25 November 2022

#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 2: Belarus

In the second episode of Defending the Defenders, we talk to Dmitri Laevski about the rule of law and human rights in Belarus. Dmitri is a criminal attorney turned human rights lawyer in the wake of the 2020 presidential elections. He takes us through the recent history of the rule of law in Belarus, from realising that the concept he learned about in university didn't really exist in practice to the organisation of the legal professions in the last decade to the rule of law crackdown in 2020 and ever since. Continue reading >>

Protecting Media Content on Social Media Platforms

On 16 September 2022 the European Commission released a proposal for a Regulation establishing a common framework for media services in the internal market, also known as the European Media Freedom Act. The proposal includes safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions, and includes a series of provisions targeting online services and establishing additional obligations and regulatory powers in this field. Continue reading >>
23 November 2022

Trojan Horses and Constitutional Identity

In Costello v Ireland the Irish Supreme Court upheld a constitutional challenge by a Green Party MP to the Government’s proposed ratification of the CETA. By a majority of 4:3, the Court held that ratification would breach Irish juridical sovereignty. Beyond CETA, the greater significance of Costello may lie in its endorsement of constitutional identity as a doctrinal device that controls Ireland’s domestic legal engagement with its international law obligations. The new status accorded to constitutional identity, however, may provide future Irish courts with the doctrinal tools to recalibrate the relationship between the Irish and EU legal orders. Continue reading >>
18 November 2022

The Reform That Isn’t

As states are set to vote on the reform of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) at a Conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on 22 November, concerns regarding the treaty's impact on states' climate policies remain significant. In our assessment, the proposed reform fails to provide the treaty’s contracting parties with the necessary regulatory freedom to implement their climate commitments. Scheduled for the week after COP27, the vote comes at a crucial time, as scientists agree that this is the decisive decade to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Meanwhile, several EU Member States, including Germany, France, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have announced unilateral withdrawals from the treaty, stating that the proposed reform fails to meet their expectations. Continue reading >>

Trusting Hungary with Billions of Euros

It’s crunch time for the Conditionality Regulation at the European Commission. In its College meeting on 22 November, the Commission is scheduled to discuss whether Hungary has actually made the 17 changes it proposed in order to avoid cuts to its Cohesion Funds. What the Commission chooses to do will depend on whether it believes that Hungary’s anti-corruption program will in fact allow Hungary to be entrusted with billions of Euros without having a sizeable fraction of those Euros pocketed by cronies. We believe that Hungary’s reforms are designed to be ineffective and will not even begin to halt the massive corruption that is the hallmark of Hungary’s kleptocracy. Continue reading >>
17 November 2022

Picking Primacy over Procedural Autonomy

On 8 November, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘the Court’) decided that national courts are required to ascertain of their own motion whether detention of an illegally staying foreign national or asylum seeker is lawful. This judgment is an example of the ever-growing impact of EU law on national procedural rules, especially in the migration law area. The judgment is also noteworthy because of the difference in approach between, on the one hand, the Court and, on the other hand, the Dutch referring courts and AG Richard de la Tour. Continue reading >>

Nature Restoration and Fundamental Rights

This year’s most heated topic of constitutional contestation in Finland is likely to be the Commission’s recent proposal for nature restoration. While nature restoration has an innocent sound, the matter actually involves a broad spectrum of constitutional issues. In this debate, political undesirability has turned into claims about the EU’s lacking competence in regulating forests and a general failure to respect the principle of subsidiarity. Last Friday the Finnish Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee approved an interesting statement of principle, which is likely to affect the country’s stance on EU (fiscal) integration far beyond the question of nature restoration. Continue reading >>

Extradition and the Regrettable Influence of Politics upon Law

Amongst the ECtHR jurisprudence giving rise to political disgruntlement in the United Kingdom have been judgments on extradition and deportation. Attempts to remove individuals from the UK through one of these avenues have occasionally been frustrated on human rights grounds. In the context of the UK government’s ill-disguised hostility to human rights the Grand Chamber on 3 November issued Sanchez-Sanchez v. UK (App.no. 22854/20). The case considered the application of article 3 of the ECHR prohibiting torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment where an accused drug trafficker was sought by way of extradition by the United States where he faced the possibility of an irreducible life sentence of imprisonment. Continue reading >>
15 November 2022

Der Energiecharta-Vertrag im Kreuzfeuer der Kritik

Kaum ein anderer völkerrechtlicher Vertrag aus dem Bereich des internationalen Wirtschaftsrechts hat in den letzten Jahren so sehr die politischen Gemüter bewegt, wie der Energiecharta-Vertrag (Energy Charter Treaty – ECT). Am 11. November 2022 hat auch die Bundesregierung erklärt, aus dem Energiecharta-Vertrag auszutreten. Zur Debatte steht jedoch, ob die Gründe dafür überzeugen können. Denn ob man es politisch will oder nicht, mit einem Rücktritt vom Energiecharta-Vertrag sind komplexe rechtliche Probleme verbunden. Continue reading >>

The post-Brexit Breakdown of the Rule of Law in the UK

The sad reality is that Brexit has contributed to an emerging breakdown of the Rule of Law in the United Kingdom. The famous slogan: ‘Take Back Control’ left open what a post-Brexit society should become. As a result, of course, what Brexit meant had to be worked out after the referendum, and here is where the tensions with the Rule of Law began in earnest, because ‘taking back control’ became, in effect, the only principle and anything that stood in the way of achieving that result was to be sacrificed, including the Rule of Law. Continue reading >>
14 November 2022

Are Hungary’s EU Funds Being Cut (or Not)?

The news about whether Hungary will receive EU funds (or not) these days is confusing. One day, we hear that the European Commission is proposing to lower the boom on Hungary by cutting a large chunk of its Cohesion Funds under the general EU budget. The next day, we hear that the Commission is nearing an agreement to approve Hungary’s Recovery Plan in order to greenlight the release of funds. Is the Commission using or surrendering its financial leverage to require that the Hungarian government honor the rule of law? Will the Hungarian government negotiate its way out of funding cuts by really loosening its autocratic grip on power, or would any reform be illusory? Continue reading >>

Klagewelle im Sonnenuntergang?

Im August 2022 hat ein Investor-Staat-Schiedsgericht Italien zu einer Entschädigungszahlung von 190 Mio. Euro plus Zinsen an das britische Öl- und Gasunternehmen Rockhopper verurteilt. Rechtsgrundlage war der Energiecharta-Vertrag), aus dem Italien bereits 2016 ausgetreten ist. Aufgrund einer Klausel im ECT könnte sich Italien – ebenso wie die vielen anderen Staaten, die sich derzeit vom ECT verabschieden – jedoch noch viele Jahre lang Klagen unter dem Vertrag ausgesetzt sehen. Die Entscheidung wirft somit Schlaglichter auf die Fragen, ob Italiens eigenmächtiger Austritt aus dem ECT als Vorbild für andere Vertragsstaaten dienen sollte, und welchen Spielraum der ECT für klimafreundliche Energiepolitiken gewährt. Continue reading >>

Nicht genug geärgert für immateriellen Schadensersatz

Die in Art. 82 Abs. 1 DSGVO vorgesehene Ersatzfähigkeit immaterieller Schäden aus DSGVO-Verletzungen sorgt vor den Gerichten der Mitgliedstaaten für beträchtliche Unsicherheiten, was sich in gegenwärtig neun Vorabentscheidungsersuchen an den EuGH zu dieser Thematik äußert. In dem am weitesten fortgeschritten Verfahren wurden am 06.10.2022 die Schlussanträge von General Generalanwalt Sánchez-Bordona veröffentlicht, die bedauerlich wenig zur Debatte beitragen, teils an der Sache vorbei argumentieren und den Gerichten schlicht keine praktikable Lösung zu den gestellten Vorlagefragen liefern. Continue reading >>
11 November 2022

#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 1: Poland

We Need to Talk About the Rule of Law is back for a second season that focuses on the impact of rule of law erosions on attorneys. In the first episode, we talk to MIKOŁAJ PIETRZAK. He is an attorney and the Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association, which is the oldest professional legal association in Poland and the administrative association of attorneys in Warsaw. Continue reading >>
10 November 2022

Mut zur Selbstkorrektur in Straßburg

Die Aussicht, in den USA zu lebenslanger Haft ohne Aussicht auf eine spätere Überprüfung verurteilt zu werden, ist nicht unbedingt ein Auslieferungshindernis. Das hatte der EGMR bisher noch anders gesehen – jetzt hat er seine Linie ausdrücklich korrigiert. Der Gerichtshof zeigt sich damit offen für einen Dialog mit den Gerichten der Konventionsstaaten, der auch für Deutschland im Streit um das Beamtenstreikverbot schon bald relevant werden könnte. Continue reading >>
09 November 2022

Meloni’s Illiberal Anti-Rave Law

Only ten days after it was sworn in and a week after it received the confidence vote from the Parliament, the new Italian government led by Giorgia Meloni presented its first decree-law containing numerous provisions on a variety of issues: health, justice, and security. The decree-law was the first legislative act presented by the new radical right-wing government. Members of the opposition argued that the decree, in particular the anti-rave norm, is a danger to the freedom of assembly of the Italian citizens and that is a law that Putin could have written. Continue reading >>

Will the DSA work?

