The final UK renegotiation deal: immigration issues

MY COMMENTS : Steve PEERS contribution is, as always, focused, and legally outstanding. It is interesting to note that in case of positive result of the UK referendum  it will be up to the EP to decide if, to preserve the UK “special” status, substantial amendments to the EU legislation on freedom of movement should be adopted. However what is at stake is the principle of non discrimination between EU citizens as defined by art. 9 of the TEU according to which “..In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.”  

I do believe that in a “political” Union, worth its name and its former ambitions,  this should the objective of the negotiations  should had been to delete the existing protocols granting special status to some Countries and (their national Citizens) who become more “equal” than the others EU citizens.. However thanks to Mr Cameron it is now abundantly clear that our EU leaders are no more “Dwarfs on giant’s shoulders” but only short sighted political dwarfs… What is even more troubling is that, if the UK which has been for more than 40 years consistent with its initial position, other EU Countries, rhetoric statements taken apart,  have a much more ambiguous position towards the EU ( see France, Polonia, Hungary, Sweden, Finland and even Italy) and behave in a way incompatible with the idea of being part of the same family.

Emilio DE CAPITANI

 

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS (Saturday, 20 February 2016)

by Steve Peers*

So David Cameron has achieved his deal on the renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership (full text of that deal here). This is the first of a series of posts on the final deal – starting with the issue of ‘EU immigration’ (or, from the EU law point of view, the free movement of EU citizens). This builds on (and partly recycles) myearlier post on the EU immigration issues in the draft deal.

I will write later about the other substantive issues (competitiveness, Eurozone relations, sovereignty) and on the legal form of the deal (although see already my post on the legal form of the draft deal; my comments there won’t change much when I update them in light of the final deal). And see also Katarzyna Granat’s analysis of the ‘red card’ for national parliaments – again, the final text of the deal doesn’t differ from the draft here).

The deal takes the form of seven legal texts: a Decision of the EU Member States’ Heads of State and Government (the ‘Decision’); a Statement of the Heads of State and Government (which consists of an agreed Council Decision); aDeclaration by the European Council (which consists of the EU Member States’ Heads of State and Government, although when acting collectively they are legally distinct from the European Council): and four declarations by the Commission. Of these, Section D of the draft Decision and three of the Commission declarations relate to immigration issues. One of these Commission declarations (relating to child benefit exports) was added during the negotiation, while the text of Section D and another declaration (on the ‘emergency brake’ in in-work benefits) was amended. The other declaration (on so-called ‘abuse’ of free movement) was not changed.

While Section D contains some important attempts to clarify EU free movement law, the key feature of the deal on immigration is the intention to propose amendments to the three main current EU laws. These three laws are: (a) the EU citizens’ Directive, which sets out the main rules on most EU citizens moving to other Member States: (b) the EU Regulation on free movement of workers, which contains some specific rules on workers who move; and (c) the Regulation on social security, which sets out rules on coordination and equal treatment in social security for those who move between Member States.

All three sets of amendments are to be proposed by the Commission as soon as the main Decision enters into effect. That will happen (see Section E of the Decision) as soon as the UK announces that it will remain a member of the EU – if, of course, the UK public vote to remain in the upcoming referendum. The deal includes a commitment from the Commission to make these proposals, and from the other Member States to support their adoption in the EU Council (oddly, the latter commitment does not apply to the planned amendment to the citizens’ Directive, since that proposal is not referred to in the main Decision).

However, all three proposals will be subject to the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’, meaning that they have to be agreed with the European Parliament. It is also possible that their legality would be challenged before the EU Court of Justice. I can’t appraise the political likelihood of the European Parliament approving the proposals, although the largest party (the European People’s Party, made up essentially of centre-right parties like Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats) hasannounced that it supports the renegotiation deal in principle, subject to examination of the details. However, I offer some thoughts below about possible challenges to the legality of these laws if they are adopted.

Unlike some other parts of the deal (on the position of non-Eurozone states, and the exemption of the UK from ‘ever closer union’), there is no mention of future Treaty amendments to give effect to any part of the text dealing with free movement (immigration) issues. So the main impact of the deal in this area will come from the three legislative proposals, once adopted. Since those proposals will not be tabled or agreed until after the UK ‘Remain’ vote (if there is one), this means that the analysis of the details is necessarily somewhat speculative. There are some important points of detail that will only be clear once the legislation is proposed and approved. I flag up some of those finer points below.

Although the press discussion has focussed on the ‘emergency brake’ in in-work benefits, there are three categories of issues: benefits (including a couple of points besides that emergency brake); the family members of non-EU citizens; and EU citizens who commit criminal offences. I refer back to Cameron’s November 2014 speech on EU immigration issues (which I analysed here) where relevant.

It should be noted that there is no text in the deal on two of the issues which Cameron had raised: removal of job-seekers if they do not find a job within six months, and a requirement to have a job offer before entry. Both these changes would have required a Treaty amendment, in light of the Antonissen judgment of the CJEU.

Benefits

There are three benefits issues in the draft deal: (a) the ‘emergency brake’ for in-work benefits; (b) the export of child benefit; and (c) benefits for those out of work.

‘Emergency brake’ on in-work benefits

Cameron had called for no access to tax credits, housing benefits and social housing for four years for EU citizens, but later signalled his willingness to compromise on this point. The position of non-workers and job-seekers is discussed below; but the position of workers is legally and politically difficult, since the Treaty guarantees them non-discrimination.

In the end, the deal provides not for permanent discrimination on this issue, but temporary discrimination on the basis of an ‘emergency brake’. The Commission will propose legislation on this issue, which will provide that the UK (or other Member States) can apply a four-year ban on in-work benefits, subject to substantive and procedural criteria. Procedurally, the rules will say that a Member State will apply to the Council to authorise the ban. The Council will presumably act by the default voting rule in the Treaties: a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission. That means no single Member State can veto the request to pull the brake. The final deal leaves vague the exact authorisation process which will apply in the Council, to avoid annoying the European Parliament (EP); but that detail will have to be addressed sooner or later. Certainly the EP will have to approve the legislation which sets up that process in the first place; the question is whether it would have a role deciding if the brake should be pulled.

A Commission declaration states the UK qualifies to pull this ban immediately, in particular because it did not apply transitional controls to workers from new Member States in 2004. However, there is nothing in the deal to suggest that Member States – who would have the final word – also agree. The restrictions would only to those who were ‘newly arriving for a period of seven years’, and would have to be phased out during that time. Again, the seven years matches the transitional period which the UK could have applied to control the numbers of workers from new Member States, back in 2004.

Several points of detail arise. First of all, after the seven years have expired, it’s not clear how much time would then have to pass before the brake could be applied again. Secondly, it will be important to clarify the meaning of those who are ‘newly arriving’. What about those who lived in the UK before, and are now returning here? How much time would they have had to spend in Poland (say) before they are considered ‘newly arriving’ again? Presumably the brake would not apply to those who are already here when the brake is pulled, but are not working at that time (due to youth, unemployment, childcare or illness) but who get work afterward.

Thirdly, it will be necessary to define how to calculate the four year period. It’s easy enough to apply it to those who begin work as soon as they (newly) arrive in the country, and who work for the full four years afterward. But what about those (a non-working spouse, or a teenager, for instance) who start work some time after they enter the country? What about those who start work, stop for whatever reason and then restart? What about those who start work during the brake period, then spend a year or so in Poland, then come back? And how can we be sure when exactly someone entered the country in the first place?

The final crucial point of detail is, obviously, the grounds on which the brake can be applied. According to the Decision, it would apply where:

‘an exceptional situation exists on a scale that affects essential aspects of [a Member State’s] social security system, including the primary purpose of its in-work benefits system, or which leads to difficulties which are serious and liable to persist in its employment market or are putting an excessive pressure on the proper functioning of its public services’.

There’s certainly a widespread perception that one of more of these problems exist in the UK and are caused by the large increase in the number of workers from other Member States in recent years. However, there are two serious problems with the proposed mechanism. Firstly, as Jonathan Portes has argued, objective evidence for this view is lacking. Secondly, while the CJEU has been willing to accept certain limits to free movement rights on the grounds of protecting health systems (see myprior blog post for details), this would have a much more far-reaching impact on non-discrimination for workers. It’s certainly conceivable that by analogy from the Court’s obvious willingness to keep EU monetary union afloat, along with its endorsement of restrictions for non-workers in recent years (see below), it mightaccept that these plans do not violate the Treaties. But as EU law currently stands, that is probably a long shot.

Export of child benefit

Cameron sought to end payment of child benefit to children living in other Member States. This payment is provided for in the EU social security coordination Regulation, which would have to be amended to change those rulesThere was a strong argument that the plan would have breached the Treaties, since in the case ofPinna the CJEU struck down EU legislation that allowed Member States not to export such benefits at all as a breach of the rules on free movement of workers.

The deal does not go as far as Cameron wanted: instead child benefit can be limited by indexing it to the ‘conditions’ in the receiving State. This will only apply to ‘new claims made by EU workers in the host Member State’; but after 1 January 2020, this ‘may’ be extended to ‘existing claims already exported by EU workers’. This is clarified by the Commission declaration, which states that the ‘conditions’ refers to the ‘standard of living and level of child benefits’ in the child’s State of residence. The transitional rule, and the Commission declaration, were added during negotiations. It’s an open question whether this new law would breach the Treaties, since there is no case law on the point.

Several points of detail arise here. It’s explicit that the new rules will be optional, so Member States can still be more generous if they want to. There’s nothing to limit their application to the UK (although I will refer to the UK and Poland here, purely for the sake of readability). It’s not clear whether the rules will also apply to Britishcitizens who have children in other Member States; arguably the principle of non-discrimination will require that they do. It’s also not clear what happens to ‘mixed’ families of (say) British and Polish parents (or indeed step-parents). Will it depend on which parent is the worker? What if both are workers? What if that changes over time?

The transitional clause also raises issues. The Decision distinguishes between ‘new claims’ and ‘existing claims already exported by EU workers’. Presumably the new law will state a precise date at which claims can be regarded as ‘existing’ (say 1 January 2017). These must be existing exported claims, so if a child moves to Poland after 1 January 2017, or is born after that date and resides in Poland, then child benefits could be reduced, even if the worker is already in the UK. So if my estimated date is correct, anyone who is thinking about having a child, and who wants to avoid the application of these rules, had better get a move on. Perhaps this Easter will be the season of fertility even more than usual.

Finally, it should be noted that a challenge by the Commission to other aspects of UK payment of child benefit to EU citizens is still pending. The non-binding opinion of an Advocate-General argues in favour of the UK in this case (for a critical view, see Charlotte O’Brien’s analysis here). It wouldn’t surprise me if the Commission quietly withdrew this legal challenge. You read that here first.

