2017 has been an ‘intense’ year for EU law, dense of political events and historical moments. For this reason, instead of choosing our favourite music album or film of the year, the goliardic vein of our editors hereby presents the highlights of our “favourite” EU law moments of 2017…
10) Not just an app. On 20 December, the European Court of Justice found, in a preliminary ruling, that Uber provides a transportation service that may be regulated by the relevant Member State. By excluding that Uber is a provider of electronic intermediation services, the decision of the Court is significant in so far as it subjects Uber to the rules on service providers, while at the same time leaving uncertainty over the exact criteria to ascertain what constitutes an information society service (… an app), and what is a provider of other service (… in the case of Uber, transportation). Future case law may be necessary to offer further guidance on this issue.
9) Russian oil. On 28 March, the European Court of Justice delivered its much-awaited judgment in Rosneft. It was the first request ever received for a preliminary ruling in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The Court found that it has jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings on CFSP, and confirmed EU measures, against the Russian oil sector, which had been adopted in 2014 with a view to constraint Russia’s destabilising actions in Ukraine.
8) Thank you for sharing. On 16 May, the Court of Justice delivered its opinion 2/15 on the compatibility of the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore with EU law. The EU wanted to conclude, for the first time, a preferential trade agreement which also included investment chapters such as investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms (ISDS). The Court’s opinion helped clarify what exactly falls with EU’s exclusive competence, and what is shared between EU and Member States (non-direct investment, ISDS, general provisions, dispute settlement).
7) Brexit countdown begins. On 29 March, Prime Minister Theresa May notified the European Council of the UK’s intention to leave the EU, following the historical Brexit referendum of June 2016. By invoking Article 50 TEU, the UK has officially set up in motion the process which, under EU law, the country has to undergo in order to leave the Union.
6) CETA provisionally enters into force. On 21 September, a new trade deal between the EU and Canada (CETA) entered into force. Such Treaty will cover trade in goods, trade in services, public procurement, investment, intellectual property, sustainable development, and smaller companies’ protection. It also provides various guarantees for EU interests, such as the protection for sensitive economic sectors, the upholding of the precautionary principle, the EU’s right to regulate, and the EU’s ability to set higher standards.
5) Conclusion of phase one of Brexit negotiations. On 8 December, the European Commission has recommended the European Council to conclude that sufficient progress had been made in the first phase of the negotiations on orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. The first phase of the Brexit negotiations concerned the financial settlement of the outstanding obligations of the UK towards the EU, the rights of the EU and UK citizens following Brexit and the situation in Northern Ireland.
4) PESCO. By Decision of 11 December, the Council of the European Union has established a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). PESCO is a mechanism for the integration of European defence, which was foreseen in the Lisbon Treaty but which has only been activated this year. This permanent framework for defence cooperation will allow willing and able member states to develop jointly defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces. All Member States are part of it, except Denmark, Malta, and the UK.
3) State of the Union. On 13 September, Commission’s President Juncker has addressed the European Parliament with a “State of the Union” speech, following the tradition inspired by the United States presidency. It was a speech full of metaphors: “the wind is back in Europe’s sails. We now have a window of opportunity but it will not stay open forever. Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails”. He proposed to stay the course set last year – in one word, unity to fight climate change, to conclude trade deals, to make industry more competitive; and to move towards an EU of the future based on freedom, equality, and the strength of law.
2) Taricco 2, the return of the VAT. On 5 December, the ECJ has delivered the long-awaited decision on the Taricco saga. In Taricco I, the ECJ had ruled that the referring court had to disapply national procedural rules on time-limits in the area of criminal law in order to ensure the full effectiveness of EU rules in the area of VAT. Nevertheless, the Italian Constitutional Court found the judgment of the ECJ to be contrary to national constitutional norms such as the favor rei and the nulla poena sine lege principles. Hence, the preliminary request to the ECJ which resulted in Taricco II. The ECJ has provided a conciliatory answer to the doubts of the Italian Constitutional Court, by recalling that it is for the national legislator (and not the national courts) to provide effective legislation in order to combat VAT evasion and fraud.
1) The Polish Job. On 20th December, the Commission issued a proposal for a Council Decision under Article 7(1) TEU that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland. The proposal was justified, in the Commission’s own words, because “judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority”. This was the first time that there has been a proposal to apply Article 7 TEU to safeguard the Union’s fundamental values.
Happy NEU Year!