Member States and the rule of law. Dealing with a breach of EU values


by Eva-Maria Alexandrova POPTCHEVA


The European Union is founded on values common to all Member States. These are supposed to ensure a level of homogeneity among Member States, while respecting their national identities, so facilitating the development of a European identity and their integration. Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union provides mechanisms to enforce EU values, based on a political decision by the Council with the participation of the Commission and Parliament. Such decisions are exempt from judicial review.

The current mechanism is said to be unusable due to the high thresholds needed to adopt a decision in the Council, as well as Member States’ political unwillingness to use it. Various new approaches have been proposed by academics and by political actors, from a new independent monitoring body — the ‘Copenhagen Commission’, through extending the mandate of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), to introducing the possibility for the EU to suspend national measures suspected of infringing EU law.

The European Parliament launched the idea of a ‘European fundamental rights policy cycle’ with the cooperation of EU institutions, Member States and the FRA, as a ‘new Copenhagen mechanism’ to monitor the situation in Member States. This mechanism would incorporate an early-warning system, with ‘formal notices’ to Member States where a breach in the rule of law appears likely, before formal proceedings under Article 7, and a ‘freezing procedure’ for national measures infringing upon EU values.

In 2014, the Commission announced ‘A new EU framework to strengthen the Rule of Law’, with a structured dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned and Commission recommendations and follow-up. On an initiative of the Italian Presidency, the Council decided in December 2014 to hold an annual dialogue, in the General Affairs Council, on the ‘rule of law’ in Member States.

A Union of values 

EU values and national identity

The EU ‘values’ were enshrined in the Treaties only with the Treaty of Lisbon, replacing the previous, less extensive ‘principles’. However, it has been clear from the very beginnings of the Communities that, to succeed, the European integration process needs a common basis of values to secure a degree of homogeneity amongst the Member States.The EU values are supposed to be the basis for a common European ‘way of life’, facilitating integration towards a political, not just a ‘market’, Union. They support the development of a European identity, while ensuring the legitimacy of the EU as founded on democratic values. However, when it comes to detailed definitions of each of the values, there are few accepted unreservedly.

The EU values enjoy two-fold protection. First, since the 1993 Copenhagen European Council, they form part of the accession criteria for candidates for EU membership (Article 49(1) TEU). Second, Member States must, following their accession, observe and promote the EU values. Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) establishes a procedure to sanction a Member State which does not uphold the values, through the suspension of membership rights. Moreover, the Union exports its values outside its territory, with the EU values underlying the international relations of the EU (Articles 21, 3(5), and 8 TEU).

On the other side of the coin are the national constitutional identities of Member States. According to Article 4(2) TEU, the Union must respect Member States’ national identities. This provision sets out a vision of a Union founded on values common to all Member States but which preserves the diversity of Member States’ political and organisational systems. This so called ‘constitutional individuality’ of the Member States can be reflected inter alia in state-organisational, cultural, including language, and historical heritage aspects.2 Hence, the common EU values represent limits to the diversity of Member States, reflected in their constitutional identities.

Some examples Continue reading

Within the Sound of Silence. Dangerous Liaisons between Detention and Citizenship under European Union Law

by Leandro Mancano (*)

Many scholars have recently pointed out the need to revise those European Union (EU) instruments adopted under the former ‘third pillar’. This urgency has only grown after the expiring of the transitional period, occurred 1st December 2014, which resulted in issues of legal uncertainty as to which kind of legal regime is to be applied to such instruments (whether the pre-Lisbon framework, the post Lisbon rules or a ‘middle-way’ solution). In this context, three EU law instruments on detention deserve particular attention: Council Framework Decision (FD) 2009/829/JHA on supervision measures; Council FD 2008/947/JHA on probation measures and alternative sanctions; Council FD 2008/909/JHA on mutual recognition of custodial sentences (also known as FD on the transfer of prisoners).

Firstly, the Commission has rebuked Member States at the outset of 2014, in light of the weak state of implementation of these instruments (1). After one year, such report has been followed by updated information about the state of play of the implementation of these FDs, which testify that many Member States have not fulfilled their obligation of transposition so far (2). This raises concerns especially if one considers that detention has been increasingly playing a major role throughout EU law, establishing a potentially dangerous liaison with EU citizenship.

As shown below, the risky factor lies in the circumstance that many cross references have made between EU criminal law and EU citizenship. However, such connections are surrounded with a sound of silence, as their meaning and outline have not been sufficiently clarified hitherto.

