Artificial intelligence in the EU: promoting economy at the expenses of the rights of the individual?

by Emilio DE CAPITANI (*)[1]

“The advent of artificial intelligence (‘AI’) systems is a very important step in the evolution of technologies and in the way humans interact with them. AI is a set of key technologies that will profoundly alter our daily lives, be it on a societal or an economic standpoint. In the next few years, decisive decisions are expected for AI as it helps us overcome some of the biggest challenges we face in many areas today, ranging from health to mobility, or from public administration to education. However, these promised advances do not come without risks. Indeed, the risks are very relevant considering that the individual and societal effects of AI systems are, to a large extent, unexperienced.…”[2]


1. According to the European Commission the recent proposal for a regulation on Artificial Intelligence is consistent with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the secondary EU legislation on data protection, consumer protection, non-discrimination and gender equality. Notably, it “complements” the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) and the Law Enforcement Directive (Directive (EU) 2016/680) by setting “..harmonised rules applicable to the design, development and use of certain high-risk AI systems and restrictions on certain uses of remote biometric identification systems”.

Is it true or the text is mainly economic oriented and fail to place the rights of those who will be subject to such AI systems at the heart of its reflection?

2. First of all it is worth noting that, while some commentators may have considered this new proposal to be the equivalent of the General Data Protection Regulation for AI, its general scheme is much more similar to Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 of 20 June 2019 on market surveillance and product compliance, the objective of which is to improve the internal market by strengthening market surveillance of products covered by Union legislation instead of protecting or promoting fundamental rights. The Commission’s proposal is essentially aimed at holding companies producing and marketing AI systems accountable, which is in itself a positive element in the context of the establishment of a European normative framework on artificial intelligence. According to EC Proposal AI systems must meet a number of criteria and undergo conformity assessment procedures, which are more or less stringent depending on the risks involved (see Articles 8 to 51 and Annexes IV to VIII [3]

3. However,  it is quite surprising that the proposal is focused only on a “product”, (a “software” developed from techniques and approaches listed in an annex) and does not address the general notions of “algorithms” and “big data” which are the main feature artificial intelligence (AI) applications which needs huge amounts of data necessary to train it and it allowing, in return, to process the same data.  By not referring directly on the nature of algorithms or the notion of big data, the Commission avoid placing the AI applications within the general framework of fundamental rights and data protection. Needless to say, a “right-based” approach is specular to the notion of ”duty” to protect that right by another individual or by the public administration. Take the case of Regulation 2016/679 or of Directive 2016/680 where the “rights of the data subject” are detailed in specific chapter whereas there is no similar provision in the AI proposal. Similarly, if the proposal defines AI system providers (“providers”), users (“users”), importers (“importers”) and distributors (“distributors”), it makes no reference at any time to persons who are subject to such systems. Moreover nothing, in particular, is said about the possible possibilities of recourse of individuals challenging the use of an AI system.

By choosing a market centric approach the Commission is undermining the aim of placing the individual at the core of the EU policies as declared in the EU Charter preamble. 

I- Definitions and classifications

4. The proposal is built on a risk-based approach, but the classification of the systems as unacceptable, high or low is not clear:

– Article 6 on the classification of high-risk systems is a simple description of the systems falling within this category, without justification of the reasons for the choices made,

– Article 7, on the “amendments to Annex III”, which is the annex containing the systems considered to be high risk, does, however, contain a number of criteria which the Commission will have to take into account in order to add other systems in the future, if necessary.- However, the terms chosen lack precision: the systems referred to are those likely to harm health, safety or have a negative effect on fundamental rights («risque of adverse impact on fundamental rights»). But how to understand in this context the concept of negative effect?

5. The breakdown between the systems to be prohibited and those with a high risk is not further explained: why, for example, prohibit real-time remote facial recognition in public places for repressive purposes, But to authorize, considering them at high risk, the systems that, in terms of criminal prosecutions or management of migration, asylum and border control aim to detect the emotional state of a person? Similarly, what about systems that generate or manipulate audio or video content or images, which then appear to be falsely authentic, and which can be used in criminal proceedings without informing persons (section 52)?

6. Above all, this approach suggests that respect for fundamental rights may be variable in geometry, even though fundamental rights are not negotiable and must also be guaranteed, regardless of the level of risk presented by the AI system in question.[4]

II- Articulation with data protection 

7. In this proposal, the Commission’s position on the European data protection framework is characterized by its ambiguity:

–  Article 16 TFEU is one of the two legal bases of the proposal, alongside Article 114 TFEU. However, in its statement of reasons, the Commission is careful to point out that the basis of Article 16 concerns only those provisions relating to restrictions on the use of AI systems with regard to remote biometric identification in places accessible to the public and for the purposes of criminal proceedings (point 2.1. See also recital 2 of the proposal). However, the protection of individuals about the processing of their personal data cannot be limited to this single hypothesis, given the operating modalities of AI systems which, as indicated above, are based on massive data collections, which are not all non-personal or anonymized. In addition, anonymized data may in some cases be re-identified, and an interlaced set of non-personal data may identify individuals. In addition, anonymized data can be used to build profiles and have a direct impact on the privacy of individuals and create discrimination.

– Recital 41 states that the new Regulation should not be understood as constituting a legal basis for the processing of personal data, including special categories of data. Nevertheless, under recital 41 above, the classification of an AI system as high risk does not imply that its use is necessarily lawful under other European legislation, in particular those relating to the protection of personal data, and the use of polygraphs and similar tools or other systems to detect the emotional state of individuals. That recital specifies to that end that such use should continue to occur only in accordance with the applicable requirements resulting from the Charter and Union law. It therefore seems to follow that certain provisions of this proposal may prove to be incompatible with other provisions of European law: far from «supplementing» the legislative framework on data protection, the future regulation may, on the contrary, open the way to situations of conflict of laws.

– on the other hand, recital 72 states that this Regulation should provide the legal basis for the use of personal data collected for other purposes with a view to developing certain AI systems in the public interest in the case of AI regulatory “sandboxes”. However, as reminded above the Commission also states in its explanatory statement that this proposal is without prejudice to and complements the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 and Police Directive 2016/68 (point 1.2).

8. Furthermore, if certain AI systems authorized by this proposal are not to be approved because they would infringe the provisions of the Charter and European data protection law, this raises the question of the relevance of the proposed classification, if it legitimizes systems contrary to fundamental rights in general, and to data protection in particular. But who will decide at EU and national level which rule should prevail between the Data Protection and AI Regulations? The establishment of a new committee, the European Artificial Intelligence Committee, and the creation of national authorities responsible for ensuring the application of the proposal (Articles 56 to 59) risks to become a conflicting structure with the parallel decentralized structure for Data Protection and its European Data Protection Board and the EDPS [5].

III- Prohibitions and their limits

9. In a very symbolic way, the proposal opens, after a first title relating to the general provisions, with a title entitled “prohibited artificial intelligence practices”, which in reality only contains a single article, while the next title on high-risk systems consists of 46 articles.

There are four systems considered unacceptable:

–  systems deploying subliminal techniques to distort a person’s behavior in a manner that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological harm to the person or to another person;

– systems exploiting the vulnerabilities of a specific group of people due to their age, physical or mental disability, to distort the behavior of a person belonging to that group in a manner that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological harm;

– systems used by public authorities for the evaluation or classification of the reliability of individuals over a period of time based on their social behavior or known or predicted personal or personality characteristics, with the establishment of a social score (“social score”) leading to one or both of the following: adverse or adverse treatment of persons in social contexts unrelated to the contexts in which the data were initially generated or collected; or/and adverse or adverse treatment of persons that is unjustified or disproportionate to their behavior or the seriousness of their behavior;

–  ‘real-time’ remote biometric identification systems in public spaces in a criminal context, unless and to the extent that such use is strictly necessary for one of the following purposes: the targeted search for potential victims of an offence, the prevention of a specific, serious and imminent threat to the life or safety of persons, or of a terrorist attack, the search, location, the identification or prosecution of the offender or a suspect, where the maximum penalty for the offence is at least three years.

10. It follows from this list that the prohibitions mentioned are subject to several limitations and prohibitions:

– in the case of the first two prohibitions, they both imply at least the possibility of physical or psychological harm. However, with regard to vulnerable persons, the demonstration of the existence of a possibility of harm may be sensitive,

– with regard to the prohibition of the social score, it is envisaged only to the extent that this score is established by public authorities (and not private entities) and leads to unfavorable treatment in a context unrelated to the context from which the data were collected or in cases where such treatment appears disproportionate. The reading of these conditions reveals that in reality the social score is not prohibited as such. This analysis is confirmed by the review of Annex III, which includes several high-risk AI systems.  Among them, systems to assess the reliability of individuals or establish their credit score (“credit score”) in cases of access to and use of essential public and private services,

– Finally, remote biometric identification systems are prohibited only if they aim at “real-time” identification, in public spaces and in criminal proceedings.

11. These limitations leave the field open to a posteriori identification, by private entities or by public authorities not acting in a repressive framework. It should also be noted that despite its regulatory form, the proposal leaves considerable room for manoeuvre for Member States to decide whether or not to use remote biometric identification systems in real time.

IV- Uses in criminal matters

12. In addition to the exceptions to the aforementioned prohibitions on real-time remote biometric identification, the proposal allows the possible use of AI systems in criminal matters[6].

Annex III, which lists the high-risk systems referred to in Article 6(2), provides for the following systems:

– systems intended to be used for the risk assessments for the commission of an offence or for recidivism by a person, or risk assessments for potential victims of an offence,

– systems intended to be used as polygraphs and similar tools or to detect the emotional state of a natural person,

– systems intended to be used to detect “deepfake” referred to in Article 52 (3),

– systems intended for use in assessing the reliability of evidence during an investigation or criminal prosecution,

– systems intended to be used to predict the occurrence or repetition of an actual or potential criminal offence, on the basis of the profiling of natural persons referred to in Article 3 para.4 of Directive 2016/680 or the assessment of personality traits and characteristics or past criminal behaviour of persons or groups,

– systems intended to be used for profiling persons referred to in Article 3 par.4 of Directive 2016/680 in the course of the detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences,

– AI systems for use in the analysis of crime involving natural persons, enabling law enforcement authorities to search for large datasets available in different data sources or data formats, to identify unknown patterns or to discover hidden relationships in the data.

13. Furthermore, a certain number of guarantees are limited or even excluded in the context of the use of AI systems in criminal matters:

– prior authorisation by a judicial or independent administrative authority for the use of real-time remote biometric identification may be postponed in urgent cases,

– Article 52, which seeks to impose an obligation to inform persons subject to certain systems, whether they are high-risk or not, excludes this obligation in criminal matters. This applies in particular to systems of emotional recognition or biometric categorisation, as well as those generating or manipulating audio, video or image content, which then appear to be falsely authentic,

– finally, Article 43, on conformity assessment of systems, provides for an assessment limited to internal control for all systems considered to be high-risk, with the exception of those relating to biometric identification and the categorization of persons.

14. The framework proposed by the Commission paves the way for highly controversial practices, particularly in predictive policing. The doctrine is very divided on the added value of AI systems in the assessment of future behavior of offenders, highlighting the risks of discrimination inherent in the functioning of algorithms [7].

It is worth recalling that this practice has already been unfortunately authorized by the EU with the anti-Money Laundering legislation [8]and notably by the infamous EU Directive on the use of Passenger Name Record data [9]. On the latter practice the CJEU has already adopted a very interesting Opinion (1/15) [10] dealing with a draft EU-Canada PNR Agreement  but is now again seized of this subject because of several Preliminary Ruling requests challenging the EU Directive compliance with the art. 7 and 8 of the EU Charter as well as the with the principles of necessity and proportionality [11].

15. The possible use of lie detectors (“polygraphs”) also generates debate and there is no consensus on its use in criminal matters. It should also be pointed out that the Commission allows the use of polygraphs in the field of migration, asylum and the management of external borders, thus reinforcing the experience currently carried out under the “iBorderCtrl” project.

Similarly, the possibilities for the use of a posterior biometric recognition systems are also the subject of criticism within doctrine and civil society. Thus, on May 27, 2021, the NGO Privacy International announced the filing of several claims in Europe against the American company Clearview AI [12], specialized in facial recognition and the commercialization of data collected to law enforcement.


The European Commission may have missed the opportunity here to ensure full respect for European values in the context of the ‘collective digital transformation dimension of our society’. Beyond the question of whether the AI proposal is fully compatible with European data protection legislation and the requirements of the European Charter, it is clear that when decisions are taken on the basis of AI applications individuals should have the right to specific explanations, and collective rights should also be strengthened as it is already the case in other domains of wider impact (as it happens with the Aarhus legal framework in the environment related legislation).

Negotiations on the European Commission proposal are currently underway inside the European Parliament [13]  and the Council of the EU [14]. Once established their respective positions the interinstitutional dialogue will start. In the meantime it is worth noting that the EP has already voted on October a non-legislative resolution curtailing  the use of AI techniques for such activities as facial surveillance and predictive policing [15].

It remains to be seen if this “non-legislative” resolution will be mirrored in the coming months also in the legislative trialogue between the EP, the Commission and the Council where the pressure of the interior Ministers in favor of surveillance measures risks to remain rather strong.


[1] I hereby thanks Mrs Michelle DUBROCARD working at the European Data Protection Supervisor Office for her unvaluable contribution and comments when drafting the present article.

[2] EDPS and EDPB joint Opinion 5/2021 recalling also that “…in line with the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), Article 16 TFEU provides an appropriate legal basis in cases where the protection of personal data is one of the essential aims or components of the rules adopted by the EU legislature. The application of Article 16 TFEU also entails the need to ensure independent oversight for compliance with the requirements regarding the processing of personal data, as is also required Article 8 of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the EU.”

[3] It is also likely that all these new obligations, which will have to be placed on the shoulders of companies, will not fail to revive the debate on the cumbersome nature of European legislation.

[4] Consistently with this approach the EDPS and the EDPB in their Joint Opinion 5/2021 “…call for a general ban on any use of AI for an automated recognition of human features in publicly accessible spaces – such as of faces but also of gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes and other biometric or behavioural signals – in any context. A ban is equally recommended on AI systems categorizing individuals from biometrics into clusters according to ethnicity, gender, as well as political or sexual orientation, or other grounds for discrimination under Article 21 of the Charter. Furthermore, the EDPB and the EDPS consider that the use of AI to infer emotions of a natural person is highly undesirable and should be prohibited.”

[5] To avoid these risks, the future AI Regulation should clearly establish the independency of the supervisory authorities in the performance of their supervision and enforcement tasks. According to the EDPB/EDPS Joint Opinion cited above “..The designation of data protection authorities (DPAs) as the national supervisory authorities would ensure a more harmonized regulatory approach, and contribute to the consistent interpretation of data processing provisions and avoid contradictions in its enforcement among Member States.”

[6] Furthermore, according to the EDPS/EDPB Joint Opinion 5/2021, “..the exclusion of international law enforcement cooperation from the scope set of the Proposal raises serious concerns for the EDPB and EDPS, as such exclusion creates a significant risk of circumvention (e.g., third countries or international organisations operating high-risk applications relied on by public authorities in the EU)”.

[7] Literature on the risks of “Predictive Criminal Policy” is growing day by day.  As rightly stated by A.Rolland in “Ethics, Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Policing” First, the data can be subject to error: law enforcers may incorrectly enter it into the system or overlook it, especially as criminal data is known to be partial and unreliable by nature, distorting the analysis. The data may be incomplete and biased, with certain areas and criminal populations being over-represented. It may also come from periods when the police engaged in discriminatory practices against certain communities, thereby unnecessarily or incorrectly classifying certain areas as ‘high risk’. These implicit biases in historical data sets have enormous consequences for targeted communities today. As a result, the use of AI in predictive policing can exacerbate biased analyses and has been associated with racial profiling”.

[8] Fight against money laundering and terrorist financing (AML/CFT) at EU level is governed by a number of instruments which have to provide for rules affecting both public authorities and private actors who constitute the obliged entities: supervision, exchange of information and intelligence, investigation and cross-border cooperation on the one side, and obligations such as reporting or customer due diligence on the other. For this reason, the relevant instruments are based on a number of different legal bases spanning from economic policy and internal market to police and judicial cooperation. On 20 July 2021, the Commission proposed a legislative package that should enhance many of the above rules. The package consists of 1)A Regulation establishing a new EU AML/CFT Authority; 2)A Regulation on AML/CFT, containing directly-applicable rules; 3-A sixth Directive on AML/CFT (“AMLD6”), replacing the existing Directive 2015/849/EU (the fourth AML directive as amended by the fifth AML directive); 4) A revision of the 2015 Regulation on Transfers of Funds to trace transfers of crypto-assets (Regulation 2015/847/EU); 5)A revision of the Directive on the use of financial information (2019/1153/EU), which is not presented as part of the package, but is closely related to it.

[9] Directive (EU) 2016/681 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime.

[10] Opinion 1/15 pursuant to Article 218(11) TFEU — Draft agreement between Canada and the European Union — Transfer of Passenger Name Record data from the European Union to

[11] The leading Case 817/19 has been raised by the Belgian Constitutional Court and it will give the opportunity to the CJEU to decide if the indiscriminate collection of passengers data and their scoring for security purposes through secret algorithms (as currently done also in some Third Countries) is compatible with the EU Charter and with the ECHR and does not amount to a kind of general surveillance incompatible with a democratic society.

