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

EU citizenship: a slipping anchor to hold on to rights? Brexit and the consequences for EU citizens with British nationality

This summer many European citizens woke up in shock. Whilst reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, scrolling on Facebook, having breakfast, we learnt that a small majority of the voters in the Brexit referendum voted to leave the European Union. Not only does the (potential) Brexit have consequences for the internal market and the economic and social rights of EU citizens, but it also threatens their status as such. This is shocking for EU citizens with the nationality of another Member State residing in the United Kingdom, because their status will be redefined. For instance, in the future they will no longer be able to rely on equal treatment based on EU citizenship in the United Kingdom. Possibly even more shocked were British nationals, who might now actually lose their status as EU citizens, either living in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the European Union. This will significantly impact their possibilities to work, study, and take up residence in another EU Member State. Continue reading

Criminal Justice and Environmental Crime: how to tackle organized crime and ecocide?

by Prof. dr. John A.E. Vervaele & dr. Daan P. van Uhm

In the last decades, it has become increasingly clear that the protection of the environment is not only about a specific nature-related interest, but also about the systemic preservation of the commons of nature, which is essential for the life conditions of human beings and flora and fauna. The trade in endangered species puts not only their survival at risk; it deprives humanity of natural resources for their own survival and damages the biodiversity of planet earth. Emissions of greenhouse gases impact global warming and increase the sea levels, but also cause new phenomena such as El Niño in the Americas. These environmental harms are not land or border-related; their complex effects threaten all life on earth. Indeed, the exploitation of natural resources has become a global social problem and, thus, needs to be anticipated in social and scientific thinking.

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A Right to be Forgotten Case before the Japanese Supreme Court

On 31 January, the Japanese Supreme Court, for the first time in its history, handed down a decision regarding a so-called “right to be forgotten” case. The right to be forgotten—whose development the EU helped shape—entails an individual having the right to ask that a search engine remove search results linking to a specific result about him- or herself. The Japanese Supreme Court decided in favor of the search engine giant, Google, without referring to this emerging yet still contested right to be separated from one’s past online. Noteworthy, nonetheless, is that the Japanese Supreme Court laid down certain criteria with which to mandate the removal of search results. (The decision in Japanese is available here.) 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

How Failing Aggregates Brought About a Landmark Decision of the CJEU

by Kilian Klinger & Linda Senden

Copyright: Tablexxnx

The Court’s recent ruling in the Elliott case can be seen as a landmark decision as it was the first time the Court had to decide upon the normative value of European harmonised technical standards (HTSs). This took its starting point in the mere question brought before the Court, whether or not such acts, adopted by private European standardisation bodies (ESBs), are subject to the Court’s jurisdiction to give a preliminary ruling on their interpretation pursuant to Art. 267 TFEU. Before substantiating on the central argumentative underpinnings of the Court’s judgment, let us first briefly summarize the facts of the case. Continue reading

Ripples from across the pond: Extraterritorial Effects of the Microsoft Ireland Case

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One of the big internet cases of this year, the Microsoft Ireland case, has come to an end about a month ago as the 2nd Circuit Court has handed down its ruling in favour of Microsoft. The case made quite a splash and has been covered  before at the RENFORCE blog. With the verdict in, the time is ripe to revisit it and look at it again, this time from a different angle. Continue reading

Blow that whistle!

whistleIn April 2014, the Albanian Ministry of Justice and the Minister of State on Local Issues granted the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminal Law & Criminology the task of designing a Whistleblower Protection Law for Albania. This project was supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania and funded by the Dutch Rule of Law Programme. The team responsible for drafting the Law and the explanatory memorandum consisted of researchers from the Research Programmes UCALL and RENFORCE: François Kristen (UCALL), Eelke Sikkema (UCALL), John Vervaele (RENFORCE), Dina Siegel-Rozenblit (RENFORCE) and myself (RENFORCE). The draft Law and the explanatory memorandum were sent to Tirana in March 2015, and in the beginning of June this year, the Netherlands Embassy announced that the Albanian Parliament had approved the Whistleblower Law. The Law will enter into force once it is promulgated by the President of the Republic and published in the Official Gazette. However, it is important to note that until its publication in the Official Gazette we do not know to what extent the approved Law differs from the draft Law we submitted. Continue reading

Balancing security and freedom in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice

balansThe 2016 Annual European Criminal Law Academic Network (ECLAN) Conference was entitled “The Needed Balances of EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future”. One of the discussed topics was how to establish the right balance between measures that provide security and those that protect freedom. The point was strongly made that EU law to date has focused too much on establishing an Area of Security by adopting mutual recognition instruments and minimum harmonization measures which contribute to the protection of individuals against cross-border criminality. An example is the widening definition of offences linked to terrorist activities. After the 9/11 attacks, Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA was adopted whose provisions include the definition of terrorist offences and offences linked to terrorist activities. In 2008, Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA broadened the scope of offences linked to terrorist activities by criminalizing recruitment and training for terrorism. In 2015, as a response to the continuing and growing threat of terrorism, the Commission introduced a far-reaching proposal for a Directive on combating terrorism. Title III of this Directive on offences related to terrorist activities includes ‘travelling abroad for terrorism’, which is a new offence. Continue reading

(R)evolution in the EU System of Political Accountability: Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny mechanism

 

Source: Lex van Lieshout

Source: Lex van Lieshout

On 11 May 2016, the European Parliament adopted a new regulation for Europol, which will enter into force on 1 May 2017. This Regulation establishes the – so far unprecedented political accountability mechanism in the EU – Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny. The introduction of a mechanism, which links political accountability fora of the EU and the national levels, is a revolutionary development for the evolving multi-level accountability system (of EU agencies). To enhance democratic legitimacy of the EU structures and decisions, the legislative and accountability roles of the European Parliament have grown significantly in the last decennia (Scholten 2014). Yet, never before did national parliaments become involved in holding EU entities to account, too. Continue reading