05 February 2024

Unveiling Democracy

On 11 January, Advocate General Richard de la Tour delivered his Opinions in two cases, against the Czech Republic and Poland, which cautiously uncover part of the core of the EU value of democracy. The Commission launched these infringement cases against the two Member States back in November 2012 and April 2013 respectively. Now that the rule of law is a well-established principle of EU law, these cases present themselves as a chance to focus on a less explored value enshrined in Article 2 TEU. They allow the Court to construct a foundation to address prospective questions regarding democratic principles.

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20 December 2023
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Between Return and Protection

Last month, the ECJ responded to a preliminary reference of the Regional Court in Brno concerning Czechia’s so-called return procedure. The ECJ ruled that a third country national cannot be subject to a return decision if they applied for international protection and a first-instance decision on that application has not yet been delivered. Curiously, the ECJ thereby answered a question it had not actually been asked, while contradicting the conclusion of the Grand Chamber of the Czech Supreme Administrative Court (“SAC”), rendered shortly before. While the ECJ’s ruling will nonetheless improve some of the problems that have inhered within Czechia’s approach to international protection and return procedures, its failure to answer the referred question constitutes a missed opportunity to facilitate a productive dialogue with referring courts in an area of law where preliminary references have been exceedingly rare.

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31 August 2023

How to Form the Czech Constitutional Court?

Politically, summers in the Czech Republic are often quiet. This year is different. A newly elected president, Petr Pavel, is selecting almost all of the fifteen members of the Czech Constitutional Court ("CCC") during the next two years. Unexpectedly, Pavel's selection process has sparked a great deal of controversy and discussion about how a president should choose constitutional judges. What happened? And what are the main lessons to be learned from the current situation in the Czech Republic?

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16 August 2023
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The Strasbourg Court Goes Astray

On 1 June 2023, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR concluded a saga that even experts of the Strasbourg Court might have overlooked. In the Grosam case, the alleged shortcomings in the disciplinary procedure involving a Czech enforcement officer (bailiff) have been addressed. The Grosam chamber judgment was certainly not a routine case. The chamber judgment went to the core of the role of the ECtHR and, if it would have been allowed to stand, it could have seriously undermined the legitimacy of the whole system of the Strasbourg protection.

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12 January 2023

Subsidy Fraud, Relevant Markets and Presidential Elections

Former prime minister and now a member of the Czech parliament Andrej Babiš scored a victory only a few days before the upcoming Czech presidential elections. On 9 January 2023, the Municipal Court in Prague finally issued a verdict in a criminal case involving him and his colleague Ms Nagyová on charges of grant fraud and damaging the financial interests of the European Union. The court concluded that the acts of Mr Babiš and Ms Nagyová, as framed by the prosecution, did not constitute a felony. Hence, to the surprise of many, including Mr Babiš’ attorney, the court acquitted both defendants. The importance of the case can hardly be understated.

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19 October 2022

Sex, God, and Blasphemy

Blasphemy used to be a grave offence once. Now, it is on the decline, making room for freedom of expression. Yet, two judgments of last week show that blasphemy has managed to re-enter the stage through the back door. In this blogpost, I argue that although both cases ended well, i.e. were decided in favour of freedom of expression of artists and activists, both courts erred in their assessment of the role of religion and religious sentiment in European secular democracies.

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13 October 2022

The Cardinal vs. the Theater

On 11 October 2022, the Czech Constitutional Court published its eagerly-awaited judgment resolving the conflict between religious belief and freedom of artistic expression. The case was initiated by a constitutional complaint of the head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Dominik Duka. The complainants alleged that a theater‘s allegorical plays which mocked the catholic church and their belief were blasphemous and violated their constitutional rights, in particular a freedom of religion.

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03 September 2022
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Czechia’s First Climate Judgment

Czechia’s first climate change lawsuit ended with a small sensation. On the hot summer day of 15th June, the Municipal Court in Prague ruled that four Czech Ministries violated the plaintiffs‘ right to a favourable environment. The violation consists in the omission to set any concrete mitigation measures that would lead to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the year 2030 compared to the year 1990. As the Urgenda Climate Case and other landmark judgments have paved the way for climate action around the world, this first noteworthy ruling of the region blazed the trail specifically for other courts in Central and Eastern Europe.

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06 April 2022
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Evasive, Insensitive, Ignorant, and Political

Czech law stipulates that a trans person who seeks gender reassignment must undergo surgery “while simultaneously disabling the reproductive function and transforming the genitalia.” Although a majority of judges of the Czech Constitutional Court agreed that this requirement is clearly unconstitutional, the provision has nevertheless withstood constitutional scrutiny and remains part of the Czech legal order.

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04 February 2022
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The Taming of the Czech Executive

On Wednesday, 2/2/2022, the Czech Supreme Administrative Court quashed an executive measure imposing the so-called “2G rule” (geimpft/genesen, i.e. vaccinated/recovered) on selected service providers, most importantly restaurants and hotels. While the vocal opponents of vaccination celebrate the ruling and refer to the judiciary as ‘the last bastion of freedom’, there was some major misrepresentation of what the SAC has (not) established in this very viral judgment. The executive measure under review was not quashed because ‘the state must not force people into voluntary vaccination’, nor because ‘kicking the unvaccinated out of pubs is illegal and must stop’. Since the only legal argument for quashing the measure was the lack of competence of the Ministry of Health, it seems like there was much ado about nothing.