[12] In June 2020, the European Data Protection Board expressed its doubts about the existence of a European legal basis for the use of a service such as that proposed by Clearview AI  .

[13] See the current state of legislative preparatory works here :

[14] See the State of the play diffused by the Council Presidency here:

[15] See the report Artificial intelligence in criminal law and its use by the police and judicial authorities in criminal matters,

(VERFASSUNGSBLOG) Protecting Polish Judges from the Ruling Party’s “Star Chamber” The Court of Justice’s interim relief order in Commission v Poland (Case C-791/19 R)

Laurent Pech Do 9 Apr 2020

1. The third order granting interim measures against Poland on rule of law grounds

The European Court of Justice’s order in Case C-791/19 R is the third time the Court has granted the interim measures applied for by the Commission so as to preserve the rule of law from being seriously and irreparably harmed by Polish authorities. 

The first time the Court had to noticeably step in was when Polish authorities openly disobeyed a previous order of the Court to stop their (unlawful) logging in the Białowieża forest. In an unprecedented step, the Court granted the Commission’s request to impose a penalty payment of at least €100,000 per day of non-compliance within the framework of an application for interim relief. 

The second time the Court was forced to make history happened at the time of the Polish authorities’ attempt to purge Poland’s Supreme Court, in obvious breach of both the Polish Constitution and EU law. The Court then ordered the immediate suspension of the application of the legislation which retroactively lowered the retirement age for Supreme Court judges. This meant that Polish authorities had to restore the Supreme Court to its situation prior to the entry into force of the law being challenged by the Commission. 

In the present and third instance, which is the subject of this post, the Court of Justice has just ordered the immediate suspension of the activities of the so-called “disciplinary chamber” as regards disciplinary cases concerning judges. The Court’s order is particularly significant to the extent that this “disciplinary chamber”, a modern “star chamber”, is for all intents and purposes the stepping stone on which the arbitrary new disciplinary regime put in place by Poland’s ruling party is built. 

2. The third infringement action against Poland on rule of law grounds

The Court’s order is connected to Case C-791/19, which is itself the third infringement action launched by the Commission on the basis of Article 19(1) TEU in order to protect Polish judges from the ruling party’s political control. This is also the third infringement action which brings to the Court’s attention issues the Commission had repeatedly raised with Polish authorities as part of the Rule of Law Framework and subsequently as part of the Article 7(1) procedure. 

In this case, the main subject-matter of the action is the so-called “disciplinary chamber” established in 2017 and whose own “judges”, it may be worth recalling, adopted a resolution in April 2019 whereby they held themselves to have been appointed properly (nemo judex in causa sua, anyone?).

Be that as it may, the lack of independence and impartiality of the “disciplinary chamber” has been an issue repeatedly raised by multiple bodies and experts specialising in rule of law matters. In this context, it is also worth noting that for the very first time, the European Commission simultaneously raised a violation of Article 267 TFEU to the extent that the new disciplinary regime would create “a chilling effect for making use of this mechanism”.

3. A belated application for interim measures 

Considering the threat of political control over Polish judges alleged by the Commission, one could find it difficult to comprehend why the Commission did not apply for interim measures when it decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice on 10 October 2019 (with case effectively lodged on 25 October) although the Commission did request the Court to expedite the proceedings. By contrast, in the case relating to the independence of Poland’s Supreme Court, the Commission requested both interim measures and expedited proceedings. In light of the pattern of systemic violation of judicial independence and multiple instances where rulings of the Court of Justice or national courts were preceded by threats of non-compliance or just openly ignored, not to mention the more recent examples of targeted harassment of national judges seeking to apply Article 19(1) TEU, the Commission’s failure to apply for interim measures could leave one seriously perplexed. 

When this stance faced renewed public criticism following Polish authorities’ defiant refusal to comply with the ruling of the Labour and Social Security Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court which found the “disciplinary chamber” not to constitute a court within the meaning of EU and Polish law by application of the AK preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice, the European Commission belatedly decided to apply for interim measures on 14 January 2020 (with the application effectively lodged with the Court on 23 January 2020). As correctly noted by the Commission itself, “despite the judgments, the Disciplinary Chamber continues to operate, creating a risk of irreparable damage for Polish judges and increasing the chilling effect on the Polish judiciary”.

The Court’s order deals with this aspect, which was predictably raised by the Polish government at the stage of the examination of the urgency of the Commission’s request for interim measures. Instructively, the Court makes clear the Commission’s rationale (paras 97-98). In a nutshell, the Commission decided not to apply for interim measures because it expected the A.K. and others preliminary ruling (joined cases C-585/18, C-6224/18 and C-625/18) to deal with the issue of the disciplinary chamber. While the Court found the Commission’s rationale to be “reasonable”, one may not find it neither coherent nor judicious. As the Court of Justice itself explained in a not so subliminal message to the Commission in the cases of Miasto Łowicz and Prokurator Generalny (Joined Cases C558/18 and C563/18), “the task of the Court must be distinguished according to whether it is requested to give a preliminary ruling or to rule on an action for failure to fulfil obligations” (para. 47, analysis here). Speaking plainly, the Commission’s deferment has meant more months of additional harassment for Polish judges than would have been the case had the Commission apply for interim measures from the start of its infringement action. 

In this context, it is also difficult to understand why the Commission did not follow the same path as in the case relating to the independence of Poland’s Supreme Court and requested the Court that it provisionally grants the requested interim measures before the submission by Poland of its observations and until such time as an order is made closing the interim proceedings. Considering the repeated threats of non-compliance with ECJ rulings and current Polish authorities’ track record of non-compliance with rulings of Polish courts, the Commission’s failure to ask the Court to impose a penalty payment in case of non-compliance is also surprising, to say the least. The least the Commission could do was to reserve the right to submit an additional request seeking that payment of a fine be ordered in case of non-compliance in full with the interim measures ordered following its request for interim relief, which the Commission did.

4. Key aspects of the Court’s order

Leaving the issue of likely future non-compliance aside, and to keep this analysis as brief as possible, the Court’s order most significant aspects will be highlighted. 

To begin with, following the line of case law developed since its seminal “Portuguese judges” ruling, the Court makes clear that the obligation for every Member State to respect and maintain the independence of their national courts or tribunals (which may apply or interpret EU law) includes an obligation to comply with the principle of independence of judges as far as disciplinary proceedings against judges are concerned. This means inter alia that EU law precludes the setting up of disciplinary bodies which fail themselves to satisfy the guarantees inherent in effective judicial protection, including that of independence. In answer to the tired argument of the Polish government that the Court would lack jurisdiction to review its “reforms”, the Court refers the Polish government to its recent ruling in the cases of Miasto Łowicz and Prokurator Generalny. In this ruling, loudly praised by Poland’s Ministry of Justice as the preliminary ruling requests were found inadmissible, the Court yet again reiterated that “although the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of those Member States, the fact remains that, when exercising that competence, the Member States are required to comply with their obligations deriving from EU law and, in particular, from the second subparagraph of Article 19(1) TEU” (para. 36). 

Secondly, by including unusual developments outlining how its own A.K. ruling and connected rulings issued by the Polish Supreme were disregarded by Polish authorities and in particular the “disciplinary chamber” at the beginning of its order (paras 18-24), the Court implicitly but unmistakeably indicates its disapproval at the disciplinary chamber’s defiant and persistent refusal to obey both EU and Polish law. This was bound to legally matter when the Court had to decide whether the Commission had correctly established that the granting of the requested interim measures satisfied the condition in relation to the existence of fumus boni juris (para. 52 et seq.). Unsurprisingly, having first meticulously recalled what it had previously decided in A.K. as regards the scope of the requirements of independence and impartiality, the Court concludes that the Commission’s claim regarding the lack of a guarantee as to the independence and impartiality of the “disciplinary chamber” appears, prima facie, not unfounded. 

Thirdly, as regards urgency, the Court, in line with its previous case law, strongly emphasises how the so-called “judicial reforms” pushed by Poland’s ruling party threaten to damage the independence of Polish courts and as such, simultaneously threaten to damage the decentralised and interconnected legal order organised by the EU Treaties. In an unprecedented step (to the best of our knowledge), the Court finds that a body such as the “disciplinary chamber” pauses a threat of serious and irreparable harm to the EU legal order due to the scope of its disciplinary jurisdiction as regards Polish judges and the fact that its lack of independence and impartiality cannot be, prima facie, ruled out. The Court’s holistic approach, which looks at the broader and systemic impact the seemingly lack of independence of the disciplinary chamber could have on ordinary courts and the Supreme Court as a whole, may be viewed as both warranted and compelling. Particularly significant is the Court’s observation (para. 90) that the “mere prospect” for Polish judges to “face the risk of a disciplinary procedure”, which could bring them before a body whose independence would not be guaranteed, is likely to affect their independence regardless of how many proceedings may have been initiated or the outcomes of these proceedings to date. 

Fourthly, the Court has suspended, again for the first time to the best of our knowledge, the activity of a body masquerading as a court. With its usual chutzpah, the Polish government claimed that the Commission was asking the Court to take measures which would violate the “fundamental structural principles of the Polish state” (para. 106) having previously claimed a violation of the principle of irremovability of judges (para. 43), which they already been found to have violated twice by the Court in two previous unprecedented rulings (analysed e.g. here and here). Without having to examine the Polish government’s well established track record when it comes to violating the Polish Constitution and annihilating judicial independence, the Court of Justice patiently explained that its order does not in fact require the dissolution of the disciplinary chamber nor the suspension of its administrative and financial services or the dismissal of the individuals appointed – unlawfully one may add – to this body which, let us not forget, was already found not to constitute a court by Poland’s Supreme Court prior to the Court of Justice’s order. The eventual budgetary as well as the limited practical consequences of the suspension of (arbitrary) cases pending before the non-court entity known as the disciplinary chamber (see e.g. the pending kangaroo proceedings against Judge Tuleya), cannot in any event prevail over the general interest of the EU in the proper functioning of its legal order. 

Accordingly, and unsurprisingly, the Court granted the Commission’s application for interim measures. A number of weak spots can be identified from this otherwise compellingly reasoned and, on all points, fully convincing Grand Chamber order. These weak spots are all connected to the limited scope of the Commission’s application for interim relief in a situation where the Commission is furthermore yet to act against the “muzzle law”. Very briefly: (i) Not asking for a penalty payment from the start of the action beggars belief considering the track record of Polish authorities, which the Court itself noted as regards its AK ruling, which means Polish authorities will have all the time in the world to ignore the Court’s order until their capture process is completed; (ii) What about prosecutors who have been similarly harassed and subject to Kafkaesque proceedings and arbitrary sanctions; (iii) How long before we see Polish authorities switching to criminal proceedings against judges to achieve their (autocratic) goals?; (iv) What about the procedural defects characterising the arguably unlawful appointment process of the basis of which additional “judges” were appointed to the Supreme Court by the Polish President?

5. Still Too little, still too late? 

Polish authorities have not only been “actively and purposely organising non-compliance with the ruling of the Court of Justice of 19 November 2019 and the judgment of the Supreme Court of 5 December”, they have since also refused to acknowledge, let alone comply with the resolution adopted by three chambers of Poland’s Supreme Court on 23 January 2020 and which reiterated that the “disciplinary chamber” is not a court due to its lack of independence and therefore its “decisions” shall be considered null and void irrespective of when they were issued as they “deserve no protection”.

Viewed in light of this dictatorial pattern and the Soviet-style disciplinary developments witnessed over the past five years, culminating with a suspension and a pay cut of 40% imposed on Juge Juszczyszyn for seeking to apply the Court’s preliminary ruling of 19 November 2019, and the intervention of the “cardboard cut-out Constitutional Tribunal” to (illegally) neutralise the application of the Supreme Court resolution of 23 January 2020 notwithstanding the Constitutional Tribunal’s obvious lack of competence to do so, the Court of Justice was left with no choice but disable a body whose lack of independence and impartiality has been for a long time obvious to all but Poland’s autocratic party and associates.  

What else to do when according to the First President of Poland’s Supreme Court – herself one of the targets of the law which sought to retroactively lower the retirement regime of Supreme Court judges later found in breach of Article 19(1) TEU – the EU is faced with a situation where a Member State “no longer have independent courts or a third branch of government, independent of the executive.”

Let that sink in: Poland has no longer independent courts according the President of Poland’s (not-yet-but-soon-to-be-captured) Supreme Court. 

To contain this clear and present danger to the rule of law, the von der Leyen Commission must wake up from its current torpor and initiate infringement actions against the “muzzle law”; the ENCJ-suspended “National Council for the Judiciary”; the sham “Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs Chamber”; and last but not least, the captured “Constitutional Tribunal” whose intervention the Polish PM announced a few hours after the ECJ’s order. 

The Polish PM’s latest ploy is just the latest edition of a trick they previously used to disregard a binding resolution of the not-yet-captured chambers of the Poland’s Supreme Court to save the new “National Council for the Judiciary” which was established on the back of yet another obvious breach of the Polish Constitution. The Commission should remove their rose-tinted glasses and face up the harsh reality: They are dealing with rogue officials who have recurrently violated the EU principle of loyal cooperation while repeatedly showing their readiness to break all national rules, constitutional or otherwise, whenever convenient for the party. National governments should similarly stop wasting time with heart-warming rhetoric/no action statements when they have in fact the power to do something about Poland’s descent into authoritarianism by bringing infringements actions directly on the basis of Article 259 TFEU (on this note, we should however be grateful to the governments of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden for supporting the Commission’s application. This is the least other governments should do). 

Dialogue wasn’t, isn’t and will NEVER be an effective way forward when dealing with bad faith actors engaged in an obvious constitutional coup d’etat. Failing to face up reality will only result in the Commission winning several legal battles, which, no matter how significant, will not prevent it from losing the broader one, similarly to what happened a few years ago in relation to Hungary. To put it concisely, and looking beyond the Commission’s interim relief victory, the von der Leyen Commission must now decide between swiftly pursuing difficult and no doubt controversial infringement actions or accepting the consolidation of a second autocracy within the EU

European Bonds for the European renaissance: with or without Germany?

an interview of Ezio PERILLO (Former judge at the General Court of the European Union)

Why are all these legal skirmishes still going on in the European Union Headquarters?
It’s true. Given the present situation, everyone would expect a Union with a human face and less technical attitudes. Instead, even at times like these, the Union seems to get entangled in legal harness and, above all, to suffer the diktats put forward by certain States which claim to be entitled to keep control, at least indirectly through the ESM’s condionality, on the expenses of the others Member States.
This was not the spirit with which in 1952, in the aftermath of the end of a horrible war,  the first European community was born. In the preamble to the ECSC Treaty (1952), the six founding States sought the establishment the “ of a broader and deeper community between peoples for a long time divided by bloody conflicts, and to lay the foundations for institutions – and I like to emphasise this passage – which will give direction to a destiny henceforward shared».

What is needed today?
We must regain these common aims. The ECB, the EIB and the Commission are certainly making massive efforts to tackle the current health emergency and a recession that is already upon us.They do so, however, with the resources and means they normally have, without daring, instead, to take the vital step that is required to face exceptional circumstances, in particular when they are caused by natural terrible factors.Public opinion cares very little about the technicalities of the ESM or the news that the provisions on the euro-stability have been suspended for some time, a suspension, by the way, which makes superfluous the possible ESM bailouts.
On other continents, also affected by the corona virus, nobody cares about the stability of the US dollar, the Chinese yuan or the Japanese yen. What really matters is to introduce as soon as possible the appropriate instruments to tackle the present situation, instruments that everyone can see and understand, citizens as businesses. 

Are you referring to European bonds?
Yes, but not to « eurobonds”, that where those designed only to ensure the stability of the euro. Today, European securities are needed exclusively to ensure the stability of the economy of the whole Union, in order to avoid the economic recession also in the area of non-euro Member States , such as Denmark, Sweden or Poland .Instruments that, like most of the bonds of this kind, will create fresh liquidity to be put in to the different circuits of the production and the trade. In short, securities in order to revive the economy of an entire continent and which we could therefore call, with true community sense, European Renaissance Bonds.

But, to issue them don’t we need the agreement of all the Member States?
Not at all. If Germany, like any other Member State, cannot help without the Union, the Union, on the other hand, does not always and necessarily need Germany or Holland to go ahead, certainly not in order to establish European debt securities.
The EIB, which has the legal and technical competences to issue securities of this type, takes its decisions by qualified majority.
Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty (2009) provides for the possibility, for nine Member States, the possibility to create, between them, an enhanced cooperation,  which  « shall aim to further the objectives of the Union, protect its interests and reinforce its integration » and which can be established quite rapidly. It is sufficient that the nine Heads of State or Government, the same as those who signed the letter of 25 March last, agree to submit a request accordingly. The authorisation is then granted by the Council, subject to the approval of the European Parliament, a condition which therefore legitimises the democratic basis for the issuance of these securities. Germany and Holland would obviously be welcome but, at this point, it would be up to them alone to decide whether or not to get on the train of European anti-recession solidarity.

But, funds will still be needed to secure these European bonds. Who puts them on?Certainly, the States affected by the pandemic cannot be asked to make other financial contributions to the Union for this purpose. For this same reason, the European budget does not appear to be the right financial support either. It is in fact an expenditure budget, largely made up of financial contributions provided by the States.

Could the funds from the ESM then be used?

