European Union

The field of EU direct administrative law is steadily growing in importance, and issues relating to the consequences of procedural irregularities on the outcome of the procedure are becoming increasingly relevant. The question of when such a violation remains inconsequential – i.e., does not lead to the act being quashed during judicial proceedings, either because the error was rectified or because it can be considered irrelevant – is particularly important, and EU case law has developed a complex jurisprudence in this regard. The aim of this contribution is to systematize this case law with regard to the instruments of rectification and irrelevance of procedural irregularities. Moreover, it compares these legal instruments to their counterparts in Member States’ administrative systems. This comparison shows that EU courts have not co-opted a particular system currently in use in a Member State, but that they often use roughly similar criteria to decide whether an error leads to the annulment of the final decision.

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On 9th December 2020, the Portuguese Constitutional Court (‘PCC’) referred its first question for preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’). In a case allegedly entailing the need to balance different Treaty rules such as anti-discriminatory EU tax law (Article 110 TFEU) and environmental protection (Article 191 TFEU), the PCC acknowledged its nature as a court against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law and referred the matter to the CJEU. This ruling shall be read in combination with the judgment in Case no. 422/2020 of 15th July 2020, where the PCC recognized the CJEU’s exclusive competence to interpret and assess the validity of EU law, consequently declaring its lack of jurisdiction to do so. After summarizing the main facts of the case, this article aims at analysing its consequences for the relationship between the PCC and the CJEU.

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The trade agreement with the UK has avoided the worst-case scenario, but it is complex and contingent. It establishes freedom of trade in goods, without avoiding the increase in customs bureaucracy. It defines an equality platform, but it provides for compensatory measures (retaliatory?) in case of departure from the standards in force. There is virtually no agreement for services, negotiations must continue. There is a moratorium on fisheries until 2026, with a gradual reduction in catches in the UK UK Exclusive Economic Zone. Europeans can travel without a visa for 90 days, but there is no general agreement on mobility. In essence, the United Kingdom becomes a third country for the European Union and the rules on the application of the Treaty and conflict resolution, based on arbitration and compensatory measures, may result in a permanent negotiation and dispute procedure.

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Trademark protection in the European Union aims at helping businesses to distinguish their goods or services in overcoming national barriers that still persist in many areas of intellectual property protection. Deciding on European trademarks, EUIPO (as well as its Boards of Appeal) is sometimes called upon to assess the existence of "bad faith", "public order" and "morality". The recent declaration of invalidity of the trademark of Banksy's "Flower Thrower" highlights how EU trademark law was conceived to also protect other closely interconnected rights: fundamental rights, competition rights, and the rights of "Third Parties". Their protection is therefore directly linked to the logical interpretation of "undetermined concepts" in the relevant context.

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Brexit represents a meaningful change within the legal and political framework of the EU-UK relationship. The current food and water security regulations, as well as the environmental impact assessment standards, could be considered at stake. Thus considered, this paper points out Brexit not just as a mere “breakdown” in the system in order to lower the contemporary established environmental standards. Indeed, potential environmental risks posed by Brexit could be effectively mitigated by applying the principle of non-regression, and simultaneously institutions can move forward adopting greener legal instruments and political actions inter alia creating new environmental governance and maintaining a high level of cooperation with the EU.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has provoked both in Italy and in Germany wide debates among scientists, scholars of multiple disciplines and public opinion. Of course, politics has played a fundamental role in the management of the health emergency: in Italy, “collective” health has been protected through the adoption of a very wide range of regulatory acts of different nature, not always suitable to guarantee a unitary protection. In Germany, the emergency crisis has been (more) successfully managed, with the sole exception of some problems that have emerged in the coordination between the Bund and Länder in the fight against the virus. This work will analyse, from a comparative point of view, the relationship between the legislative power and science in defining policies to combat the health emergency, focusing on the impact of such policies on the academic context.

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The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement published on 26 December maintains access to the EU market from the UK and vice-versa, but to a quite lesser extent than EU law did. The approach of the Johnson government to the negotiations have led to a treaty that lacks the main guarantees of legal certainty that EU law was offering with the concepts of uniform application direct effect, primacy and consistent interpretation. Brexit is creating far more losers than winners.

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The Withdrawal agreement, which regulates the status of citizens settled before 1 February 2020 is ensuring the continuation of EU citizen’s rights to free movement and residence in the UK ad vitam and vice-versa for the UK citizens settled in the EU. Whether there will be one or more other binding agreements on free trade and other issues between the UK and the EU to enter into force on 1 January 2021 so as to avoid a very damageable “hard Brexit” depends on variables that escape rationality and are therefore unpredictable.

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In the recent judgment of June 2020 in case C-378/19 (Prezident Slovenskej republiky), the Court is once again called upon to rule on the definition of ‘independencÈ regarding regulatory Authorities. In particular, it has to give an answer to the question on whether it can be considered as independent an Authority which is appointed by the Government and to which procedures are allowed to take part representatives of the ministries. Therefore, the Court has to assess whether the Slovak legislation implementing Directive 2009/72/EC, relating to the internal energy market can be considered legitimate, with particular regard to art. 35 of the same Directive, which precisely governs the designation and independence of the regulatory Authority. The Court concludes that, in accordance with the principle of institutional autonomy, which, inter alia, allows Member States to decide on their internal administrative organisation, the national legislation in question cannot be considered per se illegitimate, provided that all the requirements are met indicated by the Directive in order to ensure the independence of the Authority. In other words, governmental appointment and ministerial participation in the price-fixing procedures do not affect ex se the independence of the regulator. In any case, the criteria in accordance to which this appointment is carried out must be as such as not to compromise the objective of the integration of the specific market, precisely that of guaranteeing the independence of the regulator. This decision, despite being in line with the previous case-law (even if the Court does not give a definite answer left to the national judge) which leaves Member States wide margins of choice in relation to the organisation and powers of the independent Authorities, provided that minimum requirements are met aimed at guaranteeing the achievement of the objectives of the legislation considered, it gives us the opportunity to dwell on the issue of institutional autonomy in the specific sector of the independent Authorities and make some final considerations.

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This paper aims to analyze the sentence T-778/16 of the General Court which has annulled the Decision (EU) 2017/1283 which had condemned Apple Inc. to pay about 13 billion in taxes into the Irish tax coffers, not paid following two “tax rulings”, one in 1991 and one in 2007, stipulated between the Irish tax authorities and Apple in order to define the tax base of the two subsidiaries ASI and AOE located in Irish territory. The analysis, in addition to highlighting the reasons that led the Court to annul the decision, will conclude with a brief reflection on the consequences that the judgment could have on the policy, started by the European Union in 2014, of fighting aggressive taxation practices adopted by some Member States.

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