The basic assumption which EU citizenship brings with it is that every Union citizen is entitled to move and reside freely within the Union regardless of their nationality, and without requiring a link to the performance of an economic activity.This can be inferred from primary legislation (in particular Articles 18, 19 and 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU), as well as Directive 2004/38/EC (also known as ‘Citizenship Directive’). On the one hand, under Article 16 of the Directive Union citizens are granted the right of permanent residence in the host Member State after legally residing therein for a continuous period of five years. On the other, Article 28 states that: those Union citizens (or their family members) who have the right of permanent residence in the host Member State, may be subject to an expulsion measure so long as there are serious grounds of public policy or public security; Union citizens who have resided in the host Member State for ten years may not be expelled from the host Member State, unless imperative grounds of public security, as defined by Member States, justify the measure. The provision also applies to family members who are not nationals of a Member State and have legally resided with the Union citizen in the host Member State for the same timeframe.

The intersections between EU citizenship and detention may be traced back to a threefold track. Continue reading

Another episode of the EU PNR saga: remarks of the national data protection authorities


Dear Mr Moraes,
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, the discussion on the possible introduction of an EU Passenger Name Records system (hereafter: EU PNR) has moved significantly forward, both in the Council and in the European Parliament. In particular, Mr Kirkhope, rapporteur on this issue, has presented an updated report on the Commission’s 2011 draft directive establishing an EU PNR to your Committee.
As stated early last month, the Article 29 Working Party (hereafter: the WP 29) is not in principle either in favour of or opposed to PNR data collection schemes  (See press release issued by the Article 29 Working Party on EU PNR on 5 February 2015), as long as they are compliant with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.
However, considering the extent and indiscriminate nature of EU PNR data processing for the fight against terrorism and serious crime, the WP 29 believes that it is likely to seriously undermine the rights as set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Union.
In this regard, the Working Party acknowledges that there have been some improvements to the initial draft from a data protection perspective. Still, the Working Party wishes to urgently draw your attention to the following outstanding issues to ensure that the aforementioned fundamental rights are respected.
First, the necessity of an EU PNR scheme still has to be justified.  Precise argumentation and evidence are still lacking in that respect.   Further restrictions should also be made to ensure that the data processing is proportionate to the purpose pursued, in particular considering that the report now includes intra-EU flights in the data processing. Therefore, it is recommended that the data collection is limited with reference to specific criteria in order for the scheme to guarantee respect for individuals’ fundamental rights and to take the CJUE data retention judgment into account.  Besides this, the scope of the offences concerned should be further reduced and the retention period shortened and clearly justified.
In addition, a major error in the new Articles 10a and 12(1b) stemming from an apparent misunderstanding of the data protection authority’s role must be rectified in order to set the responsibilities of governments and data controllers.
Finally, the WP29 insists on the necessity to present as soon as possible a detailed evaluation of the efficiency of the PNR scheme. A sunset clause should also be inserted into the directive to assist in ensuring periodic review of the necessity of the system.

All these points will be developed in an appendix of this letter, as well as concrete modifications and improvements proposed to the text by the Working Party. I would be grateful if you would be so kind as to forward this letter to the members of your committee in order for them to take account of these views before the deadline for further amendments to the proposal. Naturally, the Working Party remains at your disposal for any clarification you would require and further input during the discussion on EU PNR.

Yours sincerely,
On behalf of the Article 29 Working Party,
Isabelle FALQUE-PIERROTIN Chairwoman

Appendix :
Demonstrating the necessity and ensuring the proportionality of the EU PNR scheme

Continue reading

The Proposed Data Protection Regulation: What has the Council agreed so far?


Analysis (Second version) by Steve Peers, Professor of Law, University of Essex, Twitter: @StevePeers

13 March 2015


Back in January 2012, the Commission proposed a new data protection Regulation that would replace the EU’s existing Directive on the subject. It also proposed a new Directive on data protection in the sphere of law enforcement, which would replace the current ‘Framework Decision’ on that subject.

Over three years later, there has been considerable progress on discussing these proposals. The European Parliament (which has joint decision-making power on both proposals) adopted its positions back in the spring of 2014. For its part, the EU Council (which consists of Member States’ justice ministers) has been adopting its position on the proposed Regulation in several pieces. It has not yet adopted even part of its position on the proposed Directive.

For the benefit of those interested in the details of these developments, the following analysis presents a consolidated text of the five pieces of the proposed Regulation which the Council has agreed to date, including the two parts just agreed in March 2015. This also includes the parts of the preamble which have already been agreed. I have left intact the footnotes appearing in the agreed texts, which set out Member States’ comments.

The underline, italics and bold text indicate changes from the Commission proposal. I have added a short summary of the subject-matter of the Chapters and Articles in the main text which have not yet been agreed by the Council.

