A general regulation of administrative procedure for the European Union?

Posted by ACELG on 17/12/14
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Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon the passionate desire of the European Ombudsman and European Parliament is to create a regulation for administrative procedures for all European institutions. Unfortunately the legal basis for such a proposal is far from solid.

By Pieter van der Ploeg

Currently, rules on administrative procedures for EU institutions are scattered throughout a variety of sources of EU law. In primary law article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes everyone’s right to fair and impartial administration. At the level of secondary law, administrative procedures are regulated per policy area in a variety of binding and nonbinding instruments. The prime example is Regulation 1/2003, which contains the Commission’s procedures on competition law. Last, the European Court of Justice has established several principles of good administration in its case law. So far the court has recognized the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of proportionality, the right to a hearing before an adverse decision is taken by a public authority, and several other principles.

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Ten Years of Decentralized EU Competition Law Enforcement – Success or Failure?

Posted by ACELG on 10/12/14
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Notes from the Fourth ACELG Annual Conference (November 14, 2014)

This year’s ACELG conference was dedicated to assessing one of the last decade’s most significant developments in EU competition law, namely the decentralization of its enforcement system. The conference offered unique benchmarks for evaluating the success of this reform by examining its various institutional and constitutional outcomes and their implications on the EU’s and its Member States’ legal orders.

By Or Brook

Ten years ago, Regulation 1/2003 decentralized the enforcement of EU competition law. The Regulation abolished the Commission’s previous monopoly on applying many of the EU competition rules and aimed to share the enforcement activities and responsibilities with the Member States’ national competition authorities (‘NCAs’) and national courts.

The shift from a supranational to a transnational and multiple-layered EU enforcement setting raised significant challenges relating to the new multi-level governance and the national actors’ administrative capacities. Nevertheless, Regulation 1/2003 contains very little guidance in this regard, and allows the Member States to choose the institutional embedding and accountability of their NCAs and national courts.

Against this background, the Fourth Annual ACELG conference offered unique perspectives for evaluating the new enforcement system’s success: while previous assessments primarily compared Regulation 1/2003’s outcomes to the Commission’s goals for decentralization (namely, enhancing the Commission’s possibility to set its enforcement priorities, ensuring effective supervision, and ensuring a uniform and coherent application of the competition rules), the conference offered three alternative institutional and constitutional benchmarks to guide the assessment, as described below.

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Will the Juncker Commission initiate unified Eurozone external representation?

As the response to the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has shown, when push comes to shove, EU Member States are willing to accept a further transfer of powers to the European level. However, they are – understandably – not so keen on reforms that diminish their international stature. The long overdue consolidation of the Eurozone’s external representation, identified as one of the building blocks of a ‘genuine’ Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), was perpetually delayed under the Barroso Commission. EU Member States, it appears, are still not ready to accept this particular curtailment of their powers. This raises the question whether the new Juncker Commission will be able to seal the deal fifteen years after the Eurozone came into existence.

By Chris Koedooder


A ‘genuine EMU’ calls for unified external representation, says the Commission…

The consolidation of the Eurozone’s external representation is a comparatively minor step on the road towards a ‘genuine EMU’; nonetheless, it carries great symbolical significance. Presently, various EU Member States represent the Union in international financial institutions. A seat at the table in top-level international negotiations brings status, so naturally Member States are reluctant to give up their privileged positions (which often reflect post-WWII power relations rather than our current international economic order). For quite a while now, the Commission has hinted that at some point in the near future it will finally try to break the political impasse which has existed on the issue since 1998, when an initial Commission proposal was not followed up by the Council.

When the sovereign debt crisis was at its peak, Commission President Barroso argued on multiple occasions that a strengthening and consolidation of the Eurozone’s external representation should be pursued. Barroso appeared confident that the Eurozone Member States could be persuaded to give up their seats in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He even announced that the Commission would present “before the end of 2013” a proposal “to establish a unified position to achieve an observer status of the [Eurozone] in the IMF executive board, and subsequently for a single seat”. As will be explained below, the latter is currently not legally possible.

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The EU says NO to ‘benefit tourists’: how fundamental is the status of Union citizenship?

On 11 November, the Court ruled in Dano that Member States can deny social assistance to EU citizens who do not work and are not looking for a job in the receiving state. That decision was applauded by both Germany and the UK. According to Cameron, the Court’s decision was “simple common sense”. But was it really?

By Annette Schrauwen

“Can the status of EU citizenship be relied upon against the economic difficulties of modern life?” This question marks the beginning of an advisory Opinion in a case before the European Court of Justice (the Court) involving German pensioners claiming a compensatory supplement in Austria, that was decided last year. [C-140/12, Brey] That decision did not receive as much media coverage as the decision in the Dano case did.

In this latter case, Elisabetta Dano, a Romanian living with her sister in Germany since 2010, is portrayed as the social benefit tourist par excellence. She has never worked in Germany and apparently was not looking for work. She applied for a social benefit and the German authorities refused her application. She challenged the refusal on grounds of EU law, notably free movement of persons and non-discrimination on the basis of nationality. Upon questions from the national judge, the CJEU ruled that Member States can exclude EU citizens in the position of Elisabetta Dano from access to the specific social benefits that Ms Dano had requested.