First of all, let me recall that the ESM is not an EU body but an intergovernmental organization created by the euro area States.The ESM, however, is not the only instrument aimed to protect the stability of the euro. In fact, Article 136 TFEU provides that euro area States « can »  establish a stability mechanism, which means that they do not have the exclusive prerogative.
In any case, in order to change the operating conditions of the ESM (in particular that of a “strict conditionality” to which the granting of any financial assistance by the ESM must in any case be subject in any case) it is necessary to modify the said article of the Treaty, a procedure which requires the unanimity of the Governments involved and then the subsequent ratification by all the States concerned. In short, biblical times, compared to the emergency of a recession now at the doors.
Of course, every State, as it joined the ESM, can also unilaterally withdraw from it, taking back the money it paid to this fund. However, I am convinced that facing the European public opinion, Germany will not want to reach this latest ratio, so to oblige the nine States to leave the Mechanism. A Mechanism, in hindsight, which is by now not so useful and functional to the stability of the euro and to the recovery of deficits. Under the terrible blows of the coronavirus storm, which forced us all to stay on the same boat with equal rights and equal duties, the time has perhaps come to “scrap” this obsolete intergovernmental financial vehicle, in order to change it, as the European Parliament already wished in 2011,  into « a mechanism of the Union », structured upon community criteria  and operating through community procedures and on whose board the ECB and the Commission are not just, as now, simple « observers » .

When Adenauer went to the Bundestag immediately after the signing of the Treaties of Rome (1957) he said to the elected members of that assembly: « in Rome we signed a treaty not to make a German Europe but to move towards a European Germany » .

The problem of bonds aimed at revitalise the European single market and its economic  is undoubtedly also a political problem. In this perspective, I am also convinced that, as already widely voiced by many political figures, Germany is and will remain European. As Commissioner Gentiloni has rightly said, we still have to «bet »  on Germany. France, like Italy, Spain and the other signatory States of the letter of March 25, will do their part in this regard.
The path of enhanced cooperation, legally practicable also in this delicate matter, as it has already been for the creation, currently underway, of the European Public Prosecutor, seems to be the only one that is the most adequate and the quickest to effectively combat the looming recession. With the creation of the ECSC, the six founding States de facto abandoned the Marshall Plan’s method, to walk faster on the path of their economic recovery, and with their own legs.
All Member States, meeting in the European Council, could then instruct the Commission to submit to the Parliament and the Council a legislative proposal based on Article 5 TFEU, concerning the complementary competences of the Union in the field of close coordination of the economic policies of the Member States (articles 119, 121 and 136.1, TFEU), in order to create, on the pattern of the old one, a new European Union Stability Mechanism, completed by specific and distinct actions in the field of coordination of employment policies (Articles 145 and 149 TFEU) and social policies (article 155 and following TFEU) of the Member States in response to the pandemic crisis 2020.
Virtus unita, fortior.

Justice and Home Affairs in the future UK/EU relationship: analysis of the negotiation positions


Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex

The EU has now adopted its negotiation mandate for future relationship talks with the UK (discussed here). The UK has now done the same. Lots of commentators have looked in detail at the two sides’ approach to the future relationship on economic issues: this blog post aims to do the same on justice and home affairs issues (immigration, asylum, civil cooperation, judicial and police cooperation).
I’ve reproduced the full text of both sides’ positions side-by-side, thematically, with detailed commentary – plus links to relevant treaties and legislation.
Warning: this blog post criticises both sides where warranted. Supporters of Brexit probably already have my photo pinned to a dartboard; cheerleaders for every position the EU takes might now wish to do the same. In particular, the latter group of people really need to stop claiming that the UK must accept the CJEU’s jurisdiction for any treaty in this field, given that the EU has never insisted on any such thing for any other non-EU country.
In particular, the EU negotiation position for these talks is that in the event of disputes between the parties relating to EU law, the CJEU has to be the final arbiter. The EU has taken that position because the CJEU requires it – but we can find ways to avoid the situationsin which the CJEU requires it, in particular by not referring to EU law as such, and/or avoiding a dispute settlement system which includes arbitrators that might be called on to interpret it. Indeed, the EU and other non-EU countries have found ways to do just that many times before, in all the areas covered by this blog post. If the EU doesn’t trust the UK, it will have the possibility to terminate or suspend the treaty if its concerns are confirmed in practice.
In some ways, this is an update of a previous blog post I wrote on the possibility of a security treaty between the two sides post-Brexit – although obviously events have moved on since then, which I have fully taken account of. Another background source is the House of Lords committee report on a future UK/EU security treaty (which I was a special adviser to).
Note that the withdrawal agreement already provides for the details of winding up the UK’s participation in these issues at the end of the transition period. In the event of future treaties on these issues, arguably the agreement’s Joint Committee can amend these provisions to suit (see Article 164(5)(d), giving it the power to amend the agreement ‘to address situations unforeseen when this Agreement was signed’).
Since there is a significant possibility that the UK/EU negotiations on economic relations will be about as successful as the recent Cats movie, a lot turns on whether there will be a separate treaty on this issue. This is an explicit demand by the UK side, although the EU position is vague. We can only speculate at this point whether a collapse of the economic talks would anyway scupper other negotiations on separate treaties for political reasons.
To ease comparison, the EU position is in italics throughout. The UK position is underlined. My commentary is in ordinary text. I have marked each point by a traffic light system to indicate my assessment of the likelihood of agreement as things stands: Green is more likely than not; Amber is possible, but complicated; Red is unlikely.
In an alternate universe, there’s an alternative Professor Peers, who has the technical ability to do more exciting things with a text; but we are all stuck in this universe.  