For detailed analyses of some parts of the texts agreed so far, see the links to the blog  posts. The Council might always change its current position at a later point, and of course the  final text of the new legislation will also depend on negotiations between the Council and  the European Parliament.


Background documents

‘Public sector’ provisions, agreed by Dec. 2014 JHA Council:

Chapter IV, agreed by Oct. 2014 JHA Council:

Rules on territorial scope, agreed by June 2014 JHA Council:

Rules on ‘one-stop-shop’, agreed by March 2015 JHA Council:

Rules on basic principles, agreed by March 2015 JHA Council:

Proposal from Commission:

Position of European Parliament:

Analysis of agreed territorial scope rules:

Analysis of agreed ‘privacy seals’ rules

Analysis of data protection supervision (one-stop-shop) rules:

Analysis of rules on basic principles


House of Lords recommends to change the Governement’s strategy on the UK’s opt-in.

The UK’s opt-in Protocol: implications of the Government’s approach” 

NOTA BENE : the full report is accessible on the House of Lords website.


This report focuses on the Government’s approach to the opt-in Protocol, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, by virtue of which the UK has a right not to participate in EU justice and home affairs (JHA) measures. At issue is whether the opt-in Protocol can be interpreted to mean that it is the content of an EU measure which determines the application of the Protocol, rather than a legal base under the JHA title of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Title V).

We express no view on the desirability or otherwise of the opt-in mechanisms introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. The function of this report is to examine the way in which the Government has sought to interpret those mechanisms.

We examine the Government’s interpretation of the expression “pursuant to [Title V]” in the opt-in Protocol, and conclude that it has an accepted legal meaning, namely that a Title V legal base is required before the opt-in can be triggered. As a consequence, we recommend that the Government reconsider its broader interpretation.

We consider the Government’s approach to determining the legal base of an EU measure with JHA content. We conclude that the distinction it draws between whole, partial, and incidental JHA measures is misconceived. We again recommend it reconsider its approach.

We consider whether the Government’s overall approach to the opt-in Protocol gives rise to legal uncertainty. We draw a distinction between potential and actual legal uncertainty, concluding that the potential of the Government’s policy to create legal uncertainty is considerable. We further conclude that the Government’s approach risks breaching the EU legal duty of “sincere cooperation”.

We then look at how the opt-in Protocol has been interpreted by the EU institutions. The Government believes that the Commission has actively pursued a policy of “legal base shopping”, in order to undermine the UK’s opt-in rights. In one specific case it provides evidence that lends some support to this allegation, in respect of the former Commission. With this partial exception, however, we conclude that there is no persuasive evidence to suggest that the Commission has circumvented the UK’s opt-in rights.

We review the approach of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) to determining the legal base of international agreements and, while recognising the Government’s concerns, conclude that there is no evidence to suggest that the CJEU has sought deliberately to undermine the safeguards in the opt-in Protocol. We conclude that it is highly unlikely that the CJEU will change its established approach to determining legal base, including for measures with JHA content. We recommend that the Government review its litigation strategy in the light of this conclusion.

Finally, we recommend that the Government consider the feasibility of an inter-institutional agreement on the scope of Title V. Continue reading



Thursday, 19 March 2015

By Steve PEERS

Most laws are complicated enough to start with, but with EU Directives there is an extra complication – the obligation to transpose them into national law. A case study in poor transposition is the UK’s implementation of the EU’s citizens’ Directive, which regulates many aspects of the movement of EU citizens and their family members between EU Member States. Unfortunately, that defective implementation is exacerbated by a further gap between the wording of this national law and its apparent application in practice, and by the unwillingness of the EU Commission to sue the UK (or other Member States) even for the most obvious breaches of the law.

It’s left to private individuals, who usually have limited means, to spend considerable time and money challenging the UK government in the national courts. One such case was the recent victory in McCarthy (discussed here), concerning short-term visits to the UK by EU citizens (including UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU) with third-country (ie, non-EU) family members.  The UK government has just amended the national rules implementing the EU citizens’ Directive (the ‘EEA Regulations’) to give effect to that judgment – but it has neglected to amend the rules relating to another important free movement issue.

Implementing the McCarthy judgment

The citizens’ Directive provides that if EU citizens want to visit another Member State for a period of up to three months, they can do so with very few formalities. However, if those EU citizens are joined by a third-country family member, it’s possible that this family member will have to obtain a short-term visa for the purposes of the visit. The issue of who needs a short-term visa and who doesn’t is mostly left to national law in the case of people visiting the UK and Ireland, but it’s mostly fully harmonised as regards people visiting all the other Member States.