Benefits for those out of work

Cameron sought to end social assistance for job-seekers. The EU legislation already rules out social assistance for job-seekers, so this reflects the status quo. Although the CJEU has said that job-seekers have a right to access benefits linked to labour market participation, if they have a link already with the labour market in question, it took a narrow view of this rule in the judgment in AlimanovicPure benefit tourists (who have never had work in the host State) are not entitled to benefits, according to the judgment in Dano. So the Decision simply reiterates this case law, which has already satisfied Cameron’s main objectives in this field. It should be noted that another judgment by the Court of Justice on EU benefits issues is due next week.

EU citizens’ family members

Under the EU citizens’ Directive, currently EU citizens can bring with them to another Member State their spouse or partner, the children of both (or either) who are under 21 or dependent, and the dependent parents of either. This applies regardless of whether the family members are EU citizens or not. No further conditions are possible, besides the prospect of a refusal of entry (or subsequent expulsion) on grounds of public policy, public security or public health (on which, see below).

In principle EU law does not apply to UK citizens who wish to bring non-EU family members to the UK, so the UK is free to put in place restrictive rules in those cases (which it has done, as regards income requirements and language rules). However, the CJEU has ruled that UK citizens can move to another Member State (the ‘host Member State’) and be joined by non-EU family members there, under the more generous rules in the EU legislation. Then they can move back to the UK (the ‘home Member State’) with their family members, now invoking the free movement rights in the Treaties. This is known in practice (in the UK) as the ‘Surinder Singh route’, because of the name of the case which first established this principle. In 2014, the CJEU clarified two points about this scenario (as discussed by Chiara Berneri here): (a) it was necessary to spend at least three months in the host Member State exercising EU law rights and residing with the family member, before coming back; and (b) the EU citizens’ Directive applied by analogy to govern the situation of UK citizens who return with their family members.

In his 2014 speech, David Cameron announced his desire to end all distinction between EU citizens and UK citizens as regards admission of non-EU family members, by allowing the UK to impose upon the EU citizens the same strict conditions that apply to UK citizens. Since this would have deterred the free movement of those EU citizens who have non-EU family members, there is a good chance that it would have required not just a legislative amendment but a Treaty change.  (Note that according to the CJEU, EU free movement law does not just require the abolition of discrimination between UK and other EU citizens, but also the abolition of non-discriminatory ‘obstacles’ to free movement).

However, the deal does not go this far. The main Decision states that:

‘In accordance with Union law, Member States are able to take action to prevent abuse of rights or fraud, such as the presentation of forged documents, and address cases of contracting or maintaining of marriages of convenience with third country nationals for the purpose of making use of free movement as a route for regularising unlawful stay in a Member State or for bypassing national immigration rules applying to third country nationals.’

The Commission Declaration then states that it will make a proposal to amend the citizens’ Directive:

‘to exclude, from the scope of free movement rights, third country nationals who had no prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying a Union citizen or who marry a Union citizen only after the Union citizen has established residence in the host Member State. Accordingly, in such cases, the host Member State’s immigration law will apply to the third country national.’

That Declaration also states that the Commission will clarify that:

‘Member States can address specific cases of abuse of free movement rights by Union citizens returning to their Member State of nationality with a non-EU family member where residence in the host Member State has not been sufficiently genuine to create or strengthen family life and had the purpose of evading the application of national immigration rules’; and

‘The concept of marriage of convenience – which is not protected under Union law – also covers a marriage which is maintained for the purpose of enjoying a right of residence by a family member who is not a national of a Member State.’

It seems clear that these ‘clarifications’ will not be included in the legislative proposal, since the declaration later concludes (emphasis added):

‘These clarifications will be developed in a Communication providing guidelines on the application of Union law on the free movement of Union citizens.’

Let’s examine the planned legislative amendments, then the guidelines which will provide ‘clarifications’. The amendments will exclude two separate categories of non-EU citizens from the scope of the citizens’ Directive: those who did not have prior lawful residence in a Member State before marrying an EU citizen who has moved to another Member State; and those who marry such an EU citizen after he or she has moved to a Member State. For these people, national immigration law will apply.

The background to this proposal is CJEU case law. In 2003, in the judgment inAkrich, the CJEU ruled that Member States could insist that non-EU family members had previously been lawfully resident in the Member State concerned (previously no such rule appeared to exist). But in 2008, in Metock, the CJEU overturned this ruling and said that a prior legal residence requirement was not allowed.

Several points arise. First, the basic definition: what is lawful residence exactly? Presumably it means more than lawful presence, ie a stay of three months on the basis of a valid visa or visa waiver. But what about ambiguous cases, such as a pending asylum application or appeal? EU legislation says that asylum-seekers can usually stay until the application fails (if it fails), and then during the appeal (subject to some big exceptions). According to the CJEU, the EU’s main rules on irregular migrants therefore don’t apply to asylum-seekers whose application is pending.

Secondly, it’s odd to refer to national law alone, since sometimes EU law governs the admission of non-EU nationals. Even the UK (along with Ireland) is bound by the first-phase EU asylum law, and by the EU/Turkey association agreement. Denmark is bound by the latter treaty. And all other Member States are bound by the second-phase asylum law, along with EU legislation on admission of students and researchers and some categories of labour migrants (the highly-skilled, seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees).

Thirdly, it’s arguable that the EU principle of non-discrimination applies. That would mean, for instance, that if a German woman already in the UK married her American husband, the UK would have to treat her the same as a British woman in the same situation – but no worse. This would in fact be relevant to every Member State – there’s nothing in this part of the deal that limits its application to the UK. (One important point of detail is whether all Member States would be obliged to apply the new rules on ‘prior lawful residence’ and ‘marriage after entry of the EU citizen’, or whether they could choose to waive one or both of those rules. The EU citizens’ Directive already states that Member States can apply more liberal standards if they wish to).

Finally, the consequences of the rule will need to be clearer in the future legislative amendments. Does the exclusion from the scope of the Directive mean that the family member is excluded forever from the scope of the citizens’ Directive – even if the person concerned is admitted pursuant to national immigration law? That would mean that national immigration law (or EU immigration legislation, in some cases) would continue to govern issues such as the family member’s access to employment or benefits, or subsequent permanent residence. It’s also not clear what happen to children such as the step-child of the EU citizen, or a child that was born to the EU and non-EU citizen couple while living in a third country.

Could this legislative amendment violate the EU Treaties? In its judgment inMetock, the Court referred almost entirely to the wording of the citizens’ Directive. It mainly referred to the Treaties when concluding that the EU had the competenceto regulate the status of EU citizens’ third-country national family members. But it also referred to the Treaty objective of creating an ‘internal market’, as well as the ‘serious obstruct[ion]’ to the exercise of freedoms guaranteed by the Treaty, if EU citizens could not lead a ‘normal family life’. It must therefore be concluded that there is some possibility that the revised rules would be invalid for breach of EU free movement law.

Would the amendment violate the EU Charter right to family life? That’s unlikely. While the right to family life is often invoked to prevent expulsions of family members, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights gives great leeway to Member States to refuse admission of family members, on the grounds that the family could always live ‘elsewhere’ – as the CJEU has itself acknowledged (EP v Council). There is some possibility, though, that the CJEU would be reluctant to follow that case law (EP v Council concerns families entirely consisting of non-EU nationals) in the context of free movement: the idea that you could go away and enjoy your family life somewhere else is antithetical to the logic of free movement.

As for the ‘clarifications’ in future guidelines, they will of course not be binding. They first of all refer to cases where an EU citizen has moved to another Member State and come back to the home State. The definition of what constitutes a ‘sufficiently genuine’ move to another country is set out in the case law (three months’ stay with a family member) and mere guidelines cannot overturn this.

It should be noted that the Surinder Singh case law is in any event derived from theTreaty. This line of case law does not accept that such movement between Member States is an ‘evasion’ of national law – as long as free movement rights are genuinely exercised with a family member for a minimum time. The CJEU also usually assumes (see Metock, for instance) that a ‘marriage of convenience’ cannot apply to cases where there is a genuine relationship, even if an immigration advantage is gained. (The Commission has released guidelines already on the ‘marriage of convenience’ concept: see analysis by Alina Tryfonidou here).

Having said that, the planned legislative changes will complicate the plans of people who wish to move to another Member State with their non-EU family and then move back, since national immigration law will apply to their move to the hostMember State. It will be important to see how the legislative amendments address the transitional issues of people who have already moved to a host Member State before the new rules apply. Can the home Member State say, possibly based on the Commission’s ‘guidance’ (which might be issued before the new legislation is adopted) that those families must now obtain lawful residence in the host State for the non-EU family member, before the non-EU family member can come to the home State?

Criminality and free movement law

The Treaties allow for the refusal or entry or expulsion of EU citizens on ‘grounds of public policy, public security or public health’. The citizens’ Directive sets out detailed substantive and procedural rules on this issue, which has been the subject of considerable CJEU case law.

What does the renegotiation deal do? First of all, the Decision states that:

‘Member States may also take the necessary restrictive measures to protect themselves against individuals whose personal conduct is likely to represent a genuine and serious threat to public policy or security. In determining whether the conduct of an individual poses a present threat to public policy or security, Member States may take into account past conduct of the individual concerned and the threat may not always need to be imminent. Even in the absence of a previous criminal conviction, Member States may act on preventative grounds, so long as they are specific to the individual concerned.’

To this end, the Commission declaration states that it will:

‘also clarify that Member States may take into account past conduct of an individual in the determination of whether a Union citizen’s conduct poses a “present” threat to public policy or security. They may act on grounds of public policy or public security even in the absence of a previous criminal conviction on preventative grounds but specific to the individual concerned. The Commission will also clarify the notions of “serious grounds of public policy or public security” and “imperative grounds of public security” [grounds for expelling people who have resided for longer periods in a host Member State].  Moreover, on the occasion of a future revision of [the citizens’ Directive], the Commission will examine the thresholds to which these notions are connected.’

It’s not clear whether the revision of the Directive referred to at the end here is as imminent as the proposal to amend the rules to create a ‘prior lawful residence’ rule for non-EU family members. Otherwise the plan to issue guidelines is clearly not binding. The language in these guidelines partly reflects the existing law, but some features are new: the greater emphasis on past conduct, the lesser need to show that a threat is imminent and the possibility of expelling someone as a ‘preventative’ measure.

