Archive for category EU law – General

Pipia v BGEO: EU-Georgia association agreement is not tantamount to a Brussels Ia /Lugano regime.

A late flag following my much earlier Tweet on [2019] EWHC 325 (Comm) Pipia v BGEO. Moulder J had to consider, as I put it in the tweet, a combination of conflict of laws and EU external relations law. Under CPR 25.12 security for costs must not be sought against parties covered by Brussels Ia or the Lugano Convention. The issue is whether the EU-Georgia association agreement is tantamount to those Conventions.

Article 21 headed “Legal cooperation” specifically refers to the Hague Convention and states that: “1. The Parties agree to develop judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters as regards the negotiation, ratification and implementation of multilateral conventions on civil judicial cooperation and, in particular, the conventions of the Hague Conference on Private International Law in the field of international legal cooperation and litigation as well as the protection of children.” Article 21 merely refers to “developing judicial cooperation” as regards the ratification and implementation of the Hague Convention. The stated aims of the Association Agreement are set out in broad terms in Article 1. They include: “(f) to enhance cooperation in the area of freedom, security and justice with the aim of reinforcing the rule of law and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The Association Agreement does not therefore provide for the enforcement of judgments either on a bilateral basis or through the Hague Convention. At 10 Moulder J therefore does not accept that there is any basis on which the Association Agreement can be interpreted as falling within the express terms of CPR 25.13 (2)(a)(ii). (re: residence in BRU1a /Lugano State).

Neither in her view can the general non-discrimination requirement of the Agreement be read to have an impact on the issue.

Geert.

 

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The internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink. Szpunar AG in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook, re i.a. jurisdiction and removal of hate speech. (As well as confirming my reading of his Opinion in Google).

Case C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook as I noted in my short first review of the case, revolves around Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive. Does Article 15 prohibit the imposition on a hosting provider (Facebook, in this case) of an obligation to remove not only notified illegal content, but also identical and similar content, at a national or worldwide level?

Szpunar AG in his Opinion kicks off with a memorable Erica Albright quote from The Social Network:  The internet’s not written in pencil, [Mark], it’s written in ink’. 

His Opinion to a large degree concerns statutory interpretation on filtering content, which Daphne Keller has already reviewed succinctly here and which is not the focus of this blog. The jurisdictional issues are what interest me more: the territorial scope of any removal obligation.

Firstly, Szpunar AG matter of factly confirms my reading, against that of most others’, of his Opinion in C-505/17 Google: at 79:

‘in my Opinion in that case I did not exclude the possibility that there might be situations in which the interest of the Union requires the application of the provisions of that directive beyond the territory of the European Union.’

Injunctions (ordering removal) are necessarily based on substantive considerations of national law (in the absence of EU harmonisation of defamation law); which law applies is subject to national, residual conflicts rules (in the absence of EU harmonisation at the applicable law, level, too): at 78. Consequently, a Court’s finding of illegality (because of its defamatory nature) of information posted may well have been different had the case been heard by a court in another Member State. What is however harmonised at the EU level, is the jurisdiction for the civil and commercial damage following from defamation: see e-Date, in particular its centre of interests rule which leads to an all-encompassing, universal’ jurisdiction for the damages resulting from the defamation.

Separate from that is the consideration of the territorial extent of the removal obligation. Here, the AG kicks off his analysis at 88 ff by clearly laying out the limits of existing EU harmonisation: the GDPR and data protection Directive harmonise issues of personal data /privacy: not what claimant relies on. Directive 2000/31 does not regulate the territorial effects of injunctions addressed to information society service providers. Next, it is difficult, in the absence of regulation by the Union with respect to harm to private life and personality rights, to justify the territorial effects of an injunction by relying on the protection of fundamental rights guaranteed in Articles 1, 7 and 8 of the Charter: the scope of the Charter follows the scope of EU law and not vice versa. In the present case, as regards its substance, the applicant’s action is not based on EU law. Finally, Brussels Ia does not regulate the extra-EU effects of injunctions.

In conclusion therefore EU law does not regulate the question of extraterritorial reach in casu.

For the sake of completeness, the AG does offer at 94 ff ‘a few additional observations’ as regards the removal of information disseminated worldwide via a social network platform. At 96 he refers to the CJEU’s judgment in Bolagsupplysningen which might implicitly have acknowledged universal jurisdiction, to conclude at 100 (references omitted)

the court of a Member State may, in theory, adjudicate on the removal worldwide of information disseminated via the internet. However, owing to the differences between, on the one hand, national laws and, on the other, the protection of the private life and personality rights provided for in those laws, and in order to respect the widely recognised fundamental rights, such a court must, rather, adopt an approach of self-limitation. Therefore, in the interest of international comity…, that court should, as far as possible, limit the extraterritorial effects of its junctions concerning harm to private life and personality rights. The implementation of a removal obligation should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the protection of the injured person. Thus, instead of removing the content, that court might, in an appropriate case, order that access to that information be disabled with the help of geo-blocking.

