Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Julien Frisch

Julien Frisch, the internet's second-best EU blogger (after Jean Quatremer, at least on most issues that matter), is saying goodbye:

Dear readers,…

... this is the last real post of this blog, and the day after tomorrow at midnight, quite exactly two years after he came into existence, the blogger "Julien Frisch" will cease to exist.


Friday, June 25, 2010

This Week in Luxembourg

The Grand Chamber ruled in the French "question prioritaire de constitutionallité" case, i.e. the new French procedure (art. 61-1 Constitution and Title II Chapter IIbis of Ordonnance 58-1067) that allows French courts to ask a prejudicial question to the Conseil constitutionnel. The ECJ rules that such a procedure is not OK if it forces French courts to ask the domestic prejudicial question first. The fact that the French procedure comes with a strict deadline does not change that. (par. 56) Melki (FR). Cf. AdjudicatingEurope and last week's Elchinov opinion.

ECJ judgements:

The third chamber found that Italy's system of minimum prices for tobacco products was in violation of art. 9(1) ofDirective 95/59 on taxes other than turnover taxes which affect the consumption of manufactured tobacco. Commission v. Italy (FR)

General Court:

In Imperial Chemical Industries, the General Court examined the Commission's new competition decision, following the annulment of its earlier decision. This litigation started with a Commission Decision dated 19 December 1990, which was annulled by the CFI in case T-37/91 (29 June 1995) based on a procedural defect, a judgement that was upheld on appeal in case C-286/95 P (6 April 2000). The Commission then took a new decision (13 December 2000), which was anulled today as to the year 1983, and upheld for the remainder, meaning that the fine is now € 8 million instead of € 10 million. To be continued...


AG Cruz Villalón had two Belgian mobile telecom cases, where there were problems regarding the way the companies were compensated for their universal service obligation under Directive 2002/22. In Base et al. (NL, FR, DE) he concluded that the Belgians were not allowed to let the former monopolist do all the calculations regarding the "unfair burden" of art. 13 of the Directive, whereas in Commisison v. Belgium (NL, FR, DE) he argues that the rest of the Commission's arguments are not well founded.

AG Mengozzi concluded that the UK was wrong to complain about Council Decision 2008/633/JHA. It was - he argued - legitimately a Schengen matter rather than a visa matter, meaning that the UK could lawfully be excluded from direct access to the Visa Information System. UK v. Council.

Also of possible interest is the fine that the Commission imposed on 17 bathroom equipment manufacturers, the biggest since Commissioner Almunia took over from mrs. Kroes. The fine would have been higher, but here, too, the poor economy had its influence. Several companies had their fines reduced to avoid bankrupting them. Cf. BBC.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Week in Luxembourg

The Grand Chamber upheld Commissioner Reading's famous roaminig charges regulation. Following AG Maduro, they concluded that there was no problem regarding legal basis, proportionality or subsidiarity. R. (Vodafone et al.) v. Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. (Cf. EU Law Blog)

It also considered the obligations of the Member States to reimburse, under their national health insurance systems, medical costs incurred in another Member State when they were unforeseen but not covered by art. 22 of Regulation 1408/71. The Court concluded that the Spanish system generally denying coverage for such claims was in compliance with the free movement of services. Commission v. Spain.

On Thursday, the Grand Chamber followed AG Sharpston and ruled that a Palestinian refugee is still eligible for refugee status even though there is UN refugee assistance in the country of origin, unless he has actually availed himself of such assistance. (Cf. art. 12 of Directive 2004/83). Bolbol.

ECJ judgements:

Lafarge lost its appeal in the plasterboard cartel litigation.

In Terre wallonne the 4th chamber found that the action programmes Member States have to create under art. 5(1) ofDirective 91/676 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources is in principle a plan or programme covered by Article 3(2)(a) of Directive 2001/42 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, meaning that an environmental assessment will have to be carried out for a programme that is meant to improve the environment.

General Court:

The General Court ruled against the Commission in an access to documents case, where a party to an abuse of market power case wanted access to the case file so as to better pursue its appeal before the ECJ. (Cf. the OJ announcementhere, which, incidentally, is from October 2004.) In its decision, the Commission had essentially thrown the book at the plaintiff's request, but now all its defenses were rejected, except part if its "legal advice" claim. Éditions Odile Jacob (FR)


The replacement of the late AG Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer, AG Cruz Villalón, used his third opinion to tell the ECJ that one of its long-standing lines of cases, the Rheinmühlen and Cartesio rule that governs the situation when a national court gets a case back from its national supreme court in a way that it thinks violates EU law. In those circumstances, the ECJ’s case law says that the national court must still ask a prejudicial question. The AG now argues that that rule should be reconsidered. AdjudicatingEurope approve. The AG also argues that the Bulgarian health care law at issue is lawful. Elchinov.

AG Bot discussed the question of what to do with a Greek citizen who had the greatest possible residence rights in Germany (grew up there, worked there, held a residence permit for unlimited duration), who had comitted a number of felonies. Is Germany allowed, under art. 28(3) of Directive 2004/38, to expel him? The AG argues for a broad reading of "imperative grounds of public security", i.e. as possibly including the case of the defendant. Baden-Württemberg v. Tsakouridis.