These changes fall within the scope of Cameron’s desire to have ‘stronger measures to deport EU criminals’. However, it should be noted that there is no specific reference to his plans for ‘tougher and longer re-entry bans for foreign rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters’. While a conviction and re-entry ban for fraud might be covered by the guidelines referred to above, there’s no mention of clarifying entry bans as regards those guidelines, or changing the legislation on this issue. Also, as I noted in my comments on Cameron’s plans at the time, EU legislation does not allow for re-entry bans for rough sleepers and beggars, since the EU citizens’ Directive states unambiguously that a ban on entry cannot be imposed where a person was expelled for grounds other than public policy, public security and public health. Put simply, a Member State can impose an entry ban where an EU citizen has been expelled due to criminality – but not where he or she has been expelled due to poverty.

Longer waiting periods for free movement of persons from new Member States

Finally, it should be noted that the Decision briefly refers to Cameron’s plan to have longer waiting periods for free movement of persons in future accession treaties. It does not incorporate his suggestion, but merely notes it. However, since the details of each new Member State’s adaptation to EU law are set out in each accession treaty, which has to be approved by each Member State, the UK can simply veto any future accession treaties unless longer waiting periods for free movement are indeed included. The next accession to the EU is at least four years away, probably more. So nothing really turns on the absence of agreement with the UK’s position for now.

Conclusion

The key point to remember about the renegotiation deal, particularly as regards EU immigration, is that it consists of different parts. The main deal takes the form of a Decision, which essentially clarifies EU law without amending it. According to CJEU case law (Rottmann), the Court is willing to take Decisions like these into account when interpreting EU law.

However, in the area of EU immigration, the other parts of the deal are more relevant: the intention to pass three new EU secondary laws. Those new laws will be a fully-fledged amendment to existing EU rules, not simply a clarification of it. While some points of detail remain to be worked out, it is clear from the deal that the Commission will make proposals in these areas, and all Member States (ie the Council) will support them. It remains to be seen whether the European Parliament will approve them, and whether the CJEU would accept challenges to their legality. My assessment of the Court’s likely response, as detailed above, is that the amendments on family members will probably be acceptable; the child benefit reforms are an open question; and the changes on in-work benefits are highly vulnerable. Of course, there’s no prior case law on these specific issues, and so we can’t be certain of the Court’s approach in advance.

Overall, as I concluded in the earlier post on the draft agreement, these changes, if they are all implemented as planned, will fall short of a fundamental change in the UK’s relationship with the EU. But equally it is clearly wrong to say that they mean nothing – if in fact they are implemented. The changes would be modest but significant: amendments to three key pieces of EU legislation that would for the first time roll back EU free movement law, not extend it. Leaving aside the calls for non-binding guidelines, there would be cutbacks in in-work benefits (albeit for a limited period), significantly more control on the admission of non-EU family members of EU citizens, and more limited export of child benefit.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 13

Photo credit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk
*Disclosure: I will be consulting for the European Parliament on the free movement aspects of the renegotiation. However, my advice will be fully independent; I don’t represent or advocate for the European Parliament (or anyone else) on these (or any other) issues.

Posted by Steve Peers at 01:35 15 comments:

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Labels: benefits, Brexit, child benefit, EU citizenship, EU referendum, EU reform, expulsion, family benefit, free movement of persons, tax credits, UK renegotiation

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mutual trust – blind trust or general trust with exceptions? The CJEU hears key cases on the European Arrest Warrant

Henning Bang Fuglsang Madsen Sørensen, Associate Professor, Department of Law, University of Southern Denmark

Monday 15 February was a busy day in Luxembourg. The Court held a hearing in C-404/15, Aranyosi, which was lodged at the Court in July 2015. But the Court also received C-659/15, Caldararu, at 9 December 2015 under the ‘emergency’ PPU-procedure. The Court decided to join the two cases as they were submitted by the same court – Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht in Bremen, Germany – and concerned the same issue – should surrender on a European Arrest Warrant be refused if there is reason to fear the wanted person will be exposed to inhumane prison conditions in the requesting state? So the hearing concerned both cases and it turned out to be a busy but also interesting day because the two cases touch upon the application of the principle of mutual recognition as the cornerstone of EU criminal law as recognized by recital 6 of the Framework Decision establishing the European Arrest Warrant.

During the day, the Court heard the submissions from the lawyers of Aranyosi and Caldararu, the referring judge from Bremen, 9 Member States (Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Lithuania, Hungary, The Netherlands, Romania and UK) and of course the Commission.

But what was all the fuss about? Well, let us have a look at the two cases first. Then we will turn to the submissions of the Member States and the Commission.

The cases

Aranyosi is a young man, living with his parents in Bremen. He has a girlfriend in Germany, with whom he has a child. He was arrested in Bremen 14 January 2015 as Hungary had requested his surrender on a European Arrest Warrant. Aranyosi is suspected for two accounts of burglary. However, Aranyosi resisted the surrender, referring to reports from the Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and case law from the European Court of the Human Rights, which documented a massive over-crowding in Hungarian prisons to an extent that could be considered a violation of ECHR art. 3 (corresponding to Article 4 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights). The Bremen Court decided to ask the Luxembourg Court if it was possible to read article 1(3) of the EAW Framework Decision (the ‘human rights’ clause) as an opportunity to refuse the surrender in case of strong indications of detention conditions insufficient to satisfy ECHR art. 3. The Bremen Court also asked if it was possible to request assurances concerning the prison conditions from the requesting state before surrender was allowed. Due to Aranyosi’s connections with Bremen, the judge decided to release Aranyosi while the case was pending.

Caldararu is also a young man. He was sentenced to 8 months in prison by a court in Romania for driving without a driver’s license. The case was heard in absentia. However, Caldararu left Romania before the sentenced time could be served and Romania issued a European Arrest Warrant for Caldararu. He was arrested in Bremen, Germany, on 8 November 2015, and his surrender to Romania was then allowed on 20 November 2015. He refused however to consent to the surrender with reference to the detention conditions in Romania. The Bremen Court decided to keep Caldararu in custody as the Bremen Court also sent a request for a preliminary ruling in this case. The request was sent on 9 December 2015.

So, two cases from the same court, basically concerning the same question: Can a judge refuse surrender if it is feared that detention facilities in the requesting state are inadequate?

But the reply to these questions touches upon a number of arguments, and the day turned out to be very intense as these arguments involves fundamental rights, the principle of mutual recognition, the relationship between Member States and not least what to do if surrender is denied. The parties were far from a common understanding of how these arguments should be used, and the hearing turned out to be a very interesting and well-spent day in Luxembourg.

Let us have a look at some of the major arguments.

The first argument – mutual trust means blind trust!

One could argue that mutual trust means blind trust to such a degree that the executing Member State must execute the European Arrest Warrant without any checks for anything else other than the grounds for refusal to execute an EAW mentioned in Articles 3 and 4 of the Framework Decision (such as double jeopardy, or age of a child).

The Bremen judge of course opposed this view as this would make his request for a preliminary ruling obsolete.

Especially Spain supported this argument, saying that the evaluation of the protection of fundamental rights is a privilege for the court in the issuing State as the court in the executing State is not empowered to make abstract evaluations of the prison conditions in another Member State. The prior CJEU judgment inMelloni was mentioned as an example of a situation, where Spain was denied the possibility to make the surrender conditional upon specific guarantees. Spain had difficulties aligning the conclusions of Melloni with a possibility to make evaluations of foreign prison systems prior to deciding surrender and then perhaps condition the surrender on guarantees regarding detention conditions. Spain therefore held, that the executing State had to surrender unless Article 3 or 4 of the Framework Decision were applicable and it would then be for the courts of the requesting state to evaluate whether prison conditions would amount to a violation of ECHR art. 3 / Charter art. 4.

Lithuania presented a similar argument, arguing that the principle of mutual trust would fall apart if Member States were given the power to check each other in regard to prison conditions. Lithuania further referred to TEU art 7 (on the possible suspension of a Member State from the EU on human rights grounds) as the procedure prescribed by the treaties in case a Member State is found not to respect fundamental rights. Lithuania also expressed concern whether the issuing State would be able to make its arguments before the court in the executing State deemed the prison conditions in the issuing State insufficient in regards to fundamental rights, and it could lead to a situation where the issuing State would be denied the possibility to use the EAW as such. This would make it impossible to prosecute absconded criminals and would thus threaten the idea of AFSJ as such.

The remaining States together with the Commission were in opposition to Spain and Lithuania. The parties argued in general in favor of understanding mutual trust as a general trust in opposition to a blind trust. The Bremen judge reported his difficulties when reading about the prison conditions in Hungary, and how he had asked the German Government in vain to obtain guarantees concerning the prison conditions for Aranyosi. He argued that it would be unacceptable to demand that a judge should ignore obvious reasons to fear for violations of fundamental rights and the possibility of denying the execution of the EAW had to be present in such a situation. Being a judge himself, he called upon the Luxembourg judges not to put this burden on him.

The German Government along with Ireland, France, Hungary, The Netherlands, Romania, UK and the Commission presented various arguments in favor of understanding mutual trust as a general trust which only is rebuttable in very exceptional circumstances.

Germany argued that the executing state cannot be making assessments of the respect for fundamental rights in other Member States, except when under very exceptional circumstances. Such circumstances could be several reports from the Council of Europe, CPT, judgements from the ECtHR, reports from NGOs and even from the American Secretary of State. Germany further read recital 13 in the preamble together with art. 1(3) of the EU Framework Decision in such a way that a risk of violation of fundamental rights is a general reason for denying execution of the EAW in supplement to the specific reasons mentioned in Articles 3 and 4 of the law. Ireland supported this argument with a reference to recital 12, while Hungary supported the argument with reference to recital 10. The UK also argued in favor of reference also to recitals 5 and 6, together with recital 10, 12 and 13 and Article 1(2) and 1(3).

The Commission argued for the need of a balance between mutual trust and the protection of fundamental rights, requiring Member States to have a general trust in each other with a possibility to test the protection of fundamental rights if there seems to be a real risk for a violation of fundamental rights. The Commission found support for this in Art. 19(2) of the Charter (non-removal from a Member State to face torture et al), as the Commission supported the Bremen judge by finding it unacceptable to force a Member State to surrender to a known risk of violation of fundamental rights without taking action to protect fundamental rights. The Commission further stressed that if the principle of mutual recognition would prevail over the protection of fundamental rights, then a principle had been given more weight than fundamental rights. Fundamental rights, being a part of primary law and the reason for the Union as such, could not be set aside by a general principle within EU law.

When is the obligation to examine a potential risk triggered?

If detention facilities in the requesting Member State may be examined prior to the decision of surrender, then how much is needed for triggering such an examination?