There are very sound and extensive references to scholarship in the footnotes to the Opinion, including papers on the public /private international law divide and the shifting nature of same (the Brussels Court of Appeal recently in the Facebook case justifiably found jurisdictional grounds in neither public nor private international law, to discipline Facebook Ireland and Facebook Inc for its datr-cookies placed on Belgian users of FB).

I find the AG’s Opinion convincing and complete even in its conciseness. One can analyse the jurisdictional issues until the cows come home. However, in reality reasons of personal indemnification may argue in specific circumstances for universal jurisdiction and ditto reach of injunctive relief. However these bump both into the substantial trade-off which needs to be made between different fundamental rights (interest in having freedom removed v freedom of information), and good old principles of comitas gentium aka comity. That is not unlike the US judicial approach in similar issues.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2, Heading 2.2.8.2.5.

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Ghostbusters and the Marshmallow Man. The European Commission covert consultation and study on the innovation principle.

I have reported before on the innovation principle, the industry efforts behind it and the European Commission response to same. I have linked our initial paper as well as media and other reports in an earlier posting. The most comprehensive overview of the genesis of the principle is included here.

One of the comments I made in that earlier post is that Commissioner Moedas has emphasised verbatim that the innovation principle is not binding EU law: ‘“I think we have some misunderstanding here … The Horizon Europe proposal does not in any way establish the innovation principle or incorporate it into EU law. It is referred to in the recitals but it is not something that is [in] the proposal,” he said.

At the end of the original Ghostbusters movie, a giant Marshmallow Man appears as a result of the main ghost’s conjuring up himself as the physical manifestation of the first thought popping up into the mind of the lead characters’ mind (further info here). The road to turning the imagination of the innovation principle into reality is currently equally continuing with no less than a Commission-ordered Consultation Report, from the Centre for European Policy Studies, on the evaluation of the innovation principle: see the Directorate-General’s invitation letter and the questionnaire.

Both documents reached me via a little Berlaymont bird. I have anonymised individuals mentioned in the documents and I have also changed the order of questions in the questionnaire just in case individual copies were drafted to facilitate the coveted ‘confidentiality’ – contents of the questionnaire have stayed the same. The questionnaire is meant for ‘selected stakeholders’ who are instructed not to ‘share, quote or cite it’.

The principle even if it does exist certainly does not do so in EU law – as confirmed by the Commissioner. Yet it is his DG which has instructed CEPS to carry out the study, confidentially: not exactly a driving principle of the Better Regulation Agenda to which the documents purport to answer.

The invite states that ‘the overall aim of this evaluation is to describe the status quo and prepare recommendations for future action in accordance with the better regulation guidelines. These recommendations will serve to apply the Innovation Principle in a way which helps the achievement of EU policy objectives and is consistent with identified stakeholder needs.’

The text pays lip service to the general interest which ‘innovation’ is meant to serve, yet also repeatedly emphasises that existing regulatory hurdles to ‘innovation’ ought to be classified and potentially removed; that the EC may take the necessary steps to initiate this; and nowhere does it question the very existence of the principle.

It is noteworthy in this respect that Horizon Europe, Europe’s next flagship research and development program, refers drastically less to responsibly research and innovation -RRI than did its predecessor. Parliament did not halt references to the innovation principle in its recitals.

I would like to emphasise again that with my co-authors of the paper, I am not an unshakable opponent of the introduction of an innovation principle. Provided the discussion on it is done in the appropriate institutions and at the very least in the public domain. A confidential survey confirms the reactionary character which this principle so far represents on the EU scene.

Geert.

 

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Beer classification at the CJEU.

Case C-195/18 B.S. v Prokatura et al held mid-March, is great for the week-end. Serious stuff (excise duties and customs classification), but with a fun twist: does beer under excise duties and customs regulation require the beverage to be made with malt as an ingredient, or does it also include mixtures of beer with non-alcoholic beverages, as long as it has fermented?  Put differently, may an alcoholic product obtained by fermentation of a wort produced from, inter alia, glucose syrup (yikes! yikes! and yikes again) and a small proportion of malt may be classified as ‘beer made from malt’?

The CJEU touches upon important issues: linguistic interpretation, WCO rules, etc. and finally decides that such a product can come under the ‘beer’ heading only on condition that its objective characteristics and properties correspond to those of beer (adding glucose syrup is not prohibited, other than of course under the only proper standard in this regard which is the Rheinheitsgebot (as amended)).

In this regard, the court holds, account must be taken more particularly of the organoleptic (meaning ‘involving the use of the sense organs’) characteristics of the product in question, which is an exercise the referring court must undertake. No tasting sessions at Kirchberg therefore.

Have a good week-end.

Geert.

 

 

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Unstunned slaughter. Belgian ban goes up to the CJEU for final (?) test on compatibiliy with freedom of religious expression.

Update 29 April 2019 I bumped into the amicus brief of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in the New Zealand case which raised similar issues, here.

I have of course posted regularly on the issues of unstunned slaughter, freedom of religious expression and animal welfare (search tag ‘shechita’ should pull out the relevant postings). The Belgian Constitutional court, to the expectations I assume of counsel in the case, yesterday referred to the CJEU for preliminary reference (cases 52 and 53/2019).