The DSA has many components but, in its essence, it is a digital due process regulation bundled with risk-management tools. But will these tools work? My main concern about the DSA resides also in its strength – it relies on societal structures that the law can only foresee and incentivize but cannot build; only people can. These structures, such as local organisations analysing threats, consumer groups helping content creators, and communities of researchers, are the only ones to give life to the DSA’s tools. Continue reading >>
08 November 2022

Why the DSA could save us from the rise of authoritarian regimes

The rise of extremist right-wing governments, as observed recently in Italy, is closely linked to the business models of large digital platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Their algorithms polarise debates and stir up emotions because that enables them to keep people on their screens for longer and show them advertising. The European Union’s Digital Services Act is the framework to address this dangerous development. Continue reading >>

The DSA fails to reign in the most harmful digital platform businesses – but it is still useful

While the DSA has just been crafted carefully enough to avoid major damage to digital rights in the EU, it has focussed so much on who must delete what kind of content within which time frame, that it missed the bigger picture: no content moderation policy in the world will protect us from harmful online content as long as we do not address the dominant, yet incredibly damaging surveillance business model of most large tech firms. Continue reading >>
07 November 2022

With or Without Hungary

By December 2022, the Council must vote on the Commission's proposal to withdraw EU budgetary funds from Hungary under the Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation. Without a legal basis for its exclusion, Hungary will cast its vote on that proposal. Obviously, the participation of a Member State in a vote that decides on the consequences of its own rule of law violations seems paradoxical. There should be a general Treaty rule that prevents a Member State from voting in the Council when their own alleged misconduct is at stake. Continue reading >>

The EU’s new Digital Services Act and the Rest of the World

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is a major milestone in the history of platform regulation. Other governments are now asking themselves what the DSA’s passage means for them. The DSA is a far better law than most that have been proposed in other parts of the world. I have encouraged U.S. lawmakers to emulate it in many respects. But lawmakers around the world should view it as a starting point, rather than an end point, in considering potential regulations in their own countries. T Continue reading >>

If You Build It, They Will Come

Content moderation is not only an Internet governance problem; it is also, unavoidably, a form of de facto adjudication. When observed in detail, the “procedure before substance” approach of the DSA leaves many questions unanswered. The final text of the Regulation contains compromises and blind spots. Continue reading >>
04 November 2022

Regulating influence, timidly

The DSA considers advertising and recommender systems as deserving of regulatory attention, and not immutable facets of an online world. But even as the regulation furthers current standards in disclosures around online advertising, it insulates advertising business models and consolidates platform efforts to sidestep the operative question that characterizes online advertising: how and why advertisements reach who they reach, in less abstract terms. Continue reading >>

Uniform Interpretation and Primacy of Union Law in the Dialogue of the Courts

The issue of uniform interpretation and primacy of Union law raises a fundamental question concerning the allocation and distribution of judicial power in the European Union. From the point of view of Union law practice, however, the discussion, which is now beginning with renewed vigor, seems strangely out of touch with the times. Without offering any solutions or "last words" in this debate, some remarks on the current EU treaty law and its interpretation are in order. Continue reading >>

Now What

The question of the DSA's enforcement has already been getting considerable attention, with one of the main concerns being that the resources put forth by the European Commission are too humble when compared to the DSA’s far-reaching goals. More concerningly, the DSA leaves loopholes and grey areas in respect to native advertising and the influencer economy. Continue reading >>
03 November 2022

Remedying Overremoval

The DSA provides a whole set of notice and action mechanisms to address online harms. The codified mechanisms, together with detailed procedures, are foreseen for content that is illegal but also for content incompatible with platforms’ terms and conditions. But the DSA has also another goal, to ensure that the new rules respect fundamental human rights. While definitely a good step towards more effective protection of users’ rights, the true effect of the provided remedies will depend on their practical implementation. Some elements of the new regime may be a bold experiment the result of which is not fully predictable. Continue reading >>

Contextualisation over Replication

The EU is notorious for using regulatory solutions like the DSA to dominate and pre-empt global digital standards. Often, the major conversations on the international impacts of EU laws have oscillated between capture and actually providing normative leadership on thorny aspects of digital regulation. African countries should develop their own content regulation rules by paying more attention to their contexts and consider aspects of the DSA only where they will improve such local rules. Continue reading >>
02 November 2022

The DSA as a paradigm shift for online intermediaries’ due diligence

The DSA adopts a meta-regulatory approach. While the shift to a meta-regulatory model should be welcomed for enabling reflexive and adaptive regulation, we must also be weary of its risk of collapsing in the absence of well-resourced and independent institutions. Indeed, this risk affects the extent to which the exportation of the DSA outside Europe would be in the public interest. Continue reading >>

Foreign Agents, Diplomatic Skirmishes and the Law on Diplomatic and Consular Relations

In September 2022, the Madrid-based NGO ‘Safeguard Defenders’ published a report entitled ‘110 Overseas – Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild’, in which it documented the existence of at least 54 extraterritorial and undeclared Chinese police stations in more than 30 countries, many of them European Union Member States, such as Germany, Ireland, or the Netherlands. These police facilities, operated under the guise of ‘service centres’ supposedly providing diplomatic and consular services such as extending driving licences for Chinese nationals, have hence been located in cities such as Dublin, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. Continue reading >>

Between preservation and clarification

When assessing the liability rules in the DSA it is evident that the its emphasis has been on preservation of the E-Commerce Directive's rules. However, that does not mean that nothing at all has changed. In fact, a closer look reveals that in some respects a notable evolution has taken place. Continue reading >>
01 November 2022

An Intersectional Lens on Online Gender Based Violence and the Digital Services Act

The EU’s Digital Services Act introduces novel mandatory due diligence obligations for online platforms to address potential societal risks posed by the provision of their services - including the risk of online gender based violence. If effectively implemented, these provisions have the potential to set important standards for tackling some of the most pervasive harms of the digital ecosystem. However, these efforts will require the adoption of an intersectional methodology, otherwise they will simply fail to provide the necessary mechanisms for those most acutely impacted by these rights violations. Continue reading >>

Fundamental rights impact assessments in the DSA

The attention to fundamental rights in the new wave of EU digital regulation, confirmed in the Digital Services Act, is a significant step towards a more articulated and appropriate framework for protecting people in a context characterised by pervasive technologies that are often developed without adequate consideration of their impact on society. However, existing practices in human rights impact assessment show some limitations in being extended to the digital context. Continue reading >>
31 Oktober 2022

Platform oversight

The Digital Services Act requires EU member states to name a “Digital Services Coordinator” (DSC) to coordinate national regulators involved in platform oversight. But the DSCs are more than just “coordinators,” as they have to fulfill specific oversight tasks themselves. That is why member states should resist the temptation to build a small-scale coordinator and instead build a strong DSC with skills in data analysis, community management and flexible case-based work.  Continue reading >>

A Regulator Caught Between Conflicting Policy Objectives

The Digital Services Act has landed on an increased centralization of its enforcement powers in the hands of the European Commission. The rationale behind this centralized enforcement is understandable, particularly in light of the experience with GDPR enforcement. At the same time, it raises crucial questions about the future recurrence of such centralizaion in the Commission's hands, and the separation of powers more broadly. Continue reading >>
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The DSA has been published – now the difficult bit begins

The Digital Services Act (DSA) has finally been published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 27 October 2022. This publication marks the end of a years-long drafting and negotiation process, and opens a new chapter: that of its enforcement, practicable access to justice, and potential to set global precedents. Continue reading >>

Wahlprüfungsentscheidungen des Parlaments in eigener Sache?