The main question was whether an examination should be accepted only in case of systemic failures in the requesting state or whether an individual risk concerning the specific person should be enough. The first situation, where an examination only is acceptable in cases of systemic failures, correspond to the conclusions of the Luxembourg Court in the cases of N.S. (on the Dublin system in Greece). andMelloni, and also paragraphs 191-194 of Opinion 2/13 (on ECHR accession). The second situation corresponds to the conclusion of ECtHR in Soering (on extradition to ‘death row’ in the USA).

Germany, UK and The Netherlands argued in favor of the individual approach, exemplified by a person who may be kept under harsh detention conditions due to religion or sexual orientation. Ireland argued together with France, Romania and Hungary in favor of the systemic approach, and also stressing that the threshold that has to be met had to be set rather high in respect for the principle of mutual trust. Spain argued against both approaches, as Spain found the examination to be directed against the detention facilities of the requesting state and as such not covered by any of the terms. Lithuania referred to art 7 TEU as the correct method to handle suspicions concerning violation of fundamental rights in a Member State, and concluded on this basis that the examination conducted in the executing Member State should be limited to an examination of whether or not art. 7 had been activated in regards to the issuing Member State.

The Commission found it relevant to initiate an investigation if an individual risk were present.

The parties were thus split in half on the question of whether an examination was allowed only in case of systemic failures or whether the examination should be allowed based on the individual risk of the person wanted for surrender. The submissions of the Member States were however also influenced by the question of what to do if the examination leads to the conclusion of a present and relevant risk in case of surrender – should the requesting state be given the opportunity to eliminate the found risk through guarantees or should the surrender be conditioned upon guarantees? The position of the Member States on this issue will be reported below. First, we must turn our attention to how the Member States would examine a real and present danger of a violation of a fundamental right in case surrender is allowed.

How will the Member States examine a claimed risk of violation of fundamental rights?

The problem of how a court in one Member State can obtain information on the detention system in another Member State in order to establish whether or not these detention facilities may be seen as a violation of fundamental rights were also included in the submissions of the parties.

Germany referred to reports from the CPT and the Council of Europe, together with the case law of the ECtHR, reports from NGOs and even the American Secretary of State. Germany stressed that these sources had to be published within a reasonably short time before the national court was to decide on the question of surrender. The UK also supported the use of reports from international organs, the case law of the ECtHR, individual claims and testimonies and reports from national experts. Ireland and The Netherlands also argued for the use of reports from the CPT and the case law of the ECtHR, while France considered especially the case law of the ECtHR as relevant. Hungary elaborated on the fact that reports from the CPT are at least one year underway, while a judgement of the ECtHR refer to facts as they were at the time of the claimed violation. That could be several years prior to the judgement were handed down. These sources thus had to be used with great care.

Romania did not elaborate on the question of how to make an examination. Also Spain and Lithuania opposed the general idea of letting foreign courts examine domestic prison conditions, but did not elaborate on how this may be done in case the Luxembourg Court would allow it.

The Commission supported the use of the case law of ECtHR, reports from international organisations, statistics on the over-crowding of prisons in the requesting State and even any other relevant source. The Commission was thus in line with especially Germany and UK.


The importance of dialogue between Member States – the concept of guarantees

Several parties stressed the importance of dialogue between the requesting Member State and the executing Member States.

The Bremen judge, Germany and France argued in favour of giving the judge of the court in the executing Member State the possibility to call for guarantees from the issuing Member State. The guarantees would be able to remove the fear for a violation of fundamental rights, and the surrender should therefore be denied if the required guarantees were not provided.

Ireland and The Netherlands found no basis for refusing to surrender due to the lack of diplomatic guarantees. The executing Member State had to make its mind up whether or not there would be a real and present risk for a violation of fundamental rights and handle the request for surrender in accordance with this.

Spain argued against the use of guarantees, as the judge calling for the guarantees may be setting the criteria that has to be met before he or she will allow surrender. This would generate a risk of huge variations in the way the Member States use this possibility, and would therefore threaten the uniformity of Union Law. Lithuania also argued against the use of guarantees by elaborating on the fact that the guarantee is not worth much if the requesting Member State decides not to fulfill its obligations in accordance with the guarantee after the surrender has taken place.

Especially Hungary stressed the importance of Article 15(2) of the Framework Decision. If a Member State is afraid of surrendering due to the fear of violation of fundamental rights, then the two involved states must engage in a dialogue for the purpose of removing the reasons for this fear. Hungary saw the risk of violations as a specific and concrete problem, which could be handled with specific and concrete solutions. Such solutions could be alternative detention measures, a decision to keep the surrendered person in custody in another prison or perhaps show the executing court that the reasons are obsolete due to for instance the constructions of new prisons following e.g. a judgment from the ECtHR. This line of arguments was supported by the UK as well as Ireland and The Netherlands. These arguments were also supported by Romania by stating that the risk for a violation of fundamental rights may be real and present but nevertheless possible to eliminate in the specific case. The Commission also supported this view.

Especially Romania also raised another issue concerning equal treatment, as Romania mentioned that if certain inmates where kept under custody under more beneficial conditions due to guarantees while other inmates were kept in custody under normal conditions. Romania pointed to the simple fact that if prisoners with guarantees were to be given more space, then the remaining prisoners would have even less space. This motivated the referring judge to ask Romania, Germany and France to elaborate on this risk concerning unequal treatment. Romania found this risk to be non-acceptable, while France argued that the risk of unequal treatment were a less evil than the risk of violating fundamental rights. Germany stated, that Germany did not want unequal treatment, but appropriate prison conditions. The risk of unequal treatment was however the only way to respect the Soeringjudgment of the ECtHR.

Thus, there were different views on whether surrender could be conditioned upon guarantees or whether guarantees should be seen more as a dialogue comforting the executing judge in the removal of a risk of violation of fundamental rights. However, there seemed to be general consensus when it came to how guaranties should be issued, as the parties found this should be regulated in national law of the specific Member State.

The consequence of denying surrender

The last major issue touched upon by the parties was the question of what should happen if surrender were refused.

The Bremen judge explained how German law made it possible to let Germany continue the criminal proceedings if surrender was denied, but practical problems in regards to witnesses etc. made this theoretical possibility an illusion in real life. In regards to Aranyosi, a decision not to surrender would therefore in real life also be decision to discontinue the criminal proceedings. In regards to Caldararu, who was sentenced in Romania, a decision to not surrender could provide the basis for letting Caldararu serve the sentence in Germany, but this would also result in a number of practical problems as Caldararu only had stayed a very short time in Germany. He therefore does not speak the language nor would any initiatives to rehabilitate him into the German society have any likelihood for success.  So it was also questionable whether it would be relevant to transfer the sentence to Germany in the present case. The Bremen judge made it clear that it would not be satisfactory if a denial to surrender the sought person would mean crimes would go unpunished.

The German government shared this view, while France noted that it was for each Member State to decide whether they would let their courts have jurisdiction in cases in which surrender had been denied. Romania also made it clear, that it would be unacceptable if criminal activities were going un-punished because of a decision to deny surrender. If the executing Member State denies surrender, then the executing Member State must bear the responsibility to see justice fulfilled. Lithuania pointed to the fact that a decision not to surrender due to unsatisfactory detention facilities would in practice create areas within the AFSJ it which it would be impossible to punish crimes as the criminals would be able to commit their crimes in such areas and then flee to other parts of the AFSJ without risking surrendering afterwards.

A number of parties also underscored this as the major difference between asylum law and the test used in the N.S. case against criminal law and the test that may be used in the present cases. If the return of an asylum seeker is impossible, then the Member State in which the asylum seeker is at the moment will be able to process the application for asylum. It is of lesser importance for the asylum seeker whether one or the other Member State processes the application for asylum as asylum law is almost fully harmonized. The consequence of not surrendering a suspect in a criminal case could very well be that crimes would go unpunished, which is a rather different result and of course not acceptable.

What next?

The Advocate General promised to announce within 24 hours when his opinion will be submitted to the Court. The cases were heard on 15 February 2016 but the Curia-webpage still do not contain any new information by the end of the 17 February 2016. Nonetheless, Caldararu is a PPU-case as Caldararu is kept in custody, and we must therefore expect the opinion of the general advocate within few days. The decision of the Court will then be expected within a few weeks or perhaps a month, so the excitement will soon be released.

It seems apparent that especially Spain and Lithuania were very skeptical as to whether one Member State should be allowed to examine the detention facilities in another Member State at all. The other seven Member States seemed to find it appropriate to have the possibility in very exceptional circumstances. France, Romania and Hungary seemed to limit the possibility to cases with systemic problems, while the remaining Member States also wanted to be able to conduct an examination in cases with individual problems. Germany wanted to let the executing Member State demand guarantees from the issuing Member State so surrender could be denied if the requested guarantees were not delivered. The remaining Member States seemed to agree that the two Member States had to engage in a dialogue to establish whether there was a problem in the specific case at all and whether a problem could be solved by for instance alternative detention measures. It is also worth noticing the position of the Commission as a rather pragmatic approach, where the Commission supported the need to make investigations in even individual cases, using a variety of sources.

The draft renegotiation deal: A genuine red card? Tusk’s proposal and national parliaments

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS (Wednesday, 3 February 2016)

Dr. Katarzyna Granat, (*)

The Draft Decision of the Heads of State or Government, ‘A New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union’, unveiled by Donald Tusk on February 2 2016 offers the first concrete vision of the changes to enhance the role of national parliaments under the UK’s renegotiation efforts. This note provides an analysis of the suggested changes by contrasting them with the mechanisms currently in force under the Lisbon Treaty.

Tusk’s proposal (Section C, points 2-3) envisions that reasoned opinions of national parliaments issued under Article 7.1 of Protocol No. 2 ‘on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality’ should be ‘duly taken into account’ by all institutions participating in the EU decision-making procedures. In Tusk’s proposal national parliaments may submit reasoned opinions stating that an EU draft legislative act violates the principle of subsidiarity submitted within 12 weeks from the transmission of that draft. If these reasoned opinions represent more than 55% of votes allocated to national parliaments (i.e. at least 31 of the 56 available votes; two votes for each national parliament; in the case of a bicameral parliament, each of the two chambers has one vote; votes of parliaments of member states not participating in the adoption of the act at stake are not counted), the opinions will be ‘comprehensively discussed’ in the Council. If the EU draft legislative proposal is not changed in a way reflecting the concerns of national parliaments in their reasoned opinions, the Council will discontinue the consideration of that draft.

This proposal differs from the current ‘yellow’ and ‘orange’ card schemes of the Lisbon Treaty in a number of ways concerning in particular the timeframe, applicable thresholds and the effects of these procedures.

