Data retention and national law: whatever the CJEU rules, data retention may still survive!


by Matthew White, Ph.D candidate, Sheffield Hallam University

Should governments be able to retain data on everyone’s use of the Internet and their phones – because it might arguably aid the fight against terrorism and serious crime? This ‘data retention’ issue raises fundamental questions about the balance between privacy and security, at both national and EU level. Initially, in the electronic privacy (e-Privacy)Directive, EU legislation set out an option for Member States to adopt data retention rules, as a derogation from the normal rule of confidentiality of communications in that Directive. Subsequently, in 2006, at the urging of the UK government in particular, the EU went a step further. It adopted the Data Retention Directive (DRD), which requiredtelecom and Internet access providers to keep data on all use of the Internet and phones in case law enforcement authorities requested it.

However, on 8 April 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the latter Directive went too far. In its Digital Rights Ireland judgment (discussed here), that Court said that the EU’s Data Retention Directive (DRD) was invalid in light of a lack of compliance with the rights to privacy and data protection set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) (para 69 and 73). This left open an important question: what happens to national data retention laws? Can they also be challenged for breach of the EU Charter rights, on the grounds that they are linked to EU law (the derogation in the e-Privacy Directive)? If so, do the standards in the Digital Rights Ireland judgment apply by analogy?

Instead of addressing this matter urgently, the United Kingdom government sat on its hands for a while and then unprecedentedly rushed through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA 2014). DRIPA 2014 was intended to be a reactionto the Digital Rights Ireland ruling, giving the UK as a matter of national law the power to retain data that had been struck down by the CJEU as a matter of EU law.

In 2015, Tom Watson (now the deputy leader of the UK Labour Party), David Davis (a Conservative party backbencher) and others challenged s.1 of DRIPA 2014 arguing that the powers to obligate data retention on public telecommunication operators set out in that section of DRIPA did not sufficiently reflect what the CJEU ruled in Digital Rights Ireland. Although that CJEU ruling only applied to EU legislation, they argued that it also applied by analogy to national legislation on data retention, since such legislation fell within the scope of the option to retain communications data set out in the derogation in the e-Privacy Directive, and so was linked to EU law (and therefore covered by the Charter). Even though the e-Privacy Directive only related to publicly available electronic communications services (Article 3(1)), it is submitted that any extension of the definition of public telecommunications operator would fall within the Data Protection Directive, and thus the CFR would still apply. The High Court (HC) ruled in the claimants’ favour inDavis where an order was made for s.1 of DRIPA to be disapplied by the 31st of March 2016, insofar as it is incompatible with Digital Rights Ireland (para 122). This was in the hopes that it would give Parliament sufficient time to come up with a CFR compliant data retention law (para 121).

The government appealed to the Court of Appeal (CoA) which took a radically different approach maintaining that ‘the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland was not laying down definitive mandatory requirements in relation to retained communications data’ (para 106). But for the sake of caution, the CoA made a preliminary reference to the CJEU asking:

(1) Did the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland intend to lay down mandatory requirements of EU law with which the national legislation of Member States must comply?

(2) Did the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland intend to expand the effect of Articles 7 and/or 8, EU Charter beyond the effect of Article 8 ECHR as established in the jurisprudence of the ECtHR?

The CoA was not the only national court to make a preliminary reference to the CJEU on matters regarding data retention and the reach of Digital Rights Ireland. On the 4th May 2015, the Force was with Kammarrätten i Stockholm when it asked the CJEU:

Is a general obligation to retain traffic data covering all persons, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any distinctions, limitations or exceptions for the purpose of combating crime (as described [below under points 1-6]) compatible with Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58/EC [the electronic privacy Directive], 1 taking account of Articles 7, 8 and 15(1) of the Charter?

If the answer to question 1 is in the negative, may the retention nevertheless be permitted where:

access by the national authorities to the retained data is determined as [described below under paragraphs 7-24], and

security requirements are regulated as [described below under paragraphs 26-31],

and all relevant data are to be retained for six months, calculated as from the day the communication is ended, and subsequently deleted as [described below under paragraphs 25]?

The way in which the first question in Davis and Watson is asked doesn’t specify whether the general obligation applies to every service provider under the state’s jurisdiction or specific service providers to retain what they individually process. The assumption is the former as ‘all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any distinctions’ implies a catch all to the relevant services. The Home Secretary (and indeed the government) may argue that if the CJEU rules in the negative (note that Article 15(1) of the e-Privacy Directive only applies to publically available electronic communications services, thus the justification for retaining data from other services would have to be found in the Data Protection Directive (DPD)) it would mostly have affected cl.78 of theInvestigatory Powers Bill (IPB) (currently before Parliament) which would grant the Secretary of State the power to issue retention notices on a telecommunications or any number of operators to retain for e.g. any or all data for 12 if the power in cl.1 of the draft Communications Data Bill (dCDB) had been replicated. The dCDB was a legislative measure introduced in 2012 to allow public authorities to keep up to date with the sophistication of e-Crime. Clause 1 maintained that:

1 Power to ensure or facilitate availability of data

(1) The Secretary of State may by order—

(a) ensure that communications data is available to be obtained from telecommunications operators by relevant public authorities in accordance with Part 2, or

(b) otherwise facilitate the availability of communications data to be so obtained from telecommunications operators.

(2) An order under this section may, in particular—

(a) provide for—

(i) the obtaining (whether by collection, generation or otherwise) by telecommunications operators of communications data,

(ii) the processing, retention or destruction by such operators of data so obtained or other data held by such operators.

This measure was, however abandoned because the Liberal Democrats (in the then Coalition Government) did not approve of the far reaching nature of the proposal. In regards to cl.1, it clearly was a general power, as no distinction was made on who the obligation to retain may fall upon, and thus it is submitted that this power is analogous to the power which is the subject of the question being asked of the CJEU. Clause 78(1) of the IPB on the other hand, makes the distinction that a data retention notice may require a telecommunications operator to retain relevant communications data. Though there are two possible conflicts, the first, based on the assumption that the CJEU rules in the negative (to the first question) is cl.78(2)(a) and (b). This gives the Secretary of State the discretion to issue retention notices on any description of operators to retain all or any description of data. This could be considered a general obligation because it could affect all telecommunications operators and then be classed as a general obligation.

Secondly, retention ‘without distinction’ or ‘exceptions’ may be important when it comes to traffic data pertaining to journalists, politicians, and the medical and legal professions. But because the reference doesn’t mention specific service providers it cannot be said with certainty how much this would affect cl.78(1) which doesn’t make distinctions or exceptions.

When it comes to limitations on data retention, there is at least one, which was first noted in s.1(5) of DRIPA 2014 which allowed for a 12 month maximum period of retention. This is replicated in cl.78(3) and takes on board the recommendation of the Advocate General’s opinion (AG) in Digital Rights Ireland (para 149).

The President of the CJEU felt it was desirable to combine both preliminary references. The questions of access by both the Swedish and UK courts do not directly affect the cl.78 issuing of retention notices (insofar that it at least doesn’t involve everytelecommunications operator) nor does answering whether Article 7 and 8 was intended to extend beyond Article 8 ECHR jurisprudence. The security arrangements are dealt with by cl.81 (whether they are adequate is a different matter) and thus not relevant to the issuing of retention notices.

This, however, proceeds on the assumption that the CJEU will rule in the negative to the Swedish preliminary reference regarding retention being lawful for the purposes ofaccess, because if it does not, cl.78(2)(a) and (b) would not be affected at all. Moreover, the HC in Davis felt that the CJEU believed that data retention genuinely satisfied an objective of general interest (para 44) and that it must be understood to have held that a general retention regime is unlawful unless it is accompanied by an access regime which has sufficiently stringent safeguards to protect citizens’ rights set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the CFR (para 70). The CoA was silent on this matter, and therefore for the mean time, it is understood that if the CJEU rules in the positive, cl.78 would not be affected as a matter of EU law.

On the matter of whether the HC or the CoA had interpreted Digital Rights Irelandcorrectly, it is important to highlight one of the justifications for the CoA conclusions. It maintained in relation to mandatory requirements, that in the opinion of the AG, he was at least, not looking for the Directive to provide detailed regulation (para 77). Yet the CoA failed to mention his conclusions, where it was stated that the DRD was invalid as a result of the absence of sufficient regulation of the guarantees governing access to (by limiting access, if not solely to judicial authorities, at least to independent authorities, or, failing that, by making any request for access subject to review by the judicial authorities or independent authorities and it should have required a case-by-case examination of requests for access in order to limit the data provided to what is strictly necessary (para 127)) the data collected/retained and that the DRD should be suspended until the EU legislature adopts measures necessary to remedy the invalidity, but such measures must be adopted within a reasonable period (para 157-158). So at least in this regard the AG actually supports the stance of the HC (even though no reference was made on this point) and may therefore have had implications for the IPB (which does not require judicial or independent authorisation/review) in relation to access to communications data without a word from the CJEU.

Many thanks to Steve Peers for helpful comments on an earlier draft.