Entscheidungen über die Rechtmäßigkeit und Gültigkeit von Parlamentswahlen berühren den Kern rechtsstaatlicher Garantien im demokratischen Prozess. Umso erstaunlicher ist es, dass einige unserer europäischen Nachbarländer für die Wahlprüfung immer noch auf rein parlamentarische Verfahren vertrauen. Der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte hat das 2020 moniert, dabei aber eine kaum erklärliche Hintertür offengelassen. Continue reading >>
28 Oktober 2022

Unexploited Monitoring Opportunities

Over the last year and a half, the European Border Coast Guard Agency has been under an unprecedented scrutiny. The Frontex saga started in 2020 when investigative journalists published ground-breaking findings, revealing how the Agency was breaching the law being complicit with human rights violations committed by Greek authorities. National Parliaments could play a bigger role in monitoring Frontex, serving as a complementary avenue for democratic oversight, in addition to the European Parliament. Continue reading >>
27 Oktober 2022

Einheitliche Auslegung und Vorrang des Unionsrechts im Dialog der Gerichte

Die Frage nach einheitlicher Auslegung und Vorrang des Unionsrechts wirft eine Grundsatzfrage nach der Zuordnung und der Verteilung justizieller Macht im Rahmen der europäischen Integrationsgemeinschaft auf. Aus Sicht der unionsrechtlichen Praxis erscheint die nun mit neuer Vehemenz einsetzende Diskussion jedoch aus der Zeit gefallen. Es bedarf eines gewandelten Verständnisses der überkommenen Staatlichkeit um angemessen auf die aktuellen Herausforderungen zu reagieren. Continue reading >>
26 Oktober 2022

Fighting for a Cause

On 18 October 2022, the European Court of Human Rights handed down its judgement in the case of Mørck Jensen v. Denmark, upholding the applicant’s conviction under Danish law of breaching the prohibition on entry into and stay in a conflict zone in order to participate in armed hostilities on the side of one party to an ongoing armed conflict. In its judgment, the Court consciously opted to take an objective or neutral stance towards the question of whether there may exist ‘right’ reasons to travel to a hot conflict zone in order to actively participate in armed activities. Continue reading >>

A Defining Moment for the UN Business and Human Rights Treaty Process

The ongoing process to negotiate a UN treaty on business and human rights has its 8th annual session this week in Geneva. Though embraced by many NGOs, this initiative has so far failed to secure widespread support amongst states with wide divergences remaining regarding the proposed instrument’s objectives and design, as well as its relationship to the UN 2011 Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, an earlier soft law instrument championed by governments, businesses and international actors. Yet there may be light on the horizon. Continue reading >>
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Useless and Maybe Unconstitutional

In part III of our analysis of the anti-corruption framework, we will look at another aspect of the Hungarian “reforms”: a new procedure that seems to allow the general public to challenge in court the decisions of Hungarian public prosecutors to drop corruption cases. The new procedure is nearly impossible to use and adds little value to existing controls on the public prosecutor. In addition, the Hungarian Constitutional Court may declare it unconstitutional in any event. Continue reading >>
19 Oktober 2022

EU Military Mission Is Coming Home

On 10 October 2022, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, delivered a remarkably clear speech (for a diplomat) at the EU Ambassadors Annual Conference 2022, in which he drew conclusions about the current state of the Union’s foreign policy. A few days later, on 17 October 2022, the Council for Foreign Affairs agreed on establishing the European Union Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (‘EUMAM Ukraine’). Normally, such EU military operations are carried out overseas. However, this does not seem to be the case here, raising legal questions as to whether this action has a sufficient legal basis in the EU Treaties. Continue reading >>

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. Continue reading >>
18 Oktober 2022

A Chernobyl Case for our Times

On 10 October 2022, René Repasi, a member of the European Parliament, brought a case against the European Commission before the EU General Court. The key question of the case is procedural: Does an individual MEP have standing to claim before the Court that an EU act has been based on the wrong legal basis, if the choice of legal basis affects an MEP’s participatory rights. If Mr. Repasi succeeds, his case could significantly strengthen the Court’s role in protecting the rights of the minority in the European Parliament. It could introduce a new type of player to EU institutional legal battles – the MEP – and establish a sort of Organstreitverfahren for individual MEPs. Continue reading >>
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Repasi vs Plaumann

On 10 October 2022 MEP René Repasi lodged an action for annulment against the complementary taxonomy delegated regulation 2022/1214. The same regulation is also challenged by Austria, a privileged applicant under Article 263 TFEU. This post focuses on the issue which MEP Repasi himself has noted is the most innovative of his action, namely the question whether an individual MEP has special legal standing to challenge an act (of the Commission) that affects how that MEP fulfils his parliamentary function. Continue reading >>
17 Oktober 2022

Kein Untergang des Rechtsstaates durch EU-Russlandsanktionen für Rechtsanwält*innen

Angesichts des russischen Angriffskriegs auf die Ukraine sehen BRAK und DAV den Rechtsstaat in Deutschland bedroht. Allerdings bedauerlicherweise nicht durch die völkerrechtswidrigen Verbrechen des russischen Regimes, sondern durch die jüngste Reaktion der EU darauf. Erstmals wird in gewissem Umfang auch die Erbringung von Rechtsdienstleistungen für bestimmte russische Mandanten verboten. Und das hat umgehend zornige Reaktionen anwaltlicher Standesvertreter ausgelöst. Continue reading >>

Three misconceptions about the EU rule of law crisis

There are three major academic and political misconceptions concerning the EU rule of law crisis. The first mistake is already in the denomination, as the name ‘rule of law crisis’ is actually misleading, the second is to believe that ‘the EU does not have the necessary legal tools’, and the third is to conceive it as a ‘crisis only in the Member States affected’. These misconceptions make the crisis look narrower and less threatening than what it actually is, while also offering excuses for inaction. Continue reading >>
12 Oktober 2022

Evolution and Mutation in the EU’s DNA

In order to get rid of “classical” border controls between Member States, the EU Commission is trying to incentivise Schengen States to substitute them with so called “alternative measures”, for example the enforced use of police powers and monitoring and surveillance technologies. These technologies and their impacts confront us with the question what it means to move “freely” within an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers. Continue reading >>

Digitale Autonomie in Vertragsbeziehungen

Es kommt selten vor, dass zwischen zwei Generalanwälten des Europäischen Gerichtshofs bei der Interpretation eines grundlegenden Rechtsakts der Europäischen Union grundsätzliche Deutungsunterschiede aufbrechen. Dies ist dieser Tage hinsichtlich der Datenschutz-Grundverordnung geschehen. Continue reading >>
06 Oktober 2022

How NOT to Be an Independent Agency

The Hungarian government is trying to convince EU institutions that it is taking adequate steps to ensure proper spending of EU funds going forward. At the center of this effort is a new ‘Integrity Authority’. The law establishing this authority, Bill T/1260, just passed the Hungarian Parliament on 3 October 2022. We have carefully read the laws enacted so far that establish a new anti-corruption framework and can confidently say that neither the Commission nor the Council should accept what the Hungarian government is offering because the proposed changes do not begin to alter business as usual in Hungary. In this blogpost, we will analyze the ‘Integrity Authority’ which forms the centerpiece of the government’s program, showing that it is not independent from the government nor are its powers real. Continue reading >>
05 Oktober 2022

Sham and Smokescreen

Since 27 April 2022, Hungary has been under the Rule of Law conditionality mechanism, introduced by the Conditionality Regulation. After various debates and considerations, and in the light of the blackmailing potential of the Hungarian prime minister, the Regulation, in a weaker form than initially proposed, works as a preventive tool for ensuring the protection of the EU budget and sound financial management of EU resources. The Hungarian government has a record of misleading (and betraying) the European Union, and apparently, it is not different now. Continue reading >>
27 September 2022

Mobilized to Commit War Crimes?

In that earlier post, I argued that states have a legal obligation to recognize the refugee status of Russian troops who flee to avoid participating in what is a war of aggression. That argument applies equally to this new scenario. Those who refuse to fight and who leave Russia to avoid doing so should be recognized as refugees.  However, there is now an additional way to ground that claim. Continue reading >>
26 September 2022

Why EU Countries Should Open Their Borders to Russian Draft-Evaders

In a significant escalation of his war in Ukraine, Russia’s President Putin announced a partial mobilisation on the 21st of September. Attempting to avoid the draft, thousands of Russian men are reported to be fleeing the country. Are EU countries obliged to grant asylum to Russians who are (pre-emptively) evading Putin’s draft? Continue reading >>
21 September 2022

Rote Ampel für Geisterfahrer

Der „Neustart der Geisterfahrer“, wie Kurt Graulich die nach der Digital Rights Ireland-Entscheidung entfachte Debatte über die Vorratsdatenspeicherung beschrieb und damit die Intensität der Auseinandersetzung zwischen Befürwortern und Gegner gut einfing, hat auf den ersten Blick ihr vorläufiges und erwartbares Ende in Luxemburg gefunden. Dass die Entscheidung hier besprochen wird, bedeutet keinesfalls, dass sie neuartige Impulse bringt oder, wie der Bundesjustizminister meint, (in einem rechtlichen Sinne) „historisch“ sei. Denn die Unionsrechtswidrigkeit der deutschen Vorratsdatenspeicherung war spätestens ab 2016 deutlich. Continue reading >>
15 September 2022

Missing Freedom Act

The European Commission is due to present its Media Freedom Act (MFA) this week. The MFA is not welcomed by several states, for different reasons. Some fear that their current system of media freedom and pluralism will be compromised. Others worry that their captured media scene will be exposed and investigated. Both types of opponents can relax because the Media Freedom Act draft is as impactful as a light breeze. It only scratches the surface, and important safeguards are missing. Continue reading >>
12 September 2022

Jetzt das Strommarktdesign auf Erneuerbare ausrichten

Der starke Anstieg der Strom- und Gaspreise in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten hat nicht nur in Deutschland Sorge vor wirtschaftlichen Folgen sowie Strom- und Gasengpässen ausgelöst. Neben den Entlastungspaketen der Bundesregierung sind auch auf europäischer Ebene verschiedene Maßnahmen getroffen worden, um den Preisanstieg und dessen Auswirkungen zu begrenzen. So hat insbesondere die Europäische Kommission ein Maßnahmenpaket für nachhaltige Energie in Europa vorgestellt und verschiedene Einzelmaßnahmen, etwa die Senkung der Großhandelspreise auf dem iberischen Strommarkt, genehmigt. Continue reading >>
10 September 2022