First, under the existing provisions of the Lisbon Treaty national parliaments may submit a reasoned opinion to the Commission, EP and Council within eight weeks from the transmission of the draft legislative act (Art. 6 of Protocol No.2). Tusk’s proposal hence gives national parliaments more time for the analysis of proposals and drafting reasoned opinions. The need to extend the submission deadline is often underlined by national parliaments and this would probably be welcomed by them. (See COSAC, 24th Bi-annual Report: Developments in European Union Procedures and Practices Relevant to Parliamentary Scrutiny, 4.11.2015 at 22) Yet, it is unclear whether the extension to 12 weeks under Tusk’s proposal also applies to the ‘yellow’ and ‘orange’ card procedures.

Second, although the mechanism of assignment of votes to national parliaments does not change, Tusk’s proposal offers a different threshold of votes to be met by national parliaments. The ‘yellow card’ provision demands that the reasoned opinions on the non-compliance of a Commission proposal with the principle of subsidiarity represent at least one third of all the votes allocated to the national parliaments. For triggering of the ‘orange card’, applicable only in the ordinary legislative procedure, the reasoned opinions of national parliaments need to represent at least a simple majority of the total number of votes allocated to the national parliaments. In contrast, to activate the procedure proposed by Tusk the necessary threshold is 55% of the votes allocated to national parliaments. Hence out of 56 votes of national parliaments at least 19 are necessary for a ‘yellow card’; at least 29 for an ‘orange card’ and 31 to meet the ‘more than 55%’ threshold in Tusk’s proposal. The new procedure thus requires only slightly more votes than the existing ‘orange card’, which, thus far, has never been triggered successfully.

Third, the most substantial change concerns the consequences of activating the new procedure. The ‘yellow card’ involved consequences that were relatively limited: the Commission had to review the draft and then to decide on whether to maintain, amend or withdraw the draft, giving reasons for its decision (Art. 7.2. of Protocol No. 2). For the ‘orange card’, the Commission had similar choices available, but a decision to maintain the proposal required the Commission to prepare its own reasoned opinion with arguments demonstrating compliance of the act with the subsidiarity principle. The EP and the Council would then decide on the fate of the proposal taking into account the arguments on the principle of subsidiarity expressed by the Commission and by national parliaments. If subsequently 55 % of the Council members or a majority of the votes cast in the EP finds a subsidiarity breach, ‘the legislative proposal shall not be given further consideration’. (Art. 7.3 of Protocol No. 2) By contrast, Tusk’s proposal seems to omit the phase in which the Commission can respond to national parliaments and instead moves directly to the Council, which may decide not to continue the consideration of the proposal, if that is not amended to accommodate the ‘concerns’ expressed by national parliaments. Tusk’s proposal binds stopping of the legislative procedure with whether the requests of national parliaments are met, while the ‘orange card’ provided for discontinuation only if the Council finds a subsidiarity breach.

It is worth noting that important details of the procedure such as who is responsible for amending the proposal and more importantly verifying whether the concerns of national parliaments were addressed are left unspecified. Recall that in its interaction with the national parliaments the Commission has often expressed itself satisfied that the concerns of the parliaments expressed in the reasoned opinions have been addressed by the original proposal. (See House of Lords, European Union Committee, 9th Report of Session 2013-14, para 87) Nevertheless, Tusk’s proposal seems to demand a more active response from EU institutions than the ‘orange card’.

Moreover, one should note that Tusk’s proposal does not grant the national parliaments a veto power on any aspect of a Commission proposal. Tusk’s proposal mentions that the discontinuance of the legislative procedure is conditional on the non-accommodation of the ‘concerns’ expressed in the reasoned opinions, with the ultimate decision taken by the Council, and thereby away from the national parliaments.

One further interesting aspect of Tusk’s proposal is that it refers throughout to reasoned opinions on the non-compliance of proposals with the subsidiarity principle, even though in their exercise of subsidiarity scrutiny under Protocol No. 2 national parliaments often critique issues such as the legal basis, proportionality or the political merits of a proposal, thereby going beyond strict subsidiarity review (See F. Fabbrini, K Granat, ‘“Yellow card, but no foul”: The role of the national parliaments under the subsidiarity protocol and the Commission proposal for an EU regulation on the right to strike (2013) 50 Common Market Law Review, 115–143). The question is whether under Tusk’s proposal such a broad approach would also be adopted in the Council. If so, this might cause difficulties in amending a proposal in a way that properly takes account of all the different aspects raised by national parliaments and in consequence makes it also easier to stop the legislative procedure because of the lack of accommodation of the demands of the parliaments.

A broad reading of Tusk’s proposal would therefore probably be more in line with Cameron’s wish of strengthening national parliaments by allowing a threshold of national parliaments ‘to stop unwanted legislative proposals,’ although Cameron underlined also that the EU must commit to a full implementation of the subsidiarity principle. (Letter of D. Cameron to D. Tusk, 10. November 2015 at 4) A more specific answer to the latter issue might be the proposed draft declaration ‘on a subsidiarity implementation mechanism and a burden reduction implementation mechanism’ obliging the Commission to create a mechanism for the review of existing EU legislation for its compatibility with the subsidiarity and proportionality principles with an aim to provide ‘full implementation’ of subsidiarity. (EUCO 7/16)

Last point: the fact that the tabled proposal demands a discussion in the Council could also mean that depending on the relationship between parliaments and their governments represented in the Council, the ministers might show more or less flexibility with the ‘concerns’ of their national parliaments and whether a consensus on stopping or continuing with the legislative procedure could be achieved.

Finally, recall that the rejected ‘red card’ proposed in the Convention on the Future of Europe aimed at a two-third majority of national parliaments that would require the Commission to withdraw its proposal (CONV 540/03, 6.02.2003, p. 3). In comparison, Tusk’s proposal has a lower threshold and does not imply an immediate stopping of the legislative procedure. It could be hence described as a ‘red card light’ and as way of finding a compromise solution without threatening to disrupt the EU legislative procedure.

(*)  Junior Research Fellow & Marie Curie Fellow, Durham Law School 

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: a tool to enhance and protect the rule of law ?

NB This is an intervention during the  Conference “The Shield of Europe: The European Charter of fundamental rights” , European Parliament Brussels 13.01.2016

 By Giuseppe BRONZINI (*)

 (Original Italian – Translated by Yasha MACCANICO)

1. Fifteen years after the European Charter of Fundamental Rights’ proclamation in Nice and six years after its transformation into a text of EU primary law, now may be the right time to rationally assess its impact on the European legal order (covering both the EU institutions and the Member States when acting under the EU Treaties) in order to evaluate the critical tensions it gives rise to, as well as its unfulfilled potential.

First and foremost this could apply to the Charter as an instrument to implement the principle of the rule of law, which is currently under strain at both the supranational level (see the lack of transparency and democracy in EU economic governance) and at the national level, as emerged recently in the Hungarian and Polish cases, which have drawn the attention of the media and the European Commission.[2]

Despite its current limits, which will be discussed in detail, we must recognise that the Charter Project is, to date, the most significant attempt to upgrade the integration process in the European Union (mainly developed previously in the economic sphere) in order to achieve a deep connection between the European Institutions and European citizens through the constitutionalisation of their rights.

The Charter and the new complementary rules in the Treaties now enable the European Institutions, as well as national governments acting within the EU framework, to be legitimated, at least insofar as the substantial aspect of respect for fundamental rights is concerned. The mere fact that now the legitimacy of public action at a supranational level may derive from the safeguard of fundamental rights which, in modern democratic legislatures, is accompanied by the legitimation deriving from (parliamentary) delegation of political will procedures, criteria of accountability for government bodies, mechanisms for direct public discussion and participation for citizens, could be a basis to overcome the current weaknesses of EU action.

Having stated this, we should not forget that the Charter was first conceived in the 2000 Convention as a “Bill of Rights” which, even without a wider constitutional charter, would operate primarily in the judicial field rather than the political arena. However, even in this ancillary position, the Charter has been incorporated into a successful story involving the gradual establishment of an integrated supranational judicial system. Increasing numbers of national judges work directly as guarantors of European law, under the indirect control of the Court of Justice of the European Union, enacting principles envisaged for decades by the European legal order (which render it independent from national self-protection mechanisms). These include the principles of the direct effect and the primacy of EU law, the duty of compliant interpretation of EU law and, when necessary in specific cases, the possibility of not applying national rules and access to preliminary ECJ rulings.

On the latter aspect of preliminary rulings, it appears that the ECJ wants to add a duty to review national judgements which do not comply with supranational law (even by sanctioning non-compliant national judges) and it is even creating “temporary remedies” which were not originally envisaged to protect the lives of defendants while judgements are pending. Such measures demonstrate a clear effort aiming to force rebel or recalcitrant national jurisprudences to abide with EU law.

These are extremely powerful and consolidated tools. Hence, the Charter’s success has been wisely entrusted to the functioning of these typically European remedies which were clearly not created for this purpose, but are now part of the European judges’ toolbox, used on a daily basis by national (local) judges who people turn to in order to obtain justice.

Well, my view, considering the 1999 Simitis Report [3] which settled the institutional base of the codification process, is that the Charter was meant to have four main institutional objectives. Firstly (objectives 1 and 2), to offer visibility and legal certainty to fundamental rights which were previously only protected on a case-by-case basis by the Court of Justice. The third principle was to make these Charter rights autonomous from the judges of the Luxembourg Court, thus fully legitimating it, so that they may not be accused of creating rather than applying EU law anymore. In this sense, the Charter is allowed to act as a real “Bill of Rights”, that is, as a parameter of the substantive legitimacy of European Law (constitutional review) and of national legal systems when they come into contact with it. Fourth, and finally, the Charter was meant to grant an autonomous legal status to social rights to make them equivalent to first- and second-generation fundamental rights, leading to their protection per se, beyond an ancillary rationale which subordinated them to the pursuit of the main economic goals of the integration process, used in past Court of Justice jurisprudence to guarantee them.

The legal doctrine also envisaged a cross fertilizing effect [4] in view of the Charter’s ability to function as a coordination point and as a factor, in the medium term, for convergence between internal and supranational constitutional horizons beyond the  limits imposed by predefined competences, up to the point of issuing judgements for “failure to act” resembling those by the main European Courts. A positive outcome of the Charter was widely attributed to its so-called “inductive effect”, a concept coined by Habermas, as a means of strengthening European citizenship. By acting to preserve this citizenship’s rights, it would have contributed to developing a European public sphere, which would become the foundation for subsequent constitutional development.

2. As far as the visibility of fundamental rights is concerned, it has clearly been achieved during the Charter’s first six years, as has the full legitimation for the Court of Justice to use the semantics of fundamental rights. Continue reading “The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: a tool to enhance and protect the rule of law ?”

