17 January 2024
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Rule of Law Abnegated

This year is the second winter that thousands of asylum seekers will spend on the cold streets of Brussels. More than 2700 of them are still without any material assistance and shelter. 869 of them have a domestic court order recognising their right to reception, yet the Belgian government has consistently refused to implement them. This deliberate refusal to secure the human rights of migrants, especially where these are single males, is not only creating a humanitarian disaster in Belgium’s streets but also undermines the raison d’être of Belgian democracy. While the government’s actions have been condemned by human rights experts and courts alike, we argue it is arguably reflective of a worrying wider trend in the EU of the impotence of the law to secure human rights for migrants.

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05 December 2023
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The Belgian Climate Case

On November 30, the Brussels Court of Appeal rendered a landmark decision in the climate case brought by “Klimaatzaak” (“climate case” in Dutch) against Belgian public authorities (the federal and the three regional governments). In this decision, the court found the federal authority and the Brussels and Flemish regions’ climate action to be in violation of Articles 2 and 8 of the ECHR and of their duty of care, and imposed a minimal GHG reduction target to be reached by Belgian authorities for the future. In their blogpost, Alice Briegleb and Antoine De Spiegeleir provide a clear overview of the case, exploring its previous stages and insisting on the continuing failures of the Belgian climate governance and its complex federal structure. We focus on our part on how the decision makes it clear that the climate justice movement is now confronted with the tension between the legally required and the ethically desirable parameters of climate effort distribution.

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From Urgenda to Klimaatzaak

On November 30, the Brussels Court of Appeal handed down its ruling in VZW Klimaatzaak v. Kingdom of Belgium & Others, commonly known as “the Belgian climate case.” The ruling is clear: Belgian authorities failed to participate adequately in the global effort to curb global warming, and they must imperatively reduce their emissions. Subscribing fully to Matthias Petel and Norman Vander Putten’s sharp analysis of how this litigation saga embodies tensions between climate justice and the separation of powers, we wish to highlight three remarkable aspects of the case. After quickly summarizing the first instance judgment and last week’s ruling, we begin by touching on the elephant in the (court)room: the articulation of the available scientific evidence with the limits of courts’ power of review and injunction. Then, we say a word about the Brussels Court of Appeal’s thorough application of European human rights law. We finish by deploring, as did the Court, Belgian federalism’s inefficiencies.

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15 February 2023
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Ignoring Human Life in Belgium

Two kilometers from Manneken-Pis in beautiful Brussels is the seat of the Belgian Constitutional Court, which has recently condoned the torture of an innocent citizen putting the very right to life on the line in a blunt attack against the overwhelming political consensus, as well as popular and academic support to save Olivier Vandecasteele’s life. Today, all eyes are on the court, as it will get a chance to correct the injustice of its own making.

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23 November 2021
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Security-vested Institutional Racism

With liminal legal spaces expanding on several domains of non-EU migrants’ lives in Europe, specific populations of third country nationals came to face greater discriminatory treatment. Rules and procedures were being adopted in the name of security and the protection of the public and/or social order against so-called “irregular migration”. We focus on non-EU migrants in Belgium, as they constitute an extremely relevant case to illustrate how institutions of a liberal, democratic European state have transformed and adapted the ways they operate discrimination along racist lines.

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25 June 2021
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Attack on the Rights of LGBTQIA+ People in Hungary: Not Just Words, but Deeds as Well?

On 15 June, the Hungarian parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to pass legislation that, in essence, and under the pretext of protecting minors, bans images or content that depicts or ‘promotes’ homosexuality or trans-identity from the public space. The new law adds to a long list of measures already adopted by Hungary over the past several years, that also have the objective of discriminating and stigmatising the LGBTQIA+ population. These measures moreover are part of a wider context of deliberate erosion of liberal democracy in Hungary. The European Union's toolbox reveals its limits here. Why, therefore, not turn to the Council of Europe, with its European Convention on Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights?

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17 June 2021

A Hidden Revolution

European data protection law has become (in-)famously known as one of the main tools for both the European legislature and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to push the boundaries of European integration. The most recent decision of the Court in Case C-645/19, 15 June 2021 – Facebook Ireland continues this well-established tradition. What may at first glance appear as a rather technical ruling might initiate a hidden revolution and lead to an unprecedented step for the ever-closer integration of the EU’s legal order.

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10 March 2021

Belgium’s Accordion Response to COVID-19

As Covid-19 started to make its way onto Belgian territory, the Belgian federal government found itself in the midst of political disorder and negotiations to form a government after the May 2019 elections. Up until March 2020, the competent authority to decide on Covid measures was a caretaker minority government (Regering Wilmès I). But, after the first big outburst of cases in Belgium, the government formation accelerated. Nine political parties made a deal to give the resigning minority government full authority to combat the virus and its economic and social ramifications by a motion of confidence (Regering Wilmès II).

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01 August 2020

Strasbourg slams old democracies on elections

On July 10 this year, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered a seminal judgement in the field of elections in the case of Mugemangango v. Belgium. Beyond its implications for Belgium in particular and the interpretation of Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR in general, the judgement rocks the long-standing distinction in Strasbourg case-law between old and new democracies. The message from Strasbourg is as clear as it is timely: The rule of law applies equally for all.

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02 May 2019

Der Staat gegen seine Richter: Eindrücke von der EGMR-Verhandlung im Fall M.N.