Civil cooperation59. In areas not covered by existing international family law instruments and taking into account the United Kingdom’s intention to accede to the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention, the Parties should explore options for enhanced judicial cooperation in matrimonial, parental responsibility and other related matters.64. The UK proposes continuing to work together with the EU in the area of civil judicial cooperation through multilateral precedents set by the Hague Conference on Private International Law and through the UK’s accession as an independent contracting party to the Lugano Convention 2007.
Amber. The Hague Conference is an international process to draft treaties (among other things) facilitating civil judicial cooperation worldwide. The EU as such is a member alongside its Member States, and has signed up to some of the relevant treaties, including the 2007 Hague Maintenance Convention. (the UK’s ratification is planned for the end of the transition period: see these declarations).  The EU has gone further than the Hague Conference on some civil law issues, by adopting legislation going into more detail on civil jurisdiction (which country’s court has jurisdiction over a cross-border dispute), conflict of law (which country’s law applies in a cross-border dispute; this does not necessarily match the court with jurisdiction), and recognition of judgments as between countries (ie how an American judgment might be enforced in Japan). The Lugano Convention is a treaty copying the text of general EU law on civil jurisdiction and recognition of judgments as it stood in 2007 (it was amended in 2012) and extending it to Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.
The EU refers specifically to family law, apparently contemplating specific arrangements, while the UK refers generally to the Hague Conference and more precisely to the Lugano Convention. There’s a specific process for signing up to that Convention, in Articles 70 and 72. For a country not part of the EU and EFTA, as the UK will be, it needs the unanimous consent of the existing Contracting Parties. The EFTA States have already supported the UK’s accession; it remains to be seen what view the EU will take. The existing parties ‘shall endeavour to consent’ to the request for accession within a year after they agree to it. As part of the accession request, the applicant country must, among other things, supply ‘information on the appointment and independence of judges’.
Note that although the Lugano Convention copies an EU law text, it does not give the CJEU jurisdiction over the treaty as regards non-EU signatories. Rather Protocol 2 to the Convention says that the parties shall give ‘due account’ to each other’s court’s judgments, including the judgments of the CJEU. There is a system for discussing divergences in interpretation of the Convention, but this does not include any binding dispute settlement – therefore no arbitrators who might be called upon to ask the CJEU how to interpret EU law. Note that the UK’s intention to sign up to the Convention indicates that this does not violate the UK’s ‘red line’ objections to CJEU jurisdiction, presumably because it does not involve jurisdiction for the CJEU or provide for arbitrators to refer questions to the CJEU in the event of a disputeEqually we can deduce it doesn’t violate EU ‘red line’ objections either – given that the EU signed up to the Convention already.
There’s also no ‘dynamic alignment’, ie no obligation to keep up with changes in EU law. Indeed, the 2012 amendment of EU law did not affect the Convention, which still reflects the EU law on this issue adopted in 2001.
In order to move things forward, the UK would have to apply as soon as possible to sign up to the Lugano Convention. If the EU wants to continue cooperation on family law it should table a text soon. Copying the existing EU law texts into a separate treaty, following the format of the Lugano Convention, would be the easiest way forward. As explained above, the Lugano Convention does not breach the UK’s red lines. 
Immigration and asylum145. The envisaged partnership should envisage cooperation to tackle irregular migration of nationals other than those of the Parties, including its drivers and consequences, whilst recognising both the need to protect the most vulnerable and the United Kingdom’s future status of a non-Schengen third country that does not provide for the free movement of persons. This cooperation should cover: a) cooperation with Europol to combat organised immigration crime in line with arrangements for the cooperation with third countries set out in the relevant Union legislation; b) a dialogue on shared objectives and on cooperation, including in third countries and international fora, to tackle irregular migration upstream.54. The UK has made a specific commitment to seek to negotiate a reciprocal agreement for family reunion of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in either the EU or the UK, with specified family members in the UK or the EU, where this is in the child’s best interests.
55. Beyond this, the UK is open to an agreement regulating asylum and migrant returns between the UK and the EU, or alternatively with individual Member States, underpinned by data sharing, to help counter illegal migration and deter misuse of our asylum systems.
Red. The EU seems to be interested in operational cooperation in this area, while the UK wants to negotiate on unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and is also open to a broader arrangement on ‘asylum and migrant returns’ either with the whole EU or individual Member States. The CJEU has not clarified whether this is an issue within EU exclusive competence (ie Member States can’t sign treaties with non-EU countries) or not. The European Parliament also supported the idea of a treaty in this field (para 61 of its resolution on the future relationship), but it is not the negotiator.
In order to move this issue forward, the UK should table a text in this area as soon as possible. If the EU is not interested, the UK should adapt that text into a model treaty with individual Member States and table it to them. NGOs interested in asylum issues should do their best to encourage interest on the EU side.
It is sometimes suggested that the EU should only sign treaties on asylum responsibility with non-EU countries which have signed up to Schengen. But as discussed below, the ‘signed up to Schengen’ rule is not consistently applied by the EU in these negotiations. And frankly, it is not defensible to prioritise an arbitrary and incoherent ‘rule’ above the family unity of vulnerable unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
Note that the EU’s treaties in this field do not require the non-EU country to accept CJEU jurisdiction. For instance the treaty with Norway and Iceland refers to an exchange of case law, political dispute settlement, and the possible termination of the treaty.
56. Mobility arrangements, including on visa-free travel for short-term stays, in the envisaged partnership should be based on non-discrimination between the Union Member States and full reciprocity.57. The envisaged partnership should aim at setting out conditions for entry and stay for purposes such as research, study, training and youth exchanges.58. The envisaged partnership should address social security coordination.60. Any provisions should be without prejudice to the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements as they apply between the United Kingdom and Ireland, as referred to in Article 38(2) of the Withdrawal Agreement and in Article 3 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.17. Social security coordination can remove barriers and support mobility of labour between countries. Arrangements that provide healthcare cover for tourists, short-term business visitors and service providers, that allow workers to rely on contributions made in two or more countries for their state pension access, including uprating principles, and that prevent dual concurrent social security contribution liabilities, could be good for business and support trade. These arrangements could benefit UK nationals and EU citizens travelling or moving between the UK and the EU in future.
18. The UK is ready to work to establish practical, reciprocal provisions on social security coordination. Any agreement should be similar in kind to agreements the UK already has with countries outside the EU and respect the UK’s autonomy to set its own social security rules. These arrangements should support mobility by easing the process for those working across borders, including underpinning the reciprocal arrangements on the temporary entry and stay for business purposes (‘Mode 4’ provisions).
Green (social security, visas, CTA); Red (students etc). The two sides both seem interested in negotiating a social security treaty. The UK does not reply to the EU’s visa point, but the relevance of that is limited because the EU has already waived short-term visitor visa requirements for UK citizens unilaterally, as discussed here. The UK also does not reply to the EU’s points about researchers and students, although both sides have their own legislation on admission of these groups of people already (the EU law is discussed here). Nor does the UK refer to the Common Travel Area, but the withdrawal agreement refers to it already.
Police and criminal law: General115. With a view to the Union’s security and the safety of its citizens, the Parties should establish a broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership. This partnership will take into account geographic proximity and evolving threats, including serious international crime, organised crime, terrorism, cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, hybrid-threats, the erosion of the rules-based international order and the resurgence of state-based threats.116. The envisaged partnership should reaffirm the Parties’ commitment to promoting global security, prosperity and effective multilateralism, underpinned by their shared principles, values and interests. The security partnership should comprise law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, foreign policy, security and defence, as well as thematic cooperation in areas of common interest.27. The safety and security of our citizens is the Government’s top priority. The UK already has world leading law enforcement capabilities. At the end of the transition period, we will fully recover our sovereign control over our borders and immigration system, which will further enhance our security capabilities.
28. Against this background, the UK stands ready to discuss an agreement on law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, to the extent that this is in both parties’ interests. It should include: arrangements that support data exchange for law enforcement purposes; operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities; and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
29. The agreement should facilitate police and judicial cooperation between the UK and EU Member States; equip operational partners on both sides with capabilities that help protect the public and bring criminals to justice; and promote the security of all our citizens.
Both sides support motherhood. And puppies. Lots of puppies. Other than the international criminal puppies.
Police and criminal law: Red Lines117. The security partnership should provide for close law enforcement and judicial cooperation in relation to the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences, taking into account the United Kingdom’s future status of a non-Schengen third country that does not provide for the free movement of persons. The security partnership should ensure reciprocity, preserve the autonomy of the Union’s decision-making and the integrity of its legal order and take account of the fact that a third country cannot enjoy the same rights and benefits as a Member State.30. This should be a separate agreement with its own appropriate and proportionate governance mechanism. The agreement must not constrain the autonomy of the UK’s legal system in any way. It should not provide any role for the CJEU in resolving UK-EU disputes, which is consistent with the EU’s approach to cooperation with third countries on law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, including between the EU and neighbouring non-EU countries on tools such as the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) and Prüm.
Both sides emphasising the importance of the ‘autonomy’ of their own legal order here – but emphasising different examples of what their ‘red line’ is in that context. For the UK, it’s no ‘role for the CJEU in resolving UK-EU disputes’. (The UK doesn’t – and couldn’t seriously – object to a role for the CJEU in interpreting the treaty on the EU side; see, for instance, the CJEU judgment on the EU/US extradition treaty, discussed here).  The UK government correctly points out that in practice the EU has consistently agreed treaties with non-EU countries on these issues without requiring jurisdiction for the CJEU to settle disputes. For the treaties it refers to, see for instance the Schengen association agreement with Norway and Iceland (review of the case law; political dispute settlement; termination if dispute is not settled), and the Prüm agreement with the same countries (review of the case law; political dispute settlement).
Having said that, the EU has not made any specific demand on the CJEU issue – besides the general position that if arbitrators are called upon to settle a dispute involving interpretation of EU law, they must ask the CJEU. But the EU makes no mention of how it thinks dispute settlement should work in this specific area. There is no reason why arbitrators must always be involved in settling disputes about interpretation of a treaty, and the EU has never insisted on it before in this field.
The EU’s specific ‘red line’ is ‘taking into account the United Kingdom’s future status of a non-Schengen third country that does not provide for the free movement of persons.’ That correctly describes the UK’s future status; but as we will see, the EU applies this test inconsistently, objecting to the UK continuing to participate in the second-generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), but supporting the UK continuing to participate in some other EU measures only extended to non-EU Schengen associates, or not extended to non-EU countries at all.
Police and criminal law: human rights and data protection118. The envisaged partnership should be underpinned by commitments to respect fundamental rights including adequate protection of personal data, which is a necessary condition for the envisaged cooperation. In this context, the envisaged partnership should provide for automatic termination of the law enforcement cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters if the United Kingdom were to denounce the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). It should also provide for automatic suspension if the United Kingdom were to abrogate domestic law giving effect to the ECHR, thus making it impossible for individuals to invoke the rights under the ECHR before the United Kingdom’s courts. The level of ambition of the law enforcement and judicial cooperation envisaged in the security partnership will be dependent on the level of protection of personal data ensured in the United Kingdom. The Commission will work toward an adequacy decision to facilitate such cooperation, if applicable conditions are met. The envisaged partnership should provide for suspension of the law enforcement and judicial cooperation set out in the security partnership, if the adequacy decision is repealed or suspended by the Commission or declared invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The security partnership should also provide for judicial guarantees for a fair trial, including procedural rights, e.g. effective access to a lawyer. It should also lay down appropriate grounds for refusal of a request for cooperation, including where such request concerns a person who has been finally convicted or acquitted for the same facts in a Member State or the United Kingdom.31. Cooperation will be underpinned by the importance attached by the UK and the EU to safeguarding human rights, the rule of law and high standards of data protection. The agreement should not specify how the UK or the EU Member States should protect and enforce human rights and the rule of law within their own autonomous legal systems.
32. The agreement should include a clause that allows either party to suspend or terminate some or all of the agreement. This should enable either the UK or the EU to decide to suspend – in whole or in part – the agreement where it is in the interests of the UK or the EU to do so.
33. In line with precedents for EU third country agreements on law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the agreement should not specify the reasons for invoking any suspension or termination mechanism.
Amber. Both sides express their concern about data protection and human rights, but diverge on what that might mean in practice – although that divergence is not so broad that compromise is impossible.  The EU wants to suspend or terminate the treaty for reasons related to human rights or data protection, while the UK accepts the possibility that the treaty could be suspended or terminated, but does not want the treaty to specify the reasons why it might be suspended or terminated. The obvious compromise is that the treaty provides for its suspension or termination if either party decides, without mentioning the grounds, while the EU provides in its own law that it will automatically trigger these clauses for specified human rights or data protection reasons. (This approach could apply equally to divergences from case law: the UK could hardly object to the EU terminating a treaty on those grounds, having accepted that either side should be able to terminate the treaty on grounds they may choose).
The UK refrains from responding to the EU’s implied concern about human rights protection in the UK, but a neutral observer concerned with this issue might well call for a plague on both their houses: the disturbing attacks on judicial independence in Poland being matched by British politicians and commentators who slaver to follow this example. Once the British establishment fantasised that it was Greece to America’s Rome; now it aspires to be Mini-Me to Poland’s Dr. Evil.  
Data exchange119. The envisaged partnership should establish arrangements for timely, effective, efficient and reciprocal exchanges between Passenger Information Units of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data and of the results of processing such data stored in respective national PNR processing systems. It should also provide a basis for transfers of PNR data by air carriers to the United Kingdom for the flights between the United Kingdom and a Member State. Such arrangements should comply with the relevant requirements, including those set out in the Opinion 1/15 of the CJEU.40. The agreement should provide for reciprocal transfers of PNR data to protect the public from serious crime and terrorism.
41. The transfer of Passenger Name Record data from airlines to the UK or EU Member State competent authorities is an important law enforcement capability. It enables law enforcement and security agencies to identify known and otherwise unknown individuals involved in terrorism related activity and serious crime, and track criminal networks from their patterns of travel.
42. The agreement should be based on, and in some respects go beyond, precedents for PNR Agreements between the EU and third countries – most recently, the mandate for the EU-Japan Agreement.
Green. Both sides agree to negotiate on passenger name data, with no big conflict between their positions – although it’s not clear what the UK seeks by ‘going beyond’ the usual EU treaties. On this issue, the EU has a record of agreeing treaties with non-EU countries (including non-Schengen countries), as the UK points out. There’s no CJEU jurisdiction required for the non-EU countries: see the EU/US PNR treaty, for instance (political dispute settlement).
The EU side refers to a 2017 CJEU judgment (discussed here), which criticised the EU/Canada PNR agreement on data protection grounds, but did not rule out the EU agreeing such treaties if there were stronger safeguards. Note that a further CJEU challenge is pending, on the EU’s own PNR legislation; this might have implications for the EU’s external treaties on this issue too. The EU cannot simply negotiate away these safeguards, as the CJEU rulings are based on EU primary law (the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).
120. The envisaged partnership should provide for arrangements between the Parties ensuring reciprocal access to data available at the national level on DNA and fingerprints of suspected and convicted individuals as well as vehicle registration data (Prüm).38. The agreement should provide for the fast and effective exchange of national DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data between the UK and individual EU Member States to aid law enforcement agencies in investigating crime and terrorism.
39. The agreement should provide similar capabilities to those currently delivered through the Prüm system, drawing on the precedent for such cooperation between the EU, Norway and Iceland as well as between the EU and Switzerland and Liechtenstein. These precedents include a political dispute resolution mechanism with no jurisdiction in those third countries for the CJEU.
Green. Both sides agree to negotiate on this particular form of exchange of data, with no conflict between their positions. The UK correctly points out that the EU has already signed agreements with Schengen associates linking them to the EU legislation on this exchange of information, with no CJEU jurisdiction for the non-EU countries and political dispute settlement.
121. Without prejudice to the exchange of law enforcement information through Interpol, Europol, bilateral and international agreements, the envisaged partnership should provide for alternatives for simplified, efficient and effective exchanges of existing information and intelligence between the United Kingdom and Member States law enforcement authorities, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in the Union’s interest. This would include information on wanted and missing persons and objects.43. The agreement should provide a mechanism for the UK and EU Member States to share and act on real-time data on persons and objects of interest including wanted persons and missing persons. This capability is currently provided by the Second Generation Schengen Information System II (SIS II), making alerts accessible to officers on the border as well as to front-line police officers in the UK.44. SIS II is used by EU and non-EU Schengen members (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). The UK will continue to use SIS II until the end of 2020.
45. The agreement should provide capabilities similar to those delivered by SIS II, recognising the arrangements established between the EU and non-EU Schengen countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). The EU’s agreements with these non-EU Schengen countries include a political dispute resolution mechanism with no jurisdiction in those third countries for the CJEU.
Red. The UK seeks something ‘similar’ to SIS II, while the EU rules out the UK’s participation in SIS II as such. This is not explicit in the EU position, but is set out unambiguously in the Q and As published by the Commission. Currently the UK participates in the criminal and police information exchange in SIS II, not the immigration aspects of the database, as discussed here. There’s another law known informally as the ‘Swedish Framework Decision’, but it concerns exchange of information in specific cases, not a database. So while both sides are willing to negotiate something, it’s not clear what that might be.
122. The envisaged partnership should provide for cooperation between the United Kingdom and Europol and Eurojust in line with arrangements for the cooperation with third countries set out in relevant Union legislation.46. The agreement should provide for cooperation between the UK and Europol to facilitate multilateral cooperation to tackle serious and organised crime and terrorism. The UK is not seeking membership of Europol. Europol already works closely with a number of non-EU countries, including the US, through dedicated third country arrangements.
47. The agreement could go beyond existing precedents given the scale and nature of cooperation between the UK and Europol. For example, the UK was the highest contributor of data to Europol for strategic, thematic and operational analysis in 2018.
49. The agreement should provide for cooperation between the UK and Eurojust. Eurojust is an EU agency which brings together prosecutors, magistrates and law enforcement officers to assist national authorities in investigating and prosecuting serious cross-border criminal cases. The UK is not seeking membership of Eurojust.
50. Eurojust already works closely with a number of non-EU countries, including the US, through dedicated third country arrangements. The agreement should follow these precedents to enable ongoing cooperation between the UK and Eurojust.
Green. Both sides are broadly in agreement here, and both correctly point out that there is a framework for Europol and Eurojust to cooperate with non-EU countries (already being applied, as the UK points out).  The UK’s goal of going beyond precedent as regards Europol might not be reciprocated by the EU side. Cooperation with non-EU countries does not go as far as being a Member State. Contrary to the popular belief that ‘cooperation with Europol means CJEU jurisdiction yada yada yada’, there’s no such requirement for non-EU states: see the Europol agreements with the USA, for instance.
Criminal justice cooperation123. The envisaged partnership should establish effective arrangements based on streamlined procedures subject to judicial control and time limits enabling the United Kingdom and Union Member States to surrender suspected and convicted persons efficiently and expeditiously, with the possibilities to waive the requirement of double criminality for certain offences, and to determine the applicability of these arrangements for political offences and to own nationals, including the possibility for the Union to declare, on behalf of any of its Member States, that nationals will not be surrendered, as well as to allow for the possibility to ask for additional guarantees in particular cases.51. The UK is not seeking to participate in the European Arrest Warrant as part of the future relationship. The agreement should instead provide for fast-track extradition arrangements, based on the EU’s Surrender Agreement with Norway and Iceland which came into force in 2019, but with appropriate further safeguards for individuals beyond those in the European Arrest Warrant.
Amber. Both sides agree on a fast-track extradition system in place of the European Arrest Warrant, which has only ever been applied between EU countries. The UK explicitly refers to the precedent with Norway and Iceland, which is very similar to the EAW with certain exceptions (from the ‘red line’ perspective, there’s no CJEU jurisdiction for the non-EU countries, exchange of case law and political dispute settlement). The only other EU extradition treaty is with the USA. The UK refers to ‘further safeguards’, while the EU refers to ‘additional guarantees’: similar in principle, but the devil will be in the details.
As for those details, the EU position that some Member States might refuse to extradite their own citizens already applies in the withdrawal agreement transition period and in the EU/Norway/Iceland agreement. It’s derived from long-standing national constitutional rules, not a vengeful tantrum by the EU: Barnier did not travel back in time to tell Member States’ constitution drafters and constitutional court judges to punish the UK for leaving the EU decades in the future.
pointed out that this would happen before the referendum, and was told this was ‘Project Fear’; nobody has had the humility or integrity to apologise for their ignorance on this issue. It’s almost as if not everybody knew what they were voting for after all. And the sight of people who wanted the UK to become a non-EU country becoming upset because the UK is now being treated as a non-EU country is…unappealing.
The EU refers to the possibility of waiving ‘dual criminality’ – the usual rule of extradition law that an act or omission must be a crime in both the State requesting extradition and the State being requested to hand over a fugitive for extradition to apply. The European Arrest Warrant waives that rule as regards 32 crimes; the EU/Norway/Iceland treaty makes the waiver only optional. As a whole, the EU/Norway/Iceland treaty copies most of the EAW legislation, with several other exceptions.
124. To ensure effective and efficient practical cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities in criminal matters, the envisaged partnership should facilitate and supplement, where necessary, the application of relevant Council of Europe conventions, including by imposing time limits and providing for standard forms. It should also cover necessary supplementary forms of mutual legal assistance and arrangements appropriate for the United Kingdom future status, including on joint investigation teams and the latest technological advancements, with a view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible and considered necessary and in the Union’s interest, approximate those enabled by the Union instruments.52. The agreement should provide for arrangements delivering fast and effective mutual legal assistance in criminal matters including asset freezing and confiscation. These arrangements should build and improve on those provided by relevant Council of Europe Conventions including the 1959 Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance and its Protocols, for example by providing for streamlined and time limited processes.
Amber. Both sides are willing to supplement the Council of Europe treaties on mutual assistance (the rules on transferring evidence cross-border). The EU has previously negotiated mutual assistance treaties with Norway and Iceland, the USA and Japan. Internal EU law (the European Investigation Order, discussed here), has aimed to replace the Council of Europe measures with a fast-track system too. The details of what is contemplated are not clear, however. The UK refers explicitly to freezing and confiscation (the subject of separate EU and Council of Europe measures), but the EU does not; the reverse is true for joint investigation teams.
125. Supplementing and facilitating the application of the European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters of 20 April 1959 and its Additional Protocols, the envisaged partnership should put in place arrangements on exchange of information on criminal records appropriate to the United Kingdom’s future status with the view of delivering capabilities that, in so far as technically and legally possible and considered necessary and in the Union’s interest, approximate those enabled by the Union instrument.35. The agreement should provide for the fast and effective exchange of criminal records data between the UK and individual EU Member States, recognising that this is an important tool for investigations, prosecutions and sentencing, as well as for wider community safety.
36. To that end, the agreement should provide for capabilities similar to those provided by the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). ECRIS is a secure, automated, electronic system providing for exchange of criminal records information held on countries’ own national databases within specific deadlines.
37. These arrangements should draw on precedents for similar networks of national databases for law enforcement purposes between the EU and third countries (see Prüm below).
Green. Both sides agree in principle to exchange of criminal records on a similar basis to existing EU law (ECRIS was initially set up on the basis of two EU laws: a Framework Decision and a Decision. These laws were amended and replaced by a Regulation and Directive). The details remain to be worked out, however. Note that the EU has not previously agreed to such measures with any non-EU country – even the Schengen associates.
Other issues126. The envisaged partnership should include commitments to support international efforts to prevent and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, particularly through compliance with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards. The provisions in the envisaged partnership should go beyond the FATF standards on beneficial ownership information, among others by providing for the existence of public registers for beneficial ownership information for companies and semi-public registers of beneficial ownership information for trusts and other legal arrangements.53. The agreement should establish effective and reciprocal arrangements to transfer prisoners between the UK and EU Member States, enabling prisoners to be moved closer to home and be rehabilitated in the community to which they will be released. These should build and improve on arrangements provided by the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and its Protocols, and could include time limited processes.
Red. The UK wants to go beyond the Council of Europe rules on the transfer of prisoners, although it does not explicitly refer to the EU law on this issue. There is no matching interest in negotiating this from the EU. On the other hand, the UK does not match the EU interest in negotiating on money laundering (again, there’s no explicit reference to EU law on money laundering) – although in this case, the EU position is almost word for word what the UK agreed with the EU in the political declaration on the future relationship (para 89, discussed here). It’s fair to say, as noted above, that the UK refers to freezing and confiscation of assets, which are part of this issue – but the banking law aspects are part of it too.

EUROPEAN ARREST WARRANT: Framework for analysis and preliminary findings on its implementation

(European Parliament Research Service – EPRS- Authors

Executive summary

EU Member States have been extraditing suspects and sentenced persons to each other for many decades on the basis of bilateral and multilateral conventions. Those arrangements were, however, slow and thwarted by exceptions based on national sovereignty. As EU integration has progressed, the Member States have agreed to base their cooperation on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions, moving away from a system in which decisions on extradition were ultimately taken at government level. This principle was implemented in the Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant and Surrender Procedures (FD EAW), adopted in 2002 on the basis of rapid negotiations following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This paper is the first of two publications on the implementation of the European arrest warrant that EPRS will prepare for the LIBE committee.

It provides a framework for analysis as well as preliminary findings on the implementation of the above-mentioned legislation in practice. This paper will be followed by a study (due in April 2020) that will present a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the FD EAW and tentative recommendations on how to address shortcomings identified.

The FD EAW, adopted in 2002 and implemented since 2004, is generally recognised as a successful instrument. The data available show that it has led to a considerable simplification and speeding up of handover procedures, including for some high-profile cases of serious crime and terrorism. In 2017, the average time between the arrest and surrender of people who did not consent to surrender was 40 days, a remarkable reduction compared to the one year average under the pre­existing extradition regime.

Notwithstanding these achievements a number of challenges remain. More specifically, reports by EU institutions, case law and contributions by practitioners, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) point to a number of challenges in the issuance and execution of EAWs. Those challenges relate back to core debates concerning judicial independence, the nature of mutual recognition and its relationship with international norms, primary EU law and values, including fundamental rights, and (the need for) additional harmonisation measures. In particular, they concern the following matters:

the definition of issuing judicial authorities and their independence from government, which excludes police officers and organs of the executive, but can include public prosecutors in accordance with certain conditions (Section 2.1.1);

the proportionality of a number of EAWs issued for ‘minor crimes’ and before the case was ‘trial ready’, also in view of other possible judicial cooperation measures, where the European Parliament’s call for legislative reform has been answered through guidelines in a Commission Handbook (Section 2.1.2)

the verification of double criminality by executing judicial authorities, leading to a lively academic debate on the compatibility of this requirement with the principle of mutual recognition and potential further questions to be raised with the CJEU; and the lack of approximation of certain offences for which verification is no longer allowed (Section 2.2.1);

EAWs for nationals and residents of the executing Member State and their interplay with the Framework Decision on the Transfer of Prisoners with the dual aim of social rehabilitation and the prevention of impunity (Section 2.2.2);

EAWs based on decisions following proceedings at which the person concerned was not present (in absentia) raising practical problems caused by non-implementation, differences concerning implementation, or incorrect implementation or application of the legislation implementing the Framework Decision on in absentia (Section 2.2.3);

and the role of the executing judicial authority in safeguarding the fundamental rights of the requested person as developed in the CJEU’s case law both as regards EAWs where there are concerns relating to poor detention conditions and broader concerns relating to the right to a fair trial, including an independent and impartial tribunal (Section 2.2.4).

Finally, requested persons have also faced difficulties in effectively exercising their procedural rights in the issuing as well as the executing Member State based on the specific provisions relating to the EAW in the various directives approximating the rights of suspected and accused persons within the EU (Section 2.3).


Transparency at EU level : still a bumpy road …

by Emilio DE CAPITANI (Former Secretary of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee – LIBE) 18/02/20


1. Asking for transparency in a public organization where most of the members are bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians has always been a challenge because each one of these categories will try to preserve and expand its power without being accountable to anyone. This kind of secrecy that ancient Romans called “Arcana Imperii” remains even today the main temptation of power holders who only recently have reluctantly accepted the checks and balances preventing the concentration of powers. Needless to say such checks and balances can prevent abuses only if rule of law is preserved and legislation is adopted with transparent debates and votes as it should be in a democratic society where citizens may play a role when choosing their representatives (representative democracy) but are also associated to the willing to definition of the public policies (participative democracy).

The evolution of transparency in the first phase of the European Communities

2. Transparency (and fundamental rights) where not cited by the founding treaties of the European Economic Community which was mainly focused on the establishment of the internal market and of the four freedoms, but become unavoidable when the ambition of the ECC became more clearly political at the end of the Seventies in the perspective of an “ever closer” Union of the peoples of these member States. It is therefore not surprising that this change of perspective triggered also a change of practices and administrative culture on the side of bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians working in the European institutions.

Suffice it to say that still in the mid-1970s, decision-making and administrative transparency were limited to some essential aspects such as the introductory justifications of each  European Community measure and the mandatory publication of most (but not all) of the EC acts on the Official Journal ( which at the time was only printed in less than 20,000 copies).