“Searching for Solidarity in EU Asylum and Border Policies”

Programme and information leaflet for the Odysseus Network’s First Annual Conference: “Searching for Solidarity in EU Asylum and Border Policies”
The Odysseus Academic Network is proud to present the programme for the Network’s First Annual Policy Conference, “Searching for Solidarity in EU Asylum and Border Policies”, in cooperation with the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute.
For more information, and to download a PDF of this leaflet, go to http://odysseus-network.eu/omnia-annual-policy-conference/

Economic challenges and prospects of the refugee influx

THE FULL TEXT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESEARCH SERVICE IS ACCESSIBLE HERE 

SUMMARY
The current refugee influx represents the largest population movement in Europe since World War II. Its size and complexity make it difficult to draw conclusions on the economic challenges and prospects valid for each Member State of the European Union (EU).
Many experts agree that, in the short term, the refugee influx will lead to rising costs, arising from the need to provide food, shelter and first aid. In the longer term, the refugee influx could be positive for the European economy by, for example, addressing the EU’s alarming demographic trends. Depending on their education, skills and willingness to work, refugees might improve the ratio of active workers and also contribute to innovation, entrepreneurship and GDP growth. Regarding the labour market, migrants can fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy, and contribute to labour-market flexibility.
Refugee, migration and asylum policy is largely under the auspices of the Member States and intergovernmental EU policy-making. The uncontrolled mass arrival of refugees has highlighted the different views in the Member States on migration and immigration, driven by economic, social and cultural divergences and spurred the debate on a new EU migration policy.
According to the European Parliament, the EU and its Member States should target the potential gains from the current influx by, inter alia, successful economic and social integration of the refugees.

Continue reading

Schengen, un coupable idéal ?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON CDRE SITE (25 NOVEMBRE 2015)

par Henri Labayle, 

Les réalisations européennes servent de bouc émissaire aux crises nationales. Ce n’est pas chose nouvelle. Après l’Euro, l’espace « Schengen » de l’Union est aujourd’hui sur la sellette. Les attentats terroristes lui auraient donné le coup de grâce, après ceux de la crise des migrants. Est-ce bien réaliste, est-ce vraiment opportun ?

Les discours officiels relèvent ici de la vieille fable de la paille et de la poutre. C’est aux Etats membres eux-mêmes que le conseil du ministre de l’Intérieur français de « se reprendre » devrait être donné tant la construction de Schengen est dépendante de leur volonté. Néanmoins, le réalisme interdit l’optimisme. Ayant perdu de vue ses caractéristiques initiales, Schengen n’échappera pas à une remise en question profonde.
Le fabuleux destin de l’espace Schengen, sa « success story », enregistrent incontestablement au coup d’arrêt, dont il conviendra de mesurer l’impact réel. Il y a des explications à cela.

1. Une construction datée

Les principes de Schengen sont inscrits désormais dans les traités : abolition des contrôles aux frontières intérieures, reportés là où l’espace commun est en contact avec les pays tiers. Sont-ils toujours à la hauteur des défis ? Répondent-ils à la menace terroriste comme à la pression migratoire ? A trop raisonner à logiciel constant, on peut en douter.

Le contexte de la création de Schengen, en 1985, a été oublié. Fruit d’un accord bilatéral franco-allemand, rejoint par les Etats du Bénélux, Schengen s’inscrivait dans un paysage aujourd’hui disparu : peu de participants, ensemble homogène animé des mêmes buts. Au point d’être scellé dans une convention d’application dont la date n’est pas indifférente : 1990, au lendemain de la chute du mur de Berlin …

En attendre une réponse efficace à des défis qui n’existaient pas lors de sa conception est un peu simpliste.
Que Schengen n’ait pas été à même, en 2015, d’arrêter les flots de réfugiés remontant le ventre mou du couloir des Balkans s’explique : il a été conçu en 1990 dans la logique d’un continent fermé, d’une Europe coupée en deux par le rideau de fer, ignorant les 7700 kilomètres de frontières terrestres devenues les siennes aujourd’hui. Figée dans une problématique Nord/Sud, l’Europe de l’époque n’avait aucune idée de la dimension Est/Ouest qui s’y est surajoutée.
Le contexte géopolitique de l’époque le confirme. L’environnement de Schengen était fait de l’Union soviétique de Gromyko au Maroc d’Hassan II en passant par la Tunisie de Ben Ali et la Libye de Kadhafi, sans parler de la Syrie ou de la Yougoslavie de Tito. Les dictateurs qui l’entouraient étaient ses meilleurs garde-frontières et la vague migratoire de 2015 inimaginable …

L’argument vaut aussi en matière terroriste. Oubli ou mauvaise foi des partisans d’un retour aux frontières nationales, celles-ci font obstacle à la lutte anti-terroriste. D’ETA réfugié en France à l’IRA en République d’Irlande ou à la bande à Baader en France, les exemples ne manquent pas. Leur maîtrise nationale empêcha-t-elle la vague d’attentats des années 80 en France ? Evidemment non.
Pour autant, « l’obsession » de la frontière justement décrite par Michel Foucher n’a pas disparu. En fait, Schengen se borne à déplacer le lieu où la frontière joue toujours son rôle de barrière, de protection. Il est un compromis entre l’ouverture d’un continent, notamment pour des besoins économiques, et sa fermeture, pour des raisons sécuritaires.

La crise de 2015 met ouvertement en question l’équilibre de ce compromis, sa capacité à assumer la fonction sécuritaire de la frontière commune. Les Etats, en trente ans, l’ont construit et maintenu envers toute logique, d’où leur responsabilité centrale.

2. Des compromis boiteux

Habillé d’un prétexte sécuritaire, ce que l’on appelait à l’époque le « déficit sécuritaire », Schengen répondait en fait à une autre réalité : celle du besoin économique d’un continent asphyxié, cloisonné en Etats aussi nombreux que petits. Le marché intérieur, lancé exactement à la même période, ne pouvait s’en satisfaire.
Le détour par la case « sécurité » dissimule à peine cette vérité. Ouvrir l’espace intérieur était d’abord un impératif économique, satisfaisant les opérateurs mais plus facile à assumer en mettant en avant la lutte contre l’immigration ou le crime. La réinstauration des contrôles provoquée par la crise des attentats de Paris confirme l’impact économique de cette ouverture : retards dans les aéroports, kilomètres de bouchons sur les autoroutes aux passages frontaliers avec l’Espagne ou l’Italie… Le compromis entre mobilité et sécurité, pourtant exclusivement au cœur du projet initial Schengen, s’est réalisé au détriment de la seconde. Quitte à ignorer les aspirations des citoyens européens.
D’autant que, dans sa quête de points d’appui, la construction européenne s’est emparée de Schengen pour en faire un symbole. Curieux retournement des choses, Schengen vilipendé lors de sa création, stigmatisé parce que qualifié de « liberticide » et que « l’Europe des polices » était alors un gros mot, fut ensuite présenté comme l’acquis principal de la liberté des citoyens européens. Avant aujourd’hui d’être à nouveau accusé de tous les maux d’une intégration européenne qu’il ne réalise pourtant pas.

La vérité se cache ailleurs. A force de non-dits et de compromis étatiques, la démarche sécuritaire quasi-exclusive sur laquelle reposait Schengen initialement s’est progressivement banalisée.
Elle imposait le respect d’un certain nombre de principes. Avant toute autre chose, celui de la responsabilité de chaque Etat, garant par son sérieux de la sécurité de tous. D’où le refus initial de l’ouvrir à des partenaires jugés peu fiables, de l’Italie à la péninsule ibérique ou à la Grèce.
La logique communautaire, celle des élargissements, l’a emporté sur ce paramètre. Une prétendue « confiance mutuelle » entre Etats a été vantée dans un univers où la méfiance demeure la règle, peu sensible au credo du monde libéral.

Puisque, depuis des années, la Grèce était une passoire et ne remplissait plus ses obligations, comment s’étonner que le système ait volé en éclat au début de l’été ? Puisque, depuis des années, le système dit de « Dublin » (imaginé à Schengen) ne remplissait pas son office, pourquoi s’étonner de l’abcès de fixation ouvert hier à Sangatte, aujourd’hui à Calais ? Enfin, faute de donner un sens au mot « sanction », pourquoi l’Union européenne ne s’est-elle pas préoccupée d’une réaction vigoureuse, réservant ses foudres aux eaux de baignade et aux aides d’Etat …

Arbitrant au moyen de compromis médiocres, quand il aurait sans doute fallu établir publiquement et respecter des priorités politiques, l’Union s’est donc trouvée démunie lorsque la bise est venue, lorsque les urnes nationales et européennes se sont emplies de votes protestataires. Faisant l’aubaine de partis extrémistes dépourvus de toute réponse réaliste, elle s’est ainsi placée sur la défensive.
L’impasse faite sur la dimension économique du contrôle des frontières illustre cette absence de pilotage. Le mirage des solutions technologiques de demain, les « smarts borders » et la biométrie, ajouté au lobbying des grandes multinationales désireuses d’obtenir les marchés publics y sacrifiant, ne peut dissimuler l’aberration consistant à confier la sécurité de tous à un Etat membre, la Grèce, étranglé financièrement et budgétairement pour les raisons que l’on sait …

S’il est exact que les Etats Unis consacrent 32 milliards de dollars à leur politique migratoire dont la moitié au contrôle des frontières, comment comprendre les 142 millions d’Euros du budget de Frontex ?

Dilué, Schengen a perdu de vue l’originalité de sa charge pour être appréhendé comme une politique ordinaire. Sauf que les Etats membres n’ont en rien abdiqué.

3. Une logique intergouvernementale

Laboratoire de la construction européenne, Schengen demeure une construction aux mains des Etats.
Au prix d’une certaine schizophrénie, les Etats ont en effet prétendu à la fois intégrer leur action mais en conserver la maîtrise. Entre ceux qui voulaient mais ne pouvaient pas en faire partie (la Bulgarie, la Roumanie), ceux qui pouvaient mais ne le voulaient pas (les iles britanniques), ceux qui ne pouvaient pas mais que l’on a voulu (la Suisse, la Norvège, l’Islande) et ceux qui ne pouvaient pas et dont on aurait pas du vouloir (la Grèce), Schengen est devenu un véritable patchwork.