Es gibt zwei große Fragen in diesem Fall M.N. gg. Belgien, der am 24. April 2019 vor der Großen Kammer des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte (EGMR) verhandelt wurde. Die erste betrifft die Pflicht eines Staates, unter besonderen Umständen in einer Botschaft ein Visum auszustellen, welches Personen erlaubt, einzureisen und dann Asyl zu beantragen. Daneben wirft der Fall M.N. aber eine zweite Frage auf, die an Grundsätzlichkeit und Relevanz kaum hinter der ersten zurückbleibt. Es ist dies die Frage nach der offenen und ausdrücklichen Missachtung von Gerichtsentscheidungen durch die Verwaltung, wie sie in diesem Fall stattfand, also eine Frage nach Gewaltenteilung und Rechtsstaatlichkeit.

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03 September 2018

Spanish Jurisdiction at Stake: Puigdemont’s Judge to be Judged by a Belgian Court?

Tomorrow, a new weird chapter opens up in the „affair Puigdemont“: The Spanish Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who unsuccessfully issued the European Arrest Warrant against former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, is cited before a Belgian court. He is object of a civil lawsuit filed by Puigdemont who accuses the magistrate of a lack of impartiality and violating the presumption of innocence as well as his right to reputation. What is the most astonishing about this lawsuit is the fact that it is a Belgian court which shall judge the professional actions of a Spanish judge.

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16 August 2017

Reviewing the recent Ban on Ritual Slaughter in Flanders

Flanders has adopted a ban of religious slaughter without stunning, following the Walloon region that had done the same earlier this year. In analysing the Flemish decree, three critical remarks need to be made in putting the new law into the right legal perspective.

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24 October 2016

European vetocracy? How to overcome the Wallonian CETA problem

Democracy is not the issue here. Rather, the CETA/Wallonia issue is a vivid demonstration of overfederalization that leaves not only Belgium but the entire European Union unable to act. As an ultima ratio, one option remains: Why not simply close the agreement without Belgium?

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Ganz Gallien? Fehlschlüsse aus dem wallonischen CETA-Veto

Wallonien lässt die westliche Welt zappeln – und wird dafür je nach politischem Standpunkt des Betrachters als einzig aufrechtes gallisches Dorf besungen oder als eigennützige Erpresserbande geschmäht. Stutzig macht jedoch die prompte Reaktion, man hätte CETA besser doch nicht als „gemischtes Abkommen“ einstufen sollen, sondern als Abkommen zwischen der EU und Kanada ohne direkte Beteiligung der Mitgliedstaaten. Diese Reaktion zeugt von Demokratieverachtung.

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23 October 2016

Wallonien, CETA und die Tyrannei der Minderheit

Demokratie ist für die Vorgänge in Wallonien nicht das richtige Stichwort. Zu besichtigen ist eine Überföderalisierung mit der Folge einer Handlungsblockade nicht nur Belgiens, sondern der gesamten Europäischen Union. Doch als Ultima Ratio bleibt eine Option: Warum nicht das Abkommen einfach ohne Belgien abschließen?

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06 October 2016

Can private undertakings hide behind “religious neutrality”?

Is the pursuit of religious neutrality an acceptable aim for public and private organisations alike, on the basis of which they may prohibit their employees from wearing religious signs or apparel whilst at work? In two pending cases before the CJEU, the Advocates General seem to arrive at opposite conclusions on this point. To solve this puzzle, I think it is crucial to see that there are two radically different reasons why a private-sector company may wish to adopt an identity of religious neutrality, which reflect two distinct types of interest a company may have in religious neutrality: a business interest and an interest as a member of society.

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22 March 2016

Beschütze uns, Europa!

Euroskeptiker rufen nach den Anschlägen von Brüssel schriller denn je nach einer Renationalisierung der Sicherheitspolitik. Dabei scheint das Gegenteil viel plausibler: Um uns vor grenzüberschreitendem Terror effektiv zu schützen, ist Europa zu schwach und nicht zu stark.

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28 September 2015

Ohrfeige im Polizeigewahrsam: Menschenwürde kennt keine Bagatellgrenze

Es ist so lange nicht her, dass der Schlag ins Gesicht des Gegenübers eine wenn schon nicht übliche, so doch im Großen und Ganzen sozial akzeptierte und respektierte Sache war. Mit einer Ohrfeige stellt die Frau ihre Ehre, mit einem Fausthieb der Mann seine Männlichkeit, und mit einem ganzen Assortissement aus Klapsen, Nasenstübern, Watschen, Kopfnüssen und weißgottnichtallem alle beide ihre Autorität gegenüber aufmüpfigen Kindern wieder her. Immer ins Gesicht musste es jedenfalls gehen, aus dem der Geschlagene gerade noch so unverschämt und rotzfrech herausgeschaut hat, anstatt, wie es sich gehört, die Augen schamvoll zu Boden zu richten. Das ist zwar heute umfassend verboten, aber wenn die Frechheit nur groß genug ist, sind wir auch heute nicht gefeit davor, das schon mal ganz in Ordnung oder zumindest verständlich zu finden, wenn da jemandem "die Hand ausrutscht". Dieser Art von klammheimlichem Verständnis hat heute die Große Kammer des Europäischen Gerichtshofs, zumindest was die Polizei betrifft, ein klares Ende bereitet.

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23 October 2014

The Belgian Senate: little damage, little use

The Belgian Senate has just emerged from a major State reform which has significantly reduced its competences. The absence of a federal political culture and the presence of a very strong party system make it hard for the Second Chamber to find a proper role in the political system of Belgium.

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04 September 2014

EGMR erschwert Auslieferung von Terrorverdächtigen an die USA

Lebenslange Haft ohne Aussicht auf Bewährung in den USA ist unmenschlich und nicht mit der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention vereinbar. Kein Mitgliedsstaat darf daher einen Menschen, dem eine solche Strafe droht, an die USA ausliefern. Zu diesem Schluss kommt eine EGMR-Kammer in dem heute verkündeten Urteil Trabelsi v. Belgien.