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Home Archive for category "European Union"

Those Who Live in Glass Houses….

Published on November 8, 2017        Author: 

The European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland over measures affecting the judiciary a day after the publication in the Polish Official Journal of the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organization on 28 July 2017. Though the infringement procedure is formally distinct from the ongoing ‘Rule of Law Dialogue’ and the recommendations issued just a few days before commencement of such procedure, it comes under the latter’s penumbra; both form part and parcel of the Commission Press Release (IP-17-2205). If the concern was ‘The Rule of Law,’ at least in some respects there is more bang than buck. The President of Poland blocked the most controversial parts of the new judicial regime in Poland, so that the infringement procedure was left with just two violations.    

The first concerns a different retirement age for male and female judges. It is not clear if this distinction in the Polish law is by design or inertia but the infringement seems clear: what is sauce for Sabena (RIP) cabin attendant geese should be sauce for judicial ganders. But important as any form of gender discrimination is, this item in the Polish legislation does not directly concern the more troublesome aspects of political control over the judiciary and its independence. Should Poland not correct this anomaly, it should be an easy case for the Court.

The second item in the infringement procedure is far more serious. In the Letter of Formal Notice (the first stage in infringement procedures) the Commission raises concerns ‘…that by giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age, as well as dismiss and appoint Court Presidents, the independence of the Polish Courts will be undermined’ (id.), allegedly contravening a combination of Article 19(1) of the TEU and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – a legal basis which is creative but not specious.

If indeed the prolongation of the mandate of a judge reaching retirement age rests in the hands of a Minister, the government of which he or she is part and acts and/or legislation issuing from which might be subject to judicial scrutiny by said judge, it may well consciously or otherwise impact, for example, his or her conduct prior to retirement or, no less importantly, give the appearance of lack of independence. I think this is indeed a serious matter impinging on the independence and appearance of independence of the judiciary. It is one thing to have scrutiny and approval of judges by democratic bodies at the moment of appointment. But once appointed, the independence of the judge from political actors must be as absolute as possible, and this dependency described in the letter of intent clearly compromises such.

But there is an irony in this complaint; some might even think a ticking time bomb. At least on two occasions proposals were put to various Intergovernmental Conferences to amend the Treaties so that the appointment of Judges to the Court of Justice of the European Union should be for a fixed period of time – say nine years – as is undoubtedly the Best Practice in Europe among higher courts where appointments are not until the age of retirement. Ominously in my view, the proposals were rejected. So that now we live under a regime where the prolongation of Members of the Court(s) (Judges and Advocates General) rests in the hands of national politicians whose decisions and legislation may come before such judges. Read the rest of this entry…

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The European Arrest Warrant against Puigdemont: A feeling of déjà vu?

Published on November 3, 2017        Author: 

On 2 November 2017, the Spanish State Prosecutor asked Carmen Lamela, a Spanish judge, to issue a European Arrest Warrant against Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers following the vote of secessionist Catalan MPs to declare independence. They face potential charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Carles Puigdemont, who arrived in Brussels a few days before the news of the warrant was made public, called in a Belgian lawyer to defend his case. The Spanish authorities may not be thrilled by his choice.

The Basque precedent

In 1993, Spain issued an extradition warrant against two Basque secessionists who fled to Belgium, Moreno Ramajo and Garcia Arrantz. They were accused of participating in an unlawful association and an illegal armed band. The Court of Appeal of Brussels issued an Advisory Opinion according to which, the warrant was founded on political crimes and therefore, the extradition request should not receive a favourable response. The Belgian Ministry of Justice nevertheless ruled in favour of the extradition. In the meantime, Moreno Ramajo and Garcia Arrantz lodged an asylum application in Belgium, which was received admissible for further consideration. The extradition procedure was put on hold until a final decision to reject their asylum applications was made in 1994 on the grounds that despite the fact that cases of abusive behaviours of Spanish authorities towards Basque secessionists existed, these were isolated cases. Therefore, the argument was that there was no reason to believe that the Spanish justice system would fail to provide them with a fair trial. Thus, the extradition request was pursued and accepted. Following this decision, the couple submitted a procedure of extreme urgency before the Belgian Council of State in order to stop their extradition. This was successful and their extradition did not proceed(E. Bribosia and A. Weyembergh, ‘Asile et extradition: vers un espace judiciaire européen?’ (1997)  at 73-77).