La greffe aurait pu prendre. Elle n’a été qu’imparfaite.
D’abord car la diversité des situations nationales n’a pas disparu. D’une part, les législations et pratiques nationales demeurent suffisamment éloignées pour que l’effet « vases communicants » ne joue pas. Migrants comme criminels ont parfaitement identifié ces points faibles. D’autre part car le degré d’attraction des Etats membres de cet espace ne s’est pas réduit, rendant inutile le souhait de responsabiliser l’ensemble. Convaincus que l’Allemagne et la Suède étaient des eldorados, les demandeurs de refuge n’envisagent pas d’autre destination, pour la plus grande satisfaction des Etats membres qu’ils traversent et qui vont jusqu’à leur faciliter la tâche.

Ensuite, parce que les Etats refusent toujours la contrainte. En indiquant clairement dans son article 4 que « la sécurité nationale relève de la seule souveraineté de chaque Etat membre », le traité sur l’Union fixe une barrière infranchissable.

Les enseignements des commissions d’enquête au lendemain des attentats de Charlie Hebdo le confirment. Le dispositif européen est moins en cause que les conditions de sa mise en œuvre. La faillite de Schengen n’est pas dans la poursuite mais dans la prévention, dans le renseignement en amont des attentats et l’alimentation des outils communs qui n’est pas obligatoire. La qualité remarquable de l’action policière et judiciaire, y compris par delà la frontière franco-belge, ne dissimule la faillite de la prévention politique et policière, des deux cotés de cette frontière.
Comment Mehdi Nemmouche hier, Abaaoud ou les frères Abdeslam cette semaine, ont-ils pu perpétrer leurs crimes sans obstacle réel, échappant aux contrôles Schengen autant que nationaux ? Qui refusait jusqu’au Conseil de vendredi dernier d’inclure les « combattants étrangers » dans le SIS et pourquoi 5 Etats seulement fournissent-ils plus de la moitié des informations sur leurs déplacements au Système d’information d’Europol de l’aveu du coordinateur européen de la lutte contre le terrorisme ?

L’absence de transparence de l’Union ne facilite pas la réponse. La responsabilité des Etats membres est pourtant au cœur de ce fiasco, constat déjà posé après Charlie Hebdo, sans réelle suite.

La France n’y échappe pas, étonne par l’arrogance de notre discours public. Des failles de son contrôle judiciaire aux pannes de son système de fichier Chéops, à sa gestion des documents d’identité, aux  erreurs de ses services de renseignements ou aux moyens alloués et à l’autisme de ses gouvernants qui qualifient de simples « complicités françaises » l’action des terroristes de Paris, elle n’est pas en situation d’administrer les leçons qu’elle prétend donner à la Belgique et à l’Union.

Celle-ci doit pourtant se remettre en question.

Quant au périmètre de son action d’abord. Malgré le politiquement correct, la composition de l’espace commun où contrôles comme échanges de renseignement s’effectuent est une question ouverte. Les Pays Bas, comme d’autres, semblent réfléchir à un redimensionnement effectué soit par un repli, sur un petit nombre de partenaires performants, soit par une mise à l’écart, de membres jugés non fiables.

Quand au fond ensuite. Les principes d’organisation sur lesquels Schengen repose, frontières intérieures/extérieures demeurent aussi pertinents qu’hier. En revanche, ils ne peuvent plus se satisfaire du vide politique actuel. La cohérence exige de percevoir l’asile comme un même devoir, réclame de criminaliser le radicalisme et le terrorisme de façon identique. Ce préalable n’est pas satisfait aujourd’hui dans l’Union. De même que la « solidarité » doit avoir un sens concret pour les Etats membres, ces derniers doivent partager l’accueil des réfugiés et privilégier la coopération et la police judiciaires et la coordination des poursuites à l’action exclusive des services de renseignement. Dans tous les cas, il faut y mettre le prix.

Alors, pourquoi n’entendons nous pas les mots de « parquet européen », « d’équipes communes d’enquête », « d’Eurojust » ? Pourquoi l’essentiel du contingent de la relocalisation est-il encore vacant ? Parce que nous n’osons pas lever le tabou de l’action commune, de la quasi-fédéralisation qu’impliquent le développement des agences se substituant aux Etats défaillants, que nous prétendons que l’administration nationale des politiques européennes est toujours l’alpha et l’oméga de la construction européenne ?

L’hypothèse de l’avancée, même si celle du repli est peu crédible sinon impossible, est donc incertaine. A l’image de celle du projet européen tout entier dont Schengen demeure bien, toujours, un « laboratoire ».

Immigration detention in Europe

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON 02.11.2015 ON EUTOPIA 
Well before the current mass arrival of refugees, Europe has been busy closing its borders. As part of this attempt to ‘manage migration’, most member states have witnessed a growing intersection between criminal justice and immigration policy, introducing a host of new legislation criminalising matters that used to be purely administrative.

Police have acquired new roles and responsibilities related to border control, while prisons have paid far more attention to the citizenship of prisoners than ever before.

IN BRIEF

  • Although seeking asylum should not lead to a period of detention, due to the Dublin Conventions, asylum seekers are sometimes detained before removal to a third country
  • The uncertainty of detention is more than just a personal tragedy or a cause of momentary confusion; it is a constitutive part of this form of confinement
  • In Britain Immigration Removal Centres offer art and crafts, English as a second language, gym, IT training and access to the internet

Alongside these criminal justice initiatives, most European Union member states have opened new sites of administrative detention. These immigration detention centres hold foreigners under immigration powers either as they arrive or to enforce their departure. They may take a variety of forms, from temporary camps to purpose-built institutions.

As we witness growing numbers of new arrivals seeking sanctuary within Europe, we need to be very clear about the personal and moral impact of detention, both for those behind bars, but also for society as a whole.

Although states have long had powers to deport foreigners from their territory, and have confined them for various reasons, administrative sites related to processing asylum claims and/or detaining failed asylum seekers prior to deportation are more novel. At times of war, most states deploy custodial practices of some kind to hold suspect foreigners.

From the internment camps created in France for exiles fleeing the Spanish civil war in the mid-1930s to concentration camps of WWII, such practices overlap with more violent ideologies. So, too, the post-war post-colonial era has left its mark.

In Britain, the contemporary immigration detention system dates to 1970, when the first purpose-built institution, the Harmondsworth Detention Unit, was established. Opened in response to the Immigration Appeals Act of 1969, which gave Commonwealth citizens who were denied entry at the border the right to an in-country appeal, this preliminary institution laid the foundations for the far more complex and larger system that exists today.

In France, the chronology is similar, with the original target being migrants from Algeria. There it was not until the 1980s that legal safeguards were developed.

Today, a vast array of institutions can be identified in Europe as sites of detention. Many are concentrated in the southern states, reflecting the distribution of arrivals. There are a range of possible forms of accommodation including tents and shipping containers.

According to the EU Returns Directive, nobody should be detained for immigration matters for longer than 18 months. Most countries have agreed on a much shorter time frame, from 45 days in France to 90 days in Italy.

Although seeking asylum should not lead to a period of detention, due to the Dublin Conventions, asylum seekers are sometimes detained before removal to a third country. A high proportion of those confined are people whose asylum claim has been denied.

Continue reading “Immigration detention in Europe”

THE NEW DIRECTIVE ON IMMIGRATION OF STUDENTS AND RESEARCHERS: A SMALL STEP OR A BIG LEAP FORWARD?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS (Monday, 23 November 2015)

by Steve Peers

For a number of years, the EU has aimed to attract highly-skilled non-EU migrants to its territory. However, the existing legislation on this issue – the researchers’ Directive, adopted in 2005, and the students’ Directive, adopted in 2004 – have only had a modest impact on attracting more students and researchers to the EU, according to the Commission’s reports (see here and here) on the two Directives, issued in 2011.

Consequently, the Commission proposed an overhaul of this legislation in 2013. The European Parliament (EP) and the Council recently agreed on the text of this proposal (for the text of the provisional version of the future Directive, see here; the final version will be ‘tidied up’ a little legally). As you would expect, the EP and the Council compromised between their respective positions (for those positions, see here and here), which I discussed in an earlier blog post.

I’ll examine first the background and content of the new Directive, then look at how effective it is likely to be in its objective on increasing the numbers of researchers and students coming from third States.

Background

The current students’ Directive also applies to the admission of school pupils on exchange programmes, unpaid trainees and volunteers, although Member States have an option to apply it to the latter three groups of migrants. The CJEU has ruled twice on the interpretation of this Directive. In  Sommer it ruled that Member States could not apply a labour-market preference test for students; in Ben Alaya case (discussed here), it ruled that Member States must admit students who comply with the rules on admission in the Directive. The same logically applies to the current researchers’ Directive. The UK and Denmark opted out of both Directives, while Ireland opted in to the researchers’ Directive. All three countries have opted out of the new law.

The new law

The new Directive merges the students’ and researchers’ Directives, making major changes to them both. First of all, the Commission proposed that Member States would be obliged to apply the currently optional rules relating to school pupils, unpaid trainees and volunteers, as well as rules on two new groups of migrants: au pairs and paid trainees. The EP agreed with this idea, while the Council rejected it entirely. Ultimately, the two institutions compromised: the new Directive will have binding rules on (paid and unpaid) trainees and some volunteers (those participating in the EU’s European Voluntary Service), although stricter conditions will apply to the admission of trainees (more on that below). However, the rules on other volunteers and school pupils will remain optional, along with the new rules on au pairs.

Next, the Commission proposed to limit Member States’ current power to apply more favourable rules for students and researchers, confining that power to only a few provisions relating to the rights of migrants, while fully harmonising the rules on admission. The final Directive accepts the basic principle that the power to set more favourable standards should be more limited that at present, but imposes fewer such constraints than the Commission wanted. Member States will be allowed to apply more favourable rules for the persons concerned as regards the time limits on their residence permits. Many of the conditions relating to admission and withdrawal or non-renewal of the right to stay will be optional, not mandatory (as the Commission had proposed), and the Council insisted on many additional options being added. A clause in the preamble sets out the Council’s wish to provide expressly that Member States can have rules on admission of other categories of students or researchers.

Against the Commission’s wishes, the final Directive provides that the current rules on delegating decision-making to research institutions or universities will remain. Furthermore, it adds that Member States can optionally delegate such powers as regards volunteers or trainees as well.

Trainees are defined (more restrictively than the current law) as those who have recently completed a degree (within the last two years), or who are currently undertaking one. Their time on the territory is limited to six months, although this can be longer if the traineeship is longer, and the authorisation can be renewed once. But Member States retain the power to set more favourable standards as regards these time limits.