An EU Institutions “Google Maps”? Six years after Lisbon Treaty still the quest for a common compass …

by Emilio DE CAPITANI (*)

As a preliminary disclaimer I have to say that the following observations could not be seen as neutral as I have been an official of the European Parliament for 26 years and it is more than likely that I have been influenced by that experience. That having been said what I will say echoes a direct experience in some crucial moments of the interinstitutional relations since the negotiation of the Single European Act until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. I have to say that the evolution of the role of the European Parliament has not been linear even if its importance was growing Treaty after Treaty but also with some stops, not to say, some regressions, as I am afraid it is happening, quite surprisingly, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

However it has been an exciting experience to see how that institution has been able to play a decisive role when the European Community first and the European Union later faced the challenge of establishing an internal market as a supranational area without borders, and, even more when after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Member States decided, albeit with several reservations to transform progressively the EU in a full-fledged supranational political organization.

It looks like ages ago, when, for instance, under the impulsion of Commissioner Sutherland the Institutions tried in ’87 to define their first common legislative programme.  Moreover it was an extraordinary experience to accompany the European Parliament in its transformation from a consultative body  to a co-legislator  by shaping its internal rules dealing with the legislative activity and the special relation with the Commission (also in the Comitology framework -see OJ L 197, 18.7.1987) or , after Maastricht when the first modus vivendi on codecision procedures was agreed.

The EU Freedom security and Justice area at the core of Member States and EU Institutions relations  

But probably the most interesting experience also from an interinstitutional perspective  has been when, before the entry into force of the Amsterdam treaty I had the chance to lead the secretariat of the Civil liberties Committee (LIBE) which was (and still is) in charge of almost all the freedom security and justice related policies. At that time LIBE was also the Committee in direct relation with the EU Member States notably when they played their role as initiators of EU legislation (which is still the case for judicial cooperation in criminal matters).

From 99 until 2009 (at the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) the legislative dialogue between the Member States meeting in the Coreper II, the various Council Presidencies  and LIBE was intense and fruitful notably in the domains already covered by the codecision procedure such as borders, migration and asylum as well as domains giving specific expression (to use a CJEU definition) to fundamental rights such as anti-discrimination measures, transparency and data protection.

To prove the seriousness of the relation between the EP and the Council reference can be made to the fact that it was LIBE who started in 2001 the practice of the so called “first reading agreements” in legislative procedures. It is more than unfortunate that since then this practice of informal trilogues has been progressively developed following the Council internal practice of closed doors by transforming legislative negotiations which should by definition be transparent it in a sort of Bermude’s triangle. I can only hope that the Court of Justice will draw to an end this practice which threatens the implementation of the democratic principle in the EU as well as the right to access foreseen by the Treaties and the European Charter.

Before entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty LIBE committee was also consulted on legislation dealing with judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters and it as more than clear that the Council wanted to maintain a full control and responsibility of these domain so that the only possibility for LIBE to influence the content of the EU legislation in third pillar was by indirect means through it codecision powers on community legislation which was complementary to third pillar measure (see the case of EU legislation on irregular migration,..). When this was not possible and the EP was convinced that the Council or Commission measure was infringing the Treaty or threatening its constitutional prerogatives the European Parliament also brought to the Court the Council and/or the Commission.

In this perspective of reaching an objective by indirect means a pivotal role was played by the legislation on protection of personal data where the European Parliament was co-legislator since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. As, according to the Treaties (and now the Charter) protection of personal data requires an assessment of the necessity and proportionality of a measure taken also in the security domain the LIBE committee took this occasion to assess also the content and the proportionality of EU security related policies such as the infamous PNR agreement with the US. We all know that the EU will also have soon its own “EU-PNR” which have now been agreed with the EP as co-legislator also in the judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters. Someone will think that this 13 years long saga is now drawing to an end. I am not sure. I will advise him to wait at least the incoming CJEU Opinion on the EU-Canada PNR agreement and maybe the first judicial cases on the new EU rules ..

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and of the Charter of fundamental rights the EP did no more need to use transversal tactics to reach the objectives he was searching before. Judicial and police cooperation was finally ordinary competence to be dealt with qualified majority and fall in the co-decision procedure. Moreover the Charter emphasis on the rights of the individual in all the EU policies and notably in  the freedom security and justice area was paving the way to what LIBE was asking for since its creation in 1992.

After Lisbon still need of a legal “Google Maps” ?

What is paradoxical is what happened at interinstitutional level after the entry into force of  that Treaty and of the Charter. The EU institutions have not all moved at the same pace towards the new constitutional legal framework order and this is a source of growing misunderstanding between them and ultimately of confusing messages for the EU citizens (what can explain why many of them are turning their back to the EU construction) .

If there was a Legal “Google Maps” I  would say that now the only institution which is strongly rooted in Lisbon is, no surprise, the CJEU (even if sometime it is also taken by the nostalgia of the previous world..).

Let me quote some statements in the CJEU in Opinion 2/13 where it is written that : the founding treaties of the EU, unlike ordinary international treaties, established a new legal order, possessing its own institutions, for the benefit of which the Member States thereof have limited their sovereign rights, in ever wider fields, and the subjects of which comprise not only those States but also their nationals… …These essential characteristics of EU law have given rise to a structured network of principles, rules and mutually interdependent legal relations linking the EU and its Member States, and its Member States with each other, which are now engaged, as is recalled in the second paragraph of Article 1 TEU, in a ‘process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’…

This legal structure is based on the fundamental premise that each Member State shares with all the other Member States, and recognises that they share with it, a set of common values on which the EU is founded, as stated in Article 2 TEU. That premise implies and justifies the existence of mutual trust between the Member States that those values will be recognised and, therefore, that the law of the EU that implements them will be respected. Also at the heart of that legal structure are the fundamental rights recognised by the Charter (which, under Article 6(1) TEU, has the same legal value as the Treaties), respect for those rights being a condition of the lawfulness of EU acts, so that measures incompatible with those rights are not acceptable in the EU

The autonomy enjoyed by EU law in relation to the laws of the Member States and in relation to international law requires that the interpretation of those fundamental rights be ensured within the framework of the structure and objectives of the EU… As regards the structure of the EU, it must be emphasised that not only are the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU required to respect the Charter but so too are the Member States when they are implementing EU law.

The pursuit of the EU’s objectives, as set out in Article 3 TEU, is entrusted to a series of fundamental provisions, such as those providing for the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, citizenship of the Union, the area of freedom, security and justice, and competition policy. Those provisions, which are part of the framework of a system that is specific to the EU, are structured in such a way as to contribute — each within its specific field and with its own particular characteristics — to the implementation of the process of integration that is the raison d’être of the EU itself. Similarly, the Member States are obliged, by reason, inter alia, of the principle of sincere cooperation set out in the first subparagraph of Article 4(3) TEU, to ensure, in their respective territories, the application of and respect for EU law. In addition, pursuant to the second subparagraph of Article 4(3) TEU, the Member States are to take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the EU “

Are these ambitious concepts also shared by Member States or the Council or in our Google Maps is still trapped in the Maastricht interpillars games (with some Member States even dreaming to go back in the pre-Schengen era)?  The experience of the last six years and of notably of the last year on the Migration Border and Asylum Crisis shows that several Member States are going backward to the old good time  and do not change the former legal situation notably in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

The fact that even today

  • there is no real Internal Security Strategy adopted with the support of the European Parliament and in full knowledge of national Parliament (and this notwithstanding the art. 70 and 71 of the Treaty on functioning of the European Union requires a close parliamentary oversight of these policies);
  • that the “threats” EU impacting on the EU citizens are defined, measured and assessed only at bureaucratic level at national and european level within EU Agencies (such as EUROPOL, FRONTEX and EUROJUST ) whose oversight is almost virtual
  • that sharing security related information between EU MS is still mostly on voluntary basis
  • that the so called “policy cycle” bringing together (on a voluntary basis) the MS administrations is still managed without a credible connection with judicial authorities at EU and national level.

All this shows that notwithstanding 40 years of engagement (since Trevi in 1975) Member States are still far from sharing their experience and implement the principle of solidarity in the old latin meaning where faced to a common problem everyone is responsible “in solidum” with all the others.

As an EU citizen I am appalled to see that even after more than one year of successive terrorists attacks the EU has not yet decided:

  • to build an EU Anti-terrorism Enquiry Commission (as the US did decided immediately after 9/11)
  • to strengthen the powers of EUROJUST in terrorist domain (as required also by the 2005 decision) in preparation of a future EPPO competence as already foreseen by the Treaties. Let’s hope that the European Parliament unblock the Commission proposal and that the Ministers of interior will not wait for other terrorists attacks before launching a credible “lisbonised” Eurojust (if needed even in a form of enhanced cooperation) .

What is worrying is that instead of strengthening the operational cooperation on specific and measurable targets,  the measures adopted (or under negotiations) at EU level increase the impact on individual’s rights.