3. It is only after the first direct European Parliament elections and its association to the decision-making process even if only as a consultative body that the Commission decided (notwithstanding the opposition of some Member States in the Council) to publish its proposals and, in accordance with the case law of the Court, to better describe in the preamble of the draft acts the essential elements of the procedure as well as the legal basis justifying their adoption.[1]

4. Even if the legislative nature of certain Community measures was already recognised in the case-law of the Court ([2]) the word “legislative” was a penumbral concept in the Institution’s practices and appeared only indirectly in the mid-1980s, first in the practices of the institutions after the Single European Act (entered into force in 1987) with the establishment of a “legislative program” whose aim was to describe notably the “cooperation procedures” requiring two successive readings by the European Parliament.

5. Finally the notion of a more transparent European legislation (both for the content as well as for the adoption procedure) appeared in the Conclusions of the European Council meeting in Birmingham on October 16, 1992 ([3]) as a political response of the EU institutions to the first negative referendum in Denmark ta the time of the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.

Thanks to this Referendum and to the Maastricht Treaty a radical change of approach has been triggered notably inside the Council marking the new EU’s ambition to upgrade its economic mission to a more political one and, consequently, to make its decision-making process more democratic (with the codecision procedure) and transparent. (see the Declaration attached to the Maastricht treaty)

Legislative and not legislative transparency  

6. This approach will be reinforced with the Amsterdam Treaty which entered into force on May 1, 1999 and which provides for the first time at the level of primary law in Article 255 of the EC Treaty (TEC) the fundamental right of citizens to access European Parliament and Council Commission documents. In addition to this article art. 207 p. 3 of the TEC gave the Council the right to determine “..the cases in which it must be regarded as acting in its capacity as legislator in order to allow better access to documents in these cases, while preserving the efficiency of its process of decision making… “.

7. In application of art. Art 255 TCE the European Parliament and the Council subsequently framed with Regulation 1049/2001 the principles as well as the exceptions ([4]) to the right of access to documents which was considered an essential element of participative democracy.

Unfortunately Regulation 1049/01 was not able to make a clear distinction between legislative and not legislative activity because it mirrored the definition given by the Council internal procedures according to which were “legislative” all the EU measures “binding in and for the Member States” even if  most of these measures were administrative and not legislative so that a lower level of transparency could had been justified .

The stalemate after the Lisbon Treaty

8. The entry into force on 1st December 2009 of the Lisbon Treaty and of the Charter of fundamental Rights was deemed to mark a new era for the European Union and for its Citizens because since then most of the pre-existing problems at Constitutional level were adressed: the Unanimity rule in the Council is now the exception (and no more the rule), the European Parliament has been transformed in a full-fledged co-legislator (also in domains previously jealously controlled by the Member States such as the judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters) and the Court of Justice has been recognised fully competent on almost all the European Policies.

9. Moreover the preamble of the European Charter has proclaimed a sort of Copernican Revolution by announcing that the EU was placing “.. the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice’  and this announcement is now mirrored in the new Title II of the TEU, dealing with democratic principles which now stipulates that ‘the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions’ (Article 9) and that ‘every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen’ (Article 10(3))[5].

10. Participative democracy is now hammered in the art. 11.1 [6]and 2 TEU according to which the EU institution shall“..give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action‘ and  ‘maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society”.

11. But the main rule for participative democracy (along the right to submit legislative initiatives to the attention of the Commission) is the Art 15 of the TFEU whose opening words are the following :” In order to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society, the Union’s institutions, bodies, offices and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible.” This general obligation is clearly linked to the article 41 of the Charter which promote the principle of good administration inside the EU and the art. 298 of the same Treaty which states that “In carrying out their missions, the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union shall have the support of an open, efficient and independent European administration.” [7]

12. The second paragraph states of art 15 that “The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act.” Public debates and votes may look quite a basic rule when enacting a legislation, but this was not the case in the European Union before the Lisbon treaty. Even if Council votes were public, this was not the case of legislative debates unlike what was happening in the European Parliament where debates were and still are public at committees and Plenary level. This situation of half transparency notably when the legislation is enacted in co-decision by the European Parliament and by the Council is clearly unacceptable for the EU citizens and even the national Parliaments which in principle should have the right to know and to follow the EU decision-making process no matter if debates are in the Parliament or in the Council.

13. Moreover after Lisbon there is no more ambiguity between legislative and non legislative procedures because the Treaty itself :

  • consider as legislative the measures adopted following the “ordinary” or the “special” procedure
  • foresee the explicit announcement in the draft agendas of the Council the legislative debates/votes
  • makes no more reference to the need of protecting the efficiency of decision making process.

14. It is worth noting that in cases of non legislative procedures the General Court and the Court of Justice have already accepted before the enry into force of the Lisbon Treaty a lower level of transparency than for legislative procedures by recognising a general presumption of non access ([8]) to five this kinds of non legislative documents.

This jurisprudence has been on my opinion rightly criticised by the doctrine [9] because Regulation 1049/01 does not make any reference to this kind of presumption. Quite the opposite the Regulation require an examination on each relevant document by also imposing a dialogue with the person who is asking the access. Moreover the presumption of confidentiality for the documents exchanged between the Commission and a Member States during the transposition of EU law in national law is prejudicial not only for the european citizens but also for the European Parliament. [10]

15 As far as legislative procedures were concerned the European Parliament in December 2011 voting on the revision of Regulation 1049/01 has decided to delete the reference in art 4 to the “efficiency of the decision making process” for the legislative procedures. But this vote has not been followed by the Council which is obviously more than happy to continue in its pre-Lisbon practices thanks to the survival of this exception in Regulation 1049/01 (which is still into force). Unfortunately the European Commission has also until now been supportive of the exception of the protection of the “efficiency of the decision making process” because it has found it very useful when confronted to requests for documents linked to the competition policy or dealing with its relations with the Member States when transposing EU law.

16. It is worth noting that this exception which until today is still the main reason for refusing the access to documents also for legislative procedures is not justified with the necessity to avoid a possible danger for the EU (which may justify even the creation of “classified” documents) but quite simply with the need of the Member States representatives to change their negotiating position without having to explain the real motivation to their national citizens or even …to their national parliaments.

17. When legislative procedures are at stake the Court of Justice has tried to reverse the Council and Commission position with several groundbreaking rulings such as the “Hautala” ([11])  the  “Turco” ([12] ) and Access Info ([13]) cases but the impact on the Council and Commission behaviour has been very limited.  Even two very interesting recent rulings in 2018 of  the Court of Justice and of the General Court have received until now a limited impact on the EU legislative transparency.

18. The first “Client Heart” case [14] is significant insofar as it clarifies the scope of the concept of ‘legislative documents’, which requires a wider threshold of openness. Deciding as Grand  Chamber the Court of Justice found that also documents drawn up in the context of an impact assessment qualify as legislative documents even if as outcome of the this analysis the Commission decide of not launching a legislative procedure.

The second “De Capitani v European Parliament” Ruling regarding the exception for the protection of the decision-making process, is Case T-540/15 where the General Court clarified that the negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council in presence of the Commission (so called “Trilogues”) are an essential phase of the legislative work (no matter if described as “informal”) so that the documents exchanged during these meeting and notably the multicolumn documents should be accessible even if they are evolving and provisional.

How change everything to..change nothing

19. Unfortunately two years after these two rulings the institutions have not changed their behaviour, (even if in some cases they accept specific requests on a case by case basis).

The Council is routinely marking most of the internal legislative documents debated in the working groups or at Coreper level as LIMITE and covered by “professional secrecy” even when they are transmitted to the National Parliaments (which prevent them from debating publicly) and the European Parliament still does not consider trilogues related documents as of legislative (preparatory) nature ! ([15])  Now the point is that if “Trilogues” are an essential phase of the legislative procedure the documents debated during these meetings should be proactively published as required by art. 15 TFEU([16]) and art. 12 par 2  of Regulation 1049/01 ([17]).

20. The “trilogue” procedure is already per se an extraordinry way to foster the EU decision making process and this can explain why now almost all the legislative procedures are negotiated in this framework. That having been said, pretending that this procedure should remain confidential is a blatant violation of the principle lf legislative transparency now embedded in the Treaties and in the Charter. It will be an exception on an already exceptional procedure where, moreover, the provisional texts exchanged when accessible are in only one language and where once a compromise is reached there is no real possibility for amendments!

Why making access to information simple when you can make it complex ?

21. To make things even worse, 18 years after the entry into force of Regulation 1049/01 the EU institutions are still quarelling on the the way how the EU citizens can have a simplified access to the documents negotiated under a specific legislative procedure.

The idea of a common “portal” was debated already debated in 2002 and some pilot projects have been tested since then in the Commission and more recently in the Office of EU publication who is in charge of the production of EURLEX. It may be surprising but institutions who spend millions of euro for the production and diffusion of their internal documents are not able of agreeing common exchange format for the most important EU activity which is to legislate for half billion people.. Such situation in the era of Google and Facebook is frankly unacceptable and in my opinion should trigger soon or later an enquiry by the Ombusdman or even by the Court of Auditors having regard to the social and economic impact of this EU institutions failure.

[1] Il s’agit notamment de la base juridique justifiant dans les traités l’adoption de la mesure, ainsi que les institutions  consultés ainsi que un argumentaire permettant de comprendre le problème que la mesure était censé résoudre.


[3] Voir les Conclusions du Conseil européen ( et la Resolution du conseil du 8 juin 1993 relative à la qualité rédactionnelle de la législation communutaire ( )

[4] Exceptions qui doivent être interprétées et appliquées strictement (arrêt du 13 juillet 2017, Saint-Gobain Glass Deutschland/Commission, C‑60/15 P, EU:C:2017:540, point 63 et jurisprudence citée).

[5] [5] Comme reconnu par la Cour la possibilité, pour les citoyens, de contrôler et de connaître l’ensemble des informations qui constituent le fondement de l’action législative de l’Union est une condition de l’exercice effectif par ces derniers de leurs droits démocratiques, reconnus notamment à l’article 10, paragraphe 3, TUE (voir, en ce sens, arrêts du 1er juillet 2008, Suède et Turco/Conseil, C‑39/05 P et C‑52/05 P, EU:C:2008:374, point 46, ainsi que du 17 octobre 2013, Conseil/Access Info Europe, C‑280/11 P, EU:C:2013:671, point 33).

[6] [6] Article 11,  TEU

1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

4.Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.

The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

[7]It is a disgrace that notwithstanding repeated formal requests of the European Parliament the European Commission do not intend to present a legislative proposal covering this objective.

[8] À ce jour, la Cour a reconnu l’existence de présomptions générales de confidentialité au bénéfice de cinq catégories de documents, à savoir les documents d’un dossier administratif afférent à une procédure de contrôle des aides d’État, les mémoires déposés devant les juridictions de l’Union au cours d’une procédure juridictionnelle tant que celle-ci est pendante, les documents échangés entre la Commission et les parties ayant procédé à une notification ou des tiers dans le cadre d’une procédure de contrôle des opérations de concentration entre entreprises, les documents se rapportant à une procédure précontentieuse en manquement, y inclus les documents échangés entre la Commission et l’État membre concerné dans le cadre d’une procédure EU Pilot, et les documents afférents à une procédure d’application de l’article 101 TFUE (voir, en ce sens, arrêt du 16 juillet 2015, ClientEarth/Commission, C‑612/13 P, EU:C:2015:486, point 77 ainsi que jurisprudence citée ; s’agissant des mémoires déposés devant les juridictions de l’Union, voir, en ce sens, arrêt du 18 juillet 2017, Commission/Breyer, C‑213/15 P, EU:C:2017:563, point 41 et jurisprudence citée ; s’agissant des documents échangés dans le cadre d’une procédure EU Pilot, voir arrêt du 11 mai 2017, Suède/Commission, C‑562/14 P, EU:C:2017:356, point 51). Dans chacun de ces cas, le refus d’accès en cause portait sur un ensemble de documents clairement circonscrits par leur appartenance commune à un dossier afférent à une procédure administrative ou juridictionnelle en cours (arrêt du 16 juillet 2015, ClientEarth/Commission, C‑612/13 P, EU:C:2015:486, point 78 ; voir, également, arrêt du 11 mai 2017, Suède/Commission, C‑562/14 P, EU:C:2017:356). »

[9] See notably “Beware of Courts Bearing Gifts: Transparency and the Court of Justice of the European Union

Marios Costa* & Steve Peers**

[10] For instance in case of Directives the obligations or the advantages for the national citizens arise mainly from the national measure transposing the Directive. Make transparent the informations exchanged during this phase is clearly more interesting for the Citizens than the access to the information in the “Brussels” phase. Under this perspective the national transposition phase is still an “european phase” and it would be bizarre that an EU institution hide these information. As far as the European Parliament is concerned this confidentiality during the transposition phase for codecision measure is contrary to common sens the EP being the co-author of the measures concerned.

Under this perspective the EP should had challenged this Commission practice since year as contrary to the principle of loyal cooperation.

[11]Case C-353/99 P, Council of the European Union v. Heidi Hautala, Judgment of the European Court of Justice of 6 December 2001

[12] Joined Cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P Sweden and Turco v Council 4

[13] See e.g. C-280/11 P Council v Access Info Europe

[14] Judgment of 4 September 2018, C‑57/16  ‘ClientEarth’ .

[15] See the EP Bureau Decision of 2010 listing the documents of legislative nature which should be proactively published and which does not foresee trilogues related documents.

[16] Art.15,3par 5subparagraph TFEU : “The European Parliament and the Council shall ensure publication of the documents relating to the legislative procedures under the terms laid down by the regulations referred to in the second subparagraph”.

[17] Art 12. 2 Regulation 1049/01 “ In particular, legislative documents, that is to say, documents drawn up or received in the course of procedures for the adoption of acts which are legally binding in or for the Member States, should, subject to Articles 4 and 9, be made directly accessible.

Frontex – A Rising Star of Declining Europe? Frontex and the Duty to Respect and Protect Human Rights (Verfassungsblog)

by Constantin Hruschka (Fr 7 Feb 2020)

The discussion on human rights obligations and potential human rights violations has been part of the history of Frontex ever since the agency´s foundation in 2004. Yet, the focus of the human rights discourse on Frontex is on the protection against human rights violations ‘committed by Frontex’. Much less attention, though, is paid to the duty of Frontex to respect and protect human rights in its operations. The call for streamlining fundamental rights protection into all Frontex operations is, obviously, less likely to gain public attention than a law suit against an EU agency. Mindful of this important gap in the current human rights debate surrounding Frontex, this blogpost will look at both levels of human rights protection and suggest a way forward in light of the agency’s extended tasks and competencies.

I. The tension between human rights and efficient border controls

As its name suggests, the main aim of Frontex is to avoid irregular border crossings of the external borders. At the same time, the mandate of Frontex clearly states that ‘it is necessary to act in full respect of fundamental rights’ (Recital 1 of the 2019 Regulation). There is thus an obvious tension between a control logic and a human rights based approach to the European migration policy (see also Recital 1 of the 2011 Regulation). This tension became especially visible with regard to Frontex operations in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2008, the former Frontex director, Ilka Laitinen, stated that Operation Nautilus had failed, because it actually facilitated irregular entries of persons rescued at sea. By its mere presence (and adherence to human rights standards) Frontex was portrayed as a smuggler agency by its own director. Nevertheless, Laitinen admitted in 2013 that Frontex had been involved in push backs at the external borders. Against this backdrop, fundamental rights protection became a topical issue regarding the work of Frontex as a whole.

II. Embedded of fundamental rights protection?

II. 1. Enhanced fundamental rights protection over time

Looking at the question both from a temporal and a numerical point of view, the protection of fundamental rights plays an increasing role in the legal basis for the work of Frontex. In 2004, only Recital 22 of Regulation No. 2007/2004 referred to fundamental rights protection in an affirmative way when stating the (politically) necessary, namely that ‘[t]his Regulation respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognized by Article 6(2) of the Treaty on European Union and reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.’ In contrast, the 2011 amendment called in its Recital 1 more generally for the ‘development of a forward-looking and comprehensive European migration policy based on human rights’ and made reference to ‘fundamental rights’ over 30 times. More substantially, the 2011 overhaul introduced the obligation of Frontex to develop a Fundamental Rights Strategy and a Code of Conduct as well as to install a Fundamental Rights Officer and a respective Consultative Forum. Moreover, the 2011 mandate revision foresaw a possibility to cooperate with the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and ordered that the first evaluation report on the new Regulation includes ‘a specific analysis on the way the Charter of Fundamental Rights was complied with in the application of this Regulation.’ Following the trend, in the 2016 Regulation the term ‘fundamental rights’ is used over 100 times and in the Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 the term features over 230 times. This development shows increased attention for the protection of fundamental rights but also hints to the fact that this protection remains an unsolved issue within the work of Frontex.

II. 2. Challenging role and the need for control

The importance and relevance of human rights for Frontex’s mandate was highlighted by the CJEU in a judgment of 5 September 2012. The Court annulled Decision 2010/252/EU, which concerned the introduction of additional rules governing border surveillance at the external maritime borders, because it was not taken in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. The rules regarding the way Frontex may exercise its powers in such operations were, according to the CJEU, inappropriately labeled as an additional implementing measure under Article 12(5) of the 2006 Schengen Borders Code. Consequently, the CJEU pointed out (in para. 77) ‘that provisions on conferring powers of public authority on border guards […] mean that the fundamental rights of the persons concerned may be interfered with to such an extent that the involvement of the European Union legislature is required.’