One striking feature of the agreed Directive is a new right for students and researchers to stay after their research or study to look for work or self-employment. The EU institutions agreed on the principle of this right, but disagreed on the details. According to the Commission, the right should apply for a period of 12 months, although after 3 months Member States could check on the genuineness of this search, and after 6 months they could ask the migrant to prove that they have real prospects. The EP wanted to extend the period to 18 months, and to make Member States wait longer to check on the genuineness of the job search or likelihood of employment. On the other hand, the Council wanted several restrictions: to reduce the stay to 6 months; to allow Member States to limit students’ possibility to stay to those who have at least a Master’s degree; to check on the likelihood of employment after 3 months; and to give Member States an option to limit the job search to the areas of the migrant’s expertise. The final deal splits the difference on the period of extra stay (it will be 9 months), and accepts the various optional limits on the right which the Council wanted.

As for students’ right to work, the current Directive allows them to work for at least for 10 hours a week. The Commission proposed to let them work for 20 hours a week, and to drop the option to ban students from working during their first year of studies. The EP agreed with this, but the Council wanted to revert to the current 10-hour a week limit, and introduce a possible labour-market preference test (overturning Sommer). Again, the final deal splits the difference: 15 hours’ of work allowed per week, with no labour market preference test.

Another issue was equal treatment of those who work. Currently, the EU’s single permit Directive provides for equal treatment of most third-country nationals who are allowed to work, even if (like students) they were not admitted for employment. However, that Directive excludes au pairs from its scope, and only applies where the relationship is defined as ‘employment’ under national law; this will not always be the case for researchers. The new Directive will extend the equal treatment rules to students and researchers, even if they are not considered employees, and to au pairs whenever they are considered employees. Even non-employees will have equal treatment for goods and services (besides housing and public employment offices). But the new Directive will not waive any of the various exceptions to equal treatment that the single permit Directive currently provides for, besides a few minor exceptions for researchers.

Also, the new Directive will replace the weak rules on family reunion in the current researchers’ Directive with a fully-fledged right to family reunion. The EU’s family reunion Directive will apply to Directive will apply to researchers, and many of the restrictions in that Directive will be waived: the minimum waiting period; the need to show a reasonable prospect of permanent residence; the need to show integration requirements for family members before entry (those rules can still be applied after entry; on the CJEU’s interpretation of those rules, see here). There will also be a shorter deadline to process applications, and family members will have a longer period of authorised stay. The EP and Council compromised on the Commission’s proposal to waive the waiting period before family members could access the labour market: the Council wanted to delete this proposed rule entirely, but it agreed to it with a derogation for ‘exceptional circumstances such as particularly high levels of unemployment’. However, the EP got nowhere with its suggestion to extend these more favourable rules to the family members of students as well.

The Commission aimed to simplify the current rules on the movement (‘mobility’) of researchers and students between Member States for the purpose of their studies and research. It also proposed to extend those rules to paid trainees, while the EP wanted to extend those rules to cover unpaid trainees and volunteers as well. However, the Council prevailed on this issue, restricting the scope of these rules to researchers and students (as at present), and adding very complicated details to the proposal on this issue.

Finally, the Commission proposed to introduce a 60-day deadline to decide on applications for admission, shortened to 30 days for those benefiting from EU mobility programmes. (The current laws have no deadlines to decide on applications at all). The EP supported an even shorter period to decide on applications (30 days), while the Council wanted to raise the time limit to 90 days. Yet again, these institutions split the difference, with a 90-day general rule and a 60-day rule where institutions have been delegated the powers to decide on applicants.

Comments

The agreed Directive should be appraised in light of the Commission’s impact assessment report for the proposed Directive, which made detailed arguments for the amendments which the Commission proposed. This report provided evidence that students or researchers are attracted to a job-search period after the end of research or studies, as well as by further employment rights for students and for researchers’ family members. Certainly the new Directive addresses all of these issues to some extent.

Conversely, would-be migrants are deterred by the great variety of national rules and the rules on mobility between Member States.  On this point, the new Directive will only reduce the variety of national rules modestly, and will install mobility rules more complex than those applying at present.

Presumably, it is also a deterrent for would-be students and researchers who are already legally present to leave the country to make their applications. To address this, the EP wanted to oblige Member States to consider in-country applications for researchers, but ultimately it could not convince the Council (or the Commission) to change the existing rules, which give Member States only an option to allow this.

As for the additional scope of the Directive, it is striking that the new binding rules on admission only apply to trainees who are undertaking or who have completed higher education, and to volunteers in the EU’s own programme. The latter change in the law is necessary in order to ensure the effectiveness of that programme, but the former change in the law is another example of the EU focussing its migration policy upon highly qualified employees. (Remember that according to the preamble to the new Directive, the admission of trainees who have not entered higher education is left entirely to national discretion). It’s unfortunate that at least the rules on equal treatment aren’t binding for all volunteers, school pupils and au pairs, to ensure that these migrants are not exploited and that domestic labour standards are not undercut.

Many of the changes in the Directive intending to attract qualified migrants would make even more sense if they were part of a ‘joined up’ policy – for instance, allowing trainees to make an in-country application for studies or research, or waiving some of the conditions in the EU’s ‘Blue Card’ Directive for highly-skilled migrants (reducing the income threshold, for instance) for graduate trainees, researchers, and students looking for work under this new Directive. Fortunately, there will be a chance to address this issue in the near future, as the Commission will soon be proposing an amendment to the Blue Card Directive (on the reform of that Directive, see here).

Overall, then, the new Directive has gone some distance towards accomplishing its intended objectives, but its effect could be further augmented in the near future by a broader reform of EU law on highly-skilled immigration in general.

PRACTICES AND APPROACHES IN EU MEMBER STATES TO PREVENT AND END STATELESSNESS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF A STUDY FOR THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CIVIL LIBERTIES COMMITTEE (LIBE) Full study (121 pages) accessible HERE

Authors: Prof Gerard Rene’ DE GROOT, Katja SWIDER, Olivier WONK

Aim

The aim of the present study is to describe the practices and approaches in all EU Member States concerning the prevention and eradication of statelessness. For that purpose the study analyses the relevant international and European standards (Chapter 2) and assesses the national practices in light of these standards (Chapter 3). Since the prevention and eradication of statelessness depends on proper mechanisms to identify stateless populations, the subject of procedures for determining statelessness is addressed. We also investigate whether installing such a procedure creates a ‘pull factor’ (Chapter 4). The study ends with a detailed analysis of the possible role of the European Union in preventing and reducing statelessness (Chapter 5).

Key Findings

International and European standards to prevent and end statelessness

  1. Important standards on the avoidance and reduction of statelessness can be found in the 1954 United Nations (UN) Convention relating to the status of stateless persons, the 1961 United Nations (UN) Convention on the reduction on statelessness and the 1997 Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Nationality.
  2. The European Union pledged at the UN High-level Rule of Law Meeting in New York, which took place in September 2012, to stimulate EU Member States to address the issue of statelessness by ratifying the 1954 UN Convention and considering the ratification of the 1961 UN Convention.
  3. For the interpretation and further development of standards following from these conventions, the UNHCR Guidelines on Statelessness, published in 2012, and Recommendation 2009/13 of the Council of Europe on the position of children in nationality law are of paramount importance.
  4. Landmark court decisions are the 2010 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Janko Rottmann v. Freistaat Bayern (C-135/08) (concluding that deprivation of nationality, with statelessness as a result, may only happen after applying a proportionality test to such a measure) and the 2011 European Court of Human Rights decision in Genovese v. Malta (application no. 53124/09) (concluding that nationality is part of one’s personal identity and as such protected by the concept of private life under Article 8 ECHR) as well as the 2014 decision in Sylvie Mennesson v. France (application no. 65192/11) and Francis Labassee v. France (application no. 65941/11) (stipulating that aspects relating to one’s social identity need to have consequences for the nationality position of children born from cross-border surrogacy arrangements).

Assessment of Member State rules in light of international and European standards

  1. The comparative analysis shows that several Member States violate international and European standards regarding protection against statelessness.
  2. This is not only true for Member States that are not bound by the relevant international treaties, but also for Member States that have acceded to these conventions.
  1. Moreover, the standards of protection against statelessness differ considerably between the Member States.
  2. This is particularly problematic for the grounds for loss, since the loss of a Member State’s nationality, resulting in statelessness, implies the loss of European citizenship.
  3. Exclusion from both the protection that nationality offers and the benefits of EU citizenship prevent people from accessing fundamental civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights and put them at risk of repeated or prolonged detention and destitution.
  4. There is a need for greater clarity as regards the legal position of permanent resident non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia, who formerly held the citizenship of the Soviet Union, in light of international and European law. Indeed, in order to avoid that the activation of statelessness will prevent or reduce provisions, States sometimes deliberately do not classify a person as “stateless”, but assign the person involved a different label. This occurred in Latvia and Estonia with the introduction of the special status of “permanent resident non-citizen” in Latvia or a “person of undefined nationality” in Estonia.

Protection of stateless persons in the migratory context and statelessness determination procedures Continue reading “PRACTICES AND APPROACHES IN EU MEMBER STATES TO PREVENT AND END STATELESSNESS”

Meijers Committee : Accommodating British EU-demands and democratic change of the Treaties

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED HERE ON 28 October 2015

  1. Introduction

In recent years, the British government has repeatedly expressed concerns about current EU law and suggested particular changes. Some of these changes require amendments to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) or the Treaty on the European Union (TEU). According to public sources, the European Council asked David Cameron to present his particular proposals in writing four weeks in advance of the European Council of 17/18 December 2015.   It is not certain that those proposals will be made publicly available.

An agreement by the Heads of Government to change the Treaties, would give rise to serious concerns over legality, transparency, parliamentary scrutiny and democratic oversight. The Meijers Committee argues that the European Council should not be the exclusive forum to consider changes to the Treaties in an effort to accommodate British political demands. The Meijers Committee stresses that national parliaments, the European Parliament and, possibly, a Convention have a role to play and should not be left out of the current negotiations only to be confronted later on with a political agreement cast in stone.

This note describes the proper procedures by which the EU treaties  can be amended and explains why a European Council or Head of Government agreement would be void or unlawful. In addition, the reforms of one of the substantive policy areas, free movement law, are analysed on the basis of specific proposals formulated by British Ministers over the past year.1 At the European Councils of 25/26 June and 15 October 2015 Mr Cameron raised this issue and it was decided that it would be further discussed in December.2   After the June European Council, Mr Cameron announced that the UK is seeking changes under three other headings as well: sovereignty of Member States (no longer ‘an ever closer union’ and more influence of national parliaments), fairness (the interests of Member States not participating in the Euro should be “more fairly balanced”) and on competiveness of the EU.

  1. European Council agreement to amend the Treaties

Continue reading “Meijers Committee : Accommodating British EU-demands and democratic change of the Treaties”