The subject of the litigation is the Flemish decree banning unstunned slaughter outright (for standing reasons the similar Walloon regime is no longer sub judice). The Belgian court requests the CJEU to clarify its judgment in C-426/16, on which I reported here,

Q1: does Regulation 1099/2009 allow Member States to introduce an outright ban; Q2 in the affirmative, is that compatible with the Charter’s right to religious expression; Q3 in the event of an affirmative answer to Q1: the elephant in the Regulation’s room which I flagged years back: is it not discriminatory to allow Member States to restrict religious slaughter, while simply exempting hunting, fishing and ‘sporting and cultural events’ from the Regulation altogether.

Readers will know my answer to these questions.

Geert.

 

 

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Brexit Bridge: How the two of spades is going to trump the Ace of Diamonds

Absolutely brilliant analysis of the Brexit shambles by KJ Garnett over on EU Perspectives. A poor, poor game of contract bridge.

EU Perspectives

Putin, the old cliché goes, views the international world order as a game of chess where pawns, knights, bishops and queens are played off one against the other until there is only one outright winner: Russia. Putin’s strategy is to align both his and his opponent’s pawns (the mob) with the bishops and knights (the snob) to weaken and topple his rival. His tactic has been to whip his adversary’s pawns into a state of fury through the spread of misinformation, defamation and slander thereby undermining his adversary’s legitimacy and authority. On the face of it both his strategy and his tactic appear to be working. Across the European Union we see the rise of extremism, the victory of populists in democratic elections and the phenomenal rise of an out-raged right-wing media slamming the European project as a wicked “cabal of high-priests”.

Putin has every right to feel smug. He…

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Unstunned slaughter and organic labelling. CJEU gets it wrong on Shechita (kosjer) and zabihah (halal).

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made” is a quote widely attributed to German statesman Otto von Bismarck. It is not a wise perception. If, like laws,  we want sausages, then it is paramount we see how they are made, starting from the rearing of the animal, via the transport to and processing in abattoirs, through to food processing.

In Case C-497/17, Oeuvre d’assistance aux bêtes d’abattoirs the Court held that the particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning and that are permitted by Article 4(4) of Regulation No 1099/2009 (on which more here) are not tantamount, in terms of ensuring a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing, to slaughter with pre-stunning which is, in principle, required by Article 4(1) of that regulation. No organic label under Council Regulation 834/2007 and Commission implementing Regulation 889/2008 may therefore be attached to said meat.

The AG had opined the matter is outside the scope of harmonisation of the organic labelling rules. The CJEU however essentially employs Regulation 1099/2009 as a conjoined piece of law and holds that organic labelling must not be assigned to meat originating from animals unstunned prior to slaughter.

The Court is wrong.

At 41 the Court itself acknowledges that ‘no provision of Regulation No 834/2007 or Regulation No 889/2008 expressly defines the method or methods for the slaughtering of animals that are most appropriate to minimise animal suffering and, consequently, to give concrete expression to the objective of ensuring a high level of animal welfare’.

At 47, the Court refers to Wahl AG’s statement in para 43 of his opinion, suggesting the AG ‘ stated, in essence, in point 43 of his Opinion, scientific studies have shown that pre-stunning is the technique that compromises animal welfare the least at the time of killing.’

What the AG actually said is ‘In the first place, it seems to me to be accepted that, while every killing is problematic from the viewpoint of animal welfare, the use of pre-stunning methods when animals are slaughtered may, at least in theory, and as a considerable number of scientific studies show, [FN omitted, GAVC] help to minimise that suffering when those methods are used in the proper conditions. that unstunned slaughter, properly carried out, meets with the ethos of organic farming.’ (emphasis added).

The AG in footnote refers to 2 studies in particular (he suggests there are more). Other studies show the exact opposite. Yet the wider relevance of what he opined lies in the ‘slaughter in the books’ admission. ‘In theory at least’ a perfectly carried out pre-slaughter stun minimises pain. That is very much the same with a perfectly carried out shechita or zabihah incision, particularly where it is carried out with the religiously-inspired stewardship ethos in mind.

In practice, pre-stunning goes horribly wrong in a considerable amount of cases for small and large animals alike. I am not the only one to have witnessed that. And as frequently occurring footage of abattoirs shows, there is little respect for animal welfare in commercial abattoirs, regardless of an eventual stun or not.

Of wider relevance in my view therefore is the problematic enforcement by certification bodies of generally formulated standards  – admittedly not an issue that may be solved by a court case.

Consider Wahl AG’s point made at 45 of his Opinion: ‘the certification ‘halal’ says very little about the slaughtering method actually employed.’ That is exactly the same for pre-stunning. The EU but more particularly its Member States and regions (which given subsidiarity ought to have a big say in this) will not achieve animal welfare if they do not properly address the wider relationship between food professional and animal, between upscale agro-industry and mass meat production.

Finally and evidently, this case is of no consequence to the acceptability of unstunned slaughter from the point of view of expression of freedom of religion.

Geert.

 

 

 

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