national consumer authorities shared their conclusions pursuant to a screening of websites performed to identify breaches of EU consumer law in online markets focused on greenwashing practices[1]. This screening included a variety of online green claims from a wide range of business sectors, including cosmetics, clothing, and household equipment. The results estimated that 42% of analyzed claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could even potentially be considered unfair commercial practices under EU law. The sweep also concluded that the practice of greenwashing has been growing as consumers demand in green products also grows.

The term greenwashing was coined by the American environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, at the time regarding the practice of the hotel industry incentivizing the reuse of towels for environmental reasons, when in fact it was a ploy meant to increase their margin of profit[2]. The EU defines greenwashing as “companies giving a false impression of their environmental impact or benefits”. This, however, does not seem to encompass the magnitude and many facets that greenwashing has. There is not a unanimous agreement on a precise definition of the term, however, most definitions agree on two aspects about greenwashing: there is repression on information that suggests the company might be environmentally unfriendly and a strong push on having an environmentally friendly image. Hence, we can see greenwashing as a phenomenon of selective information disclosure on the environmental impact of a certain product or service that does not necessarily correspond to reality or is even false. We can look at greenwashing as somewhat of a marketing strategy, capitalizing on the growing consumer environmental conscience that has been on the rise in recent years. Therefore, the companies that practice greenwashing do not actually have any real environmental concern, focusing purely on economic gain.

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An instrument out of tune: the EU –Mercosur Trade Agreement

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

Brazil is one of the countries with the largest environmental heritage in the world. However, in breach of the existing legislation that helps protect the environment, Brazilian biomes are increasingly threatened by the poor political and environmental management of this country in recent years.

If we consider the Amazon biome, the largest tropical forest in the world, which occupies 59% of Brazil’s territory, holds a large part of the available freshwater in the world and is home to the largest number of species of flora and fauna in the world, the numbers of environmental setbacks are alarming (to say the least). For example, in April 2021, record shows that deforestation reached 778 km2, which is the highest rate for that month in the last ten years[1].

The gap between the discourse of goals and commitments to take care of the Brazilian forests and what happens in practice – an old and repeated script in the history of unbridled destruction of the Amazon – has not worked as a strategy to consolidate the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), which has been the breeding ground for controversy before the final approval of the EU Member States and the European Parliament.

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