Under this perspective it is doubtful that the Council has followed its own internal guidelines according to which (quote) : The recent case law of the European Court of Justice[1] confirms that the Court will not satisfy itself with anything less than a strict assessment of the proportionality and necessity of measures that constitute serious restrictions to fundamental rights, however legitimate the objectives pursued by the EU legislature. It also indicates that such measures do not stand a serious chance of passing the legality test unless they are accompanied by adequate safeguards in order to ensure that any serious restriction of fundamental rights is circumscribed to what is strictly necessary and is decided in the framework of guarantees forming part of Union legislation instead of being left to the legislation of Member States.  (emphasis added)

And where may you find the European Parliament in a virtual Google Maps ?

I think that you can find it  somewhere between Amsterdam and Lisbon as it looks more and more afraid to take position in domains which are clearly still unfamiliar to him and on which relevant background informations are not shared by the Commission or by the Member States (not to speak of the EU agencies and of the so called COSI). I don’t see other explanation to the fact that more and more frequently the EP start working on the most sensitive issues only after the Member States have agreed on something. So, one sensible way to help the EP in playing its co-legislative role would be to share with a credible picture of what is happening on the ground in the different Member States. It is quite promising that when this happens (as now in the framework of the new Shengen evaluation mecahnism)  the EP and the national parliaments feel much more confident than before. But when the same will happen in the framework of the mutual evaluation of  judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters as it is required by the art. 70 of the TFEU ? In the absence of this regular exchange of information how can be improved the mutual recognition of national measures?

This is today a rhetorical question because the Member States with the support of the Commission, which, as we all know, is the “guardian of the Treaties have just decided that the mutual evaluation should remain on a voluntary basis as framed in a Joint Action dating back to the Maastricht era.

Will the EP accept to be continuously be side-lined? I am afraid it will and this not for a legal or institutional reasons but for the very trivial reason that its current political majority is in a way or another mirrored in the main Member States governments so that it may feel uneasy in dealing with issues which can place these Governments in a wrong perspective. As a citizen I can’t but blame this situation because I consider that a weak Parliament could not protect my rights and fullfill the objectives outlined in the EU Charter. Any way what the European and national parliaments don’t dare to do is more and more done by national judges (see the NS and ARANYOSI Jurisprudence as well as the recent ruling of the BVG on the European Arrest Warrant).

Again as Citizen I would prefer to be protected by a clearly defined law and not depend from the appreciation of a judge but this is apparently more and more what we have expect from the EU legislation as the envisaged Directive on terrorism I have cited above.

And the Commission ? In a virtual Google maps the Commission is in a sort of Neverland still trying to re-build its pre-Santer role by trying to become at the same time the Guardian  of the Treaty as well as the true Government of the EU. Has this strategy any chance to succeed ? Could the President of the Commission pretend to have also a support of the EU citizens in alternative to the EP itself because of the Spitzencandidat invented in the very last days before the EU elections ? I am not sure even if are now countless the family’s photo bringing together the Presidents of the EP, of the European Council and of the Commission.

What I notice instead is that executive functions also in the Freedom Security Justice Area are more and more transferred to European Agencies where the Member States come back on the driving seat by becoming some pre-federal entities (which are deemed to be INDEPENDENT both from the Commission and of the Parliament which can play a light oversight). This “agencification” trend notably in the freedom security and justice area can now be further developed thanks to the ESMA ruling and will probably progressively change the institutional balance.

The case of Frontex is to my understanding a proof of this. It is unfortunate that until now the Member States have not found the same courage for the EPPO notwhistanding the explicit provisions in  the Treaty. In this perspective the Better Law Making agreement by which the Commission is trying to harness the legislative policy cycle looks more like a tail which pretend to move a dog ….  But even when the Commission has to play its role faces some difficulties . Look at the draft Directive on terrorism which has been presented without a credible impact evaluation of the existing legislation nor of the new rules. Guess how could had been the text if it was not proposed by the same Vice President of the Commission in charge of the Better Law making and of the implementation of the EU Charter..

I can’t end my short intervention without making reference to a new “Quasi-EU” Institution more and more proactive within the freedom security and justice area. We can call it the “Head of State and of Governement Group” which has recently agreed with Turkey a so-called Deal. The EP and also some scholars have raised questions about the legal nature of such a deal. The provisional answers given until now even the President of the European Council is that it is binding but it is not a formal EU agreement. This remind me the famous Magritte painting showing a pipe but stating “this is not a pipe”. Following the same logic the next question is;

“Is this still an European Union or are we already looking at in the new season of Games of Thrones ?

(*) NOTA BENE : this is a transcripition of an intervention at the ECLAN Seminar on : The Needed Balances of EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future  (Brussels 25-26 April 2016)


[1]             See Judgment of 8 April 2014, Cases C‑293/12 and C‑594/12,  Digital Rights Ireland (information note by the Council Legal Service in doc. 9009/14)

La sécurité digitale à l’heure des crises migratoire et terroriste, le noeud gordien de l’interconnexion des fichiers


par Pierre Berthelet, CDRE

La situation que connaît actuellement l’Union européenne n’aura échappé à personne. Qu’il s’agisse de la crise migratoire ou de la crise terroriste générée par les attentats à répétition en 2015 et en 2016, le remède préconisé par les États membres par la voix du Conseil et du Conseil européen, consiste à vouloir sécuriser davantage les frontières extérieures de l’Union européenne.

La protection renforcée de celles-ci constitue l’enjeu majeur de la lutte menée contre le phénomène terroriste, dont l’agenda converge désormais clairement avec la politique européenne en matière migratoire, comme l’atteste la communication de la Commission du 6 avril 2016 intitulée « des systèmes d’information plus forts et plus intelligents pour les frontières et la sécurité ». Le texte affirme à cet égard très clairement une « interconnexion dynamique » entre police, migration et gestion des frontières.

La crainte actuelle est, en particulier, le phénomène des combattants de l’État islamique venant d’Irak et de Syrie. L’organe de coordination antiterroriste belge, l’OCAM, a d’ailleurs souligné, le 19 avril 2016, un risque considérable d’attentat de la part de ces combattants, des Européens partis faire le Jihad au Moyen-Orient et rentrant aguerris (phénomène dit des « returnees »).

Nouveaux défis, mais anciennes solutions donc. L’observateur ne peut qu’avoir une impression de déjà-vu : les choix de ces derniers mois formulés par les chefs d’État et de gouvernement, inspirant les orientations contenues dans cette communication, ressemblent, à bien des égards, à ceux des Conseils européens de Laeken de 2001, de Séville de 2002 ou encore de Thessalonique 2003. À l’époque, l’Union était déjà confrontée aux problématiques du terrorisme et d’échouage de migrants sur les côtes européennes. Les agendas antiterroriste et migratoire se mêlaient alors autour de la sécurisation des frontières extérieures pour éviter toute intrusion possible d’agents d’Al-Quaïda dans l’UE, dissimulés dans les colonnes de migrants, jetant ainsi les fondations du projet des frontières électroniques (smart borders).

Anciennes solutions, mais nouveaux défis néanmoins. La communication du 6 avril 2016, accompagnée d’une proposition de règlement instituant le « Système Entrée-Sortie » (correspondant à une révision du précédent projet présenté en 2013, jugé trop onéreux par les États membres), marque un nouvel épisode dans la création des frontières électroniques européennes. Elle s’inscrit dans le contexte d’enjeux très actuels : la protection des frontières extérieures au prisme de la lutte antiterroriste a trait à deux problèmes distincts, celui des « combattants étrangers » (1) et celui de la fraude documentaire (2).

Dans le premier cas, il s’agit de contrôler les flux de voyageurs sortants pour empêcher ces « combattants étrangers » (foreign fighters), c’est-à-dire les jeunes Européens désireux de partir faire le Jihad au Moyen-Orient. Dans le deuxième cas, il s’agit de contrôler les flux de population, pour la plupart fuyant la guerre dans cette région. En réalité, ces deux problématiques se recoupent car la fraude documentaire concerne le contrôle des titre de voyage dont sont porteurs les flux de voyageurs, y compris les migrants irréguliers rassemblés dans les hotspots. Elle a trait aussi à l’identification des « combattants étrangers » franchissant les frontières Schengen avec de faux papiers. Les solutions apportées concernent, dans un cas comme dans l’autre, un meilleur déploiement des fichiers et une plus grande interconnexion de ceux-ci (3).

Analyser la manière dont l’Union s’efforce de répondre à ces deux problématiques distinctes mais sécantes est instructif. Cette réponse s’exprime de façon commune, le recours à la sécurité digitale, c’est-à-dire l’utilisation accrue des systèmes d’information et de communication et ce, en écho au phénomène de digitalisation de la vie sociale observable dans d’autres secteurs à l’ère du Big Data, tels que la santé digitale. Les problématiques secondaires, fraude documentaire et combattants étrangers, se trouvent au cœur de la résolution des crises migratoire et terroriste, elles-mêmes étroitement imbriquées. Il s’opère à ce propos un phénomène d’intrication immigration-terrorisme dans un contexte où s’échafaudent des capacités de gestion de crise horizontale, c’est-à-dire de polycrises.