AG Mengozzi wrote about Belgium’s obligations vis-à-vis the European Schools under the Establishment Agreement. He concludes that the Court has no jurisdiction over obligations allegedly arising out of that Agreement, except for cases concerning the period after 1 October 2002, when the 1994 Convention defining the Statute of the European Schools entered into force. He also concludes that the Commission has no case under art. 10 EC. Commission v. Belgium.

AG Mengozzi also concluded that a Hungarian law that forbids the selling of contact lenses over the internet is an unlawful restriction of the free movement of goods since the stated goals of the Hungarian law could have been achieved by less restrictive means. (The law did not distinguish between hard and soft lenses, nor between those lenses and lenses that are purely decorative.) The AG declined to apply Keck. (par. 62-69) Ker-Optika (NL, DE, FR)

AG Trstenjak wrote an opinion about art. 3(1)(b) of Regulation 1610/96 concerning the creation of a supplementary protection certificate for plant protection products, which is much too technical for me to be able to say anything sensible about it. All I can say is that it has something to do with biopatents, and how their European recognition depends on certain national permits. (Cf. Directive 91/414) The AG concludes against the would-be rights holder. Rechtsanwaltssozietät Lovells v. Bayer CropScience (DE, FR, IT)

AG Sharpston considered the privacy rights of the recipients of aid under the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. She concludes that some of the transparency provisions go too far and infringe on the recipients’ privacy rights. Volker und Markus Schecke

Thursday, June 03, 2010

This Week in Luxembourg

The Grand Chamber ruled in the Spanish pharmacies case, holding that the Spanish system of requiring them to be at least 250 m. away from each other and requiring them to service at least 2800 inhabitants each is generally acceptable, as long as adequate pharmaceutical services are guaranteed. The professional qualifications aspect of the licensing system, however, is not OK, since it discriminates against pharmacists who have not previously worked in Asturias.Blanco Pérez. (Cf. the opinion of AG Maduro, who was much more critical, and last years cases regarding Germanyand Italy.)

ECJ judgements:

The 2nd chamber ruled in the gloriously creative REIFEN case: Knowing how trademarks are turned into domain names under Council Regulation 733/2002, establishing the .eu top level domain, and under art. 11 of Commission Regulation 874/2004, the claimant got the Swedish authorities to accept &R&E&I&F&E&N& as a trademark, which he then used as a "prior right" in order to register The ECJ now fixes the problem in a way that the AG had not considered, by extending the reasons for finding bad faith beyond the grounds listed in art. 21(3) of Regulation 874/2004. Internetportal und Marketing.

In yet another installment of the betting industry's efforts to gain access to new markets via the ECJ, the second chamber has now upheld the Dutch regulatory system. Ladbrokes and Sporting Exchange. Particularly in Ladbrokes, both the questions (from the Hoge Raad) and the answers are highly informative. Cf. the opinion of AG Bot. In an earlier case, the ECJ already upheld the regulatory system for gambling in Portugal (GC), while being farily critical about Italyin a 2003 judgement. Swedish, German and Austrian cases are still pending.

In consumer protection law, specifically Directive 93/13 on unfair terms in consumer contracts, the first chamber ruled that the flexibility clause of art. 8 of the Directive, which states that the MS may adopt a higher level of consumer protection, also extends to art. 4(2) which rules out applying the directive to "the definition of the main subject matter of the contract [or] to the adequacy of the price and remuneration", "in so far as these terms are in plain intelligible language". So the Spanish law that allows even such provisions to be found unfair is compatible with the Directive. Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad de Madrid.


AG Mengozzi had a case concerning refugees who had past ties to Kurdish separatist movements listed on the terrorism lists. How should art. 12(2) of Directive 2004/83 be applied in these circumstances? Do acts of terrorism qualify as "serious non-political crimes" or "acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations"? The AG argues that generally they do, that it is not necessary that the applicant continues to be dangerous, that the measure of excluding refugee status has to be proportionate and that Germany is entitled to offer them refugee status anyway. Germany v. B and D. (NL, DE, FR)

AG Trstenjak discusses a Greek law that imposes certain fines in the radio and television sectors jointly and severally on the company holding the license and on its shareholders (or at least those who control more than 2,5% of the shares). She finds that such a system is compatible with the relevant company law directive, Directive 68/151, but not with the freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital. While the latter makes sense, I won't claim to understand her argument as to the former. In any event, I think the Greek law is highly problematic from a free speech point of view. Idrima Tipou A.E.

In Commission v. France (NL, FR, DE), AG Mengozzi considers certain French rules regarding the ownership of biomechical laboratories, most importantly the rule that non-biologists may own no more than 25% of the shares in aSELARL active in this area. Drawing on case law regarding pharmacies (see above), he argues that this rule is justified under the law on the freedom of establishment. The rule that forbids an individual from owning shares in more than two such companies is not compatible with the Treaty, however.


On May 21, the enlarged third chamber of the General Court ruled in the France Télécom state aid case. In its decision 2006/621, the Commission had decided that "the shareholder loan granted by France to France Télécom in December 2002 in the form of a EUR 9 billion credit line constitutes state aid incompatible with the common market", though the aid did not have to be paid back. Both France, France Télécom and FT's competitors appealed, and the General Court now ruled that this loan was not a "transfer of resources". France v. Commission (FR)

Also of possible interest is this lengthy blog post on AdjudicatingEurope about the recent General Court standardisation/competition law case EMC Development.