Category Archives: The multi-layered legal order

Brexit and the ways forward for the UK and EU agencies

By Lisette Mustert, Béla Strauss, Miroslava Scholten and Matthew Wood

Brexit raises the question of which way forward for the UK in its relationship with the EU and with EU agencies. For future research and legislative design, this in turn raises a more fundamental question of when which type of agreement between a third country and EU agencies is appropriate, in light of  factors such as salience and the interests on both sides. Having analysed all EU agencies’ founding acts, we show in this post that there are three types of formal relationships that exist at this moment between EU agencies and other countries: full membership, observership and cooperation. We argue that the type of this relationship would vary for the UK depending on the score of ‘Brexit salience’, a concept that we introduce. The higher the ‘Brexit salience’ rating is, the more formal the arrangement – full membership or observer – the UK (and the EU) would need to have with an EU agency. According to our scores, this would concern the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In the case of EU agencies that score low on our salience rating, the UK (and the EU) would want to opt for a relatively limited form of cooperation with EU agencies. This would be the case for Cepol, EIGEACERFrontex and CPVO. Surprisingly, the seemingly highly salient agency in the public debate – the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (also known as Frontex) – scores the joint lowest rating. How is this possible, when for the UK immigration is so important during the Brexit vote? It is because, first, our Brexit salience measures do not focus on what is salient in general for the British or European public. Rather, we are concerned with practical matters of policy implementation. As a matter of policy, Frontex has a clear and well-resourced opposite agency – the UK Border Agency – and its operation does not affect a discrete and well-defined policy area.

EU agencies and third countries: three types of formal relationships

Having studied founding acts of all EU agencies, we have seen three types of formal relationships that exist between EU agencies and third countries:

  • Full membership: the essential feature here is that the third country has a place in the agencies’ main organ – like a management board. Therefore, the third country has the same rights and privileges as EU member states in the agency, except the right to vote (Lavenex 2015). The agencies that currently have at least one third country member are EASAERAEEAEFSAEMCDDAEMSAFrontexEIOPAGNSS. The EFTA states are almost exclusively the ones that cooperate in this manner with the agencies, although in two instances (EEA and EMCDDA) Turkey is also a member. Frontex is the only agency where the EFTA states have some voting rights, so it might be seen as the most intense participation of third countries in any of the agencies. The reason the EFTA states have this special position in the Frontex management board is that participation in Frontex was negotiated in special separate agreements.
  • Observership: the term ‘observership’ is used very frequently, but never defined. The term obviously suggests a less intense form of participation than membership, a form of collaboration where the third state is simply there to passively take in the events that unfold in the EU agency. This makes it hard to distinguish membership from observership, especially because third country ‘full members’ generally also lack a vote, which otherwise could serve as the distinguishing feature between the two. In many instances, EFTA states are, if not members to an EU agency, at least observers. However, unlike the membership model which is almost exclusively applicable to EFTA states, the observer status is more widely available, in particular to (potential) candidate countries for accession to the EU such as Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Serbia. Currently, there is at least one third country observer participant in EASAENISAEBACedefopEMAEurofoundEASOEU-OSHAECDCECHAFRAEFSA. Only EFTA and (potential) acceding states are observers to the EU agencies. 
  • Cooperation: EU agencies increasingly make use of this option by adopting working arrangements or memoranda of understanding with third countries. The basic regulations of the EU agencies frequently mention the need for cooperation with third countries. The following agencies have these provisions: EFCAEASAERAEBAESMAGNSSEuropolEurojustCepolSatCenEMAEASOEU-OSHAECDCEEAEFSAEMCDDAEDAEIOPA and Frontex.   

Brexit salience concept

Brexit salience can be defined as the extent to which Brexit may affect EU agencies’ internal workings, how important their role may be in ensuring maintenance of regulatory standards, and how closely they are connected to key areas of the UK economy. To conceptualise and analyse the extent to which Brexit-specific arrangements may be required between EU and UK regulatory agencies so as to enable a smooth form of regulatory alignment after Brexit, we propose to analyse EU agencies with respect to their ‘Brexit salience’ across three aspects:

  1. Connections internally with British staff: this is the extent to which, after Brexit, EU agencies may internally face some instability in their labour force. EU agencies are staffed by members chosen both to represent a range of member states, but also, crucially for our purposes, to bring relevant and specific expertise in the relevant regulatory field. While overall the UK seems to contribute relatively few staff to EU institutions compared with France or Germany, some agencies rely heavily on British staff and expertise. The EMA, for example, has voiced worries about how ‘our activities will be impacted [by Brexit] and we need to plan for this now to avoid the creation of gaps in knowledge and expertise’.
  2. UK agencies’ capacity to maintain regulatory standards: this is the extent to which the UK has similar regulatory capacity to the EU level to maintain regulatory standards. If this is the case, then EU agencies are likely to be less salient as the regulatory environment is likely to stay largely similar, so long as the UK maintains standards on, for example, environmental pollution. However, where the UK does not have regulatory capacity in the form of well-resourced agencies capable of implementing regulatory, information sharing and communication activities that regulatory agencies undertake, EU agencies are more likely to be salient in continued collaborative efforts to maintain regulatory standards.
  3. Economic interconnectedness: lastly, and from the perspective of the UK, EU agencies are more likely to be significant where the UK has significant economic interests tied to the economic sphere those agencies have jurisdiction over. Areas in which the UK economy is especially embedded in global supply chains – for example in financial services – are most likely to elicit interest from UK policymakers with regard to cooperation with agencies in those areas.

This tripartite framework for assessing Brexit Salience in EU agencies covers the salience of Brexit for agencies (their internal workings and employment of UK nationals as staff), salience for the EU (ensuring the UK has the requisite capacity to maintain similar regulatory standards) and salience for the UK (the extent to which agencies cover the regulatory areas that it is concerned with). Brexit salience is a multidimensional concept and not all elements of it will always pull in one direction. 

The score board below includes initial salience rating developed inductively scoring ‘low’ (1), ‘medium’ (2) and ‘high’ (3) for each of the agencies for each of the three aspects described above and then adding the scores together to produce an overall ‘rating’ out of 9. The ratings are preliminary and will be further developed through double coding and comparison before final publication.

Preliminary brexit salience score board

 AgencyOverall Salience
1.European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)8
2.European Medicines Agency (EMA)8
3.European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)7
4.European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)7
5.European Banking Authority (EBA)7
6.European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)7
7.European Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA)6
8.European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol)6
9.The European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust)6
10European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)6
11.European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)6
12.European Environment Agency (EEA)6
13.Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)6
14.European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)6
15.European Agency for Railways (ERA)5
16.European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)5
17.European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA)5
18.European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)5
19.European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)5
20.European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop)4
21.European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC; SATCEN)4
22.European Asylum Support Office (EASO)4
23.European Defence Agency (EDA)4
24.Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)4
25.European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)4
26.European Agency for Law Enforcement Training (Cepol)3
27.European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)3
28.Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)3
29.European Boarder and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)3
30.Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO)3

About the authors:

This blog post is a result of a research project and academic paper (forthcoming) exercised by Lisette Mustert and Béla Strauss, two legal Research Master students at Utrecht University, under supervision of Miroslava ScholtenRob Widdershovenand Matthew Wood.

Rotten fisheries: EU Advocate-General finds EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement incompatible with international law

Credit: Katarina Dzurekova (CC BY)

The validity and scope of EU-Morocco trade agreements with respect to Western Sahara – a territory occupied by Morocco – has kept the Court of the Justice of the EU (CJEU) rather busy lately. In 2016, in a case brought by the Front Polisario, a movement fighting for the national liberation of the people of Western Sahara (the Sahrawi), the CJEU ruled that the territorial scope of the EU-Morocco Liberalization Agreement, which liberalizes trade in mainly agricultural products, did not extend to Western Sahara (see for a comment on this blog here, and for other comments here, here and here). Currently, a request for a preliminary ruling, referred by a UK court, concerning the validity of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is pending before the CJEU. This Agreement gives EU vessels access to fisheries in Moroccan fishing zones, in return for which the EU provides Morocco with financial contributions. On its face, this Agreement appears to apply not only to the waters off the coast of Morocco proper, but also those off the coast of Western Sahara. The case raises issues of self-determination of the Sahrawi in respect of the exploitation of ‘their’ natural resources, and the role of the EU in this respect. In January 2018, Advocate-General (A-G) Wathelet of the CJEU delivered his opinion in the case, proposing that the Fisheries Agreement should be considered invalid on the ground that it violates the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people. This post commends the opinion for its detailed, although not always accurate, engagement with international law, and highlights the political salience of the case.

