Polexit – Quo vadis, Polonia?

Unkenntnis und Unwille sind in Polen heute an der Tagesordnung: Unkenntnis darüber, wie das europäische Recht und die europäischen Institutionen funktionieren und Unwille, sich an die freiwillig eingegangenen europäischen Verpflichtungen zu halten. Wir sind Zeugen, wie in Polen die Grundprinzipien der EU untergraben werden. Wenn aber das Rechtssystem der EU in Polen nicht mehr wirksam ist, ist das: der Polexit. Die bedenkenlose Säuberung des Obersten Gerichts, schließlich die Aushebelung der Vorabentscheidung, die Einschüchterung der Richter durch Disziplinarverfahren, das alles ist leider bereits der Polexit. Richtig verstanden bedeutet der Polexit allerdings sehr viel mehr als die Nichtanerkennung des europäischen Rechts und die Angriffe auf die Gerichte.

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Schrems II: The Right to Privacy and the New Illiberalism

This post unpacks the implications of Schrems II for this new, unstable, and in many instances, illiberal political landscape. A number of excellent posts on this blog have already examined the impact of Schrems II on the corporate actors that transfer EU data globally. My focus here is on how Schrems II and the CJEU’s evolving jurisprudence on the right to privacy can be read as targeting the political developments of recent years.

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Schrems II – A brief history, an analysis and the way forward

On July 16, 2020, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield – a framework that regulated Trans-Atlantic data transfers. Further, even though the court upheld the validity of Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC) – an EU-approved template to safeguard EU citizens’ data-transfer, it put forth important qualifications for data controllers to adhere to when using such SCCs.
This article analyses the ECJ’s ruling, now known as Schrems II, in three parts. The first section sets the stage for the analysis by providing a brief history of EU-US data-flow arrangements and the developments leading up to Schrems II. The second section analyses the ECJ’s decision in Schrems II and finally, the third section concludes by exploring the implications of the ruling and evaluating the way forward.

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Diabolical Persistence

As Genna Churches and Monika Zalnieriute wrote here on 16 July, the day on which the Schrems II decision was published, reading the judgment gives more than a simple feeling déjà vu; it rather looks like a full-blown Groundhog Day: One has the impression of being trapped in a time loop that forces us to relive the day – 6 October 2015 – on which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) adopted Schrems I and invalidated the European Commission’s Safe Harbour Decision (Safe Harbour) adopted on 26 July 2000.
More than a week after the Schrems II judgment was adopted, following the hundreds of comments made on the subject, I shall modestly attempt to consider the judgment (and the underlying saga) from two particular viewpoints.

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A Groundhog Day in Brussels

16 July 2020 feels like Groundhog Day in Brussels. For those, who did not see the famous film Groundhog Day, it’s about reliving the same experience again and again until the main protagonist gets ‘why’. Similarly, the much anticipated Schrems II decision, delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) today, is almost a ‘reliving’ of its earlier decision in Schrems I. How many ‘Schrems’ are we going to have — and who is the protagonist that needs to get ‘why’? Let’s look at it all in more detail.

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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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Frankenstein’s Court

Due to Brexit, the remaining 27 EU Member States would like to remove Eleanor Sharpston, an Advocate General nominated by the United Kingdom, from the CJEU. Many have criticized this idea, claiming that a removal would undermine the judicial independence of the Court. This post argues that the position taken by the EU 27 to remove Eleanor Sharpston from the Court is actually well-reasoned and lawful while leaving her in office would lead to strange consequences e.g. that the Judges of the Court are less protected than its Advocate Generals.

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Ultra vires and constitutional identity control – apples and oranges or two drops of water?

The PSPP decision raised the question of how to deal with competence and jurisdictional conflicts in the EU. Once suggestion is to install a Mixed Appeal Chamber of the CJEU. Apart from ultra vires control, the New Chamber could also engage in constitutional identity review of EU law. In order to do that I will propose, what I call, the “sequential” model of adjudication on Art. 4(2) TEU, which in my opinion can be applied in the current legal setting, but which could be potentially complemented with the establishment of the new chamber.

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The Schrödinger’s Advocate General

We know Brexit means Brexit but should it also mean violating EU Primary Law? Eleanor Sharpston QC, one of the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice, launched an unprecedented legal action “against the EU and her own judicial colleagues after attempts were made to sack her”: The national governments of 27 EU Member States decided to terminate her appointment early. Why? Because Brexit ought to mean Brexit or so it seems.

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Unquestioned supremacy still begs the question

Earlier this week, 32 leading scholars of EU law and politics signed the statement that national courts cannot override CJEU judgments, in response to a demonstration by the BVerfG that it actually can. We share the signatories’ concern that Weiss might (and most probably will) be used as a pretext for refusing to comply with the CJEU’s rulings and the EU rule of law requirements in Member States such as Poland or Hungary. We are also critical of the conclusion to which the BVerfG arrived in its decision, though we accept some of its premises (i.e., that the national disapplication of EU acts may be justified in some rare and exceptional cases). However, even though we are not all constitutional pluralists, we take issue with some aspects of the reasoning behind the original statement and question the doctrinal and empirical arguments it invokes in favour of EU law’s unconditional supremacy.

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