What happened after that? Read the rest of this entry…

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Is N.D. and N.T. v. Spain the new Hirsi?

Published on October 17, 2017        Author: 

On 3 October the Third Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, which concerns Spain’s pushback policy in Melilla. It found a violation of Article 4 of Protocol 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) and of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 4 of Protocol 4. This post focuses on the issues of jurisdiction and the prohibition of collective expulsions addressed in the judgment, as well as its policy implications. 

Facts

The facts of the case are straightforward: on 13 August 2014 a group of Sub-Saharan migrants, including the applicants, tried to enter Spain via the Melilla border crossing which consists of three consecutive barriers. They managed to climb to the top of the third barrier. When they climbed down with the help of the Spanish forces, they were immediately apprehended by members of the Spanish civil guard and returned to Morocco in the company of 75 to 80 other migrants who had attempted to enter Melilla on the same date. Their identities were not checked and they did not have an opportunity to explain their personal circumstances or to receive assistance from lawyers, interpreters or medical personnel.

Jurisdiction

Spain argued that the events occurred outside its jurisdiction because the applicants had not succeeded in getting past the barriers at the Melilla border crossing and therefore had not entered Spanish territory. The Court first recalled its general principles on jurisdiction (paras 49-51), referring in particular to Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, and specifying that when the State, through its agents, exercises control and authority over an individual, and thus jurisdiction, the State is under an obligation to secure the rights and freedoms that are relevant to the situation of that individual (para 51). Applying these principles to the facts of the case, the Court first observes that:

‘la ligne frontalière entre le Royaume du Maroc et les villes de Ceuta et de Melilla a été délimitée par les traités internationaux auxquels les Royaumes d’Espagne et du Maroc sont parties et qu’elle ne peut pas être modifiée à l’initiative de l’un de ces États pour les besoins d’une situation de fait concrète’ (para 53).

Yet in the next paragraph the Court explains that it is unnecessary to establish whether the border crossing between Morocco and Spain is located on Spanish territory because:

dès lors qu’il y a contrôle sur autrui, il s’agit dans ces cas d’un contrôle de jure exercé par l’État en question sur les individus concernés (Hirsi Jamaa, précité, § 77), c’est-à-dire d’un contrôle effectif des autorités de cet État, que celles-ci soient à l’intérieur du territoire de l’État ou sur ses frontières terrestres. De l’avis de la Cour, à partir du moment où les requérants étaient descendus des clôtures frontalières, ils se trouvaient sous le contrôle continu et exclusif, au moins de facto, des autorités espagnoles.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Offshore Processing and Complicity in Current EU Migration Policies (Part 2)

Published on October 11, 2017        Author:  and

In the first part of our blog post we reconstructed a complex web of migration policies that indicate a shift towards offshore processing of asylum claims in Niger and possibly Chad. In this second part, we seek to answer an obvious yet difficult legal question, namely who bears responsibility in scenarios of extraterritorial complicity such as this one? As described in part one, the new plan could not be implemented without the close cooperation of various actors: European Union (EU) institutions and Member States, third countries (Niger and/or Chad) and UN organisations (IOM and UNHCR).

Our discussion focuses on issues of responsibility and jurisdiction arising when bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against any of the Member States involved in the setting up and implementation of the offshoring mechanism. Read the rest of this entry…

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Offshore Processing and Complicity in Current EU Migration Policies (Part 1)

Published on October 10, 2017        Author:  and

It has certainly been a busy summer in terms of developments in European Union (EU) migration policies. From an intensification of cooperation between Italy and the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and ‘pull back’ migrants at sea; to a controversial Code of Conduct for non-governmental organisations involved in migrants’ rescue operations at sea; and the further mobilisation of funds for the EU-Africa Trust Fund, things have been all but calm on the Southern European front.