In 2019, reports by the Fundamental Rights Officer (March 2019) and the Consultative Forum (March 2019) still suggest that the mechanisms aiming at safeguarding human rights, including the complaint mechanism as well as the incorporation of a fundamental rights component in the training modules, have not been sufficiently effective to guarantee the respect for fundamental rights in all Frontex operations. The same seems to be less the case for return operations, most probably because of the existing system of forced-return monitors, the specific Code of Conduct for Return Operations, and the implementation of forced return monitoring projects carried out in cooperation with other actors.

In light of the persisting human rights protection deficiencies, the European legislator saw the need to stress underlying legal obligations that are rooted inter aliain Public International Law and EU law including but not limited to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Consequently, recital 24 of the 2019 Regulation states that ‘[t]he extended tasks and competence of the Agency should be balanced with strengthened fundamental rights safeguards and increased accountability and liability, in particular in terms of the exercise of executive powers by the statutory staff’.

But even if the need for human rights protection is being widely accepted, including by the Frontex Regulation itself, an apparent implementation gap persists, and, what is more, legal remedies often lack effectiveness and efficiency. The complaint mechanism (now Article 111 of the 2019 Regulation) is institutionally weak and seldom used as it does not constitute an independent and effective legal remedy. What is more, the unsettled question of competency and effective control makes it difficult to assess against whom and in which forum to seek redress in the context of operations conducted by Frontex and Member States. The attribution and redress issue might become even more complicated if Frontex cooperates more extensively and out of its own competency with third countries. In order to avoid confusion and ineffectiveness of legal remedies, it would be necessary to establish a clear legal remedy scheme for all types of operations in which Frontex is involved. Lehnert has convincingly argued for a choice of the persons concerned regarding the addressee of a potential lawsuit in order to facilitate the effectiveness of legal remedies ‘against Frontex’, at least as long as the EU has not joined the ECHR.

II. 3. The relevance of human rights protection: returns and border controls

Fundamental rights protection is most acute in relation to returns and border controls. Concerning the first issue, namely returns, two levels are of particular importance: individual protection and independent monitoring. Regarding the former, the protection against refoulement (Article 19 CFR) and the protection of human dignity (Article 1 CFR) form the non-negotiable basis of fundamental rights protection. Yet, other consideration may equally play an important role, including vulnerabilities, the right to family union, or the best interests of children (as stated in Article 5 of the Returns Directive). The issue of return monitoring features prominently in the 2016 and the 2019 Regulations. However, the independence of the return monitoring is at risk given its full incorporation into the legal framework of Frontex and the constitution of the pool of forced-return monitors (Article 51 of the 2019 Regulation). This monitoring task deriving from Article 8(6) of the Returns Directive would be better placed with the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) in order to ensure independent monitoring.

When it comes to the second issue, namely border controls, the controls themselves have of course to abide by fundamental rights standards. This includes the dissemination of information on protection procedures and potential immediate returns that might follow a non-application (see also ECHR, Hirsi). Moreover, the surveillance of sea borders may inevitably lead to search and rescue activities. In this context, the agency’s Integrated Border Management (IBM) gains increasing attention including regarding the cooperation with and work in third countries. From a human rights perspective, the extraterritorial dimension of IBM lacks clear and workable fundamental rights protection standards. As operations in or with third countries are often coupled with the fight against cross-border crimes (smuggling and trafficking of human beings feature prominently in this area), information is mostly not readily available. In a relatively deferential judgment, the CJEU has on 27 November 2019 declined access to such information for security reasons (Case T-31/18), which makes it even more complicated to assess and address fundamental rights concerns in these operations.

Moreover, the respect for and protection of fundamental rights should be included into Frontex’s work related to risk management, migration management at large, all training activities (not only in specialized courses), and data exchange. As a matter of fact, data protection considerations are heavily underdeveloped in Frontex operations.

III. What Frontex has to say about fundamental rights protection

The 2018 activity report of Frontex suggests that fundamental rights protection is key to the agency’s work: Fundamental rights play an important role in the agency’s training curriculum and are currently also one of the 14 strategic action areas of Frontex. Yet, the main reference to the protection of fundamental rights and sensitivity towards potential human rights violations is efficiency: Protecting fundamental rights is presented as a means to enhance efficiency in the fight against cross border crimes as it facilitates the detection and identification of victims of trafficking.

Another observation concerns the language used by Frontex in its reports. The aim of respecting fundamental rights is presented as a balancing act between efficiency and (full) human rights protection. For example, ‘vulnerabilities’ may concern both borders—a ‘vulnerability assessment’ of borders is mandatory according to Article 32 of the 2019 Regulation—and persons—inter alia with the aim of identifying vulnerable persons according to Article 3(1)(a) of the 2019 Regulation. On a more general note, the use of this language appears to provide borders with personality and they also seem to have some kind of ethical standing and a right to be free from the risk of being violated. Moreover, this personalization is embedded into a security rhetoric that suggests a permanent threat by ‘irregular migration and cross-border crimes’ at the external borders and is often used in order to justify the use of technology and force.

The only exception to this efficiency-based approach to human rights protection is the principle of non-refoulement. This principle is presented as a non-negotiable key component of all Frontex measures. In practice, this principle also plays a vital role in shaping Frontex operations. Its relevance is further supported by the fact that in 2018, all three admissible complaints under Article 72 of the 2016 Regulation had at least a non-refoulement component. Looking at the Frontex reports, the main issue brought up by the Consultative Forum seems to be also the main challenge for fundamental rights in the agencies’ daily work: Are fundamental rights (just) one strategic action area or is the protection of fundamental rights a cross-cutting issue that needs to be mainstreamed into all action areas?

IV. Operationalizing fundamental rights protection—the way forward

In order to operationalize the respect for and the protection of fundamental rights the Consultative Forum has put forward some institutional considerations: On the EU level, the Consultative Forum suggests to enhance the involvement of the intra-Frontex human rights protections institutions (like the Fundamental Rights Officer and the Consultative Forum) and the intensification of intra-EU-cooperation, which in turn includes an important role for Fundamental Rights Agency as the competent EU agency in this area. On the international level, enhanced cooperation with IOM and UNHCR is mentioned as an additional safety and potentially supervisory net with regard to the adherence to international human rights standards.

It is argued in this blogpost that this cooperation should be formalized by cooperation agreements with the external institutions, especially in light of the agency’s new remit and geographical scope. From a human rights protection perspective, the cooperation with third countries must be accompanied by a monitoring component as well as a mechanism safeguarding the access to remedies. In a similar vein, it is recommended that impact assessments on fundamental rights should be mandatory for each of these measures as well as for return operations and physical border controls. Yet, formalizing these cooperation schemes requires some profound changes to the way Frontex operates with regard to the independence of monitors, the access to operational data, and the transparency of the operations in general. For the time being, though, strong and functioning legal remedies are underrepresented in most of Frontex activities, as is a fundamental rights friendly mindset.

Therefore, as long as the protection of fundamental rights is seen as an obstacle on the way to efficient and speedy procedures, persons subject to the effective control by Frontex are left with no other choice but to rely on national as well as European courts to bring claims. In the long run, the protection of fundamental rights can only be effectively guaranteed through appropriate procedures if the perceived contradiction of effective border management and rights protection is dissolved and replaced by a different mindset that is less fixated on controls and sanctions.

To conclude, operational practice has significantly enhanced the role of human rights in Frontex operations. While the 2019 Regulation reinforces this development on the regulatory level, the current human rights protection framework remains incomplete, in particular in light of weak or lacking complaint mechanisms. It is difficult to foresee whether the increase of human rights obligations for Frontex keeps up with the agency’s ever stronger institutional independence. Currently, the fundamental rights protection framework seems to lack the necessary mechanism for enforcement on different levels, in particular monitoring. As monitoring is a key component to supervise and implement human rights protection, it needs to be coupled with an effective and efficient complaint mechanism which is currently not the case: Human rights standards as well as ‘ethical standards’ for Frontex operations are (partly) blurred, and enforceable legal protection is lacking not least because the complaint mechanism of the Frontex Regulation that should provide for enhanced protection of fundamental rights is difficult to access and not fully independent as it is administered by the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer.

Additionally, and even more importantly, a human rights culture needs to be fully established as outlined in the introduction to Frontex 2019 – in brief: ‘We also aim for Frontex to comply with the best EU standards for sound administrative and financial management and EU legal and ethical standards, which include fundamental rights.’ While strengthening the complaint mechanism to further the role of human rights may serve as a crutch for the distressed protection of fundamental rights, it will never be more than a lame duck if this protection is not fully embedded in the agency’s working culture. So although structural changes remain key to the (future) protection of fundamental rights, a mentality shift within Frontex will make all the difference.

Refugee camps at EU external borders, the question of the Union’s responsibility, and the potential of EU public liability law (Verfassungsblog)

by Catharina Ziebritzki Mi 5 Feb 2020

‘The EU hotspot approach as implemented in Greece is the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union’. This quote by the head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) might sound drastic. Yet, it is not far-fetched. EU bodiesnational institutionsinternational organisations including the Council of Europe, and NGOs, have, during the past four years, continuously documented that the asylum processing centres at the EU external borders lead to fundamental rights violations on a daily basis. The EU hotspot administration indeed jeopardises the respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

Usually, when something is going wrong, a first step towards improvement is to ask: who is responsible? And yet, with regard to EU hotspots, this question is still subject to debate. Responsibilities are effectively blurred by the sheer number of actors operating in those centres combined with a lack of legal clarity. On the political level, this leads to responsibility-shifting between the European Commission, Greece and local municipalities. On the legal level, so far, only Greece as the host Member State is considered responsible, namely under the ECHR. The considerable involvement of the Commission and EU agencies—in particular Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)— however suggests to look to EU law and to examine whether and to what extent the European Union is legally responsible.

It is argued here that EU public liability law—more specifically: an action for damages against the Union or its agencies Frontex and EASO—has a particular potential in this context. First, it would help secure the right to an effective remedy to concerned individuals. Second, it would thereby serve to address systemic deficiencies in the EU hotspot administration. Third, it could ultimately provide an answer to the crucial question of whether the Union is responsible for fundamental rights violations in EU hotspots.

1 – The violation of fundamental rights in EU hotspots—systemic deficiencies

In 2015, the Commission put forward the EU hotspot approach as part of the European Agenda on Migration. While the approach is implemented both in Italy and Greece, this contribution focuses on the latter. Each of the five EU hotspots in Greece, located on Aegean islands, consist of a refugee camp, an administrative complex, and, in some cases, a pre-removal detention facility. In March 2016, with the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, the EU hotspots were transformed into return centres meaning that the asylum procedure and the reception conditions were adapted to the aim of return. Currently, about 41,000 persons are staying in those camps.

The approach of ‘processing asylum claims at borders, particularly when these centres are located in relatively remote locations, creates fundamental rights challenges that appear almost unsurmountable’. This assessment by FRA seems plausible given the empirical evidence provided by the already four-years long ‘hotspot experiment’. More specifically, FRA finds fundamental rights risks with regard to, inter alia, Articles 1, 4, 5(3), 6, 7, 18 and 19, 20 and 21, 24, 25 and 26, 41 and 47 of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights (ChFR). Two aspects deserve particular attention.

First, the reception conditions are far from complying with any standard of EU secondary law and wholly inadequate for human beings: Shelter is insufficient (if there is any), there exists exposure to extreme weather conditions, a high risk of sexual, gender-based and other forms of violence, a lack of medical services despite widespread physical and severe psychological health issues, insufficient and inadequate sanitary facilities, and a lack of access to education or social services. Taken as a whole, the reception conditions arguably amount to a violation of Article 4 ChFR prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment, at least insofar as vulnerable persons are concerned. This follows from the standards established by the CJEU from N.S. to Jawo, taking into account the case law of the ECtHR from M.S.S. to Tarakhel. Concerning EU hotspots specifically, the ECtHR seems to slowly change its jurisprudence: In contrast to earlier decisions concerning the situation in March 2016, a violation of Article 3 ECHR was found in more recent interim measures concerning vulnerable persons. Even if one assumes that a violation of Article 4 ChFR can be found only for vulnerable persons, this still affects a considerable number of people.

Second, a deportation to Turkey, at least in the vast majority of cases, would be in breach of the Asylum Procedures Directive, since Turkey cannot be considered as safe third country or first country of asylum. This is, despite the differing decision of the Greek Council of State, in line with the view of the Greek administration (and the Administrative Court of Munich). Considering the situation in Turkey, it seems that, at least for the vast majority of persons, the deportation would amount to a violation of the non-refoulement principle as enshrined in Articles 4, 18, 19(2) ChFR. This follows from the minimum standards established by the ECtHR in Ilias and Ahmad with regard to Article 3 ECHR. (The CJEU has not yet established the constitutional standards following from Articles 4, 18, 19(2) ChFR: The decision in Alheto concerns a specific case, and the decision in LH  remains to be awaited). With regard to the situation in Turkey specifically, an individual complaint before the ECtHR is pending.

Those two aspects speak in favour of describing the implementation of the EU hotspot as systemically deficient. Both a breach of Article 4 ChFR as well as breach of the non-refoulement principle as enshrined in Article 4, 18, 19(2) ChFR meet the threshold of being relevant for Article 2 TEU. Further, both breaches are systemic in the sense of widespread or inherent to the situation: An arguable limitation to the sub-group of vulnerable persons does not hinder the qualification as systemic. Due to the design of EU hotspots as return centres, the question whether deportations to Turkey violate the non-refoulement principle is, despite the relatively low numbers of returns, of structural relevance.

2 – The considerable involvement of the Union in the EU hotspot administration

Against this background, it is worthwhile to have a closer look at the involvement of the Union in the EU hotspot administration. From the perspective of EU administrative law, the distinctive characteristic of EU hotspots, in comparison to other asylum processing centres at EU external borders, is the close administrative cooperation between Union bodies and national authorities. This becomes clear already from Article 2(23) Frontex Regulation defining a ‘hotspot area’ as an area ‘in which the host Member State, the Commission, relevant Union agencies and participating Member States cooperate, with the aim of managing an existing or potential disproportionate migratory challenge characterised by a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving at the external borders’.

The EU hotspot administration can hence be described as the paradigm example for advanced vertical administrative cooperation within the integrated European asylum administration. This means that several EU agencies—such as Frontex, EASO, Europol, and Eurojust—cooperate with several national authorities—such as asylum service, reception service, police, and army. In practice, international organisations such as UNHCR and IOM, several NGOs, and a private security company operate in those centres in addition.

The operational level—the role of Frontex and EASO

On the operational level, migration management support teams (MMST) deployed by the EU agencies support the Greek authorities. The distinctive feature of the MMST lies, inter alia, in the close inter-agency cooperation. While Frontex supports in particular by registering applicants and escorting deportations to TurkeyEASO supports notably by conducting asylum interviews and drafting legal opinions recommending the acceptance or rejection of the concerned individual’s claim for international protection.

With a view to EU public liability law, it should be kept in mind that the responsibility to issue administrative decisions lies with the host Member State. The role of Frontex and EASO is to provide non-formally binding administrative support. However, the line between formally-binding and non-formally binding is not that easy to draw: Non-formally binding administrative conduct can have de facto binding effects on national authorities, as illustrated by EASO’s involvement in the assessment of asylum claims. And non-formally binding administrative conduct can have quite significant effects on individuals, in particular since the reformed Frontex Regulation does not exclude the use of force by Frontex MMST staff.

The coordination and monitoring level—the role of the Commission and the EURTF

On the coordination and monitoring level, responsibility lies with the European Commission, who is supported by Frontex, EASO, and the other relevant EU agencies in this respect. Article 40(3) Frontex Regulation provides that the ‘Commission, in cooperation with the host Member State and the relevant Union bodies, offices and agencies (…) shall be responsible for the coordination of the activities of the migration management support teams.’ The Commission performs this task within the framework of the EU Regional Task Force (EURTF). The EURTF is a coordination structure which has been established without a clear legal basis and operates under non-public ‘terms of cooperation’ and ‘rules of procedure’.

With a view to EU public liability law, it should be noted that the Commission’s mandate includes the supervisory obligation to ensure that the EU hotspot approach is implemented in line with EU law. This becomes clear already from Article 40(3) Frontex Regulation, read in light of its Article 1 and recitals. Further, and more importantly, this follows from Article 17(1) TEU, as interpreted by the CJEU in Ledra, as well as from Article 51 ChFR.

3 – The Potential of EU Public Liability Law—enforcing EU law from below

The Commission, Frontex, and EASO are hence closely involved in the EU hotspot administration which is systemically deficient, and leads to fundamental rights violations in individual cases. This gives rise to the crucial question: Can the Union be held responsible? A legal regime which could provide an answer to this question would ideally grant the right to an effective remedy to the concerned individual and enforce the rule of EU law more generally, while at the same time allowing for the attribution of responsibility among the involved actors.

It is argued here that EU public liability law has a particular potential in this context due to its subjective and objective legal protection function combined with its attribution function. More specifically, the particular potential lies in the action for damages against the Union or its agencies—as codified in Article 340(2) TFEU respectively Article 97(4), 98 Frontex Regulation, and Article 45(3) EASO Regulation. In the latter case, the agency would be liable under its founding Regulation in a first degree, and the Union, since it cannot exclude its liability under Article 340(2) TFEU by adopting secondary law, in a second degree.