Frontex and ‘Algorithmic Discretion’ (Part I)

This contribution, presented in two parts, offers a predictive glimpse into future rule of law challenges due to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s (Frontex) primary responsibility for the automated processing and screening rules of the soon-to-be-operational European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) at the EU’s external borders. . In Part I on legality, I argue that the ETIAS screening rules algorithm illustrates how automation can lead to what I suggest is a new form of arbitrariness – which I refer to as ‘algorithmic discretion’. This can be defined as a situation where the exercise of power and discretion and their limitations are not sufficiently specified at the legislative level but are delegated to an algorithm instead. Continue reading >>
09 September 2022

In a Handful of Dust

Ukraine, France, the EU, and the Revegetation of the Wasteland Continue reading >>

Frontex and Data Protection

Frontex has become notorious for its multiple fundamental rights violations, including pushbacks. The problem of fundamental rights infringements associated with the Agency has been lasting for years, leading ultimately to the resignation of the Executive Director. What I argue in this post is, first, that the fundamental right to the protection of personal data by Frontex has not yet received sufficient attention by scholars and EU institutions. Second, data protection within the Agency needs to be strengthened to prevent any future new scandals. Continue reading >>
08 September 2022

Financial Scrutiny of Frontex as a Political Accountability Tool

An investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on allegations of misconduct within Frontex ended with a report classified as confidential, which was therefore only accessible to the agency’s Management Board. Shortly after submission of the report, Frontex’ Executive Director (ED), Fabrice Leggeri, resigned, opening up a new cycle in the governance of the agency. Following up on this, the European Parliament (EP) decided to postpone the discharge of Frontex’ budget on the ground of lacking information with regard to the subject of the OLAF report. In this contribution, I argue that the EP’s refusal to approve the discharge of the budget of Frontex, even though having little impact on the financial stability of the agency, is a tool to enable the political accountability of Frontex. Continue reading >>

European Oversight on Frontex

The scandals about the complicity of Frontex in human rights violations in autumn 2020 exposed weaknesses in the accountability system. In this blog, I will elaborate on this by presenting the rules governing democratic accountability, followed by an analysis of the lessons learned during the parliamentary inquiry on Frontex’ human rights-related performances, in the light of their obligations. I will conclude with ideas on how to strengthen democratic accountability, and how to expand it to the much-needed public accountability of Frontex.  Continue reading >>
07 September 2022

Here We Stand

On Sunday, 28 August 2022, four major associations of European judges announced that they would challenge the Council’s Decision of 17 June that releases funds to Poland to help it recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The four associations are seeking to prevent the release of recovery funds to Poland until it has complied with the Court’s judgments in full. Whether their action has any chance of success will depend on how the Court applies the long-standing Plaumann criteria. Continue reading >>
06 September 2022

A New European Political Community: The British Perspective

The upcoming State of the Union address scheduled for 14 September and the succession of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister looks set to be a potential turning point in EU relations. But will the EU grasp it? Could a new intergovernmental political forum – acting alongside EU enlargement – ease the tension of EU treaty change? Such a forum might bridge the potential role prospective EU member states in Eastern Europe could play before formally joining and the necessity of forging a constructive post-Brexit relationship with the UK. It could resolve political and constitutional concerns. Continue reading >>
05 September 2022

Frontex and the Rule of Law Crisis at EU External Borders

The resignation of the Executive Director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (hereinafter: Frontex or Agency) at the end of April 2022 re-opened Pandora’s box with regard to the adequacy of the accountability mechanisms on the Agency. The turmoil was caused by several allegations of breaches of the law, which seems to be confirmed by the OLAF report, leaked at the end of July 2022. The aim of this blogpost is, first, to discuss the emergence of a rule of law crisis in border management and, second, to lay a finger on issues regarding both internal and external oversight mechanisms over Frontex, with special attention for the composition of the Management Board, the very first oversight body within the Agency. Continue reading >>

Innere Geschlossenheit um jeden Preis

Am 29. August 2022 sprach Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz an der Karls-Universität in Prag über seine europapolitische Zukunftsvision. Auf der Grundlage des völkerrechtswidrigen Angriffskriegs auf die Ukraine stellte er vier Grundüberlegungen vor, welche sich mit den Begriffen Erweiterung der Europäischen Union, Souveränität, Einigkeit und Wertefundament zusammenfassen lassen. Während sein Plädoyer für die eine erweiterte, souveräne und nach innen geschlossene EU entschlossen und energisch wirkte, blieben seine Ausführungen zum Wertefundament der EU erstaunlich knapp. Weder ging er konkret auf die schwerwiegenden Rechtsstaatlichkeitsprobleme in Polen und Ungarn ein, auf die die Europäische Kommission in ihren neusten Rule of Law Reports erneut hinwies. Noch erscheinen seine Vorschläge zur Abstellung bestehender rechtsstaatlicher Defizite in allen Mitgliedsstaaten überzeugend. Continue reading >>
02 September 2022


Should the job of being the keeper of the treaties be socialized? Continue reading >>

Child Protection, Sexuality and Feindstrafrecht

Across EU Member States, we are witnessing the growing use of criminal law for punishing behaviors related to the sexualization of minors, which do not directly imply the abuse of actual minors. This use of criminal law presents many reasons for perplexity. Continue reading >>
31 August 2022

Kein Geld ohne Reform

Polen stehen rund 35,4 Mrd. Euro aus dem im Dezember vom Europäischen Rat beschlossenen Nachcorona-Sonderbudget  („Next Generation“) zu. Bisher sind Zahlungen an Polen nicht geflossen.  Die EU-Kommission hatte am 1. Juni eine Reihe von Reformauflagen für das polnische Justizsystem als Bedingungen für die Freigabe des Aufbau- und Resilienzplans beschlossen. Zwar hat die polnische Regierung seitdem einige Reformen veranlasst, die europarechtlichen Voraussetzungen für die Auszahlung von Geldern an Polen aus dem Aufbaufonds der EU sind aber weiterhin nicht gegeben. Continue reading >>
30 August 2022

Seenotrettung vor dem EuGH

Gegen das Instrument der Hafenstaatkontrolle, mit dem Italien NGO-Schiffe regelmäßig festsetzte, hatten die NGOs Sea-Eye und Sea-Watch 2020 vor italienischen Verwaltungsgerichten geklagt. In den von Sea-Watch betriebenen Verfahren hatte das Regionale Verwaltungsgericht Sizilien dem EuGH zwei Vorabentscheidungsersuchen vorgelegt. Anfang August erging nun das Urteil des EuGH. Der Gerichtshof präzisiert darin die europarechtlichen Vorschriften zur Hafenstaatkontrolle, trägt zur Auslegung der einschlägigen seevölkerrechtlichen Normen bei und grenzt die Verantwortungsbereiche von Flaggen- und Hafenstaaten voneinander ab. Continue reading >>
29 August 2022

Konventionswidrig aber rechtssicher

Mit Beschluss vom 08. Juli 2022 verwarf das OLG Frankfurt a.M. eine sofortige Beschwerde gegen die Ablehnung eines auf § 359 Nr. 6 StPO gestützten Wiederaufnahmeantrags durch das LG Kassel - obwohl der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte bereits die deutsche Handhabung möglicher Befangenheit von Richtern kritisiert hatte. Continue reading >>

Ein Weg zur Cannabis-Legalisierung führt über Luxemburg

Ein deutscher Alleingang hat die Rechnung ohne den Wirt gemacht. Das Europarecht hat auch beim Völkerrecht ein Wort mitzureden. Die EU hat die UN-Übereinkommen selbst ratifiziert – und zwar ohne Vorbehalt. Außerdem reduziert die innereuropäische Kompetenzverteilung den Spielraum für nationale Alleingänge. Etwas mehr Europa muss die Bundesregierung also wagen. Soweit ihr das Risiko zu groß ist, bleibt nur die große Lösung einer Cannabis-Legalisierung über Brüssel oder Luxemburg. Continue reading >>
19 August 2022

Dobbs in the EU

EU leaders and institutions have reacted strongly to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade and held that the right to abortion was not consitutionally protected. Shortly after the decision was made public, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Dobbs, and calling for the right to abortion to be included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Continue reading >>

In dubio pro libertate?

