(Rule of) Law in the Time of Covid-19: Warnings from Slovenia

It is beyond question that radical limitations of a wide range of human rights are necessary to limit the spread of Covid-19, keep healthcare systems afloat, and help saving human lives. The aim of this contribution is not to argue against such measures per se. In spite of the gravity of the situation, however, any measures adopted to combat it must be adopted by competent bodies, following the procedure and under the conditions envisaged by law. In other words, rule of law concerns have to be fully respected. It is my concern that Slovenia has been failing this »rule of law in times of emergency« test.

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Fighting Prison Overcrowding with Penal Populism – First Victim: the Rule of Law

On March 7th, a new Hungarian law came into force, allegedly intended to stop the “abuse” of compensation claims due to inhuman conditions in prison (“abuse law”). Even if this turns out to be yet another populist gimmick, the new legislation has important ramifications for the rule of law in Hungary because it sends the message to the citizens and the courts that the finality of judgements and court rulings are relative.

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Open Letter to the President of the European Commission regarding Poland’s “Muzzle Law”

The current procrastination is akin to dereliction of duty: Waiting to bring infringement actions and to fail to simultaneously seek interim measures when the rule of law in a Member State is so obviously and blatantly deteriorating on an industrial scale only means that the Commission faces a far more serious and intractable problem to deal with later.

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The EU, Segregation and Rule of Law Resilience in Hungary

The legal and political consequences of the Hungarian government’s campaign against an appeal judgment which ordered the payment of compensation for school segregation can reverberate across the EU, because of the ubiquitous nature of segregation. Should the Hungarian government prevail, the case may negatively impact the integration of minorities in other Member States as well, particularly if the European Commission fails to increase its efforts to enforce the Racial Equality Directive.

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Coronavirus, Health Emergencies and Public Law Issues

The outbreak of the “new” Coronavirus disease triggered an epidemic potentially evolving into a pandemic. Italy is one of the most affected areas, with 3.858 cases, confirmed by tests that public authorities are extensively performing on the population. Taking a closer look, this scenario highlights a number of challenging issues that can teach us valuable “public law lessons”.

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Muzzling Associations of Judges

Art 88 a of Poland’s so-called "muzzle law" law prescribes that judges must disclose their membership in associations, their functions performed in non-profit foundations and membership in parties before they became judges. The provision applies to memberships in all kinds of associations, including associations of judges. In this form, the provision violates the European Convention of Human Rights as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

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For Norway it’s Official: The Rule of Law is No More in Poland

The so-called “muzzle law”, adopted by the Polish parliament on January 23, was the last straw. On Thursday 27 February, the board of the Norwegian Court Administration decided to withdraw from its planned cooperation with Poland under the justice programme of the EEA and Norway Grants, due to concerns over the Polish justice reforms.

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Context Matters

On February 9th, the Armenian parliament authorized a referendum that would allow the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, to remove seven of the current nine justices from the Constitutional Court. Pashinyan has called the decisions of the Court a “threat to democracy”. On its face, this seems like yet another example of a populist leader trying to use a referendum to increase his power. Examining the context of the situation in Armenia, however, paints a different picture.

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Could there be a Rule of Law Problem at the EU Court of Justice?

The Member States’ current plan of replacing the sitting U.K. Advocate General at the Court of Justice Eleanor Sharpston before the end of her six-year term raises a serious question whether doing so may violate the European Treaties. If yes, this would be a troubling intrusion on the independence of the Court and the constitutional structure of the Union – just when the EU should be setting an example for the Member States (both current and former).

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