Fairness, Trust and the Rule of Law

On October 10, 2019, the European Parliament’s Committees in charge of her proposed fields of responsibility rejected Sylvie Goulard, the French candidate for the position of Commissioner in the new Commission. It was the second hearing she had to undergo, on the basis of another around 60 pages of written Q&A. Several issues should be carefully considered.

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The European Ombudsman as an Insurmountable Roadblock?

On 17 September 2019, the European Ombudsman adopted a decision rejecting a complaint against the European Parliament submitted by The Good Lobby, an NGO “committed to giving voice to under-represented public interests and bringing more citizens into the public policy process”. The action was supported by Alberto Alemanno, also co-founder and director of the NGO, and Laurent Pech. In their post of last May 2019 they already described in detail their dealings with the Authority of European political parties and European political foundations (hereinafter the Authority) and with the President of Parliament. The subsequent stages and the Ombudsman’s take reveal the wider consequences of this process and some silver linings.

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Has the Spitzenkandidaten System Failed and Should We Care?

The nomination of Germany’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is both a beginning and an end. It begins a new chapter for the European Commission with its first woman president. But also appears to mark the end of the Spitzenkandidaten approach to the selection of European Commission presidents. Indeed, all of the ‘lead candidates’ of the European political groupings were left empty-handed. If this is to be the demise of Spitzenkandidaten, will its passing be mourned?

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Holding European Political Parties Accountable – Testing the Horizontal EU Values Compliance Mechanism

The rather obscure horizontal EU values compliance mechanism shall give groups of EU citizens the possibility to hold European political parties accountable for non-compliance with EU values. Actually trying do so, however, may turn out to be just as unsuccessful as the Article 7 TEU procedure.

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The Birth of Political Europe

With just 90 days to go before the European Parliament elections, the EU political and societal landscape is undergoing a profound and historical shake-up. This goes well beyond the reductionist and highly-polarized depiction of the pro-EU vs anti-EU / open vs closed society debate championed by our political class and magnified by the media. The effects of EU policies on citizens’ lives as further amplified by the Brexit collective journey have gradually led to the emergence of a timid, yet evolving, common pan-European debate. Yet, as epitomized by Emmanuel’s Macron multi-lingual op-ed unparallelly addressed to the whole EU electorate, this Europeanisation of the political conversation is unveiling an inconvenient truth.

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Inter-institutional Agreement Reached on Framework for Screening of Foreign Direct Investments

The EU has one of the world’s most open investment regimes, and collectively EU Member States have the fewest restrictions in the world on foreign direct investment. A proposal for a Union Act on the Screening of foreign investment in strategic sectors was tabled by ten Members of International Trade Committee (INTA) at the European Parliament (EP). The inter-institutional “provisional” agreement is going to be voted by the full House of the EP on the 14th of February 2019.

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Rationalising political representation within the European Parliament: the Italian Constitutional Court rules on the threshold for the European elections

In December 2018, the Italian Constitutional Court found the national 4% threshold for elections to the European Parliament to be constitutional. Unlike the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which focused in-depth on the European state of affairs at a given stage, the Corte costituzionale has pointed to a gradual evolutionary development towards “a rationalisation of the representation of political forces within the European parliamentary assembly”. According to this interpretation, both the national parliaments and the European Parliament face similar challenges.

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Facebook’s Efforts to Squash Scrutiny of the EU-US Privacy Shield

Currently, Facebook is before the Supreme Court in Ireland asking to curtail judicial powers that allow courts to refer questions on the EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement to the CJEU. This is part of an ongoing litigation of Max Schrems, who was still an Austrian law student at the start of the litigation, against the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) in the jurisdiction of Ireland where Facebook currently holds its EU headquarters for tax and company law purposes. The litigation has the capacity to change the face of the transatlantic relationship, not least now, at a critical juncture of fragility and uncertainty and represents an extraordinary step.

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