Case C-205/22, C.D.A. Direct application by the national courts of the European Commission reports issued under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 

Very recently, on March 10, 2022, the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal – Administrative and Fiscal Litigation Section ordered the referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union, based on art. 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, with a new preliminary ruling in close connection with the Rule of law (Case C-205/22, C.D.A.).

In fact, the Romanian court’s request tends to ascertain mainly whether, in the interpretation of the CJEU, the principle of judicial independence enshrined in the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU with reference to Article 2 TEU and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the principle of sincere cooperation, laid down in Article 4 TEU, preclude a national provision, such as that of Article 148(2) of the Romanian Constitution, as interpreted by the Romanian Constitutional Court, by Decision No 390/2021, according to which national courts cannot take account of the provisions of European Commission Decision 2006/928 and the recommendations made in the CVM Reports for the implementation of the benchmarks, on the ground that “national courts are not empowered to cooperate with a political institution of the European Union.”

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Summaries of judgments: Euro Box Promotion | Wiener Landesregierung and Others (Revocation of an assurance of naturalisation)

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 21 December 2021, Joined cases C‑357/19, C‑379/19, C‑547/19, C‑811/19 and C‑840/19, Euro Box Promotion e.a., EU:C:2021:1034

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Decision 2006/928/EC – Mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption – Legal nature and effects – Binding on Romania – Rule of law – Judicial independence – Second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU – Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Fight against corruption – Protection of the European Union’s financial interests – Article 325(1) TFEU – ‘PFI’ Convention – Criminal proceedings – Decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court, Romania) concerning the legality of the taking of certain evidence and the composition of judicial panels in cases of serious corruption – Duty on national courts to give full effect to the decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court) – Disciplinary liability of judges in case of non-compliance with such decisions – Power to disapply decisions of the Curtea Constituțională (Constitutional Court) that conflict with EU law – Principle of primacy of EU law 

Facts

The disputes in the main proceedings follow on from a wide-ranging reform in the field of justice and the fight against corruption in Romania, a reform which is at the origin of the judgment of 18 May 2021, Asociaţia ‘Forumul Judecătorilor din România’ and Others (C‑83/19, C‑127/19, C‑195/19, C‑291/19, C‑355/19 and C‑397/19, EU:C:2021:393) and has been monitored at EU level since 2007 under the cooperation and verification mechanism (‘the CVM’) established by Decision 2006/928.[1]

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Once again about the priority of the EU law in Romania: “Amédée ou comment s’en débarrasser”

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 
 

1. Introduction

In “Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It (Amédée ou comment s’en débarrasser)”, written by Eugène Ionesco (“Théâtre, Volume I”, Paris, Gallimard, 1954), Amédée and his wife Madeleine discuss how to deal with a continually growing corpse in the other room. That corpse is causing mushrooms to sprout all over the apartment and is apparently arousing suspicion among the neighbours. The audience is given no clear reason why the corpse is there.

Like Amédée and Madeleine, in the “priority of the EU law in Romania” saga, we are simply in a play in which nothing changes, but everything transforms.

Under pressure from the Constitutional Court’s decisions, ordinary judges refuse to apply CJEU judgments, and the example is provided by the High Court of Cassation and Justice and Craiova Court of Appeal.

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Case C-817/21, Inspecția Judiciară. Compatibility of the organization of an authority competent to carry out the disciplinary investigation of judges, which is under the total control of a single person, with the rules of the rule of law

Dragoș Călin [Judge at the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Co-President of the Romanian Judges' Forum Association, Director of the Judges' Forum Review (Revista Forumul Judecătorilor)]. 

The saga of requests for preliminary rulings by Romanian courts on the rule of law and the independence of judges continues, although, under pressure from the Romanian Constitutional Court’s decisions, ordinary judges have begun to refuse to apply European Union law. Failure to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court constitutes a disciplinary violation, a legislative solution that allows total disregard of the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union, for fear of disciplinary action. A climate of fear among judges was created by disciplinary actions initiated without any reservations by the Judicial Inspection against the judge of the Pitești Court of Appeal who dared to apply the CJEU decision of 18 May 2021, but also the judges who proposed and/or referred to the CJEU in this case.

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Summaries of judgments: DB v Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (Consob) | A.B. and Others v Krajowa Rada Sądownictwa and Others

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 2 February 2021, DB v Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (Consob), Case C-481/19, EU:C:2021:84

Reference for a preliminary ruling – Approximation of laws – Directive 2003/6/EC – Article 14(3) – Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 – Article 30(1)(b) – Market abuse – Administrative sanctions of a criminal nature – Failure to cooperate with the competent authorities – Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Right to remain silent and to avoid self-incrimination

1. Facts

The request for a preliminary ruling was made in proceedings between DB and the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (Consob) (National Companies and Stock Exchange Commission, Italy) concerning the lawfulness of two financial penalties imposed on DB for an administrative offence of insider trading and for failure to cooperate in the context of an investigation conducted by Consob. Regarding the latter, after applying on several occasions for postponement of the date of the hearing to which he had been summoned in his capacity as a person aware of the facts, DB had declined to answer the questions put to him when he appeared at that hearing.