Auch wenn touristische Reisen in die Europäische Union im Zusammenhang mit den kriegerischen Verbrechen Russlands in der Ukraine wie Nebenschauplatz erscheinen mögen – hier geht es um etwas. Angesichts der schrecklichen Verbrechen der russischen Armee in der Ukraine erscheint das touristische Reisen und das Beharren darauf, dass dieses Recht nicht einzuschränken sei, kaum nachvollziehbar. Rein legalistische Argumentation verdeckt, dass das Recht immer auch ein Instrument zur Durchsetzung politischer Interessen ist. Continue reading >>
18 August 2022

Effective Enforceability of EU Competition Law Under Different AI Development Scenarios

This post examines whether competition law can remain effective in prospective AI development scenarios by looking at six variables for AI development: capability of AI systems, speed of development, key inputs, technical architectures, number of actors, and the nature and relationship of these actors. For each of these, we analyse how different scenarios could impact effective enforceability. In some of these scenarios, EU competition law would remain a strong lever of control; in others it could be significantly weakened. We argue that despite challenges to regulators' ability to detect and remedy breaches, in many future scenarios the effective enforceability of EU competition law remains strong. Continue reading >>
17 August 2022

Why Banning Russian Tourists from Schengen Might not Be Unlawful

Recently, politicians in different EU countries have suggested barring Russian tourists from visiting the EU. Such a ban would be in retaliation for the war waged by Russia against Ukraine. From a legal perspective, these suggestions raise the interesting question whether such a blanket ban would be lawful. From a legal perspective, the question is precisely whether there is a possibility to amend the existing acquis, in order to ban Russians from obtaining short term visas for the purpose of visiting Europe as tourists. It seems hardly tenable to argue that the EU (secondary) legislature is somehow bound by the ratio legis of the current Schengen visa system. Continue reading >>

Heated tempers and legal ambiguities

After some heads of EU governments advocated for an all-out ban of Russian nationals’ Schengen visas, a heated academic and political debate arose over the question whether the EU could bar Russians from acquiring visas for a short-term stay in the Schengen area. Could a sweeping travel ban for Russian citizens be justified in the light of EU law? This blogpost advises caution. Continue reading >>
16 August 2022

Why Restricting Tourist Visas to Russians is Legitimate

In the aftermath of Ukrainian President Zelenski’s call on the EU to introduce a ban on short-term ‘tourist’ visas for Russians wishing to travel the Schengen area, a lively debate on the issue erupted, featuring important interventions not last on this website. For instance, Sarah Ganty argues that an EU tourist visa ban would be ethically wrong and unlawful. However, there is no absolute right to travel through the EU. Continue reading >>

Die Verflechtungsfalle des Europawahlrechts

Die Reform der Wahlen zum Europäischen Parlament ist eine große Herausforderung. Nach einem bisher erfolglosen Reformversuch von 2015/18 hat das EP im Mai 2022 eine zweite Initiative für eine viel weitergehende Reform gestartet. Auch diese wird nicht einfach umzusetzen sein. Continue reading >>
12 August 2022

Why Banning Russians from Schengen Is Unlawful

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Prime Minister of Finland and others have been calling for an EU-wide ban of Russian citizens from Schengen visas. Unquestionably, the horrible crimes perpetrated by the Russian state should be punished. But Russians are citizens of a totalitarian state, they are not Putin. And whether we like it or not, there is no legal way under current EU law to adopt a blanket citizenship-based ban against Russians acquiring Schengen visas. Even more: political attention paid to it by persons in leadership positions is deeply surprising, if not irresponsible. Continue reading >>
10 August 2022

Law must be enforceable

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on 01.08.2022 that administrative decisions refusing family reunification must be open to judicial review with a legal remedy. The decision had been long awaited. The underlying article only provided for a legal remedy “against”, not “for” a transfer decision. The CJEU clearly rejects this view and emphasizes that administrative decisions must generally be subject to judicial review, which is a hindrance to the EU Commission's plans to significantly reduce the number of legal remedies in the revised EU legislation. Continue reading >>
05 August 2022

The Re-Emergence of the Net Neutrality Debate in Europe

The European online space has been subjected to intensive legal reforms in recent years, and the policy and regulatory debates regarding the role and obligations of tech companies in Europe are far from over. With the rumoured Connectivity Infrastructure Act, the European Commission seeks to compel Big Tech actors to financially contribute to telecommunications infrastructure. This initiative risks opening the pandora's box of net neutrality, and potentially endangers the democratic principles of freedom of expression and pluralism. Continue reading >>
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The EU’s regulatory push against disinformation

Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s surprise bid to buy Twitter questions the wisdom of the current EU efforts to combat the spread of disinformation, which has relied to a large extend on platforms’ voluntary cooperation. Whether successful or not, it raises serious questions on EU disinformation policy’s reliance on platforms’ discretion to moderate this category of speech. It is likely to put pressure on the carefully constructed web of self- and co-regulatory measures and legislation the European Commission has spun to counter the spread of disinformation. Continue reading >>
04 August 2022

Tesla und die Sicherheit autonomer Fahrzeuge

Im Juni 2022 hat die US-amerikanische National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) eine Untersuchung von Tesla angeordnet, die nicht weniger als 830.000 Fahrzeuge sämtlicher Produktlinien betrifft. Die Behörde ist das amerikanische Pendant zum Kraftfahrtbundesamt und unter anderem für die Sicherheit der zum Straßenverkehr zugelassenen Kraftfahrzeuge zuständig. Die Untersuchung von Tesla betrifft das von diesem Unternehmen eingesetzte Computerprogramm namens „Autopilot“. Continue reading >>
02 August 2022

Inkonsequenz made in Luxemburg

In diesem Dezember jährt sich die Gründung des Europäischen Gerichtshofes zum 70. Mal. Der EuGH zelebriert diesen runden Geburtstag bereits mit dem Hashtag #CJEUin70days auf dem sozialen Netzwerk Twitter. Nicht nur diese Kampagne, sondern auch die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit des EuGHs über soziale Medien insgesamt scheint dabei nicht im Einklang zu stehen mit der eigenen Rechtsprechung des Gerichtshofs. Continue reading >>

Marktlogik ist kein Rechtsgebot

Am 21. Juli hat Christine Lagarde das Transmission Protection Instrument (TPI) der EZB vorgestellt. Die Ankündigung des TPI hat in Deutschland, wieder einmal, eine Diskussion um die Rolle der Märkte bei der Beurteilung der öffentlichen Finanzen von Mitgliedstaaten und die Berechtigung der Zentralbanken zum Eingriff in das Marktgeschehen entfacht. Tatsächlich sprechen gewichtige verfassungs- und demokratietheoretische Argumente dagegen, die Anleihepreisbildung ausschließlich dem Markt zu überlassen. Es handelt sich dabei weder um ein Gebot der Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion noch des grundgesetzlichen Demokratieprinzips. Continue reading >>
29 Juli 2022

Karlsruher Türsteher

Diese Woche, am 26. und 27. Juli, verhandelte das Bundesverfassungsgericht das „Eigenmittelbeschluss-Ratifizierungsgesetz“ (ERatG). Die politischen Entscheidungen, die in Gestalt des Wiederaufbaufonds „Next Generation EU“ in rechtliche Form gegossen wurden, trafen dabei auf alte Rechtsfragen. Continue reading >>
28 Juli 2022

Accessing Information about Abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court decision of 24 June 2022 overruled a half century of precedent supporting a constitutional right to abortion across the U.S. established in 1973 in Roe v. Wade. Essentially, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization left the decision on abortion to individual states. The ruling, although astonishing, was not necessarily a surprise, after its draft had leaked a few weeks earlier. But to the surprise of many, almost immediately, Facebook and Instagram started removing posts informing about access to abortion pills, the Associated Press and Vice first reported. Continue reading >>
21 Juli 2022

On Osman Kavala and Turkish Judicial Failures

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in charge of monitoring compliance with ECtHR rulings, will now deliberate as to how to handle Turkey’s now judicially confirmed failure to release Kavala.  Suspension of Turkey’s membership in the Council of Europe, is an option that is on the table, at least theoretically. The Kavala case is larger than Kavala himself though.  Continue reading >>
20 Juli 2022

The Government versus the President

A few days ago, the Georgian government filed a constitutional complaint against the President of Georgia to the Constitutional Court. Many in Georgia, and not only in Georgia, think that the government is trying to curtail the powers of the president and punish the president for her pro-European political activities. What is interesting in this context is how strong the government's legal positions really are. Continue reading >>
18 Juli 2022

Holidays with smog

The Polish energy policy is seeing further controversies. The Minister of Climate and the Environment, Anna Moskwa, allowed poor quality coal to be sold for 60 days. This means that, up to 28 August, households are able to buy bituminous coal with a higher content of sulphur and mercury, as well as harmful mining waste, e.g. mining sludge. This decision is already causing considerable controversy not only among climate activists, but also among voivodship (local) authorities that are implementing so-called anti-smog resolutions. Continue reading >>
12 Juli 2022

The Selective Nature of a pan-European Willkommenskultur

Four months into Russia’s war on Ukraine, there has been a tremendous show of support for Ukrainians fleeing violence and the atrocities of war – in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As is well-known, European states have hammered out pragmatic administrative solutions to accommodate large numbers of incoming person, going to great lengths to provide for beneficial welfare arrangements. Against this backdrop, it may not be unreasonable to present the crisis in Ukraine as a tipping point for humanitarian protection more generally. Continue reading >>
11 Juli 2022

Fiktive Einheit vor Pluralität

Nun hat also auch der Europäische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte in Sachen Tarifeinheitsgesetz entschieden. Wie zuvor schon das BVerfG kommt er zum Ergebnis, dass der neue § 4a TVG in Menschenrechte eingreift, kann sich aber nicht dazu durchringen, Deutschland hierfür zu verurteilen. Und wie bereits im BVerfG haben zwei Richter:innen ihren Widerspruch in einem Sondervotum formuliert. Continue reading >>

Will the Commission Throw the Rule of Law Away in Hungary? 