To begin with, it seems that, among the approaches addressing systemic deficiencies by enforcing EU law, one can distinguish between top-down procedures, initiated by the Commission as guardian of the treaties, and bottom-up procedures, initiated by individuals. Both the preliminary reference procedure, as the standard mechanism in the internal market, as well as procedures in which individuals claim their rights directly before the CJEU, as standard mechanism in competition or state aid law, form part of the latter.

In the case of EU hotspots, any procedure depending on the Commission’s initiative seems unsuitable to enforce EU law due to the Commission’s involvement in the EU hotspot administration. The preliminary reference procedure is moreover of little use already because an action for damages against the Union cannot be brought before national courts. What remains are the procedures granting the individual direct access to the CJEU.

The action for damages is the most suitable procedure in this context. Notably, it could grant the right to an effective remedy, enshrined in Article 47 ChFR, in a particularly challenging context. The increasingly integrated European administration more generally raises challenges as to how to guarantee the right to an effective remedy. In the case of EU hotspots, the challenge arises, inter alia, because the relevant administrative conduct is of non-formally binding nature and consists in omissions to comply with supervisory obligations. While the action for annulment does not provide a remedy in those cases, the action for damages does. This is indeed the reason why the action of damages has become the main action ensuring the right to an effective remedy—as examined in particular by Timo Rademacher, and as analysed with regard to Frontex in particular by Melanie Fink. Finally, EU public liability law has an attribution function: an action for damages against the Union would not exclude liability of the host Member State or the other Member States under the case law following Francovich. Quite to the contrary, EU public liability law allows to assess each contribution, and the Union and the Member States can be held jointly liable.

Against this background, one might wonder: If the situation in the EU hotspots is really so bad, and if EU public liability law really has such potential, why did nobody file an action for damages against the Union yet? To be sure, the CJEU’s dismissal of the action for annulment against the EU-Turkey Statement, which was in essence directed against the implementation of the return policy in the EU Hotspots, does not preclude an action for damages against the Union based on the systemically deficient EU hotspot administration: The CJEU’s finding, namely that the Union did not conclude the EU Turkey Statement, is not relevant to the question of whether the Union is liable due to its administrative involvement in the EU hotspot administration. Rather, practical obstacles such as insufficient capacity of legal aid may provide the reasons: The few lawyers working under extreme pressure in the EU hotspots might come to the conclusion that it is simply not feasible to invest a considerable amount of time and resources in a procedure with uncertain outcome.

4 – The critical question of who is responsible—holding the Union liable?

Now, assumed that a person succeeded in filing an action against the Union before the CJEU, and that he or she claimed damages invoking the dire living conditions in the EU hotspot or his or her deportation to Turkey: Would the Union indeed be held liable?

Finding an answer to this question requires a close analysis of the extensive case law on EU public liability law. According to the CJEU’s jurisprudence, non-contractual liability under Article 340(2) TFEU arises if unlawful conduct of a Union body, qualifying as a sufficiently serious breach of a rule conferring rights on individuals, has caused a damage. Liability under Articles 97(4), 98 Frontex Regulation and respectively Article 45(3) EASO Regulation arises under the same conditions. Given the scope of this post, the argument here is limited to considering on the basis of which administrative conduct liability might arise, and shortly outlining two crucial legal issues.

Frontex could incur liability based on its registration of applicants in the EU hotspots and based on its escorting of deportations to Turkey. The former contributes, at least insofar as vulnerable persons are concerned, to keeping applicants in conditions incompatible with Article 4 ChFR, and the latter, at least in most cases, to a violation of the non-refoulement principle as enshrined in Articles 4, 18, 19(2) ChFR. Both could be in breach of Frontex’s obligation to respect fundamental rights under Articles 1, 36(2), 44(3), 48 Frontex Regulation, Article 51 ChFR. Further, the conclusion of the relevant Operating Plan, or the omission to withdraw from the administrative cooperation despite knowledge about systemic fundamental rights violations could be in breach of Articles 1, 36(2), 46(4) Frontex Regulation, Article 51 ChFR. (On supervisory obligations conferring rights upon individuals see the CJEU’s case law, notably Ledra.) In the same vein, EASO could incur liability based on its conducting of asylum interviews, drafting legal opinions, and adopting the relevant Operating Plan and the Standard Operating Procedures, which could be in breach of EASO’s obligations to respect fundamental rights. Finally, the Commission could incur liability based on its failure to adequately exercise its supervisory obligations. The failure to ensure the implementation of the EU hotspot approach in compliance with EU law could amount to a breach of Article 40(3) Frontex Regulation, Article 17(1) TEU, Article 51 ChFR. (On administrative omission see the CJEU’s case law, Kampffmeyer, and more recently Ledra, which confirms that the Commission’s omission to effectively ensure that Member States act in compliance with EU law may incur liability.)

To be sure, several legal issues would need to be resolved. Notably, the question arises to which entity administrative conduct of staff seconded to the EU agencies must be attributed. To give an example, the question is whether the conduct of a German officer seconded to Frontex and deployed to Greece as part of an MMST is to be considered as an act of Germany, of Greece, or of Frontex. Existing doctrinal analysis mainly suggests attribution to the host Member State due to the internal decision-making structure. However, one could also argue that the external appearance of the conduct towards a reasonable addressee must be taken into account in addition—which means that the appearance of the seconded staff’s conduct as conduct of the agency speaks in favour of attribution to the latter. The CJEU’s decision in A.G.M.-COS.MET as well as the right to a remedy, which cannot be effectively exercised if the individual is required to analyse the agency’s internal decision-making structure in order to know against whom to file an action, suggest such a reading.

Another legal issue arises in the context of causation, namely: whether non-formally binding administrative conduct may incur liability. The question is whether the ‘sufficiently direct link’ required for causation is ‘broken’ by the administrative decision of the host Member State. In contrast to its earlier jurisprudence, the CJEU in KYDEP and similar cases acknowledged that even a telefax by the Commission may, in principle, incur liability of the Union. It remains to be discussed whether later case law again overturned the KYDEP doctrine. Another approach, proposed by Melanie Fink, is to transfer the differentiation between primary and attributed responsibility, based on the Draft Articles on State Responsibility, into EU public liability law. A further discussion of those issues would go far beyond the scope of this contribution.

Whether the Union actually is liable for fundamental rights violations in EU hotspots hence remains to be answered. In other words, the potential of EU public liability law in the context of EU hotspots remains to be unfolded. And this, to begin with, requires a closer doctrinal analysis of the CJEU’s case law.

5 – EU public liability law as a limit to externalisation policies

Current EU migration and asylum policy relies, not fully, but to an important extent, on externalising the challenge of dealing with enhanced forced migration towards Europe. The challenge is often either put on third countries, or, where this is not possible, on Member States located at the EU external border. This approach leads to large scale fundamental rights violations—despite the difficulties of ECHR and EU law to address situations characterised by extraterritorialisation and outsourcing.

EU hotspots can be described as a paradigm example in this regard. As externalisation has an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ effect, it seems possible to forget about daily fundamental rights violations at the EU’s external borders. EU constitutional law however calls into question whether mere externalisation to Member States located at the EU external border is really sufficient to wash the Union’s and the other Member States’ hands of responsibility. This would indeed be quite strange, not only in light of the noble values enshrined in Article 2 TEU, but also given that the European Asylum System is conceived as a Common one.

Brexit and its consequences for cooperation in criminal matters (European Law Blog)


On January 31st, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, and their mutual relationship entered in a phase of transition. After 47 years of membership, the withdrawal led to a series of changes in various policy areas, in which the UK, as an EU Member State, cooperated with its counterparts. This notably concerns police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and the consequences of Brexit in this particular field will be our focus.

Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters is not necessarily the most discussed areas of mutual cooperation between EU Member States. Yet the instruments elaborated in this field are often relied upon in the background of highly visible cases, among which the emission of European arrest warrants (EAWs) against Catalan politicians, like Carlos Puigdemont, or the creation of a joint investigation team between France and Belgium after the Paris attacks in November 2015. These instruments are also frequently relied upon by British authorities, such as in the course of the investigations that were launched after the macabre discovery of 39 bodies in the “Essex Lorry”. The investigators retraced its movement from Bulgaria to the UK, through Belgium, notably with the assistance of one of the EU specialized agencies, Europol, and EAWs were issued against a person residing in Ireland suspected to have been involved in the criminal operation.

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have an impact on its participation in such cooperation. To understand the consequences of Brexit in this field, the present contribution will retrace the role of the UK in the development of the EU area of criminal justice (1). It will then discuss the regime applicable during the transition period, and pinpoint some of the identifiable shortcomings (2). It will finally address the possible future modalities of cooperation between the UK and the EU (3).

  1. The role of the United Kingdom in the development of the EU area of criminal justice

The role of the United Kingdom in this field is inextricably linked to its attitude towards an increased cooperation between EU Member States in criminal justice, a field very close to the powers of the State to ensure and preserve national security, and thus also very close to the States’ sovereignty. The UK’s attitude in this regard would be best summarized as “it’s complicated”.

At first, the United Kingdom may have appeared as a state with a certain reluctance to develop EU instruments supporting cooperation in criminal matters. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty the country extended the specific opt-out regime that applied previously to measures regarding visa, asylum and immigration. By virtue of this opt-out, provided for in Protocol No 21, the UK, together with Ireland, was not bound by measures adopted in the framework of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, nor by international agreements concluded in this field, or by judgments of the Court of justice of the EU. This opt-out regime was accompanied with a discretionary opt-in, which offered to the country the possibility to participate in new EU instruments whenever this was considered relevant. The UK exercised that possibility regularly, either from the moment an instrument was proposed, like for the Directive on the European Investigation Order (EIO), or after its adoption, like for the Europol Regulation.

In addition of this opt-out / opt-in regime, the UK also obtained a specific transitional regime concerning the 130 EU criminal justice instruments adopted before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Among these, were included for instance the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States (2002/584/JHA), or Framework Decisions on the Transfer of Prisoners (2008/909/JHA) or on the recognition of probation measures and alternative sanctions (2008/9457/JHA). The Lisbon Treaty foresaw a specific legal regime for these instruments (Protocol No 36, Article 10), which remain in force and are for some still applicable today. From 2009 to 2014, their previous regime would continue to apply (optional jurisdiction of the CJEU and no infringement proceedings) and since December 2014, these instruments would be subject to the ordinary EU law regime (full jurisdictions of the CJEU and infringement proceedings). The United Kingdom was the only Member State that was recognized the possibility to withdraw from these instruments before the end of the transitional period, and the possibility to notify its intention to participate again in these instruments. In application of this Protocol, in 2014, a first cliff-edge scenario took place, as the UK withdrew from all these 130 instruments, and only chose to “opt-back-in” in 35 of them.

This specific regimes allowed for the UK’s participation “à la carte” in the EU area of criminal justice, and this was particularly noticeable when comparing the UK’s participation in instruments favouring a more effective cooperation, like the EIO Directive, and the UK’s non-participation in other key instruments, such as the Directive on the right of access to a lawyer.

Yet, the United Kingdom has also been a driving force in the establishment of the EU area of criminal justice. The principle of mutual recognition was first put forward by Home Secretary Jack Straw at the Cardiff European Council in 1998, and later proclaimed in the Tampere European Council conclusions of 1999. This principle is since then considered as the cornerstone for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and it constitutes the basis of many instruments of judicial cooperation. The UK has also strongly supported and used very frequently certain EU criminal law instruments, such as the EAW. As an illustration, according to the National Crime Agency, from 2004 to 2016, the the UK surrendered almost 10,000 individuals to other EU Member States and more than 1,400 requested people were returned to the UK. Furthermore, the United Kingdom has had a significant weight in the development of Europol and Eurojust, the two European agencies, competent to support and assist cross-border cooperation between police and judicial authorities. The United Kingdom is for instance known as the second largest contributor to Europol information systems, and British nationals have exercised strategic positions in these agencies. Two out of the five presidents of Eurojust were British, and Sir Rob Wainwright has been the director of Europol from 2009 to 2018.

The United Kingdom has thus played a contrasted but essential role in the development of the EU area of criminal justice. The specific regimes it obtained did not prevent it from becoming a key partner, with whom EU Member States developed a strong and well-established cooperation in criminal matters.

  1. The regime applicable during the transition period

With the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the modalities of its cooperation with other EU Member States in criminal matters are bound to change. In this section, we will focus on the Withdrawal Agreement, which defines the legal regime governing police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters during the transition period. The relevant provisions were marginally modified during the negotiations which led to the conclusion of a revised withdrawal agreement on October 17th, 2019.

The agreement foresees various scenarios regarding the UK’s participation in the EU area of criminal justice. In sum, the Withdrawal Agreement allows for the preservation of most of the modalities of cooperation in criminal matters between the EU and the UK for the duration of the transition period.

The general provisions have an impact on the UK’s participation in the work of the two EU criminal justice agencies. As from February 1st, as EU law remains applicable until the end of the transition period, the UK remains an active participant to the activities of Europol and Eurojust, but it does no longer participate in their management bodies (Art. 7). The UK also retains until the end of the transition period its access to the databases, networks and databases managed by Europol and Eurojust (Art. 8). In other areas of criminal justice cooperation, the UK’s withdrawal has a limited  impact, provided that the requests for cooperation are made before the end of the transition period. This is for instance the case regarding ongoing judicial cooperation proceedings. According to Article 63 of the Withdrawal Agreement, only a series of instruments of judicial cooperation, 12 in total, continue to apply. As the UK had previously tailored its participation in pre- and post-Lisbon EU criminal law instruments, these 12 instruments represent the main ones for judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Are for instance included the Framework Decision on the EAW, or the EIO Directive. The same can be said regarding instruments on law enforcement cooperation and exchange of information, as the main ones will remain applicable (Art. 63). The UK authorities also retain the possibility to continue their participation in joint investigation teams, and to share and request information from Eurojust. The main change concerns the participation in new EU criminal law measures, in respect of which two options apply. For proposals amending, replacing or building upon measures in which the UK previously opted in, the UK has the possibility to opt in. However, for new proposals, the UK does not have the right to opt in, and it may only be invited to cooperate with the EU Member States under the modalities foreseen for third countries.

However, already in this legal regime, doubts arise, especially regarding the continuous execution of EAWs issued by the United Kingdom. Prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, a person subjected to an EAW issued by UK authorities attempted to use a “Brexit argument” to prevent his surrender to the UK. He argued that the uncertainty of the law applicable in the UK after its withdrawal from the EU could not guarantee that he continues to benefit from the right he enjoys under EU law. The CJEU had the opportunity in the case RO (C-327/18 PPU, 18 September 2018) to dismiss this argument. The Court considered that there was a presumption that the UK will apply the substantive content of the rights derived from the EAW Framework Decision, relying notably on the incorporation into British national law of provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Convention on Extradition (para. 61). The Court nevertheless indicated the possibility to refuse to execute an EAW only if there is concrete evidence to the contrary (ibid.), in line with its case law since its judgment in the case Aranyosi and Căldăraru (Joined Cases C‑404/15 and C‑659/15 PPU, 5 April 2016),regarding the risk of fundamental rights’ violations in the execution of EAWs. This judgment is to keep in mind when considering the execution of EAWs during the transition period, which would continue, unless a real and individual risk of violation can be demonstrated.

Furthermore, some Member States decided to make use of the possibility provided for in Article 185 of the Withdrawal Agreement. This provision allows Member States, due to reasons related to fundamental principles of their national law, to declare that, during the transition period, their national executing judicial authorities may refuse to surrender its nationals to the United Kingdom pursuant to an EAW. This refers to the constitutional limits regarding the extradition to nationals outside the EU, which is for instance foreseen in Germany, where the Constitution limits the extradition of nationals to situations in which the request comes from an EU Member State and/or an international court. Only three Member States, namely Germany, Austria and Slovenia, made such notification by January 28th, and the United Kingdom has now one month to notify whether its executing judicial authorities may refuse to surrender its nationals to those Members States. The practical impact of such notifications may be limited, considering that Germany, Austria and Slovenia are not, according to the National Crime Agency’s statistics, the EU Member States sending the highest numbers of EAWs to the UK. These notifications are nonetheless particularly symbolic, and mark as of February 1st, a decrease in the intensity of cooperation in criminal matters between the UK and the EU.

  1. Possible future modalities of cooperation between the UK and the EU

As in many other policy areas, the discussions regarding the future relationship between the UK and the EU will be crucial in the coming months, and this is also true for their cooperation in criminal matters.

Both parties share a mutual interest in maintaining a close cooperation. This was already mentioned in the negotiating guidelines adopted by the European Council in March 2018, and it was taken on in the revised Political Declaration of  October 17th, 2019. The future ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership between the EU and the UK “will provide for comprehensive, close, balanced and reciprocal law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters” (para. 80). The latter should notably be “underpinned by long-standing commitments to the fundamental rights of individuals, including continued adherence and giving effect to the ECHR, and adequate protection of personal data, (…) and to the transnational ne bis in idem principle and procedural rights” (para. 81). However, these elements of the Political Declaration remain vague and their concrete substance is left to the negotiations between the UK and the EU. As of February 1st, a lot of uncertainty remains. The European Commission has still to present its recommendation for a negotiating mandate, which shall be released on Monday 3rd February, and adopted on February 25th, 2020.  The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also expected to make on February 3rd, a speech setting out his red lines on the future EU-UK relationship. This would outline the positions of the two parties before the first round of negotiations scheduled for early March. These events would allow us to know more about the envisaged future relationship between the UK and the EU, including regarding their cooperation in criminal matters.