L’interopérabilité des systèmes d’information devient alors un enjeu central, crucial même, car de son succès dépend la protection effective de l’Union. La sécurité digitale, expression archétypale dusolutionnisme technologique, constitue un nœud gordien au sens où le sort de lutte antiterroriste dépend de la réussite de l’interopérabilité des systèmes d’informations, qu’ils soient à finalité sécuritaire ou migratoire, l’une et l’autre apparaissant désormais mêlées.

1. Verrouiller les frontières pour résoudre le problème des combattants étrangers 

Continue reading “La sécurité digitale à l’heure des crises migratoire et terroriste, le noeud gordien de l’interconnexion des fichiers”

(Legislative Alert) : The EU Directive on Passenger Name Record (PNR)

DIRECTIVE (EU) 2016/… OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of … on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data  for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime


Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular point (d) of Article 82(1) and point (a) of Article 87(2) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,

After transmission of the draft legislative act to the national parliaments,

Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee[1],

After consulting the Committee of the Regions,

Acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure[2],


(1)          On 6 November 2007 the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for law enforcement purposes. However, upon entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, the Commission proposal, which had not been adopted by the Council by that date, became obsolete. Continue reading “(Legislative Alert) : The EU Directive on Passenger Name Record (PNR)”

“MIGRATION COMPACT”: Contribution to an EU strategy for external action on migration




The unprecedented phenomenon of growing migratory flows towards Europe is expected to last for decades due to various geopolitical dynamics in the neighbourhood and beyond (mainly Middle East and North Africa, Sahel, Horn of Africa): security challenges and regional instability, deterioration of economic and social environment, poverty and unemployment, climate change, etc. The migratory challenge is seriously jeopardising the fundamental pillars of European integration (e.g. integrity of the Schengen area) and solidarity among Member States.

The complexity of such a challenge is linked to the mixed nature of the flows (both refugees and economic migrants). Actions taken in the Eastern route have to deal with mixed flows with a greater component of refugees due to the civil war in Syria. Flows through the Central/Western Mediterranean route are composed mainly by economic migrants and are expected to last in the medium-long term. The EU should be ready to cope with both challenges (the second is expected to last for decades) as well as with the opening of other possible routes (eg. north-east).

At the same time, if well managed, migration may represent an opportunity both for the EU and partner countries, in terms of economic growth and development, and for an ageing Europe in terms of sustainability of social security systems.


Most recently a number of initiatives and legislative proposals have been discussed at EU level to address the challenge, mainly focusing on the EU internal dimension, such as: the establishment of the European Border Guard; the reform of the Common European Asylum System which should feed into ambitious legislative proposals; the Decisions on relocation adopted in 2015; the intention of the Commission to not take into account the costs for the management of the current crisis under the Stability and Growth Pact; the Communication “Back to Schengen” and the recent proposals on “Smart Borders”.

However such measures only constitute components, even though important ones, of the more comprehensive response needed which so far does not yet directly address the external dimension of our migration policy. In order to be effective such internal measures need to be complemented with a stronger joint external action. The outburst of the migratory crisis highlighted the need to overcome fragmentation of available EU external action tools and to upgrade the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, revise the EU-ACP partnership, and further develop the pathways offered by the Valletta Action Plan, by the EU-Turkey agreement and by the existing Dialogues the EU is promoting at regional level (such as the Khartoum and Rabat Processes).

In order to design a reinforced external action strategy on migration it is urgent to carry out a comprehensive analysis of all existing instruments and actions with the aim to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the existing framework and consequently reorient the EU programming and planning.

The recent EU/Turkey agreement represents the first attempt to initiate a large-scale cooperation with a third country and has shown that it is possible to use existing tools and budget in an innovative way.

All existing initiatives and instruments in the field of external action should be directed (in a coherent way with the internal ones) to developing an active strategy, focussing first and foremost on African countries of origin and transit.


The first step of the strategy should concern the identification of key partner countries to cooperate with on migratory issues and the definition of the kind of cooperation to develop with each of them. A matrix should be defined, on the basis of different migratory features of each country (origin, transit, origin and transit) and be adapted according to the characteristics of the country (e.g: economic and social trends, security, climate change, etc.). The Country Fiches prepared by the Commission and the EEAS are a good starting point and an example of interinstitutional cooperation which is much needed to improve our approach. Such a mapping should be accompanied by a thorough needs assessment to be carried out together with the third country, in a genuine spirit of co-ownership, and should become the basis for Country Specific Action Plans for an enhanced Partnership.

The EU should upgrade its commitment on priorities identified by the third country, while the latter should upgrade its commitment on priorities identified by the EU.

3.1 The EU may offer:

* Investment Projects with a high social and infrastructural impact to be identified together with the partner country as a crucial incentive for enhancing cooperation with the EU. To that end, programming of external action financial instruments (EDF, DCI, ENI, etc…) should be reoriented and a new EU Fund for Investments in third countries should be established.

* “EU-Africa bonds” to facilitate the access of African countries to capital markets (with a medium-to-long-term perspective in order to ensure capital availability for growth and sustainable prosperity schemes), as well as other innovative financing initiatives (facilitating remittances and their re-investment and blending mechanisms, etc.), in synergy with the EIB1 and other European and international financial organizations.

* Cooperation on security: mainstreaming migration (border management/control, customs, criminal justice, management of migrants and refugees in line with international standards) in the mandate of existing and future CSDP missions in Africa (Sahel; a reflection could also be conducted for the Horn of Africa). The logical next step in this process would be a regional grouping of missions to better manage a phenomenon that, by definition, has a “cross-border” dimension. Support should also be ensured to existing regional processes aimed at regional cooperation in security and migration domain (e.g. the G5 Sahel). This approach should go alongside the practical implementation of the Capacity Building for Security and Development concept (“CBSD”), coupling training with adequate equipment.

* Legal migration opportunities, building upon the pillars set out at the Tampere European Council in 1999, as an incentive that could include: entry quotas for workers, information on job opportunities in Europe for third countries nationals, pre-departure measures (including language and vocational training) in collaboration with European companies ready to employ manpower from third countries, matching of demand and supply of jobs, professional and social integration in the host Member States, Erasmus Plus programmes for students and researchers. Initiatives on circular migration as well as south-to-south migration opportunities should be further explored.

* Resettlement schemes as compensation for the burden on those countries that engage in establishing national asylum systems in line with international standards.

3.2 The EU may ask:

* Commitment on effective Border Control and reduction of flows towards Europe. The EU should help with “capacity building” initiatives and supply of equipment and technologies. Third countries should also engage in Search and Rescue activities. The European Border Guard, within its new mandate, has to step up the cooperation with third countries and have a coordinating role.

* Cooperation on returns/readmissions, focusing on operational agreements, reciprocal posting of liaison officers in third countries and Member States to speed up identification and issuing of travel documents. The EU should fund these secondments as well as reintegration programmes for returnees. The third country should accept repatriations also via charter flights organized by individual Member States or by the European Border Guard. The EU should provide assistance in the development of biometric databases and IT systems for civil registers. Development of readmission cooperation among third countries should be supported by the EU. The EU should promote a coherent revision of the EU-ACP partnership (post-Cotonou) in line with EU priorities on migration, including the full implementation of obligations under art. 13.5 of the Cotonou agreement.

* Management of migration and refugee flows: third countries should be supported in establishing a system of reception and management of migratory flows (including infrastructures and logistics), which should foresee careful on-site screening of refugees and economic migrants, coupled with resettlement measures to Europe for those in need of international protection and returns for irregular migrants.

* Establishment of asylum systems: the EU should support third countries in establishing national systems, in line with international standards, which offer on-site protection (“safe harbours”) to those in need. The experience of relevant international organizations such as UNHCR and IOM could be used to help third countries to establish reception centres for refugees, financed by the EU.

* To strengthen the fight against trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants also through joint police and judicial cooperation.

To implement this approach, the new European Border Guard (in particular the new Office for Returns) should develop a plan (already before the entry into force of the Regulation) for joint EU return operations to be financed with the EU budget and for supporting return operations from third countries of transit to countries of origin (where cooperation on readmission is in place). The possibility for Member States having privileged relations with specific third countries to lead and organize (with the support of the Agency) joint return operations should be explored. The EU should use in an effective way its network of Delegations, the new Border Guard and all Common Security Defense Policy instruments. This effort could be complemented by contributions from Member States.

All EU and MS existing security, foreign and development policy instruments should be strategically combined to maintain a constant European law enforcement presence in the Saharan belt with the objective of formally training, equipping, assisting and cooperating on security with countries in the region (border control, joint patrolling, irregular migration and trafficking, terrorism, drugs, organised crime, etc.), while informally improving our early warning and prevention mechanisms.

