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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Bitter-sweet birthday parties – The 10th anniversary of enlargement

Posted by ACELG on 08/05/14
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On 1 May 2014 it was exactly ten years ago that  ten new countries joined the European Union: Cyprus, Malta, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The enlargement process has significantly shaped and transformed not only acceding countries’ legal, economic and political system, but also that of the EU.

By Kati Cseres

In what has been widely regarded as a historical moment, on 1 May 2004 the East and West of Europe were united after decades of separation, marking the beginning of an economic and political challenge for both the EU and its Member States. At the same time, with the accession ended an exceptionally large-scale legal  exercise: the alignment of ten countries’ legal systems and specific legal rules to that of EU law. The largest enlargement of the EU so far increased the number of EU Member States from 15 to 25 (and later, with two subsequent enlargements, to 28) and added  70 million new citizens  and nine more official  languages to the EU.


Why you should never answer the question ‘do you trust the EU’, and what you should know if you hear others answering it

Posted by ACELG on 24/04/14
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In the run up to the European Elections there has been some media attention to the public’s trust in the EU – which is reportedly falling. Polls show that apparently people do not trust the EU. While there are many legitimate concerns about the relation of the EU and its citizens, there are likewise many legitimate concerns over such polls. To sum them up:  the polls ask that indeterminate and thus meaningless question trust as such. They do not specify what it is that I am supposed to trust the EU with (or not), and thus inquire after an attitude without an object.

by Eljalill Tauschinsky


The EU Barometer polls levels of trust in the EU routinely by asking: ‘For each of the following institutions, please tell me if you trust or tend not to trust it.’ Apparently this is a rather standard way of asking the question, although there could be some variation in terms or translations, such as replacing ‘trust’ by ‘confidence’- but let’s stay with trust for the moment.


Sceptic UK can bring new ideas on bottom up democracy in Europe

Posted by ACELG on 09/04/14

The prospect of an in-out referendum in the UK in 2017 (if the Conservatives are back in power) is a fantastic incentive for politicians (and academics) to come up with new ideas on ways of governing Europe. The Brits are showing the way on how national parliaments can become more involved in holding the EU executive to account.

By Deirdre Curtin

The British input into this wider debate on the future of Europe is often ‘negative’ and defensive.  An example is the proposal by a group of UK parliamentarians to get a new power to  ‘veto’ planned EU legislation. Yet not all is negative or destructive in the UK thinking on Europe. The House of Commons is engaged in forward-looking reflection and recommendations, in particular on its own scrutiny role. In a recent report looks to consolidate a wider role for national parliaments in democratic self-government in Europe. National parliaments are after all the key actors to hold their governments (ministers and civil servants) to account for what they agree in European Council and Council meetings. This is a task that cannot be taken over by the European Parliament, but that needs to be exercised pro-actively on the ground by the parliaments in the various national capitals.


Germany’s (Hurdle) Race to the bottom: The abolition of the 3%-hurdle for the European elections in Germany

Posted by ACELG on 26/03/14

by Mark Dawson and Pierre Thielboerger

What kind of European Parliament (EP) will emerge from the coming European elections? The hopes of many European leaders rest on their ability to produce a stronger and more politicized EP. This task has been made more difficult by the recent ruling of the German Constitutional Court squashing the 3%-threshold for German parties seeking election to the EP.  In striking down a legislative compromise between supporters and opponents of a more proportional European electoral system, and by dismissing the evolving role of the EP as a link between EU citizens and EU policy, the Court may have risked overstepping its institutional mandate.

In truth, the Court’s ruling was not wholly unexpected. In an earlier judgment – from November 2011 – the Constitutional Court struck down a 5% threshold on the grounds that this violated provisions in the German Constitution protecting the equality of voters. Recognizing the increasing preference of German voters for new political parties, the Court argued that their entry into the European Parliament would not damage the ability of that institution to function. Arousing suggestions of double-standards, the Court did not extend this line of reasoning to German regional or federal elections.

The most recent judgment follows the approach of its predecessor, arguing that ‘no significant change in the factual and legal circumstances’ has occurred since 2011. In general terms, the judgment re-enforces the low regard in which the German Court holds the EP: it is viewed largely as an institution designed to ‘re-enforce’ the legitimacy of the other EU institutions (the Commission and Council) and to hold them accountable. As such, an increasing fragmentation of the Parliament would not do similar damage in Europe as it would nationally.



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