Together with images of a right-wing Defend Europe ship sailing the Mediterranean to track the activities of humanitarian NGOs, the summer has also left behind renewed plans for offshore processing centres to identify persons in need of international protection outside of the EU. On 27 September 2017, the European Commission presented its new plans for a ‘stronger, more effective and fairer EU migration and asylum policy’, aimed at ‘enhancing legal pathways for persons in need of international protection’. Whilst press releases emphasise the resettlement aspect of the plan, a closer analysis of the official documents and related policies issued throughout the summer, reveals a slightly different picture.

In this first blog post we reconstruct a complex web of EU migration policies that, in our view, indicate a shift towards extraterritorial protection, and more specifically the introduction of a multi-stakeholder mechanism for the offshore processing of asylum claims in the Sahel. Read the rest of this entry…

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Is Ukraine a “Stranger” to the EU? OPAL Case

Published on August 28, 2017        Author: 

In their recent contribution to the Global Trust Working Paper Series, Professor Eyal Benvenisti and Dr. Sivan Shlomo Agon raise one conspicuous, though rarely asked, question within a broader topic of state sovereignty in a globalised world. They wonder how sovereign decision-making powers can be restrained in the face of interests of “strangers”, i.e. third countries, as well as natural and legal persons, to which the effects of national policies “radiate” without allowing them to hold the decision-makers politically accountable. The authors make the first proposition that:

“international courts can and in fact do play a role in promoting the duties of states towards strangers affected by their policies, thereby alleviating some of the democratic and accountability deficits associated with globalization” (p.2).

Their second proposition is that international courts have developed ways to account for the “interests of affected others from within and outside” their host systems. Both propositions are then tested against the ample practice of the WTO dispute settlement system.

The article echoes well in the universe of “global administrative law” (GAL), i.e. a normative paradigm promoted by Professor Benvenisti which introduces practices of accountability (transparency, good process, reasoned decision-making, and basic legality) in what would otherwise be a non-democratic process of global administration. (For early conceptualizations of GAL, see the EJIL’s symposium issue).

The article is also provocative as it resonates far beyond the ambit of the WTO law. The present note offers to look for the advanced propositions in a group of energy-related cases currently pending before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

Admittedly, international energy law is rarely scanned for general international law trends and patterns. This may be due to the highly technical complexity of the underlying field of study, combined with the traditional view of energy as a nation state prerogative (recall General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December 1962 “Permanent sovereignty over natural resources”). Yet, the intensity of present-day energy cooperation, spurred by critical socio-economic and even geopolitical needs, has effectively isolated exclusively national areas of regulation (e.g., access to upstream energy resources) and produced a layer of new, inherently international rules of community building. Read the rest of this entry…

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Revising the Treaty of Guarantee for a Cyprus Settlement

Published on June 21, 2017        Author: 

On June 28th, 2017, the UN-sponsored international conference in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, will attempt to comprehensively settle the Cyprus Issue. The Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot delegations will be joined by the delegations of the three ‘Guarantor Powers’ (Greece, Turkey and the UK), and one from the EU as an observer, in order to discuss the issue of security and guarantees – an issue that appears to be the major stumbling block for an agreement. The existing Treaty of Guarantee (1960) has failed in so many respects. It has been violated by the Greek side, which suspended basic articles of the Constitution under the doctrine of necessity in the 1960s and sought to unite the island with Greece following the junta-led military coup in 1974. It has also been violated by the Turkish side, which used it to militarily intervene in 1974, without seeking to reestablish the state of affairs created in 1960 and instead opting to partition the island.

