“All the world began with a yes”: on the EU strategies towards an environmental citizenship

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

In a year of so many turbulences and uncertainties, the last month of 2020 contained dates that must be remembered and questioned about how is possible to improve what was once idealized and started. These are events that reveal changes in growing recognition of the global climate crisis as well as the EU strategies towards achieving environmental protection. 

1 year ago: on 11 December 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal. It is a response with the objective of tackling climate and environmental-related challenges to transform the EU into the first climate neutral continent by 2050 with a just and inclusive transition, a clean, affordable, and secure energy supply, a modernized EU industry, a clean and circular economy and sustainable and smart mobility, with the protection of biodiversity[i].

5 years ago: on 12 December 2015, the Paris Agreement has signed and, as a legally binding international treaty on climate change, is a landmark in the multilateral climate change, in which all abiding nations commit to undertake efforts to combat climate change, in order to limit global warming preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels[ii].

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Editorial of February 2021

Alessandra Silveira (Editor) and Alexandre Veronese (Professor at University of Brasília)

Thoughts regarding the right to deindexation and the weaknesses of the idea of “being forgotten” online – marking the Data Protection Day

28 January 2021 marks the 15th “Data Protection Day” and the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 – the first international legal instrument regarding personal data protection – which was opened for signature on 28 January 1981.

What began as a European celebration is now a yearly commemoration all around the world. This year, to mark the occasion, the Ibero-American Network for Data Protection and the Council of Europe promoted an event targeted to Latin America. It is interesting to know that, coincidentally, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (STF) will hear on 3 February a case regarding a type of “right to be forgotten.” This right is the subject inspiring this essay. In light of this fact, it is essential to assess the (jus)fundamental dimension of the right to deindexation and the weakness of the idea of “being forgotten” online.[i]

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Neuro-rights

by Felipe Debasa (University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid)

The history of social evolution is also the history of social rights achievements and in this equation the role of technology must be taken into account. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether the technology that exists at any given moment shapes social evolution or whether it is society that creates the technology it needs for its development. We think that it is available technology that shapes society, and in this respect, we could cite how the geographical limits of the provinces in Spain and Portugal were marked according to the technology of displacement existing at the time: the horse. Probably if the limit were set today, it would not be on the basis of the distance a person can travel to and from the place in a single day.

By legal system or law, we are referring to the set of rules that regulate human relations in society and which are imposed by States in a coercive manner. But in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the era in which social changes occur in a rapid and disruptive manner, the law is also the regulator that allows these social changes to be accelerated or slowed down. Thus, with regard to new technologies, perhaps we could explain why Anglo-Saxon countries implement technology in society much more quickly than Latin countries. Remember Cordeiro, J. L, that in Anglo-Saxon countries what the law does not explicitly prohibit is basically allowed; while in Roman-based legal systems what is not expressly regulated is basically prohibited.

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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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The Household Mask – The Fundamental Right to the Access to Justice and to Online Court Sessions in times of COVID-19

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 by Marcílio Franca, Professor at Federal University of Paraíba (Brazil)
 and Inês Virgínia Prado Soares, Federal Judge (Brazil)

The application of contention measures and social isolation due to COVID-19 has caused a great impact on the operation of the whole justice system – in courtrooms, law firms etc. in the world and in Brazil alike. Brazil’s National Council of Justice (Conselho Nacional de Justiça – CNJ) has been working from home since March 12 as a way to administer justice during the most critical period of the pandemic. On March 26, The National Council of the Prosecution Office (Conselho Nacional do Ministério Público – CNMP) determined the uniformization of the measures to prevent Coronavirus at all branches of the Prosecution Office in Brazil, making remote work and conference calls mandatory.

In turn, Brazil’s highest Court, the Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal – STF) published Resolution 672/2020 on March 27 to allow the use of conference calls on its trial sessions. Such document, as those issued by CNJ and CNMP, does not detail the formalities to be respected, which intuitively leads us to believe things must be done as they always have been, including themes such as language and the attire.
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Judicial independence in Poland and Hungary – Going, Going, Gone? Preliminary Requests and Disciplinary Procedures – A shocking development

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

1. Stating the obvious

The reference for a preliminary ruling, provided for Article 19(3)(b) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is an essential instrument for the European Union and, in particular, for national judges.

It is aimed to guarantee the uniform interpretation and application of EU law by offering to the courts and tribunals of Member States a procedure to acquire from the Court of Justice of the European Union a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of EU law or the validity of acts adopted by the institutions of the Union.

As easily predictable, the impact of a preliminary ruling procedure in EU legal system is immense also because the rulings of European Court of Justice (ECJ) are assumed as generally binding.

The ECJ itself does not have a power to enforce the accurate application of EU law; this is the reason why national courts or tribunals are obliged to bring the matters in question before the Court as frontrunners of the application of EU law.

The reference for a preliminary ruling is the only way for the national judges to directly convey with ECJ. This procedure helps the ECJ control on how the national courts apply EU law providing the uniformity and certainty essentials to the success of our Union.