Although the EU’s citizens’ Directive does simplify the process of those family members obtaining a visa, it’s still a complication, and so the Directive goes further to facilitate free movement, by abolishing the visa requirement entirely in some cases. It provides that no visa can be demanded where the third-country family members have a ‘residence card’ issued by another EU Member State. According to the Directive, those residence cards have to be issued whenever an EU citizen with a third-country family member goes to live in another Member State – for instance, where a British man moves to Germany with his Indian wife. Conversely, though, they are not issued where an EU citizen has not left her own Member State – for instance, a British woman still living in the UK with her American wife.

How did the UK implement these rules? The main source of implementation is the EEA Regulations, which were first adopted in 2006, in order to give effect to the citizens’ Directive by the deadline of 30 April that year. Regulation 11 of these Regulation states that non-EU family members of EU citizens must be admitted to the UK if they have a passport, as well as an ‘EEA family permit, a residence card or a permanent residence card’. A residence card and permanent residence card are creations of the EU Directive, but an ‘EEA family permit’ is a creature of UK law.

While the wording of the Regulation appears to say that non-EU family members of EU citizens have a right of admission if they hold any of these three documents, the UK practice is more restrictive than the wording suggests. In practice, having a residence card was usually not enough to exempt those family members from a visa requirement to visit the UK, unless they also held an EEA family permit. Regulation 12 (in its current form) says that the family member is entitled to an EEA family permit if they are either travelling to the UK or will be joining or accompanying an EU citizen there. In practice, the family permit is issued by UK consulates upon application, for renewable periods of six months. In many ways, it works in the same way as a visa requirement.

An amendment to the Regulations in 2013 provided that a person with a ‘qualifying EEA State residence card’ did not need a visa to visit the UK. But only residence cards issued by Germany and Estonia met this definition. This distinction was made because the UK was worried that some residence cards were issued without sufficient checks or safeguards for forgery, but Germany and Estonia had developed biometric cards that were less likely to be forged.

In the McCarthy judgment, the CJEU ruled that the UK rules breached the EU Directive, which provides for no such thing as an EEA family permit as a condition for admission of non-EU family members of EU citizens with residence cards to the territory of a Member State. The UK waited nearly three months after the judgment to amend the EEA Regulations to give effect to it.

The new amendments cover many issues, but to implement McCarthy they simply redefine a ‘qualifying EEA State residence card’ to include a residence card issued by any EU Member State, as well as any residence card issued by the broader group of countries applying the EEA treaty; this extends the rule to cards issued by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Presumably this brings the rules into compliance with EU law on this point (the new rules apply from April 6th). That means that non-EU family members of EU citizens will not need a visa to visit the UK from this point, provided that they hold a residence card issued in accordance with EU law, because they are the non-EU family member of an EU citizen who has moved to another Member State. However, this depends also on the practice of interpretation of the rules, including the guidance given to airline staff.

Surinder Singh’ cases Continue reading



Tuesday, 17 March 2015


Danish participation in cross-border criminal law measures is symbolised by ‘The Bridge’, the ‘Nordic Noir’ series about cross-border cooperation in criminal matters between Denmark and Sweden. But due to the changes in EU law in this field, that cooperation might soon be jeopardised. As a result, in the near future, Denmark will in principle be voting on whether to replace the current nearly complete opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) law with a partial, selective opt-out. I have previously blogged on the implications of this plan in general terms, but it’s now clear exactly what this vote will be about.

First of all, a short recap of the overall framework (for more detail, see that previous blog post). Back in 1992, Denmark obtained an opt-out from the single currency, defence and aspects of JHA law (it’s widely believed that it also obtained an opt-out from EU citizenship, but this is a ‘Euromyth’). These opt-outs were formalised in the form of a Protocol attached to the EU Treaties as part of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The JHA opt-out was then amended by the Treaty of Lisbon.

At present, Denmark participates in: the EU policing and criminal law measures adopted before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon; measures relating to the Schengen border control system (as  matter of international law, not EU law); the EU rules on visa lists (as a matter of EU law); and the EU’s Dublin rules on allocation of asylum applications, ‘Brussels’ rules on civil jurisdiction and legislation on service of documents (in the form of treaties with the EU). In contrast, Denmark does not – and cannot – participate in other EU rules on immigration and asylum law or cross-border civil law, or policing and criminal law rules adopted since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Protocol on Denmark’s legal position either allows it to repeal its JHA opt-out entirely, or selectively. If it chooses to repeal the opt-out selectively, it would then be able to opt in to JHA measures on a case-by-case basis, like the UK and Ireland, although (unlike those states) it would remain fully bound by the Schengen rules. Indeed, those rules will then apply as a matter of EU law in Denmark, not as a matter of international law. Continue reading