The Hungarian government is publicly saying that it is nearing a deal with the European Commission to unlock the Recovery Funds that have been withheld because the Commission has not yet approved Hungary’s plan for spending those funds.    Apparently, Hungary has agreed to four conditions that will allow the €7bn worth of grants and about €8bn in low-interest loans to be approved.  But if those are any indication of the price that the European Commission will extract for comprehensive violation of the rule of law, the European Commission is making a colossal mistake. Continue reading >>
07 Juli 2022

Untying the Ties that (don’t) Bind

In his letter to MEP Daniel Freund of 17 June 2022, European Council President Charles Michel argued that neither he, as President, nor the European Council have the power to exclude democratically unaccountable representatives of a Member State from that institution. But President Michel’s apparent recourse to a literal reading of Article 15(2) TEU – which fails to consider its relationship with other provisions relating to the composition of the European Council – is not convincing. Continue reading >>
30 Juni 2022

The Core of the European Public Space

Increasing the visibility of the constitutional fundamentals of the Union takes on existential importance in times of constitutional reckoning or, as some call it in more ominous terms, in times of “capitulation”. It is for that reason that art. 19(1) TEU should be amended to reflect the case law of the Court of Justice and thus to codify the core that binds the Member States to the discipline of the legal order. Continue reading >>
29 Juni 2022

Europe Needs a Civil Society Strategy

In a number of EU countries, governments are squeezing civic space, rendering it increasingly hard for civil society to operate. A comprehensive strategic approach to partnering with civil societies would allow the EU to more effectively tackle growing illiberalism and ambivalence about democracy. Continue reading >>
24 Juni 2022

Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs – Make them Pay!

Russland und seine starken Männer sollen buchstäblich für die Kriegsschäden in der Ukraine zahlen. Die Kommission schlägt vor, die Durchsetzung von Sanktionen mit unionsweit einheitlichen Strafandrohungen zu stärken und auf diesem Weg elegant zugleich einen Rechtsgrund für die Einziehung involvierter Vermögenswerte zu schaffen. Diesem Vorhaben stehen ungeachtet seiner politischen Opportunität erhebliche sanktionstechnische, unionsrechtliche und vor allem strafrechtliche Bedenken entgegen, die erhebliche Zweifel an Zulässigkeit und Erfolgsaussichten nähren. Continue reading >>

Fundamental Rights at the Digital Border

We are witnessing the emergence of the EU’s ‘digital border’: an ecosystem of interoperable databases to expand the surveillance and control of the movement of third-country nationals. In this blog post, we discuss one of the latest additions to this ecosystem - the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, or ETIAS in short - and argue that the system as it is currently set up violates the right to data protection laid down in Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, especially in light of the CJEU’s PNR judgment earlier this week. In many ways, we consider ETIAS to be a test case for a much wider roll-out of such often AI-powered technologies in the field of border control. Continue reading >>
23 Juni 2022

A Directive altered beyond recognition

On 21 June 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union rendered its decision in the preliminary ruling procedure on the fate of the PNR Directive. The Court had a chance to decisively answer one of the most crucial questions facing European security law: Is indiscriminate mass data retention for and the technology-induced analysis of ordinary human behavior compatible with fundamental rights? It instead opted for an enigmatic compromise creating a whole host of new questions. It does not change the fact that the PNR Directive survives – as a strange beast altered beyond recognition. Continue reading >>

Tackling Discrimination in Targeted Advertising

On 21 June Meta and the US Department for Housing and Urban Development released a legal settlement that will restrict Meta’s ability to offer those clients some of its core ad-targeting products. It resolves (for now) a long-running case over discriminatory targeting of housing adverts. Meta is now prohibited from using certain targeting tools in this context, and has promised new tools to ensure more representative targeting. This US lawsuit should be a wake-up call for European regulators, reminding them that taking systemic discrimination seriously requires proactive regulatory reform and enforcement. The relevant provisions of the Digital Services Act (DSA) are largely symbolic. Continue reading >>
21 Juni 2022

Experimenting with European Democracy

The Conference on the Future of Europe came to an end on 9 May, with the presentation of a final report of 49 recommendations and 329 specific measures to the  presidents of the three EU institutions. While it is unclear what the exact follow-up to the Conference will be, the upcoming Council Summit on 23-24 June will show whether a simple majority of Member States is open to starting the process for a Treaty change. Continue reading >>

Covering Up and Rewarding the Destruction of the Rule of Law One Milestone at a Time

Once upon a time, when still a candidate for President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen solemnly declared: “there can be no compromise when it comes to respecting the Rule of Law. There never will be.” As it is now clear, this was just Orwellian doublespeak. Continue reading >>
17 Juni 2022

The UK’s anti-legal populism

Calls for UK withdrawal from the ECHR are raised at fairly regular intervals in certain quarters of the Conservative party, but this week various members of the Government, including the Prime Minister. Reason for this was an interim measure by the European Court of Human Rights that stopped a deportation flight to Rwanda. It was entirely predictable that calls for UK withdrawal from the ECHR would resurface. Less predictable for many, are the implications this would hold for the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Continue reading >>
15 Juni 2022

British Bare Necessities

In the latest episode of the Brexit saga, the United Kingdom government has published the Northern Ireland Protocol ('NIP') Bill, by which it seeks to unilaterally disapply large parts of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement (‘WA’) concluded between the UK and the European Union. The British government has shared a summary of its legal position, seeking to justify the NIP Bill on the basis of the doctrine of necessity. However, this justification seems to be a literal, if unconvincing, attempt to make a virtue of necessity. Continue reading >>
14 Juni 2022
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Moving Beyond Token Participation

The concept of human rights due diligence was developed over the past decade as a way for companies to grapple with adverse human rights violations and impacts connected to their business practice, including within their value chains. In February of this year, the European Commission published a proposal for European Union-wide mandatory human rights due diligence for companies that fall under its scope. For such legislation to succeed in advancing the rights of the most affected and to lead to better human rights outcomes for rights-holders, it is crucial to anchor such laws and regulations with not only the perspective of rights-holders but their ongoing involvement. To do otherwise would miss an invaluable opportunity to improve the landscape of business and human rights to center rights-holders in the years to come. Continue reading >>
13 Juni 2022

Serbia on Hold

Since 3 April 2022, when elections at all levels were held, Serbia has been on hold. Two months after the elections, only the President of Serbia has begun to serve his regular mandate, while the official results of the parliamentary elections are yet to be proclaimed, the new composition of the National Assembly is yet to be convened, and the new government is yet to be formed. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which occurred at the beginning of the election campaign, added to the already tense political situation. Continue reading >>
09 Juni 2022

How the Data Retention Legislation Led to a National Constitutional Crisis in Portugal

Some weeks ago, the Portuguese Constitutional Court (PCC) triggered a heated political debate on the need to amend the Constitution to grant criminal investigative authorities access to metadata on personal communications. Whilst disagreements between the political branches and the constitutional jurisdiction are common, this conflict is located at a wider critical juncture that intersects EU and national constitutional law, the CJEU, the domestic constitutional court, and ordinary courts. Continue reading >>
08 Juni 2022

Censuring von der Leyen’s Capitulation on the Rule of Law

The spectre of a motion of censure is looming over the von der Leyen Commission. While this rather extraordinary, perhaps desperate, measure appears unlikely to attain the required number of signatures to be tabled – and even less likely to be adopted by the European Parliament –, this initiative deserves some scrutiny. Perhaps even some praise by those who still believe in the primacy of law over power.  Continue reading >>
06 Juni 2022

The European Commission Cedes its Crucial Leverage vis-à-vis the Rule of Law in Poland

The worst thing about the European Commission’s decision of 1 June 2022 to approve Poland’s EUR 36 billion national recovery plan, despite this country’s very meek (to put it mildly) assurances about improvements to its rule-of-law situation, is not even its substance, bad though that is. Worse still is the sequencing. Continue reading >>
03 Juni 2022

The French Constitutional Council’s Problem with Impartiality

If only one example was needed to show the oligarchic nature of the French political system and the limited power of civil society, the game of musical chairs that was played between the Government and the Constitutional Council in the decision “Association La Sphinx” would be perfect. Two ministers directly involved in the drafting of the challenged policy were also judging the constitutionality of the legislative provisions they themselves brought forward. The Constitutional Council’s rules of procedure dismiss impartiality concerns in such cases. This management of conflicts of interests in this court is unacceptable. Continue reading >>
02 Juni 2022

Competition and Conditionality

On 5 April 2022, just two days after the Hungarian national elections, the European Commission formally announced that it would apply the conditionality mechanism enshrined in Regulation 2020/2092 in relation to Hungary. In the past the Commission has frequently addressed issues related to “systemic irregularities, deficiencies and weaknesses in public procurement procedures”. In Hungary, however, it has not probed the enforcement of competition (cartel) law in public tender procedures. The Commission should seize the opportunity to act in this area. Continue reading >>
01 Juni 2022

Just a Feint?