Continue reading “Summaries of judgments: DB v Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (Consob) | A.B. and Others v Krajowa Rada Sądownictwa and Others”

Editorial of October 2020

by Filipe Marques, President of MEDEL (Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés)

Rule of Law in the European Union: the danger of a systematic change of the concept?

In the last day of September 2020, the European Commission publicly presented the first Rule of Law Report, intended to give an overview of the situation of Rule of Law in all twenty-seven EU Member States[i]. In the introductory words of this document, it is stated the Rule of Law, together with fundamental rights and democracy, “are the bedrock of our societies and common identity”.

The report came out just two weeks after President Ursula Von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union speech before the European Parliament Plenary, recognized that “the last months have also reminded us how fragile [Rule of Law] can be” and pledged to “always be vigilant, to care and nurture for the rule of law” [ii].

The current and ongoing situation in the EU, however, is much too serious to be tackled only with nice words in a speech or data collected in a report. The events and signs coming directly from the ground clearly show us that the time to act is now, before we reach a point of no return.

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Editorial of May 2020

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


“With all due respect, I have no time for this”. The Hungarian Case

1. The Pandemic Crisis in Hungary. Background.

In Hungary, like in many other countries, the Covid19 pandemic and the envisaged measures to prevent its expansion determined the approval of emergency laws.

The Hungarian Government declared the state of danger on 11 March 2020. On that occasion the power to issue decrees in order to suspend the application of certain laws and to take other extraordinary measures was granted for a period of 15 days, except if the Government – on the basis of an authorization from Parliament – decided to extend the effect of the decree. In effect, on 30 March 2020, this extension has been granted by the Parliament on broad terms: “until the endangering situation cease to exist.”

It is now undisputable the absence of any defined time limit for the extensive powers conceded to the national Government.

In the particular case of the functioning of the courts, on 14 March, the Government declared an extraordinary period of judicial vacations. This means that for the duration of judicial vacation, no regular trial hearing should be scheduled except in urgent court cases. Hearings must be held by videoconference. If the personal contact during the hearing is unavoidable a special protocol were applicable for the protection of health.
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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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Building the ECJ puzzle on judicial independence in a Union based on the rule of law (Commission v Poland in the light of ASJP)

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 by Alessandra Silveira, Editor


On 27 February 2018, the ECJ delivered its judgment in the
Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses case (C-64/16).[i] It is a judgment of far-reaching consequences for effective judicial protection and the rule of law within the European Union – and, arguably, for the construction of the legal-constitutional model that supports the European integration. Mainly because the question of judicial independence was assessed without any relevance having been given to the issue of whether or not the austerity measures in question were covered by EU law.[ii] It is worth recalling the circumstances of this case law to understand the following ECJ steps.

At the origin of the request for a preliminary ruling was a special administrative action brought before the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo (Supreme Administrative Court, Portugal) seeking the annulment of salary-reduction (administrative) measures of the judges of the Tribunal de Contas (Court of Auditors, Portugal). According to the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo, the measures for the temporary reduction in the amount of public sector remuneration, also applied to the members of the judiciary, were based on mandatory requirements for reducing the Portuguese State’s excessive budget deficit during the year 2011. The referring court therefore considered those measures as measures adopted within the framework of EU law or, at least, as being European in origin, on the ground that those requirements were imposed on the Portuguese Government by EU decisions granting financial assistance.

Besides, the legal action brought before the Supremo Tribunal Administrativo was accompanied with an opinion presented by me and my Colleague Pedro Froufe, two of the editors of this blog. The opinion intended to clarify the extent to which the subject matter fell within the scope of application of EU law, triggering the need to refer to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.[iii] However, this did not play any role in the interpretation which led the Court to conclude that the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU was applicable in the case in question. This is the password to understand this new standard and the following ECJ steps on judicial independence, in order to Article 19 TEU gives concrete expression to the value of the rule of law affirmed in Article 2 TEU.
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Poland and the Crisis of Rule of Law: “Alea Jacta Est?”

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

October 19th 2018. The Vice-President of the Court of Justice ordered the Republic of Poland to immediately suspend provisions of the recent Polish law on the Supreme Court that lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges to 65 years, which would have the effect of removing nearly one-third of the Court’s judges.

One month has passed. Nothing happened.

Quite the opposite, in fact: on 9th November 2018 the new Polish National Council of Judiciary issued a resolution that concretely blocks the interim measure of October 19th. To be more precise, the resolution contains a threat of disciplinary responsibility for the reinstated Supreme Court Judges, if they perform official duties. Obviously this resolution may have a considerable negative impact on the way the order of the Vice-President of the CJEU is being carried out.

In this context, it must be underlined that, on 17th September 2018, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ), after considering that an essential condition of ENCJ membership is “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” decided to suspend the membership of the Polish National Judicial Council, the KRS, in the ENCJ.
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