In that field, the main point of discussion would most probably be whether the UK should be treated like other third countries which are not part of the Schengen area and do not apply free movement of persons; or whether it should, as a former EU Member State and a privileged partner, benefit from specific arrangements. From the perspective of the European Commission (and as further supported by the slides released in January 2020), existing forms of cooperation in criminal matters with Denmark and third countries participating to the Schengen area constitute the basis (and the potential limit) for developing the future cooperation between the UK and the EU. As an example, regarding the access to Europol’s databases after the end of the transition period, the cooperation agreement signed between Denmark and the agency has been referred to as a form of cooperation that the future EU-UK cooperation would not be able to provide for. Under this text, Denmark benefits from the most advanced cooperation agreement, but under a regime which is not equivalent to that of a Member State. The country has an observer status, which is subject to a series of conditions, including the jurisdiction of the CJEU. Danish authorities have no direct access to Europol databases and liaison officers only have indirect access to the data. A future cooperation agreement between the UK and Europol will most likely contain lesser forms of cooperation (e.g. access to Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA, a secure platform for the exchange of sensitive and restricted data), but not to the databases managed by Europol, etc.).

More generally, the possibility remains that by the end of the transition period, and without an extension, an agreement with detailed provisions on cooperation in criminal matters may not yet be finalised or ratified. It is important to stress that even in the absence of agreement, the cooperation in criminal matters between the EU and the UK would not be interrupted overnight. Rather, such cooperation would be conducted on alternative basis, such as regional instruments elaborated within the Council of Europe. This was notably foreseen in case of a no-deal Brexit, in preparation of which transitional arrangements were elaborated for existing EAWs, in order to ensure continuity in proceedings for cases where an arrest has been made prior to exit day. It was also provided that EAWs issued by EU Member States would be treated as requests for extradition under the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, which may have potentially resulted in longer procedures, but not necessarily in refusals to extradite the person requested.

To conclude, the future of cooperation in criminal matters between the UK and the EU will be as complex to build and analyze as their future cooperation in other policy areas. Common standards, notably on data protection and procedural safeguards for suspects and accused persons, will be an essential pre-requisite, and past experiences with third countries demonstrate their importance. The EU may keep as a reference point the modalities of cooperation elaborated with third countries, especially those which have accepted to participate in the Schengen area.  Flexibility and the possibility to design specific arrangements might then be limited.TOPICS:AFSJ / BREXIT

UPDATE : New EU Guidelines on the European Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice (2020-2024)

Foreword (by Emilio DE CAPITANI )

According to art.67.1 TFEU “The Union shall constitute an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States”. This objective is very high in the EU agenda as, since the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, it is second only to the main EU aim of promoting peace, EU values and the well-being of EU peoples. According to art.3.2 of the TEU :“The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.”. Last but not least, the Preamble of the Charter of fundamental riughts hammers the same objective by stating that :“…the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice”.

Notwithstanding all these big words, ten years after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty it is fair to say that we are still far from reaching this objective. The increasing tension with some Member States on the very issue of the EU founding values, the lack of solidarity which still jeopardise the EU asylum and migration policies, the persisting lack of trust in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the increasing pressure on EU fundamental freedom of movement are all signs that the EU is losing his compass and in some cases has even taken the wrong direction.

The fact is that more than twenty years after the first Freedom Security and Justice Agenda adopted by the European Council in Tampere we have no more the same agenda . Also at the level of the EU Institutions it is increasingly difficult to hide the different approach followed by the Member States inside the Council, the different General Directorates of the Commission and the different political groups in the European Parliament itself. Looking from outside , if there was a Treaties’ “Google Maps” you may find the European Court of Justice in Lisbon the European Parliament in Amsterdam, the Council still in Maastricht (with some Member States willing to come back to the pre-Schengen era..) and the Commission still lost in between all these ..cities. Jokes apart it is quite obvious that the policies linked to the trasnformation of the EU in a Freedom, Security and Justice Area are the most difficult to manage also at national level so that it is not easy to build at suparanational level a consistent agenda where at the same time you may bring together a political vision, a solid legal framework, an efficient supranational administration, enough financial ressources, and a strong support by the european citizens.

The latest occasion when the EU has tried to square this circle was with the Amsterdam Programme adopted immediately after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty on December 10th 2009. Unfortunately this courage disappeared five years later in 2014 when the European Council was unable in managing at the same time the financial crisis , the new wave of terrosist attacks and the emerging pressure on the EU external borders.. For this reason it limited itself to the very simple objective of .. implementing the decisions already taken and evaluate their impact. In the following years the emphasis was then turned to the operational aspects of the cooperation between Member States so that the main developments have been on the side of the European Agencies such as Frontex (now deemed to become an Agency with 10.000 officials!), or the creation of the first European Public Prosecutor and the creatoin of impressive interoperable networks managing a vast amount of data. In a way, fostered mainly by the pressure of the Interior Ministers and of the Commission it has been a massive investment on the creation of a supranational nervous system, on building some muscles but, unfortunately without a true…brain.

It is then to be welcome that now the Council is dealing with the next steps to be made to transform the EU in a freedom and Security and justice area . This is very timely as it happens at the same time when,

  • on one side the BREXIT has taken place and, there are no more the limits which obliged the EU to establish the Schengen Area formally as an enhanced cooperation as well as to conclude specific protocols answering to the specific requests of the UK. Needless to say it will remain the position of DK and IRL but these two countries may at any moment switch to the “ordinary regime” by so crating the conditions of a common stauts (in the FSJA) for all the EU citizens and the same level playing field for the national administrations;
  • on the other side the EU is launching an European Conference on the future of Europe which will inevitably require also to overcome the deadlock in the most sensitive FSJA policies (Asylum, Migration, Internal and external security…)

In this perspective it is quite unfortunate that the current definition of new “Guidelines” has been conducted until now by stealth under closed doors and without an honest and transparent assesment of the problems and weaknesses which have prevented until now a sound transformation of the EU in a Freedom Security and Justice Area. Moreover everything has been done without any exchange with the civil society as well as with the European and national parliaments. This sounds very strange in a period when the same European Council claim to search a dialogue with the EU Citizens and praise the sincere cooperation between the EU institutions and the national parliaments … This very fact alone can question the credibility, legitimacy and even the binding nature of the Guidelines if they not comply with the obligations arising from the Treaties and linked, on one side to the principles of participative democracy (artt. 10-12 TEU) and on the other side of implementing the principle of sincere cooperation between the EU institutions (notably when this “strategy” will require the adoption of legislative and budgetary measures…).

For the time being these Guidelines are deemed to be a corollary of gthe eneral Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 adopted in June 2019 to guide the European Union’s work in the next five yearsn. After a reflection process initiated by the Romanian Presidency and continued during the Finnish Presidency, which was wrapped up in December 2019.

The document below is the outcome of a first (not public) debate at the informal Justice and Home affairs Council on January 23rd/24th and will be again on the Coreper table on February 5th. It will then be submitted for endorsement to the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) on 12-13 March 2020 in view of the European Council meeting on 26-27 March 2020. The latter will probably adopt these “Guidelines” as required by the art.68 of the TFEU which states “The European Council shall define the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice.” (continue)

Emilio DE CAPITANI (02-02-20)

Draft Strategic Guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice

In the last five years, the EU was confronted with a serious migration and asylum crisis, a brutal wave of terrorist attacks and increased foreign interference.  We rose to these challenges as a Union, by putting together a solid set of initiatives and tools.  We also had our differences, often related to geographical or historical specificities.  Diverging views emerged that have an impact on mutual trust and hamper the Union’s ability to meet expectations.

Looking ahead, we need to overcome our differences on what to do, but we also have to focus our attention on how to organise our work, tools and structures to achieve our common objectives.

Values and rule of law

  1. As stated in Article 2. of the Treaty on European Union, the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The respect for those values, and for the rule of law in particular, is key for the good functioning of the Union and its internal market, for the area of freedom, security and justice and for the protection of the fundamental rights of European citizens.
  2. EU institutions and Member States have a shared responsibility to ensure that respect for the rule of law is guaranteed and that effective tools are used and, as necessary, developed to this aim.
  3. In the Council, Justice Ministers will continue to deal with issues related to the rule of law.  The respect for the rule of law in all Member States will be examined by the General Affairs Council, through a yearly stocktaking exercise closely involving Member States.  This dialogue will help EU institutions and Member States identifying best practices that are worth disseminating, but also issues that deserve attention and demand corrective actions, including adequate support where capacity building is needed. This, in turn, will reinforce mutual trust.

Mutual trust

  • Mutual trust between Member States is the basis for the development of many policies in the field of justice and home affairs which rely on mutual recognition.  More attention should be devoted to ways in which mutual trust can be reinforced.

Implementing EU law

  • Time and again, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have stressed the need for EU legislation to be properly applied.  Yet, it is debatable whether enough resources are secured both at national and EU levels for turning these repeated calls into reality – starting, perhaps, with a critical examination of existing legislation to improve its quality and consistency.  For instance, as regards judicial cooperation in civil matters, clear added-value for citizens and businesses needs to be demonstrated before new legislative initiatives are presented that would affect well-functioning national legal frameworks.
  • Rather crucially, the Union lacks aggregated information on how key pieces of EU acquis are being applied by Member States, including whether Member States actually make use of some of those instruments.  This situation is not optimal when it comes to adapting EU legislation or producing new obligations.  The work led by the Commission for evaluating the Schengen acquis and by the Council for mutual evaluations on the implementation of criminal law, such as, quite recently, on environmental crime and now on legal instruments such as the European Arrest Warrant, clearly serves to improve efficiency in the implementation of those policies and related legislation.
  • To reinforce mutual trust, we need to do more by developing systematic and effective joint evaluation schemes as provided for by Article 70 TFEU.  And more resources at central level, including expertise, have to be made available to support Member States.  The support given by the Commission to encourage the implementation of the passenger name record directive (PNR) is a good practice that needs to be replicated in other areas, also to address uneven financial and absorption capacities in different Member States.

Encouraging convergence of law enforcement and judicial culture

  • Law enforcement and judicial communities operate in different environments, developing different cultures within and among Member States in a way which is not always adequate for consistent implementation of EU law across the EU.  Digitalisation offers opportunities for overcoming administrative divisions, but also challenges if departments reproduce and consolidate those divisions in the organisation of information.  At EU level, digitalisation can enhance trust between Member States through joint law enforcement and judicial training schemes that could be developed for instance with Erasmus-like training modules for law enforcement and judicial communities.  The Commission, EU JHA agencies and the European Judicial Training Network are uniquely placed to foster such developments.

The Schengen area – a matter of trust

  • As stated in the Strategic Agenda, we must ensure the integrity of our territory, also as a means of reaching the objective of the Treaty as regards the absence of internal border controls.
  • Control over who enters and travels in the European Union and the Schengen area will be reinforced through the full implementation of the rules recently adopted on systematic controls at the external Schengen borders, and through the greatest possible use of existing systems (SIS, VIS, EURODAC, PNR, Prüm, ECRIS, EIS), fed with quality data, and the rapid deployment of new systems (ETIAS, EES, ECRIS-TCN).
  • The effective implementation of interoperability solutions, opening the way for the integration of decentralised systems, customs databases and financial investigation tools, will also strengthen mutual trust – as will control over secondary movements of migrants and asylum seekers.

One Europe, One Space

  1. What the EU policies should be as regards border checks, asylum and immigration is well defined in the Treaties and has been widely debated over the last five years, in meetings of working parties, special committees, Coreper, Council and European Council.  Divergences have appeared over the reform of the common European asylum system but there is also a broad measure of agreement over the objectives of our common policies – including on the necessity to streamline the operation of our asylum system, from entry to either integration or return, so that decisions are taken in the most efficient and expedient way in the interest of all persons involved.  In developing a new pact on Migration and Asylum as announced by its President, the Commission will address all these issues.  To deliver on our objectives, however, organisation also matters.

Reaching out to third countries with appropriate means and resources

  1. The EU’s efforts to strengthen cooperation with countries of origin and transit have produced some results. But more needs to be done to prevent irregular migration, to protect refugees close to their homes, encourage returns, readmission and reintegration, and to offer legal pathways.  Incentives and leverages, with appropriate financial support, should be brought to bear in a reversible manner and with a thorough understanding of the difficulties faced by each country – whether through structured partnerships or more flexible arrangements.  The role of Member States is essential in reaching out to partners, building upon existing relations and making sure the messages conveyed by EU actors and by those Member States that are most involved are coherent.
  1. Expanding efforts towards third countries means bringing interaction between Member States and EU structures to a whole new level.  To engage properly with third countries in our complex institutional set-up, we need to identify much more clearly who is in charge of what on the basis of which information and with what leverage.  Securing returns of migrants who have no claim to remain on European soil is a difficult task, for which support from EU structures and institutions could make a real difference if conducted in a coordinated way, with appropriate consideration for the situation of countries of origin and with proper alignment of several policy areas, including visas, legal migration possibilities, development and trade.
  2. Streamlining the EU’s efforts in this manner, with political steer from the Council to define positions to be adopted towards third countries on migration issues, would help convince Member States to engage their political capital in a common approach, to be conveyed with adequate commitment and firmness by all EU institutions and services.

Facing migration and asylum crises – lessons learned

  1. Over these last years, much has been done to address difficult situations in Member States most affected by disproportionate migratory and asylum pressure.  The EU’s empirical response, developed with those Member States by the Commission and EU agencies, has yielded important results. This know-how will help the EU to deal with similar situations of various intensity which will occur in the future.  Hence the call for a structured migration management mechanism, with real-time monitoring, early warning and a single point of coordination and decision-making across the EU to mobilise structures, tools, human and financial resources as needed, across EU institutions and agencies and in cooperation with Member States. Robust intelligence coming from all actors, supported by adequate technology, can provide accurate situational pictures, with risk and threat assessments leading to preventive action to avert crisis situations before they arrive at the EU’s external borders or to handle such situations should they nevertheless occur.

From prevention to sentencing – strengthening the security chain

  1. Because of their importance or their geographical coverage, many security threats have to be addressed also at EU level – such as corruption or organised crime, which is a growing concern in all its dimensions.  A truly integrated approach to security means covering the entire security chain, with enhanced operational and interagency cooperation between police, border guards, customs, judiciary, immigration and asylum authorities.  Appropriate action at EU level, through the integration of tools and operational frameworks, would help overcome deep-rooted administrative divisions at national level, encouraging cooperation and synergies.  EU JHA agencies have an important role to play in an enhanced interagency approach and priority should be given to pooling and sharing equipment, specialised technical solutions, resources and expertise in areas where Member States lack sufficient capacities.
  1. Information management is a key enabler for these developments. Implementing properly EU legislation on interoperability requires a lot of attention at national and EU level, as demonstrated by the Commission’s current support to Member States in managing change.  At practical level, priority should also be given to the quality of data fed into EU information systems and to improving data analysis capacities, supported by common standards, structures, and technological tools. Developing artificial intelligence solutions and further automation in full compliance with data protection rules could help address the challenges posed by the processing of large data sets.
  2. In this context of digitalisation, it is not clear that the mandates and resources of relevant JHA agencies adequately cover current and future needs.  Adequate funding has to be secured for all JHA agencies and offices so that sound financial management can be combined with correct allocation of resources in view of the tasks they have to perform.  This evaluation will have to be made, also as regards the mandate of Europol and the possible extension of the mandate of eu-LISA to customs and judicial systems.

Mastering new technologies and artificial intelligence

  • The Strategic Agenda recalls that the EU must work on all aspects of the digital revolution and artificial intelligence, in a manner that embodies our societal values, promotes inclusiveness and remains compatible with our way of life.  This technological revolution calls for an ethical and regulatory framework to ensure the sound integration of new technologies – thereby making choices, ethical, political, economic and legal, to define the place of such technologies in human society.  Industry, professionals and citizens expect clarity, legal certainty and structured knowledge, including risk awareness.
  • This means developing standards and certification procedures for agents and systems based on, or integrating artificial intelligence, with protocols including ethical considerations, statistical validation and risk assessment.  There is also a need to deal with some specific characteristics of artificial intelligence, such as the opacity of the systems, to ensure the effective enforcement of existing laws and the protection of fundamental rights, and to avoid discrimination.  Current concepts of “civil liability” and “criminal liability” would need to be further developed.
  • Our regulatory framework has to address data protection issues in a big data environment, as well as security concerns related to automated decision-making and, more generally, to digital transformation.  This raises the issue of impact assessments, which, when available, do not seem to give enough priority to the implications of technological developments for internal security.
  • More generally, new technologies currently emerge in a loose regulatory environment, which is an issue in view of the disruption they are apt to cause to representative democracies.  One way of addressing this concern upfront is to encourage at EU level a preventive approach, involving dialogues with industry, research and academia and taking an active part in standard-setting instances. Synergies with relevant developments in defence industry should also be exploited to avoid duplications and optimise the use of resources.
  • All in all, the cross-cutting nature of these challenges calls for new ways of working between policy departments, both at national and EU levels.  Within the Council, presidencies will have to devote time and resources to ensure that the development of common policies is properly coordinated.


The implementation of those guidelines will be regularly monitored by the Council to ensure that, in particular, organisational issues are addressed in order to deliver on the priorities of the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024.

[1]             Article 68 TFEU reads as follows: “The European Council shall define the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice”.