A Captured State

The need for a rapid EU response in the rule of law crisis in Malta is evident: Every aspect of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination case is susceptible to political interference from the Office of the Prime Minister. The police force is politically controlled, the magistrate is politically appointed, any pardons which may be granted to extract further information are within the gift of the Prime Minister, as are the chief prosecutors’ career prospects. The question of judicial independence, acute as it is, is just the tip of a rather large iceberg.

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The Rule of Law in a European Economic Area with National “Room for Manoeuvre”

The former president of the EFTA Court, Carl Baudenbacher, lashes out at more or less the entire Norwegian legal community in his attempt to explain how Norway’s social security authorities (‘NAV’) have come to misinterpret Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems for years, and how public prosecutors, defence lawyers, judges, academics and the EFTA Surveillance Authority all failed to reveal this. This reply challenges his narrative and attempts to explain how use of the “room for manoeuvre” that EU/EEA law leaves to the national legislator can very well be combined with loyal fulfilment of EEA law obligations in an EEA based on the rule of law.

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Enforcement of EU Values and the Tyranny of National Identity – Polish Examples and Excuses

Professor A. von Bogdandy in his recent piece published at Verfassungsblog analyzes difficulties regarding enforcement of the EU values. He argues that the application of Treaty provisions relating to EU fundamental values should be cautious in order to avoid controversy or pressure. However, the ‘national identity argument’ is not convincing in the Polish case. It cannot be used by a Member State in an arbitrary or blanket way without being checked and confirmed.

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One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

The Hungarian Government has officially abandoned its plans to reform the administrative court system. However, the plan to subdue the judiciary is pursued as relentlessly as ever: On 12 November 2019, the Hungarian Government introduced an omnibus legislation which would extend political influence over the judiciary and guarantee judicial decisions favorable to the Government in politically sensitive cases.

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The Perils of Passivity in the Rule of Law Crisis: A Response to von Bogdandy

In a recent contribution to Verfassungsblog, Professor Armin von Bogdandy observes, “European constitutionalism is perhaps facing a ‘constitutional moment’. But rather than calling on the EU to stand up to increasingly authoritarian member governments, von Bogdandy concludes that, “Powerful arguments suggest caution.” His admonitions offer a lesson into how scholars can inadvertently propagate what political economist Albert Hirschman described in his 1991 book as The Rhetoric of Reaction.

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The Power of ‘Appearances’

Last week the EU Court of Justice replied to Polish Supreme Court’s preliminary references regarding the independence of judges of its Disciplinary Chamber. The good news is that the ECJ gave to all Polish courts a powerful tool to ensure each citizen’s right to a fair trial before an independent judge, without undermining the systems of judicial appointments in other Member States. The bad news is that the test of appearance may easily be misused or abused.

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The Tyranny of Values or the Tyranny of One-Party States?

In his contribution ‘Fundamentals on Defending European Values,’ Armin von Bogdandy counsels caution. His arguments are wise in normal times. But we no longer live in normal times. The current governments of at least two EU Member States, Hungary and Poland, are engaged in normative freelancing with the explicit aim of making future democratic rotation impossible. The rogue governments we see today are undermining the values of the European Union when the EU is more popular in these Member States than their own governments are.

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“Room for Manoeuvre” is the Real Reason for Norway’s EEA Scandal

Hans Petter Graver’s explanation of the reasons for the EEA scandal that is currently shaking Norway is not convincing. The total failure of politics, administration, and courts cannot be explained by alleged “conflicts of law” problems, an “extraordinary situation” allegedly created by Norway’s EEA accession, or by a “legal overload” which occurred 25 years ago when EU single market law had to be taken over. Every European country that has joined the EEA on the EFTA side or the EU had to overcome these challenges.

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This is not the End: What lies ahead for the VDL Commission in terms of Brexit

Brexit is the ‘shock’ that united Europe according to the President-elect of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. There’s certainly an element of truth to this. Despite some occasional signs of disagreement, the EU-27 have given every show of maintaining a unified position in all stages of the Brexit process so far. There may be a tempting political expediency of prioritising a unified position on Brexit (no doubt in ‘protection of the European project as a whole’) above holding individual Member States’ governments’ to account for measures which further and entrench rule of law backsliding. This post aims to outline only some of those challenges, and highlight outstanding issues, in the years of the Brexit process ahead.

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