Defending the Open Society against its Enemies

On 18 June 2020, in the case of Commission v Hungary (Transparency of associations), the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice held that Hungarian authorities “introduced discriminatory and unjustified restrictions on foreign donations to civil society organisations” when it adopted a new legislation on NGO in 2017. How will the Hungarian government react? Six potential scenarios can be outlined from not doing anything (scenario 1) – an unlikely option due to the threat of pecuniary sanctions – to full and good faith compliance with the judgment resulting in the total repeal of the Lex NGO (scenario 6) – equally unlikely. Between these two, four additional ones may be foreseen.

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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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Squaring the PSPP Circle

The PSPP judgment made a core problem of the European Union painfully visible as the supremacy of EU law clashed with national constitutional identity. There is, however, a possibility to square this circle: national apex courts could be empowered to issue ‘declarations of incompatibility’ under Article 4(2) TEU as an alternative to the disapplication of EU law.

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You Can’t Forbid Judges to Think

The Polish judiciary is split apart. One part adheres to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU of 19th November 2019, another does not. This legal chaos and catastrophe was caused by the recent judicial reforms and it deprives citizens of the most important right – to be certain what their legal situation in court is.

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Only a Court Established by Law Can Be an Independent Court

In A.K. and others, the European Court of Justice established a detailed method for assessing the independence (or lack thereof) of courts. The judicial independence test laid down by the ECJ, however, may not be entirely fit for the purpose of assessing the lawfulness of courts and judges which are established and appointed on the basis of flawed procedures by bodies arguably violating basic judicial independence requirements as established in EU law. The ECJ appears to limit the required verification under EU law to the issue of independence only. Instead, the reviewing body should, first, check whether the challenged court (judge) is “established by law” and only then, if necessary, follow up on the examination of its independence. Today the Polish Supreme Court has the opportunity to step up and give full effect to that criterion.

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Brexit and the CJEU: why the Opinion of the Court Should be Sought as a Matter of Emergency

With the comfortable majority he managed to secure in the Commons, Boris Johnson is now very likely to be able to push through the British Parliament the withdrawal agreement he negotiated with the European Union back in October. Provided that the European Parliament greenlights it quickly enough, it may well come into force by 31 January 2020, deadline of the last extension decision agreed between the EU-27 and the UK. However, one actor of the process seems to have been forgotten: the Court of Justice of the European Union. This could end up being a huge mistake.

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Open Letter to the President of the European Commission

Ever since the European Commission initiated a third infringement procedure in respect to the recurrent attacks on the rule of law by Polish authorities last April, the situation has continued to seriously deteriorate. It is now upon the Commission to promptly submit to the European Court of Justice an application for interim measures in the infringement case C-791/19 Commission v Poland now pending before the Court of Justice.

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