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Maintaining the pressure: The EU leaves ICAO hanging despite ‘historic’ emissions agreement for civil aviation

In late 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) made headlines, reaching a long-awaited multilateral agreement on a global market-based measure (GMBM) to regulate carbon emissions from civil aviation. This was hailed as a ‘historic achievement’, with 65 countries responsible for 85% of emissions working together to protect the global climate. Importantly, the speed of negotiations was greatly catalysed by the European Union, which was set to reinstate its own unilateral aviation emissions trading scheme on 1 January 2017 should the ICAO fail to reach an agreement by the end of the previous year (Regulation 421/2014). In the nick of time, at its 39th meeting, ICAO reached an agreement on a global MBM, known as the ‘Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation – ‘CORSIA’. It was clearly hoped that this would prevent the Union from proceeding with its unilateral approach. However, in its recent Proposal for a regulation amending the EU ETS, the Commission appears reluctant to immediately relinquish its leverage, raising political tensions and important legal questions regarding the compatibility of the two schemes.

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Better mutual recognition for better results on asset recovery: A new Commission’s proposal

Just before Christmas, with the objective of further enabling Member States to deprive criminals of their illicit gain, the EU Commission proposed the adoption of an(other) instrument in the field of freezing and confiscation of assets deriving from criminal offences.

Due also to obligations under international and EU law, asset recovery laws and strategies – in particular against organised crime – have been increasingly adopted by contemporary criminal justice systems. Attacking criminal wealth has, indeed, a strong preventive and strategic dimension: focusing on the property of criminal organisations, for example, helps law enforcement authorities reach through their top, and it gives more tools to neutralise and dismantle them. The idea that asset recovery is essential to tackle these organisations has been lately coupled with the conviction that it is helpful against terrorism, too. The Commission proposal was indeed announced at the beginning of 2016 with the ‘Action Plan for strengthening the fight against terrorist financing’. Continue reading

The Polisario Front Judgment of the EU Court of Justice: a Reset of EU-Morocco Trade Relations in the Offing

Credit: Katarina Dzurekova (CC BY)

On 21 December 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) gave its appeals judgment in the politically contentious Polisario Front case. The Court overruled an earlier decision of the General Court (GC, 2015) and decided that the EU-Morocco trade agreement does not apply to the territory of Western Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco as its own (see Sandra Hummelbrunner and Anne-Carlijn Prickartz’s analysis). The Court then went on to dismiss the action for annulment brought against the EU Council decision endorsing the agreement by the Polisario Front, a national liberation movement representing the Saharawi population indigenous to Western Sahara. In so doing, the Court largely followed Advocate General Wathelet’s advisory opinion, at least its first part (see on this Katharine Fortin’s analysis over at the UCall blog). The dismissal of the Polisario Front’s action may appear to be a victory for the EU Council and Morocco. However, in a manner reminiscent of Pyrrhus’s battles with the Romans in the 3rd century BC, it may well turn out to be a loss, and in fact a boon for the Saharawi. Although the CJEU held that the Front did not have standing to dispute the EU Council decision, this determination precisely followed from the Court’s recognition of the people of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination and the attendant exclusion of the territory from the trade agreement. Henceforth, the EU Council and Morocco have no other choice than to exclude products from Western Sahara from their trade agreements. Continue reading

Export Control of Dogs to Israel: Dual-Use Items under EU Law

Foto door Teunie, CC BY-SA

Photo by Teunie, CC BY-SA

On 9 February, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation wrote to the Dutch Parliament a  letter on  “export controls on dogs”. In her letter, the Minister informed the Dutch Parliament that there is no existing legal basis for restricting dogs to be exported to Israel. What are the “export controls of dogs” all about? Continue reading

The long arm of EU law: EU animal welfare legislation extended to international road transport

Copyright: Dirk-Jan Kraan

Copyright: Dirk-Jan Kraan

The Court of Justice of the EU has recently rendered an important judgment that will please animal welfare activists, especially those concerned about the welfare of animals outside the EU. Less pleased will be road transporters and foreign nations.

In Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH v Stadt Kempten, Case C-424/13, 23 April 2015, the Court held that the application of an EU Regulation concerning the welfare of animals during transport does not limit itself to road transports within the EU. According to the Court, it also applies to such transports between an EU place of departure and a non-EU place of destination. This means that, in the case, a cattle transport leaving from Kempten in Germany and arriving in Uzbekistan had to comply with EU law also after crossing the external EU border, notably on the territory of the Russian Federation. The exporter will now have to ensure that after 14 hours of travel, a rest period of at least one hour should be organized, during which the animals must be given liquid and if necessary fed. Subsequently, the animals may be transported for a further period of up to 14 hours, at the end of which animals must be unloaded, fed and watered and be rested for at least 24 hours. These rules are far stricter than what the exporter had planned to enter into his journey log: he had planned only two rest periods, one upon crossing the external EU border and another in Kazakhstan. The journey between those points was expected to take 146 hours (entirely in accordance with local legislation). Continue reading