A running joke in the pro-democratic military analyst community is about ridiculing the messages of pro-Russian experts who are pretending that the Russian defeat in the battle of Kyiv was "just a feint". I am afraid that the European Commission just walked into a similar strategic blunder with its deal with the Polish government on the recovery fund and the Supreme Court. Continue reading >>
25 Mai 2022

Die grenzenlose Aufnahme der ukrainischen Flüchtlinge und was wir daraus lernen

Mit der spontanen Aufnahme der ukrainischen Frauen, Kinder und Hilfsbedürftigen hat die europäische Zivilgesellschaft gezeigt, wie gut sie mit Flüchtlingen interagieren kann, wenn die Grenzen sich öffnen und hemmende Regulierungen entfallen. Die Staaten lernen in den letzten Wochen, eher unterstützend als kontrollierend zu wirken. Diese Erfahrungen sollten motivieren, kritischer als bisher zu hinterfragen, wieweit Einschränkungen der freien Entfaltung Geflüchteter und ihrer Unterstützer sinnvoll sind. Continue reading >>

„Vielen Dank, Ihre Post ist unbedenklich“

Vor rund zwei Wochen hat die Kommission ihren Entwurf für eine Verordnung zur Bekämpfung des sexuellen Missbrauchs von Kindern vorgestellt. Die damit verbundene Einführung der Überprüfung sämtlicher digital verschickter Inhalte dürfte das größte staatliche Überwachungsvorhaben in Europa seit dem Ende des Kalten Krieges sein und verstößt offenkundig gegen die Grundrechte-Charta. Continue reading >>
21 Mai 2022

Verbraucherinteressen als Teil der öffentlichen Ordnung?

Am 28. Mai 2022 erhält das EGBGB erstmals eine eigene Bußgeldvorschrift. Das überrascht auf den ersten Blick. Bußgelder dienen eigentlich der Wahrung der öffentlichen Sicherheit. Doch die neue Vorschrift impliziert ein neues Verständnis des Verbrauchsgüterkaufs, das über den reinen Warenaustausch hinausgeht. Continue reading >>
20 Mai 2022

The European Union and Preventive (In)Justice

The expansion of the EU counter-terrorism acquis has signified what I have called the preventive turn in European security policy. Preventive justice is understood here as the exercise of state power in order to prevent future acts which are deemed to constitute security threats. There are three main shifts in the preventive justice paradigm: (i) a shift from an investigation of acts which have taken place to an emphasis on suspicion; (ii) a shift from targeted action to generalised surveillance; and, underpinning both, (iii) a temporal shift from the past to the future. Continue reading >>

Die Europäische Union und präventive (Un-)Gerechtigkeit

Die Ausweitung der EU-Befugnisse im Bereich der Terrorismusbekämpfung steht für die präventive Wende in der europäischen Sicherheitspolitik. Unter Präventivjustiz wird hier die Ausübung staatlicher Macht verstanden, um zukünftige Handlungen zu verhindern, die als Sicherheitsbedrohung angesehen werden. Im Paradigma der Präventivjustiz gibt es drei Hauptverschiebungen: (i) eine Verlagerung von der Untersuchung von Handlungen, die stattgefunden haben, hin zu einer Betonung des Verdachts; (ii) eine Verlagerung von gezielten Maßnahmen hin zu allgemeiner Überwachung; und, was beide untermauert, (iii) eine zeitliche Verlagerung von der Vergangenheit in die Zukunft. Continue reading >>
18 Mai 2022

GDPR Collective Litigation Against Facebook

The recent CJEU Case C-319/20, Meta Platforms Ireland provides insights on the interpretation of Article 80(2) of the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (GDPR), which regulates representative actions in the data protection field. The Court of Justice specified that actions protecting general interests fall under the scope of Article 80(2) GDPR, but leaves the task unmoved to reconcile this provision with the Directive on Representative Actions (DRA). Continue reading >>
16 Mai 2022
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Climate Change Litigation Before the ECtHR

Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland is the first case of climate change litigation before the ECtHR where all domestic remedies have been exhausted. The Chamber to which the case had been allocated relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber. This reinforces the potential of the case to become a landmark ruling determining the Court’s approach to climate change.

Continue reading >>
13 Mai 2022

Drifting Case-law on Judicial Independence

In a preliminary ruling of 29 March 2022, in case C-132/20 Getin Noble Bank, the CJEU answered questions on judicial independence of judges appointed under an undemocratic regime and of judges appointed before 2018 in an allegedly flawed process. Taking a highly formalistic approach, the Court seeks to preserve judicial dialogue between itself and the national judges – at the expense of the rule of law and judicial independence. Continue reading >>
12 Mai 2022

The War in Ukraine, Fake News, and the Digital Epistemic Divide

The ongoing war in Ukraine sheds light on crucial challenges of our digital media landscape. The social media-driven “(mis)information wars” surrounding the Russian invasion expose a growing epistemic divide running through liberal democracies. The regulatory focus on truth, with measures like fact-checking, serves little to cure the larger problems behind this. We should rather use the power of the law to devise new modes of intelligent speech regulation mimicking the functions formerly played by the centralized set-up of communication conditions. Continue reading >>
11 Mai 2022

RePowerEU and End War by Ending Fossil Fuels

Putin’s criminal war on Ukraine has forced the Commission to say it will ‘RePowerEU’, to end Russian fossil fuels. We must clearly end all fossil fuels, and drive as fast as technology allows to 100% clean energy. To do this we should capitalise upon the vast range of legal options in our European economic constitution: that is the ‘law of enterprise’. The geopolitical situation requires us to see our law as an organic, social whole, and for all private and public actors to be on board. Continue reading >>
05 Mai 2022

Die EU schlägt zurück

Am 27. April 2022 hat die EU-Kommission ihre Initiative zur Bekämpfung missbräuchlicher Klagen gegen öffentliche Beteiligung (sog. SLAPPs) vorgestellt. Die Initiative umfasst einen Vorschlag für eine EU-Richtlinie gegen SLAPPs in Zivilsachen mit grenzüberschreitendem Bezug (im Folgenden: Anti-SLAPP-RL) und eine ergänzende Empfehlung, mit der die Kommission die Mitgliedstaaten auffordert, die Richtlinie überschießend, das heißt auch auf innerstaatliche Sachverhalte und sämtliche Verfahrensarten, umzusetzen und Schulungs- und Sensibilisierungsmaßnahmen zu SLAPPs zu ergreifen. Continue reading >>

Schengen Restored

On 26 April 2022, the Court of Justice of the EU rendered a ruling in joined cases C-368/20 and C-369/20 stating that Member States of the European Union can re-introduce border controls within the Schengen Zone only under strict conditions. The Court has stepped up as a guardian of the Treaties protecting free movement of people without controls at the internal borders of the EU. At the same time, it has left room for the European and national executives to exercise their function and fill in the blanks. Continue reading >>
02 Mai 2022

Wieviel Automatisierung verträgt die Meinungsfreiheit?

Mit seinem Urteil über die grundrechtliche Bewertung des umstrittenen Artikel 17 der EU-Urheberrechtsrichtlinie (Rechtssache C-401/19) definiert der Europäische Gerichtshof enge Schranken für den Einsatz von Filtersystemen zur automatischen Sperrung mutmaßlich illegaler Inhalte. Das Urteil ist weit über das Urheberrecht hinaus von Bedeutung, da es den Sinngehalt des Verbots allgemeiner Überwachungspflichten präzisiert. Dieses Verbot ist auch Gegenstand einer aktuellen gerichtlichen Auseinandersetzung zwischen Grünen-Politikerin Renate Künast und dem Meta-Konzern über die Frage, inwieweit Facebook dafür verantwortlich ist, gegen Falschzitate auf der Plattform vorzugehen. Continue reading >>
27 April 2022

Wie Geld oder Gold

Das Bitcoin-Whitepaper datiert von 2008. Seitdem hat Bitcoin eine enorme Aufmerksamkeit und Wertzuschreibung erfahren, und dabei in einer Distanz zu Staat und Recht gestanden, die gut zu seinen libertären Idealen passt. Mit dem Erfolg kommt nun aber die Regulierung. Es ist daher höchste Zeit, einen Blick auf den grundrechtlichen Rahmen der anlaufenden Blockchain-Regulierung zu werfen – er ist weitestgehend unbesprochen. Continue reading >>
26 April 2022

The Court of Justice of the EU goes (almost) public

While the broadcasting of the delivery does not add much value (the texts are generally made available online at the time of their live reading in Luxembourg) to its declared goal of facilitating “the public’s access to its judicial activity”, that of the public hearings appears a major game-changer in the Court’s stance vis-à-vis the public-at-large. And that despite the many precautions accompanying the introduction of such a major rehaul of the Court’s publicity policy regarding its hearings, Continue reading >>

Keeping the Past and the Present Apart

The mere fact that a judge was appointed for the first time under undemocratic conditions does not automatically determine that the court in which that judge adjudicates lacks the necessary independence under EU law. The CJEU has answered to this effect a question of Mr. Kamil Zaradkiewicz, appointed to Poland's Supreme Court in 2018 on recommendation of the new government-controlled National Council of Judiciary and thus lacking independence himself. Importantly, the CJEU emphasized that the referring court did not submit any evidence that may rise legitimate and serious doubts, in the minds of individuals, over independence and impartiality of the particular judge. With this decision, the Court refused to be drawn into the inner-Polish dispute about decommunization, and reinforced its jurisprudence on judicial independence standards in the EU. Continue reading >>
22 April 2022

Elon Musk Wants to Buy Twitter to Create a Free Speech Utopia: Now What?