3.3 The “Migration Compact” approach should be financed through:

  • Reorienting of programming of external action financial instruments (EDF, DCI, ENI, etc…).
  • A new   financial   “Instrument   for   the   external   action   in   the   field   of   migration” (IEAM)2 to be established within the EU budget and operate in synergy with AMIF and ISF. In the meantime, the EU should increase resources available under the Emergency Africa Trust Fund in support of a EU-Africa Program for prosperity, security and migration, building on the Valletta Action Plan and make use of regional migration dialogues (such as the Khartoum and Rabat Processes) to ensure African ownership.
  • “Common EU Migration Bonds” to be issued to fund the migration management in Member States and to finance the “Migration Compact” goals.
  • A new EU Fund for Investments in third countries to finance sustainable investments in the region and attract European investors, including through blending structures and operations by the Commission and the EIB.


In this context, the stabilization of major transit countries, such as Libya, is a strategic priority of the first order also to cope with migration and refugee flows. At the EU level, we will need to step up our partnership with the Libyan government, while engaging in targeted capacity-building programs aimed at bolstering the Government’s control over its territory and law-enforcement capacity.

The EU should ensure the best possible use of EUNAVFOR MED Sophia and its capacity in contributing to the disruption of the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Central Mediterranean, thus contributing to Libyan and regional security. When the necessary conditions will be met, different possible options and tasks can be included in the Operation’s mandate, moving it to new phases and tasks, including the training of the Libyan Coastguard.

In addition the EU should offer Libya security sector support, including advice and capacity building in the fields of police and criminal justice, through a civilian CSDP mission, focusing as well on border management and assisting Libyan authorities in their efforts to fight terrorism and improve management of migration flows.

To this end, UN and EU efforts should aim at supporting the management in Libyan territory of migratory flows, also through careful screening of refugees and economic migrants, coupled with resettlement measures for those in need of international protection and return for irregular migrants.


  1. See European Council Conclusions, 17-18 March 2016, doc. 12/1/16.
  2. IEAM should cover potentially all geographic areas and could be used also for mobilising additional funding for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

EU Justice Scoreboard 2016: learning from each other to improve the effectiveness of national justice systems


European Commission – Press release    Brussels, 11 April 2016

Today, the European Commission publishes the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States. The aim of the Scoreboard is to assist national authorities in their efforts to improve their justice systems, by providing this comparative data.

For the first time, the Justice Scoreboard also includes the results of Eurobarometer surveys conducted to examine the perception of judicial independence in the EU among citizens and businesses in more detail. This edition of the Scoreboard also uses new indicators, in particular on judicial training, the use of surveys, the availability of legal aid and the existence of quality standards.

“The fourth EU Justice Scoreboard shows that Member States’ efforts to improve justice systems continue to bear fruit. The key role of national justice systems in upholding the rule of law, enforcing EU law and establishing an investment-friendly environment deserve these efforts” saidVĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “The Scoreboard serves as a tool to learn from each other to render European justice systems more effective.”

Key findings from the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard include:

  • Shorter duration of litigious civil and commercial cases: While there is overall stability on pending cases, improvement can be observed in several Member States that faced particular challenges with a high number of pending cases.
  • Better accessibility of justice systems, in particular in matters like electronic submission of small claims or promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. However, there is still room for improvement in online availability of judgements or electronic communication between courts and parties.
  • Further efforts are still needed to improve the training in judicial skills and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)for case management systems.
  • Most Member States have standards covering similar aspects of their justice systems, but there are significant differences as regards their content. For example, less than half of Member States have standards on measures to reduce existing backlogs and even fewer define the maximum age that pending cases should have.
  • The Scoreboard incorporates the results of different surveys on the perception of judicial independence. For Member States where perceived independence is very low, the most notable reasons given included interference or pressure from government and politicians, and from economic or other specific interests.

Next steps

The findings of the 2016 Scoreboard are being taken into account for the ongoing country-specific assessment carried out in the context of the 2016 European Semester process. The country reports for 26 Member States were published on 26 February 2016 and include findings on the justice systems of a number Member States (BE, BG, HR, ES, HU, IE, IT, LV, MT, PL, PT, RO, SI and SK) (see for latest reports on the 2016 European Semester, IP/16/332 and MEMO/16/334).

The Commission will continue to encourage the judicial networks to deepen their assessment of the effectiveness of legal safeguards aimed at protecting judicial independence.


This is the fourth edition of the Justice Scoreboard. The 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard brings together data from various sources, in particular data provided by the Council of Europe Commission for the Evaluation of the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), which collects data from Member States. It also uses information obtained from other sources, for example Eurostat, the group of contact persons on national justice systems, the European judicial networks such as the European Network of Councils of the Judiciary (ENCJ), the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU or the European Judicial Training Network.

The Scoreboard focuses on three main aspects:

  • Efficiency of justice systems: indicators on the efficiency of proceedings: length of proceedings, clearance rate and number of pending cases.
  • Quality indicators: training, monitoring and evaluation of court activities, the use of satisfaction surveys, budget, and human resources.
  • Independence: the Scoreboard incorporates data from different surveys on the perceived judicial independence by companies and the general public.

The EU Justice Scoreboard contributes to the European Semester process by helping to identify justice related issues that deserve particular attention for an investment, business and citizen-friendly environment. It focuses on civil and commercial cases as well as administrative cases.

Together with the specific assessment of the situation in Member States, the 2015 EU Justice Scoreboard contributed to the proposal of the Commission the Council to address Country Specific Recommendations to four Member States (Croatia, Italy, Latvia and Slovenia) to render their justice system more effective. The Commission also closely monitors the efforts in this area in other Member States such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia (see factsheet).

The findings of the Scoreboard are also taken into account when deciding the funding priorities under the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) as regards justice reforms.

While the Scoreboard does not present an overall single ranking, it gives an overview of the functioning of all justice systems based on various indicators, which are of common interest for all Member States. It does not promote any particular type of justice system and treats all Member States on an equal footing. Whatever the model of the national justice system or the legal tradition in which it is anchored, timeliness, independence, affordability, and user-friendly access are some of the essential parameters of what constitutes an effective justice system.

For more information Press pack: MEMO/16/1285

Press pack on DG Justice website Full document available:

Summary of the Justice scoreboard: Factsheet

Annotated graphs with full figures

Questions and answers on the 2016 EU Justice Scoreboard

European Semester: 

Eurobarometer: Flash 435 and Flash 436


Press contacts: Christian WIGAND (+32 2 296 22 53) Melanie VOIN (+ 32 2 295 86 59)


The Commission’s draft EU-US Privacy Shield adequacy decision: A Shield for Transatlantic Privacy or Nothing New under the Sun?


by Dr. Maria Tzanou (Lecturer in Law, Keele University)

On 6 October 2015, in its judgment in Schrems, the CJEU invalidated the Commission’s decision finding that the US ensured an adequate level of protection for the transfer of personal data under the Safe Harbour framework on the basis that US mass electronic surveillance violated the essence of the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed in Article 7 EUCFR and the right to effective judicial protection, enshrined in Article 47 EUCFR (for an analysis of the judgment, seehere).

On 2 February 2016, the Commission announced that a political agreement was reached on a new framework for transatlantic data flows, the EU-US Privacy Shield, which will replace the annulled Safe Harbour. On 29 February 2016, the Commission published a draft Privacy Shield adequacy decision followed by seven Annexes that contain the US government’s written commitments on the enforcement of the arrangement. The Annexes include the following assurances from the US:
Annex I, a letter from the International Trade Administration of the Department of Commerce, which administers the programme, describing the commitments that it has made to ensure that the Privacy Shield operates effectively;
Annex II, the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework Principles;
Annex III, a letter from the US Department of State and accompanying memorandum describing the State Department’s commitment to establish a Privacy Shield Ombudsperson for submission of inquiries regarding the US’ intelligence practices;
Annex IV, a letter from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describing its enforcement of the Privacy Shield;
Annex V, a letter from the Department of Transportation describing its enforcement of the Privacy Shield;
Annex VI, a letter prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) regarding safeguards and limitations applicable to US national security authorities; and,
Annex VII, a letter prepared by the US Department of Justice regarding safeguards and limitations on US Government access for law enforcement and public interest purposes.

Similar to its predecessor, Privacy Shield is based on a system of self-certification by which US companies commit to a set of privacy principles. However, unlike Safe Harbour, the draft Privacy Shield decision includes a section on the ‘access and use of personal data transferred under the EU-US Privacy Shield by US public authorities’ (para 75). In this, the Commission concludes that ‘there are rules in place in the United States designed to limit any interference for national security purposes with the fundamental rights of the persons whose personal data are transferred from the Union to the US to what is strictly necessary to achieve the legitimate objective.’ This conclusion is based on the assurances provided by the Office of the Director of National Surveillance (ODNI) (Annex VI), the US Department of Justice (Annex VII) and the US Secretary of State (Annex III), which describe the current limitations, oversight and opportunities for judicial redress under the US surveillance programmes. In particular, the Commission employs four main arguments arising from these letters to reach its adequacy conclusion:

Firstly, US surveillance prioritises targeted collection of personal data, while bulk collection is limited to exceptional situations where targeted collection is not possible for technical or operational reasons (this captures the essence of the principles of necessity and proportionality, according to the Commission).