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Making the same mistake all over again: Juncker’s reshuffling of public health portfolios

Posted by ACELG on 25/09/14
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What did we learn from the BSE crisis? Remember how the European Commission was criticised for letting market concerns take precedence over public health protection? With the ongoing reshuffling of the Commission portfolios by President-elect Juncker, some major units for EU public health protection, such as ‘Health Technology and Cosmetics’, ‘Medicinal Products – Authorisations, European Medicines Agency’, and ‘Medical Products – Quality, Safety and Efficacy’, move from DG SANCO (Health) to DG Enterprise and Industry. The changes to the portfolios come without further explanation and after the deadline for the Parliament to ask written questions has passed. At the same time, the message sent to EU citizens seems to be that in the EU, public health is a means for economic interests rather than an end in and of itself.

By Anniek de Ruijter

In the years following the BSE-crisis increasingly public health portfolios were moved to the health commissioner and became the responsibility of DG SANCO. Important and major aspects of the European internal market such as the safety for pharmaceuticals, medical products and health technology were all moved to DG SANCO. With respect to pharmaceuticals, an important reason for putting DG SANCO in charge was that DG Enterprise failed to manage the 2009 H1N1 crisis with respect to the coordination and availability of vaccines. Thus it was recognized that public health specialists needed to work in tandem in such extremely difficult and multifaceted crises. This mirrors the situation in Member States, where one may find it difficult to find ministerial departments on economic and financial affairs in charge of the approval and safety of medicinal products.

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Secession within the Union: Scotland said NO, but the quest for a legal framework continues

Posted by ACELG on 19/09/14

By Catherine Brölmann and Thomas Vandamme

By a narrow margin, the 300-year-old union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom survived the referendum held on 18 September 2014. British – and Scottish – membership in the EU has been one of the prominent factors in the political debate, which has addressed issues like the effect of a reduced UK on the balance of power within the EU and the consequences of Scottish independence for the imminent ‘Brexit’ referendum. Yet the legal framework for secession within the Union, which these political narratives presuppose, is all but clear. In this blog we explore some important legal and political aspects of the scenario of secession within the Union.

The question of the legal framework remains highly salient even given the victory of the No Campaign. Scottish independence may have been averted for now, but other regions in Europe with strong cultural and linguistic identities have similar aspirations. There is, of course, Catalonia where a referendum on independence (although ex ante declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court) is scheduled for 9 November 2014. Meanwhile, in the Belgian region of Flanders, a persistently vital pro-independence movement experiences one electoral success after another, rendering the country increasingly difficult to govern. Political developments such as these remind us that secession of federated states, countries, or regions from EU Member States is a real possibility.

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Ten Years of Decentralized EU Competition Law Enforcement: Success or Failure?

Amsterdam, 14 November 2014

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the new enforcement system of EU competition law, which was introduced by Regulation 1/2003. Ten years of functioning of the Regulation calls for reflection and evaluation.

The Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG) has the pleasure of inviting you to its Fourth Annual Conference: ‘Ten Years of Decentralized EU Competition Law Enforcement. Success or Failure?’, which will take place on 14 November 2014.

The goal of this conference is to take stock of the various constitutional (legal and institutional) developments that followed the entering into force of Regulation 1/2003. It brings together academics and practitioners to discuss the constitutional implications of these developments in the EU’s and the Member States’ legal orders and to evaluate the first ten years of the Regulation’s functioning.

More detailed information and the programme as well as a registration form can be found here. Attendance is free of charge, but subject to registration.

Not more or less EU, but more openness

More than ever before, the recent European elections campaigns seemed to revolve around one single question: are you for or against the EU? That is a pity, since the big political challenge that the EU will have to face during the coming years is not about more or less EU, but about making its decision making function in a democratic manner. To reach that goal, the EU will above all have to start working in a more transparent manner.

By Maarten Hillebrandt


The Big European Debate

“This time it’s different”, large letters on the Berlaymont told passers-by over the past weeks. The Brussels headquarters had placed these banners in an attempt to turn the tumultuous atmosphere among the European electorate into votes. Europhile or Europhobe, it does not matter, the European Parliament told us in Facebook advertisements – as long as you will go and vote. And from the Spitzenkandidaten to the political bloc Le Pen – Wilders, politicians were stumbling over each other to coax voters with their stories of all that is marvellous or despicable about the European government.

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The European Elections: Time for Another ‘Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate’?

Posted by ACELG on 29/05/14
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The recent elections for the European Parliament, despite ensuing some ‘earthquake’ changes to national political scenes, have been business-as-usual to a large extent: yet again no genuine public debate over the ‘European project’ and its ownership. Is a new ‘Plan-D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate’ necessary?

By Vigjilenca Abazi

After the failure of the European Constitution in 2005, the European Commission issued the so-called Plan-D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate with the aim to ‘reinvigorate European democracy and help the emergence of a European public sphere, where citizens are given the information and the tools to actively participate … and gain ownership of the European project’. The results of the recent European Parliament elections, albeit not representing a peak of crisis as may have been the referendum for the Constitution, show that this aim is yet to be achieved and new clear steps towards a democratic practice in Europe are still needed.

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Austerity EU-style: not very social, not very democratic

Posted by ACELG on 14/05/14
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Turnout at the European elections has been steadily on the decline since the European Parliament was first elected directly by European citizens in 1979. At the last elections, five years ago, only 43% of voters bothered to make their way to the polls. The low turnout appears at odds with the evolution of the European Parliament’s powers. Especially after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (2009), its powers have increased significantly. Still, areas remain where there is much to gain for the Parliament. In this blog post I will consider one such area where effective democratic control is currently lacking, namely the operations of the so-called ‘Troika’. Voters could have much more influence on the operations of the Troika through the European Parliament than through their national parliaments, if the Parliament puts its recent Troika report to good use.

 

By Chris Koedooder

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