The enigmatic Tesla founder Elon Musk has made a public offer to buy 100% of Twitter’s shares at approximately 138% of each share’s value. In his letter of intention submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk describes that free speech is necessary in a democratic society, and he wishes to unlock its full potential by bringing Twitter under (his) private ownership. Constitutionally this raises an interesting point: if indeed a billionaire wants to change the rules of speech on the ‘new public squares’ by acquiring a social media platform, can he – and should he be able to? Continue reading >>
12 April 2022

Anything Goes?

Last month, the ECtHR ruled in the case of Johansen v. Denmark on the deprivation of nationality and expulsion for terrorist offenses. It rejected the applicant’s complaint of an infringement of Art. 8 ECHR. The decision underlines the Court’s reluctance to engage with issues raised by deprivations of nationality in terrorism cases. Instead of setting out clear limits on such measures based on the rights guaranteed by the Convention, the Court does not seem to be willing to interfere with measures related to national security, no matter how drastic the consequences for the individual. Continue reading >>
08 April 2022

Palantirs Beitrag

Am 15. Tag des russischen Angriffskriegs gegen die Ukraine ruft Alexander Karp, der CEO von Palantir Technologies, in einem offenen Brief „Zur Verteidigung Europas“ auf. Es ist ein bemerkenswertes Dokument, das zu dem Schluss kommt, nur digitale Gegenwehr könne Europa noch retten – selbstredend mit Palantirs Hilfe. Bemerkenswert ist nicht nur die schamlose Instrumentalisierung des Kriegs für seine Zwecke. Prämisse, Analyse, Schlussfolgerung: Satz für Satz lässt Karps Brief die Augenbrauen höher wandern. Aber der Reihe nach. Continue reading >>

Hungary’s Lesson for Europe

There seems to be a disturbing discordance in the European Commission’s response to the Hungarian elections. On the one hand, the Commission triggers the rule of law mechanism. On the other, it refuses to comment on the fairness of the Hungarian elections. This contradicts the fact that, just like the rule of law, democracy is also part of  Europe’s constitutional identity. But what does democracy require from Member States? Hungary’s elections make clear that the value of democracy, as given expression in Article 10 TEU, should be justiciable. Continue reading >>
07 April 2022

Sexualverbrechen sind nicht grenzüberschreitend

Pünktlich zum Internationalen Frauentag am 8. März 2022 hat die EU-Kommission ihren Vorschlag für eine EU-Richtlinie zur Bekämpfung von Gewalt gegen Frauen und häuslicher Gewalt vorgelegt. Auch wenn der Inhalt der Richtlinie politisch wünschenswert ist, hat die EU hierfür nicht die Kompetenz, da Vergewaltigungen (und Femizide) keine grenzübergreifende Kriminalität darstellen. Vor diesem Hintergrund dürfte die Bundesrepublik der Vergewaltigungs-Vorgabe in Art. 5 des Richtlinien-Entwurfs nicht zustimmen, will sie nicht die Vorgaben aus dem Lissabon-Urteil des BVerfG ignorieren. Continue reading >>
06 April 2022

Öffentliche Überwachung vor den europäischen Gerichten

Europa hat eine erhebliche Ausweitung staatlicher Überwachungs- und Terrorismusbekämpfungsbefugnisse erlebt, die den zunehmenden Appetit der Gesetzgeber und der Exekutive auf eine Normalisierung der Überwachung zeigen. Lange Zeit haben die europäischen Gerichte diesem Trend energisch entgegengewirkt und Siege für die Grundrechte im Bereich der Überwachung errungen. Die jüngsten Entscheidungen des EuGH und des EGMR eröffnen jedoch ein anderes Bild, das auf einen breiteren Paradigmenwechsel hindeutet. Continue reading >>

Enlarging the Hole in the Fence of Migrants’ Rights

With the judgment in A.A. and others v. North Macedonia, the European Court of Human Rights further branches out the creative exception to the prohibition of collective expulsions and turns it into an obligation to offer a place to apply for asylum somewhere at the border. But not only are these legal access points for asylum applications often de facto restricted, the ever more creative exceptions to rights of the Convention and its Protocols threatens the credibility and authority of the Court. Continue reading >>
05 April 2022

A Backdoor Exit from the European Convention on Human Rights

Russia left the Council of Europe on 16 March 2022. The European Court of Human Rights declared that Russia will remain a Party to the Convention until 16 September 2022. This resolution is inconsistent with applicable termination rules. But even beyond technicalities, it reveals fundamental defects in the design of the ECHR denunciation clause. Forced withdrawal and expulsion from the Council, as mechanisms to sanction severe violations of human rights, should not have the effect of relieving the delinquent State of its conventional human rights obligations. Continue reading >>
04 April 2022

The Council of Europe as an AI Standard Setter

On 4 April 2022, Member States of the Council of Europe commences negotiations on the world’s first international binding legal instrument in the field of artificial intelligence. The CoE has a large reservoir of both experience and expertise in the field of standard setting, as far as the three key priorities are concerned: promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Given the undisputed need for regulating AI activities, the CoE appears a prime candidate for this undertaking. Continue reading >>
01 April 2022

Letters from Brussels with Love and the Issue of Mutual Trust in Nationality Matters

In a recent article on this blog, I have set out that the spotlight will soon be turning on the European passportization of Russian oligarchs. And well, what shall I say, it did not take long for the Commission to come out swinging. In a recommendation issued on March 28, the Commission urged “Member States to immediately repeal any existing investor citizenship schemes and to ensure strong checks are in place to address the risks posed by investor residence schemes”. Continue reading >>
28 März 2022

Artificial Intelligence Must Be Used According to the Law, or Not at All

Democracy requires to strengthen the Rule of Law wherever public or private actors use algorithmic systems. The law must set out the requirements on AI necessary in a democratic society and organize appropriate accountability and oversight. To this end, the European Commission made several legislative proposals. In addition to the discussion on how to use algorithmic systems lawfully, the question when it is beneficial to use them deserves more attention. Continue reading >>

The Rule of Law versus the Rule of the Algorithm

When we chose the title of this symposium, we thought it might be controversial. We expected that at least some of the authors would argue that algorithmic threats to the rule of law were solvable, or that responsibly-implemented algorithms could even help the delivery of justice. None of the experts did. In the series of articles which we will present to you in the next days, we find no techno-optimism. That should give everybody pause - especially to the advocates in favour of algorithmic solutions for every problem. Continue reading >>
25 März 2022

The Council of Europe’s Sharp Turn

The Council of Europe (CoE) responded promptly to Russia’s act of aggression against Ukraine first by suspending Russia’s representation rights on 25 February 2022, and then by expelling it on 16 March 2022 in accordance with Article 8 of the Statute. The Committee of Ministers used the Article 8 procedure for the first time in the history of the CoE. This might have crucial implications for the broader CoE context and could make the threat of suspension and expulsion more credible for other member states as well. Continue reading >>
23 März 2022

Unmatched Levels of Sanctions Coordination

In early 2022, the European Union (EU) was quick and decisive in imposing an unprecedented set of measures against Russia. Among other things, the EU targeted the Russian Central Bank, which is an extraordinary move, given that central banks are rarely on sanctions lists. Reconciling the interests of 27 Member States is an art itself, especially in a highly sensitive policy area which continues to be dominated by individual Member State interests. Overall, the swiftness of EU measures went beyond most of our expectations. Continue reading >>
21 März 2022

Take Down the Wall. And Make Russia Pay for It

EU law allows admitting Ukraine into the Union immediately. This is not only the moral imperative, it would also not require any Treaty revision and mark a return to the classical approach of the first EU accession: accession first, full taking on of the acquis later, with lengthy transitional periods. Ukraine will also require a super Marshall plan to ensure speedy reconstruction. This is doable: the seized – say confiscated – “Russian” money, a bit short of a trillion by now, will be enough, with the EU hopefully topping this amount. Continue reading >>