Secondly, US intelligence activities are subject to ‘extensive oversight from within the executive branch’ and to some extent from courts such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

Thirdly, three main avenues of redress are available under US law to EU data subjects depending on the complaint they want to raise: interference under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); unlawful, intentional access to personal data by government officials; and access to information under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Fourthly, a new mechanism will be created under the Privacy Shield, namely the Privacy Shield Ombusdperson who will be a Senior Coordinator (at the level of Under-Secretary) in the State Department in order to guarantee that individual complaints are investigated and individuals receive independent confirmation that US laws have been complied with or, in case of a violation of such laws, the non-compliance has been remedied.

The draft Privacy Shield framework may have been hailed as providing an ‘essentially equivalent’ level of protection for personal data transferred from the EU to the US, but despite the plethora of privacy-friendly words (‘Privacy Shield’, ‘robust obligations’, ‘clear limitations and safeguards’) one cannot be very optimistic that the new regime will fully comply with the Court’s judgment in Schrems.

A first problematic aspect with the US assurances is that they merely describe the US surveillance legal framework and the relevant safeguards that already exist.

In fact, the only changes that were introduced in the US following the Snowden revelations was the issuance of Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28) (in January 2014) which lays down a number of principles on the use of signal intelligence data for all people; and the passing of the USA Freedom Act which modified certain US surveillance programmes and put an end to the mass collection of Americans’ phone records by the NSA (in June 2015).

Finally, in February 2016, the US Congress passed the Judicial Redress Act which was signed into law by President Obama. Given that one can reasonably assume that the Court was aware of these developments when laying down its judgment in Schrems in October 2015, it seems that, with the exception of the Ombusdperson, Privacy Shield does not change much in US surveillance law. In fact, the Commission has entirely based its draft adequacy analysis on a mere detailed description of this law without any further commitment that this will improve in any way in order to comply with EU fundamental rights as interpreted by the CJEU.

While the assurance that US surveillance is mainly targeted and does not take place in bulk is important, there is no reference to the fact that US authorities access the content of the personal data that was deemed to violate the essence of the right to privacy in Schrems.

Furthermore, even if the US authorities engage only in targeted surveillance, the CJEU has held in Digital Rights Ireland that the mere retention of private-sector data for the purpose of making them available to national authorities affects Articles 7 and 8 EUCFR and might have a chilling effect on the use by subscribers of platforms of communication, such as Facebook or Google and, consequently, on their exercise of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 11 EUCFR.

Individuals, when faced with surveillance, cannot know when they are targeted; nevertheless, the possibility of being the object of surveillance has an effect on the way they behave. Insofar as Article 47 EUCFR and the right to effective judicial protection is concerned, the Commission itself notes in its draft adequacy decision that the avenues of redress provided to EU citizens do not cover all the legal bases that US intelligence authorities may use and the individuals’ opportunities to challenge FISA are very limited due to strict standing requirements.

The creation of the Ombusdperson with the important function of ensuring individual redress and independent oversight should be welcomed as the main addition of the draft Privacy Shield. Individuals will be able to access the Privacy Shield Ombusdperson without having to demonstrate that their personal data has in fact been accessed by the US intelligence activities and the Ombusdperson, who will be carrying out his functions independently from Instructions by the US Intelligence Community will be able to rely on the US oversight and review mechanisms.

However, there are several limitations to the function of the Privacy Shield Ombusdperson. First, the procedure for accessing the Ombudsperson is not as straightforward as lodging a complaint before a national Data Protection Authority (DPA). Individuals have to submit their requests initially to the Member States’ bodies competent for the oversight of national security services and, eventually a centralised EU individual complaint handling body that will channel them to the Privacy Shield Ombusdperson if they are deemed ‘complete’. In terms of the outcome of the Ombusdperson’s investigation, the Ombusdperson will provide a response to the submitting EU individual complaint handling body –who will then communicate with the individual- confirming (i) that the complaint has been properly investigated, and (ii) that the US law has been complied with, or, in the event of non-compliance, such non-compliance has been remedied. However, the Ombudsperson will neither confirm nor deny whether the individual has been the target of surveillance nor will the Ombudsperson confirm the specific remedy that was applied.

Finally, Annex III stipulates that commitments in the Ombudsperson’s Memorandum will not apply to general claims that the EU-US Privacy Shield is inconsistent with EU data protection requirements. In the light of the above, the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson does not seem to provide the redress guarantees of a supervisory authority such as the DPAs as the AG had asked in his Opinion in Schrems.

Draft Privacy Shield is problematic for another reason as well: it puts together the regulative framework for commercial transactions with the regulation for law enforcement access to private sector data. These are, however, different issues and they should be dealt with separately. It is important to encourage and facilitate transborder trade, thus flexible mechanisms allowing for undertakings self-compliance with data protection principles should continue to apply. But, the challenges of online surveillance on fundamental rights are too serious to be covered by the same regime and some ‘assurances’ that essentially describe the current US law.

Two solutions could possibly deal with this problem: Either the US adheres to the Council of Europe Convention No. 108 and abandons the distinction between US and EU citizens regarding rights to redress or a transatlantic privacy and data protection framework that ensures a high level of protection of fundamental rights and the transparency and accountability of transnational counter-terrorism operations (the so-called ‘umbrella agreement’) is adopted. Regrettably, the current form of the umbrella agreement is very problematic as to its compatibility with EU data protection standards- or even human rights standards in general, and, therefore, does not seem to provide an effective solution to the issue.

A recently leaked document reveals that the Article 29 Working Party has difficulties in reaching an overall conclusion on the Commission’s draft adequacy decision and supports the view that Privacy Shield does not fully comply with the essential guarantees for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US for intelligence activities.

Should the Commission nevertheless decide to proceed with the current draft, it is highly possible that the CJEU will be called in the future to judge the adequacy of Privacy Shield in aSchrems 2 line of cases.

(Legislative Alert) : The Council “general approach” on the future EU Border Agency.

NOTA BENE : Following intense negotiations inside the working groups of the Council (see some preparatory works on Statewatch and soon on a WIKI-LEX page of this site) the Coreper has agreed Yesterday (April 7) on a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament, as set out in the text below.
Even if the Treaty requires that debates and votes on legislative proposals should be public (also in the Council) in the case of the so called “early agreements” and “trilogues”   everything is still blurred. In this parallel world “informally” created by the co-legislators it is not clear the nature of the preparatory votes in the Council/Coreper  (qualified majority ? unanimity ?) , nor the role of the Commission, nor the impact on the original legislative proposal.
These legal procedural niceties taken apart (!?)  in the text of the mandate below the envisaged changes vis-à-vis the Commission proposal are highlighted in underline and strikethrough.  It should be noted that an additional legal basis, i.e. point (e) of Article 77(2) TFEU has been considered necessary,  in order to cover the provision of draft Article 18(8) which deals with issues related to controls at the internal borders.
Chapter I of the proposal (Article 2) deals with the definitions of the concepts used in it. Among them, the definitions of “external borders” and of “hotspot areas” should be highlighted.
Chapter II, Section 1 (Articles 6-7), concerns the name and the tasks of the new Agency. 

Chapter III, Sections 3-5 (Articles 50-78), deals with the cooperation between the future Agency and different stake holders (including with third countries), the general framework and organisation of the Agency and the financial requirements for its proper functioning.
Among the important issues tackled in these provisions, emphasis should be given in particular, on:
i) the envisaged facilitation of cooperation by the Agency with the Member States and the Commission in specific activities related to the Customs Area (Article 51);
ii) with regard to the cooperation with third countries, the Council has taken on board the view expressed by a number of delegations according to which the participation of Member States in joint operations on the territory of third countries shall be only on a voluntary basis. The joint operation in question shall be carried out on the basis of an operational plan agreed also by the Member State bordering the relevant operational area. In the same context, the compromise envisaged by the Council includes a provision on the Status Agreement that should be concluded by the EU and the third country for the deployment of the members of the teams in appropriate situations (Article 53);
iii) more functions have been added in the remit of the Management Board so as to meet with the role that is envisaged for it;
iv) the deletion of the provision on Supervisory Board, following a consistent request by many delegations (Article 69).
Finally, Chapter IV (Articles 79-82) covers the final provisions.

A detailed comment of this proposal which can be considered the first case of a quasi – federal Agency will follow.

Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC Continue reading “(Legislative Alert) : The Council “general approach” on the future EU Border Agency.”


NB. The original is available in the site of the Associazione di Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI) Unofficial translation by Statewatch


It seriously violates European law and radically betrays the EU’s and Italy’s judicial culture.