Another aspect of major significance could be furthermore underlined: the preliminary ruling also ensures the protection of the rights of individuals. EU laws, in particular the criminal law, fall to be interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Article 6(1) of the Treaty of European Union affirms: “The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union … which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties”. In general terms, the Charter applies to Member States when they implement Union law (Case C-292/97 Karlsson and Others); therefore, the interpretation of the Charter provisions tends to be, if not now, in the foreseeable future, a fertile ground for the use of the preliminary ruling procedures.

The Member States are bound to respect fundamental rights in judicial cooperation, for instance, if a Member State is extraditing someone to another Member State in accordance with the scheme established by the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.
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A short introduction to accountability in machine-learning algorithms under the GDPR

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 by Andreia Oliveira, Master in EU Law (UMINHO)
 and Fernando Silva, Consulting coordinator - Portuguese Data  Protection National Commission

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be defined as computer systems designed to solve a wide range of activities, that are “normally considered to require knowledge, perception, reasoning, learning, understanding and similar cognitive abilities” [1]. Having intelligent machines capable of imitating human’s actions, performances and activities seems to be the most common illustration about AI. One needs to recognise AI as being convoluted – thus, machine learning, big data and other terms as automatization must hold a seat when discussing AI.  Machine learning, for example, is defined as the ability of computer systems to improve their performance without explicitly programmed instructions: a system will be able to learn independently without human intervention [2]. To do this, machine learning develops new algorithms, different from the ones that were previously programmed, and includes them as new inputs it has acquired during the previous interactions.

The capabilities of machine learning may put privacy and data protection in jeopardy. Therefore, ascertaining liability would be inevitable and would imply the consideration of inter alia all plausible actors that can be called upon account.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the principle of accountability is intrinsically linked to the principle of transparency. Transparency empowers data subjects to hold data controllers and processors accountable and to exercise control over their personal data. Accountability requires transparency of processing operations, however transparency does not constitute accountability [3]. On the contrary, transparency acts as an accountability’ helper – e.g. helping to avoid barriers, such as opacity.
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e-Justice paradigm and Artificial Intelligence (AI): where effective judicial protection stands?

Artificial Intelligence Technology Futuristic

 by Joana Abreu, Editor

2019 marks the beginning of a new era for e-Justice.

Looking at both Council’s e-Justice Strategy (2019/C 96/04) and Action Plan (2019/C 96/05) from 2019 to 2023, we are able to understand how this European institution is engaged to establish sensitivities on Artificial Intelligence in justice fields. Furthermore, the European Commission also presented a report on the previous Action Plan (Evaluation study on the outcome of the e-Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 and the way forward – Final Report – DT4EU), where it advanced the need to bet on artificial intelligence mechanisms in the e-Justice fields.

In fact, the European Commission, when questioned stakeholders on the possibility of using Artificial Intelligence technologies in the domain of justice, 41% understood it should be used and other 41% understood its potentialities could be explored.

Taking into consideration those numbers, the Council also established the need to understand AI’s influence and potential on e-Justice fields, addressing it under the topic “Evolutivity” and relating to future perspectives.
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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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Editorial of November 2018

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor


In the face of globalised populism, European Union as a kind of “life insurance”

In case C-619/18, Commission v Poland, pending judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), the European Commission has requested the Court, in the context of interim proceedings, to order Poland to suspend the application of the provisions of national legislation relating to the lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges,[i] among other measures.

As the ECJ Press Release No 159/18 briefly explains, on 3 April 2018 the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court entered into force. Under that Law, the retirement age for Supreme Court judges has been lowered to 65. The new age limit applies as of the date of entry into force of that Law. It is possible for Supreme Court judges to continue in active judicial service beyond the age of 65 but this is subject to the submission of a statement indicating the desire of the judge concerned to continue to perform his/her duties and a certificate stating that his/her health conditions allow him/her to serve, and must be consented to by the President of the Republic of Poland. Thus, according to the Law, serving Supreme Court judges who reached the age of 65 before that Law entered into force or, at the latest, on 3 July 2018, were required to retire on 4 July 2018, unless they had submitted such a statement and such a certificate by 3 May 2018 inclusive and the President of the Republic of Poland had granted them permission to continue in active service at the Supreme Court. In making his decision, the President of the Republic of Poland is not bound by any criteria and that decision is not subject to any form of judicial review. Furthermore, the Law on the Supreme Court gives the President of the Republic of Poland the power to freely decide, until 3 April 2019, to increase the number of Supreme Court judges.

As we know, the Vice-President of the Court, Ms Rosario de Lapuerta, on 19 October 2018, provisionally granted all the Commission’s requests – and Poland must immediately suspend the application of the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court.[ii] The legal basis of such ruling, relying upon judicial independence as a general principle of EU law and as a fundamental right protected in its order, has been built in the recent ECJ case-law, especially in judgments Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses (ASJP) and LM[iii].
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