The current position of the Greek side is that guarantees should be abolished altogether, whereas the Turkish side considers that they have provided effective security and should be maintained in some form or another. In public discourse, both sides selectively interpret the notion of guarantee and what it is meant to serve so as to support their positions. If not treated as a political cover but in a legal sense, however, a guarantee refers to ‘any legally binding commitment to secure [an] object’ (Oppenheim’s International Law, vol. 1, 9th edition, p. 1323). Creating binding commitments is the gist of the matter that should concern us. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Shifting Landscape of Investor-State Arbitration: Loyalists, Reformists, Revolutionaries and Undecideds

Published on June 15, 2017        Author: 

The investor-state arbitration landscape is shifting under our feet. The utility and legitimacy of traditional investor-state arbitration have come under fire, but states have not converged on a viable alternative. In simplified terms, three main camps are developing, which I call the “loyalist,” “reformist,” and “revolutionary” camps. The vast majority of states, however, are yet to take a public position on whether and, if so, how to reform investor-state dispute settlement. These “undecided” states are not a homogenous group, nor are they necessarily passive. Many states within this group are actively watching these developments and debating the various reform proposals.

One of the big strategic questions for the investment treaty system in the next few years will be whether the loyalists, reformists or revolutionaries will be able to attract a critical number of the undecideds to their cause in order to create a reasonable measure of convergence on a particular approach. The alternative is that the undecideds will split among the existing camps and/or develop their own distinct or hybrid positions. Another question is whether any members of the existing camps will shift their alliances. It is unclear how this will ultimately play out. What is clear, however, is that the tide appears to be turning against the traditional model of investor-state arbitration as it has few – if any – real supporters among states.

Loyalists, Reformists and Revolutionaries Read the rest of this entry…

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Back to Old Tricks? Italian Responsibility for Returning People to Libya

Published on June 6, 2017        Author: 

On 10/11 May 2017 various news outlets reported a maritime operation by the Libyan authorities, in coordination with the Italian Search and Rescue Authority, in which 500 individuals were intercepted in international waters and returned to Libya. This operation amounted to refoulment in breach of customary international law and several treaties (including the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights), and an internationally wrongful act is one for which Italy bears international legal responsibility.

According to reports, the migrant and refugee boat called the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCCC) whilst it was still in Libyan territorial waters. MRCC contacted both the Libyan coastguard and an NGO vessel (Sea Watch-2) with the latter sighting the boat after it had left Libyan waters and was in international waters. During preparations for the rescue, the NGO boat was informed by the Italian authorities that the Libyan coastguard boat which was approaching had “on scene command” of the rescue operation. Attempts by the NGO vessel to contact the Libyan authorities were not picked up. The Coastguard proceeded instead to cut the way of the Sea Watch 2 at high speed and chase its rescue boat. It then stopped the refugees and migrant boat. Reports indicate that the Libyan coastguard captain threatened the refugees and migrants with a gun and then proceeded to take over the migrant boat. Read the rest of this entry…

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Non-UN Financial Sanctions against Central Banks and Heads of State: in breach of international immunity law?

Published on May 12, 2017        Author: 

Conventional Wisdom Challenged?

Recent years have seen a wide range of non-UN financial sanctions being adopted against States and their instrumentalities, including central banks, as well as against high-level State officials. Prominent examples include the EU and US sanctions against the central banks of Syria and Iran, and the asset freezes against the serving Presidents of Zimbabwe and Syria. In spite of the EU’s firm assertion that its ‘restrictive measures’ “are fully compliant with obligations under international law”, one might be inclined, intuitively, to regard such sanctions as a prima facie breach of international immunity rules (whether or not they qualify as (third-party?) countermeasures is a different story altogether – one which the present post will not touch upon). Thus, given the lack of a general exemption in respect of activities de jure imperii, Castellarin argues that the EU’s financial sanctions against central banks are contrary to State immunity law – a position which is also subscribed to by Thouvenin and Dupont. Others have arrived at the same conclusion in respect of asset freezes targeting Heads of State (see e.g. Pillitu). When discussing the matter with fellow scholars, it seems that the applicability of, and incompatibility with, immunity rules is often taken for granted.

Yet, is this conventional wisdom (if that is what it is) justified? It is quite remarkable to see how, on the one hand, the EU goes to some lengths to insert tailor-made exemptions to asset freezes in order to enable payments to or from diplomatic or consular posts (or exceptions to travel bans to allow officials to participate in international conferences) – even if the practice seems far from consistent –, while at the same time seeing no problems in the imposition of financial sanctions on Syria’s central bank and Head of State. Equally remarkable Read the rest of this entry…

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