The agreement of 17/18 March 2016 is a decision by the heads of state and of the governments of the EU which runs contrary to the European law that is in force. The violations which have been recorded are numerous, including the following:

  1. The agreement envisages the forced return to Turkey of asylum seekers who entered Greek territory passing through Turkish territory after their asylum application was declared inadmissible. According to what the European Council reported, such inadmissibility will be declared by the Greek authorities, in cooperation with UNHCR, following an examination which is defined as individual but is described in terms which apply to collective refoulements. Art. 33 of EU Directive 32/2013 (on common procedures) establishes that asylum applications can only be deemed inadmissible following an individual assessment which may lead, in such cases, to establishing that an asylum seeker may be readmitted into a third country which may be deemed a “first country of asylum” or “safe third country”. These two notions are specified better in arts. 35 and 38 of the same directive, and are subject to compliance with requisites which cannot be observed as applying to the case of Turkey in any way. In fact, the latter country, apart from violating human rights and not guaranteeing democratic principles to its citizens, does not offer “sufficient protection” to asylum seekers for it to be defined a first country of asylum (art. 35), nor does it offer “the possibility to apply for refugee status” or to “obtain protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention” to an extent that may allow it to be deemed a safe third country (art. 38). In other terms, the agreement wants to break through the current normative framework (Directive 32/2013) to qualify Turkey as a “first country of asylum” or “safe third country”, in order to trigger a system of absolutely summary evaluation of asylum applications which will lead to quick declarations of inadmissibility and, as a result, to forced deportations on the basis of the sole precondition that such asylum seekers have passed through Turkey and that, just for this reason, they may be sent back to that country.
  2. The agreement envisages the possibility of enacting forced returns towards Turkey of all the foreign citizens who have reached Greece after crossing Turkish territory without submitting an asylum application. In this case as well, the agreement defines as individual a mechanism which, conversely, is described as a collective refoulement, enacted en masse against all the foreign citizens who have not submitted an application (or who are unlikely to manage to express their will to do so), solely on the basis of the fact that they have crossed the Turkish border. Hence, this is a mechanism which openly contravenes the prohibition of collective refoulements which is enshrined by 4 of the 4th Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
  1. Finally, the agreement which has just been reached represents a decision by the heads of states and of governments, and not an authentic EU agreement. Thus, it requires ratification by the Italian Parliament if it is to be deemed binding for Italy.

In view of its illegal aspects highlighted above, the signatory associations (*) demand:

I. That the authorities of the European Union immediately reassess the terms of the agreement and thereby exclude the possibility that Turkey may be considered a “first country of asylum” or a “safe third country” in accordance with arts. 35 and 38 of EU Directive 32/2013. Further, we ASK that, in any case, they respect the individual nature of the examination of an asylum application, allowing asylum seekers the concrete chance to have effective access to the procedure for recognition of international protection and to express any reason they may have to exercise a genuine right to legal defence.

II. That UNHCR should not participate in operations of mass evaluation of the inadmissibility of requests for international protection submitted in Greece by applicants who have arrived from Turkey. Such an assessment concerning inadmissibility represents a waiting room for collective refoulements and UNHCR cannot and must not legitimate such an operation.

III. That the Italian Parliament subject the decision by heads of states and of governments to ratification and not to authorise it because it contravenes European law, the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, article 10.3 of the Italian Constitution and, more generally, the fundamental principles of our legal civility and our democratic tradition.

22 March 2016

(*) Arci, Asgi, Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia, Centro Astalli, FOCUS -Casa dei Diritti Sociali, Medici per i Diritti Umani, Consiglio Italiano per i rifugiati (CIR), SenzaConfine




Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS (emphasis have been added by myself. EDC)

by Maarten den Heijer*, Thomas Spijkerboer**

In the European Parliament, questions were asked about the legal nature of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March, pursuant to which Greece has started to return asylum seekers to Turkey this week. Apparently, the EU’s procedure for negotiating and concluding treaties with third countries, laid down in in Art. 218 TFEU, has not been followed. The European Parliament wants to know whether the Council nonetheless considers the Statement to be a treaty, and, if not, whether Turkey has been informed about the non-binding nature. Importantly, for treaties “covering fields to which the ordinary legislative procedure applies” (asylum and immigration is such a field), the Council may only conclude a treaty with a third country after obtaining consent of the European Parliament (Art. 218(6)(a)(v) TFEU).

It seems that legal experts of the Commission and the Council have identified the issue. Shortly after the EU-Turkey Statement, the Commission proposed to amend theRelocation Decisions relating to Italy and Greece, in order to transfer some of the relocation commitments concerning asylum seekers arriving in Italy and Greece to Syrians in Turkey. The proposal appears to contradict the view that the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March did not intend to produce legal effects. However, in consideration 4 of the proposal’s preamble, the presented rationale for the amendment is the Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government of 7 March 2016, in which the Members of the European Council (and not Turkey) agreed to work towards the Turkish proposal of resettling, “for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the Member States, within the framework of the existing commitments”. The Commission would seem to be navigating around the EU-Turkey Statement as the ground for amending the 22 September Council Decision, possibly fearing that to do otherwise may lend support to the argument that the Statement is, in fact, a treaty.

It could be argued that the statement is not a treaty in the meaning of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties or an international agreement in the meaning of Article 216 TFEU, precisely because it is merely a “statement”. This is the view of Steve Peers on this blog: “Since the agreement will take the form of a ‘statement’, in my view it will not as such be legally binding. Therefore there will be no procedure to approve it at either EU or national level, besides its endorsement by the summit meeting. Nor can it be legally challenged as such. However, the individual elements of it – new Greek, Turkish and EU laws (or their implementation), and the further implementation of the EU/Turkey readmission agreement – will have to be approved at the relevant level, or implemented in individual cases if they are already in force.” Karolína Babická appears to share this view: “The EU-Turkey statement as such is not legally binding. It is only a politically binding joint declaration. It is not challengeable as such but its implementation in practice will be possibly challenged in court.”

A further reason not to view the statement as a treaty is that it does not use terms as shall and should, which are normally used in international law to indicate obligations of result (shall) or obligations of effort (should). Instead, the more indistinct term ‘will’ is used. On the other hand, the Statement says that the EU and Turkey “have agreed on the following additional points”. Article 216 TFEU uses the term ‘agreement’ when referring to a treaty with third countries. If two parties agree to something, can the result be anything less than an “agreement”? Or is the meaning of the term agreement in Art. 216 TFEU different from its ordinary meaning?

If one would embrace the thought that the Statement of 18 March is not a treaty or agreement because it is designated as “Statement” and uses the term “will”, it would follow that the EU could neglect the constitutional safeguards of Art. 218 TFEU by changing the form or terminology of a particular text. It would be rather odd if the EP and CJEU could be sidetracked by such clever ruses. It would mean that the applicability of constitutional safeguards depends entirely on choices regarding the design instead of content made by Commission or Council.

That the form is not decisive is confirmed in the case law of the International Court of Justice. In Aegean Sea, the question was whether a joint communiqué, issued after a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey, in which they agreed that a territorial dispute dividing the two countries should be resolved by the ICJ, constituted a treaty on the basis of which the ICJ had jurisdiction over the case. The Court held:

  1. The Brussels Communiqué of 31 May 1975 does not bear any signature or initials, and the Court was informed by counsel for Greece that the Prime Ministers issued it directly to the press during a press conference held at the conclusion of their meeting on that date. The Turkish Government, in the observations which it transmitted to the Court on 25 August 1976, considered it “evident that a joint communiqué does not amount to an agreement under international law”, adding that “If it were one, it would need to be ratified at least on the part of Turkey” (para. 15). The Greek Government, on the other hand, maintains that a joint communiqué may constitute such an agreement. To have this effect, it says, “It is necessary, and it is sufficient, for the communiqué to include-in addition to the customary forms, protestations of friendship, recital of major principles and declarations of intent-provisions of a treaty nature” (Memorial, para. 279). Counsel for Greece, moreover, referred to the issue of joint communiqués as “a modern ritual which has acquired full status in international practice”.
  1. On the question of form, the Court need only observe that it knows of no rule of international law which might preclude a joint communiqué from constituting an international agreement to submit a dispute to arbitration or judicial settlement (cf. Arts. 2, 3 and 11 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Accordingly, whether the Brussels Communiqué of 31 May 1975 does or does not constitute such an agreement essentially depends on the nature of the act or transaction to which the Communiqué gives expression; and it does not settle the question simply to refer to the form – a communiqué – in which that act or transaction is embodied. On the contrary, in determining what was indeed the nature of the act or transaction embodied in the Brussels Communiqué, the Court must have regard above all to its actual terms and to the particular circumstances in which it was drawn up.

The ICJ found that the terms of the communiqué, using terms as “decision” and “obligation” were indicative of the parties intending to bind themselves. However, it transpired from the context, namely previous and later negotiations and diplomatic exchanges between the parties, that they had not yet undertaken an unconditional commitment to submit the continental shelf dispute to the Court.