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15 October 2021

Babiš’s Media

Just before the parliamentary elections on October 8 - 9 2021, the Czech populist Prime Minister Andrej Babiš banned a group of journalists from Czech and foreign media outlets from attending his press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán. It is telling of Babiš’s disregard for the rules of the democratic game. The erosion of freedom of press in Czechia continues, but the parliamentary election results might change the state of play.

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11 October 2021

Post-Electoral Changes in Czechia with a Hospitalised Head of State

The Czech Republic held parliamentary elections this past weekend, on 8 and 9 October 2021. The party of the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babiš was defeated, albeit by a small margin, and for the first time in its history, the country will most likely be led by a government composed of no less than five political entities. Constitutionally (and traditionally), the President of the Republic moderates the post-electoral negotiations between the parties, convenes the first meeting of the newly established Chamber of Deputies, and appoints the new Prime Minister and the government. However, President Miloš Zeman was taken to hospital yesterday, on the day after the general elections, and remains hospitalised at an intensive care unit. Could the President’s illness at this very crucial moment cause a constitutional stalemate?

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03 May 2021
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I am the State

The final report of the European Commission dealing with its decision on the European subsidies for the companies associated with the Agrofert holding owned by the Czech Prime Minister has been published on 23 April. Babiš' strong reaction not only reveals something about the ongoing conflict of interest, but also about his neo-patrimonial ruling in general. It is clear that Babiš does not distinguish between public and private positions – he treats public property in the same way an entrepreneur treats private property.

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12 April 2021

Is Compulsory Vaccination Compulsory?

On Thursday 8 April 2021, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in Vavřička and others v. the Czech Republic. The Grand Chamber ruled strongly (16:1) in favour of the Czech government, granting the state a wide margin of appreciation in the assessment of the need for compulsory vaccination of children. In light of the COVID-related challenges, it is important that the Court took a clear stance regarding the importance of vaccination. At the same time, however, it is regrettable that the Court did not offer a stronger and more coherent reasoning justifying its value-driven decision.

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30 March 2021

Czechs and Balances – One Year Later

This blogpost analyses the Czech situation from the perspective of the rule of law requirements and identifies two main deficiencies: a significant and long-lasting shift of power to the executive, and an ostentatious lack of reasoning of the executive crisis measures. Fortunately, these ‘two tales of executive arrogance’ have been somewhat counterweighed by the legislature and the judiciary.

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20 February 2021
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Better Late than Never

On 2 February 2021, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic repealed several crucial provisions of the electoral law. This decision is surprising since all of the previous petitions to repeal the electoral law were rejected by the Court for either procedural reasons or for manifest unfoundedness. The decision also presents a fairly active and, perhaps, unfortunately timed intervention of the judicial branch into the current political reality in the Czech Republic nine months before the upcoming election.

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13 July 2020

Patching a gap in the EU’s system of judicial remedies

In the judgment in case C-575/18 P last week, the Court of Justice closed a hole in the EU’s system of judicial protection: it ruled that judicial review of a Commission’s claim of own resources under Regulation 1150/2000 could be obtained through an action for damages for unjust enrichment based on analogous application of Art. 268, 340 (2) TFEU. This case shines a light both on the deficiencies in the EU system of legal remedies and on the approach of the Court of Justice in addressing them.

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20 May 2020

Czechs and Balances – If the Epidemiological Situation Allows…

In the Czech Republic, the COVID-19 crisis has brought not only a general state of chaos but also a considerable shift of powers to the executive branch. The first shift, impairing the legislative branch, was triggered by the declaration of a state of emergency on 12 March 2020. The second shift, diminishing also the role of the judiciary, was caused by a ruling in which the Constitutional showed its unwillingness to interfere with the government’s steps.

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12 January 2018

The Kundera Case and the Neurotic Collective Memory of Postcommunism

History is a battlefield of present politics. Dealing with the past reveals the power struggles and strategies of the present. Past events are both denounced and glorified by political agents of the present hoping to weaken their enemies. However, the past also contains injustices and political crimes and any decision not to deal with them in the present only reaffirms them and confirms the unjust status of their victims. Not to contend with the past injustices thus compromises the legitimacy of the present system of positive law. To deal, or not to deal with the past, indeed, is an important question. However, it is also inseparable from questions of which past is to be dealt with and how.

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11 December 2014

Von der Freiheit, sein Kind daheim zur Welt zu bringen

Wer es erlebt hat, wird mir zustimmen: Es gibt kaum einen intimeren, mächtigeren, das Innerste buchstäblich nach außen kehrenderen Moment im Leben als die Geburt des eigenen Kindes. Bis zu welcher Grenze ist es dem Staat erlaubt, diesen Moment unter seine fürsorgliche Kontrolle zu bringen, zu meiner und meines Kindes Sicherheit, notfalls auch gegen meinen Willen? Diese Frage sucht der EGMR heute in zwei tschechischen Fällen zu beantworten. Er plagt sich erkennbar dabei, springt aber im Ergebnis der Mutter und ihrer Freiheit, vor, während und nach der Geburt über sich selbst und über ihr Kind zu bestimmen, zur Seite.

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12 March 2013

Cze