State of the Union 2017 scenario: with full breath ahead

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by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor

On September, 13th President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the annual speech of the State of the Union (here). Against the background of the White Paper on the Future of Europe and in solid dialogue with the European Parliament, President Juncker presented some new ideas as well as highlighted previous proposals. More importantly, the European Commission demonstrates that it is effectively holding the position of initiative with which the Treaties empower it – in close democratic discussion with the Parliament.

Here we intend to comment the first impressions about key aspects of some of the topics the Juncker Commission brought to life and debate.

1. After valuing the European institutions role on “helping the wind change” for growth, job creation and control of public deficits, he expressed the will to strengthen the European trade agenda by negotiating international agreements. It seems that after the cases of the Paris agreement (on environmental issues) and the uncertainty around TTIP, there are two messages underlying this point. The first is to make the EU the main business platform worldwide (Canada, Japan, Mexico, South America and the proposal to open negotiations with Australia and New Zealand). Reliable and stable, Europe wants to be the ideal partner and the first in line in global economy. With many interrogations amounting over the US, this also seems to be an external policy strategy (“we are not naïve free traders”, he said). Alongside investment, the idea is to make the industry stronger and more competitive as well as being the leader in fighting climate change. More and more signals of the projection of the leadership of the Union in the world.

2. As far as migration, external borders and the Schengen area are concerned, migration will remain a priority. So will the support to Italian authorities who are “saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean”. In parallel, the Commission wants to work on legal pathways to end illegal activities like trafficking at the same time it calls for solidarity in welcoming refugees. This is a novelty. After Germany’s policy of opening doors, now the EC looks like the new leading actor in this matter. Contrary to the position of his political family, which never clearly came out, President Juncker took on a stand closer to the approach of S&D. It will be interesting to follow the next parliamentary debates and what the EPP’s reaction will be, even though its following remarks were in a more agreeable way to these terms. Finally, suggesting that Romania, Bulgaria and soon Croatia should become members of the Schengen area is a political movement on a critical region where Russia has been growingly active. The idea seems to be to overpower its influence there – the direct reference of the 100th anniversary of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania proves just that.

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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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Editorial of May 2016

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by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor
and Joana Covelo de Abreu, Junior Editor

Competition, Public Procurement and Citizenship

Last 18th April 2016, the transposition deadline for new public procurement Directives passed: Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU. The first one deals with the award of the concession contracts and the latter have to do, respectively, with public procurement (and repealing Directive 2004/18/CE) and procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors (repealing, for that matter, Directive 2004/17/CE).

Public procurement has a fundamental role in the European Union, namely in the EUROPE 2020 Strategy context, since it appears as an internal market instrument that is adequate to promote a sustainable development, an intelligent and inclusive growth, aiming, equally, a more reasonable use of public funding. Besides, public procurement regulation, in the European context, always prosecutes competition’s preservation and reinforcement – the background where internal market edification was set.

With those new Directives, there were some aspects of the previous regime that were revised, namely the European thresholds (which define the scope of application of European rules on public procurement). Those were supposed to be updated every two years if necessary. Still, a new proceeding was created: the innovation partnership established between the contracting entity and the participants, which allows setting successive stages and intermediate objectives. E-procurement gains a more relevant role.

According to information provided by European Institutions, public procurement contracts have a significant weight in Member-States economies, representing about 16% of the Union’s GDP. But before public procurement had been regulated by the European Union, only 2% of economic operators that had won public contracts were non-national companies. In this perspective, application of Internal Market rules (namely freedom to provide services and free competition) allowed a better usage of public resources and a better and more fruitful competition, demanding economic operators in the European context to improve their services and to provide them to a lower price (to a more competitive price). With public procurement Europeanization there was also a reinforcement of transparency and equality principles’ respect and a diminishing of fraud and corruption’s risk.

As stated, competition policy always ends up to be in the base (even when indirectly) of the functioning dynamic’s type that we aim to the Internal Market and to the economic integration. Besides, to a large degree, the creation of a competition culture in Europe is the result of integration. Actual challenges are connected, in a great extent, by the balanced markets’ regulation, by the implementation of an economy that is always competitive but also socially aware. New technologies set today new realities not always easy to ordain, safeguarding, in a balanced way, economic efficiency (more competition) and what we can call, in a detailed way, common interest manifestation (and, therefore, of a socially balanced regulation). In the “common economy” field, difficulties of that balance are particularly evident and immediate. Let’s consider an illustrative example: the tension between a (very closely) regulated sector of providing services – taxi services – and the emergence, also in Europe and with great success, of the UBER phenomenon. This is something to follow with interest. It is also a challenge to the densification of European citizenship (economic, directly connected to European consumers).

Picture credits: Numbers and Finance  by Reynermedia.