In Qatar/Bahrain, the question was whether minutes of a meeting between two Foreign Ministers constituted a treaty. The ICJ held:

  1. The 1990 Minutes refer to the consultations between the two Foreign Ministers of Bahrain and Qatar, in the presence of the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, and state what had been “agreed” between the Parties. In paragraph 1 the commitments previously entered into are reaffirmed (which includes, at the least, the agreement constituted by the exchanges of letters of December 1987). In paragraph 2, the Minutes provide for the good offices of the King of Saudi Arabia to continue until May 1991, and exclude the submission of the dispute to the Court prior thereto. The circumstances are addressed under which the dispute may subsequently be submitted to the Court. Qatar’s acceptance of the Bahraini formula is placed on record. The Minutes provide that the Saudi good offices are to continue while the case is pending before the Court, and go on to Say that, if a compromise agreement is reached during that time, the case is to be withdrawn. 25. Thus the 1990 Minutes include a reaffirmation of obligations previously entered into; they entrust King Fahd with the task of attempting to find a solution to the dispute during a period of six months; and, lastly, they address the circumstances under which the Court could be seised after May 1991. Accordingly, and contrary to the contentions of Bahrain, the Minutes are not a simple record of a meeting, similar to those drawn up within the framework of the Tripartite Committee; they do not merely give an account of discussions and summarize points of agreement and disagreement. They enumerate the commitments to which the Parties have consented. They thus create rights and obligations in international law for the Parties. They constitute an international agreement.

On that basis, the ICJ concluded the dispute to be within its jurisdiction. It follows that the question of whether a text is a treaty does not depend on form but on whether the parties intended to bind themselves. Whether there is such intent, depends on the terms used and the context in which the text was drawn up.

There is no reason to assume that this reasoning does not apply to the EU (which is not a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). In interpreting agreements concluded between the EU and third countries, the CJEU consistently observes thateven though the Vienna Convention does not bind either the Community or all its Member States, a series of provisions in that convention reflect the rules of customary international law which, as such, are binding upon the Community institutions and form part of the Community legal order (C-386/08, Brita, par 42). Presumably, the definition of a treaty in Art. 2(1)(a) VCLT belongs to customary international law. The 1986 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations, which has not yet entered into force, uses the same definition and expands it to agreements concluded between international organizations or an international organization and a state.

Both the text and context of the EU-Turkey Statement support the view that it is a treaty. The parties “decided” to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU, and, to that purpose, they “agreed” on a number of action points. These include a commitment on the part of Turkey to accept returned migrants and a commitment on the part of the EU to accept for resettlement one Syrian for every one Syrian returned to Turkey. Further, the Statement reaffirms the joint action plan of November 2015 and mentions that it is already being implemented. Indeed, several implementation reports have been drawn up since November 2015, from which it is clear that the previous action plan has been activated (here and here). The EU-Turkey Statement now at issue is also being implemented. For example, the Greek parliament has passed a law allowing migrants arriving in the country to be returned to Turkey. On Monday 4 April 2016, Turkey accepted the first returned asylum seekers from Greece. All this indicates that the EU-Turkey Statement was meant to sort legal effects. This, in turn, indicates that both parties intended to bind themselves and that, therefore, it is a treaty.

One way to argue that the EU-Turkey statement is not an agreement in the sense of Article 216 TFEU would be to posit that it merely reconfirms already existing obligations from previous agreements (such as the EU-Turkey and Greece-Turkey Readmission Agreements). But textually as well as contextually, that argument is difficult to uphold. First, the substantive part of the agreement opens with the decision to return all irregular migrants to Turkey. Even though this sentence is followed by qualifications about compatibility with international and European law and even the explicit statement that this does not constitute collective expulsion, this is a highly novel (and legally very questionable) element, which can hardly be construed as a restatement of pre-existing obligations. The same is true for the EU commitments to resettle Syrians from Turkey and the additional funding for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey of 3 billion euro. Secondly, it is well known that the pre-existing readmission obligations (on the basis of the EU-Turkey and Greece-Turkey Readmission Agreements) were barely being applied. Therefore, the fact that Turkey agreed that, as of 20 March 2016, all irregular migrants were to be accepted is a substantively novel element. The idea that the EU-Turkey Statement merely repeats pre-existing legal obligations is not convincing.

Does the fact that the internal EU rules were possibly not followed mean that the Statement does not have legal effect? Probably not, as the Statement was agreed by the Members of the European Council, whom Turkey could have considered to have full powers to bind the EU. Article 46 VCLT provides that a party may not “invoke the fact that its consent to be bound by a treaty has been expressed in violation of a provision of its internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties as invalidating its consent unless that violation was manifest and concerned a rule of its internal law of fundamental importance”. Paragraph 2 of that provision provides that a violation is manifest if it would be objectively evident to any State conducting itself in the matter in accordance with normal practice and in good faith. In Qatar/Bahrain, the ICJ did not consider it relevant that Qatar had not followed the procedures required by its own Constitution for the conclusion of treaties: “Nor is there anything in the material before the Court which would justify deducing from any disregard by Qatar of its constitutional rules relating to the conclusion of treaties that it did not intend to conclude, and did not consider that it had concluded, an instrument of that kind; nor could any such intention, even if shown to exist, prevail over the actual terms of the instrument in question.” (par. 29).

We are therefore of the view that the EU-Turkey Statement is a treaty with legal effects, despite its name and despite internal EU rules not having been observed.

Why is the binding nature relevant?

That the Statement is a treaty implies not only that the EU and Turkey must uphold its terms; it also opens up a debate out is legal effects, including possible challenges against its legality in view of possible conflict with other rules and treaties, such as human rights. The fact that the Statement has already been concluded and is therefore no longer merely ‘envisaged’, means, however, that it is no longer possible to obtain an opinion of the CJEU “as to whether an agreement envisaged is compatible with the Treaties” (Art. 218(11) TFEU). It is still possible for one of the EU institutions or a Member State to bring an action for annulment of the act of the European Council to conclude the agreement with Turkey. Such an action was successfully brought in Commission v France (C-327/91), when the ECJ declared void the act whereby the Commission sought to conclude a competition agreement with the US, for reason of the Commission not being empowered to do so. However, this left the Agreement with the US itself intact, which is in conformity with the rule of Article 46 VCLT.

In view of the default position in international law that all treaties are equal, it further is difficult to argue that the Statement is void because of a possible conflict with human rights such as guaranteed in the ECHR or within the EU legal order, such as the right to asylum and the prohibitions of non-refoulement and collective expulsion. Only if the EU-Turkey Statement conflicts with jus cogens, is it to be considered void and may Member States not give effect to it (Art. 53 VCLT).

It is however possible for individuals (such as those being returned from Greece to Turkey) to challenge the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement before national courts, arguing that it conflicts with fundamental rights. This in turn, may lead to a referral to the CJEU or a complaint before the ECtHR.

Is the agreement in violation of human rights? As has been argued by UNHCR (here and here) and many others (eghere), the agreement may well raise issues under (at least) the prohibition of refoulement (is Turkey safe and is there a risk of expulsion from Turkey?), the right to liberty (is systematic detention in Greece allowed?) and the prohibition of collective expulsion (are the returnees able to challenge their return on individual basis, including before a court?).

However, the Statement does not prescribe how, exactly, returns are to be effectuated and does not oblige Greece to systematically detain all asylum seekers who enter the country from Turkey. The Statement says that returns are totake place in full accordance with EU and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion” and that “[a]ll migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement.” Further, migrants are to be “duly registered and any application for asylum will be processed individually by the Greek authorities in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive.” It would seem therefore that the Statement itself does not directly violate international norms – it leaves the Member States sufficient freedom to implement the obligations in harmony with human rights. It follows that the Member States (Greece) must implement the agreement in harmony with human rights: “Where a number of apparently contradictory instruments are simultaneously applicable, they must be construed in such a way as to coordinate their effects and avoid any opposition between them. Two diverging commitments must therefore be harmonised as far as possible so that they produce effects that are fully in accordance with existing law.” (ECtHR Nada v Switzerland, par 170).


This brings us to two concluding observations. First, the devil of implementing the EU-Turkey deal is in the detail. Although its effectiveness in terms of stopping irregular migration by creating a deterrent effect may depend on returning all persons arriving in Greece as quickly as possible, fundamental rights may well halt returns in individual cases or result in lengthy procedures. It is indeed the question whether the appropriate human rights framework is in place in Greece (as is observed by UNHCR).

Second, the EP is right in asking critical questions about the Council not following the rules for concluding a treaty (also see earlier questions about the EU-Turkey deal of 29 November 2015). Although one could take the view that time did not allow to await an Opinion of the CJEU, the agreement was not concluded with Turkey overnight and there would at least seem to have been opportunity to ask consent from European Parliament (Art. 218(6) says that, in an “urgent situation”, EP and Council may agree on a time-limit for consent). That the institutional role of the EP has been neglected confirms the worrying trend that intergovernmental decision-making is taking over in the Union, and that national interests increasingly often prevail over the common values of the Union. This is bad for European democracy.

*Assistant professor of international law at the Universiteit van Amsterdam

**Professor of migration law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.