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EPPO takes over judicial investigation into the purchase of Covid-19 protective equipment in Spain

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On 4 March 2024, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Madrid (Spain) initiated an investigation into possible fraud affecting public contracts awarded by the health authorities of the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands to a single company, for the purchase of medical equipment, including protective masks, during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Given that Spain’s Central Court of Investigation No. 2 was investigating the same company for contracts awarded by other health authorities, and since one of those contracts was co-funded by the EU, the EPPO requested additional information to determine whether the case fell within its mandate. After receiving this information and examining it in detail, the EPPO has taken the decision to take over that judicial investigation, in order to inquire into all contracts awarded by the various public authorities to the same company within a short period of time.  EPPO make known that this exceptional update comes after the extremely high

Prison overcrowding remains a problem in Europe: Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics for 2023

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Prison overcrowding continues to be an acute and persistent problem in a significant number of European prison administrations, according to the Council of Europe’s Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations ( SPACE I ) for 2023. In countries with over 500,000 inhabitants, twelve prison administrations reported having more inmates than places available in January 2023. Overall, in Europe, the number of prisoners per 100 places available grew by 2% from 31 January 2022 to 31 January 2023 (from 91.7 to 93.5 inmates). Seven prison administrations reported a prison density of more than 105 inmates per 100 places available, indicating severe overcrowding: Cyprus (166 inmates per 100 places), Romania (120), France (119), Belgium (115), Hungary (112), Italy (109) and Slovenia (107). Five prison administrations reported very high prison density: Greece (103), Sweden (102), North Macedonia (101), Croatia (101) and Türkiye (100). Other administrations reported a prison density below 100 but

McDonald’s loses the EU trade mark Big Mac in respect of poultry products

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According to the Judgment of the General Court in Case T-58/23 (Supermac’s v EUIPO), McDonald’s loses the EU trade mark Big Mac in respect of poultry products. The General Court holds that McDonald’s has not proved genuine use within a continuous period of five years in the European Union in connection with certain goods and services. Supermac’s and McDonald’s, an Irish and American fast-food chain respectively, are involved in a dispute regarding the EU trade mark Big Mac. That trade mark had been registered for McDonald’s in 1996. In 2017, Supermac’s filed an application for revocation of that mark in relation to certain goods and services. It submitted that the mark had not been put to genuine use in the European Union in connection with those goods and services within a continuous period of five years.  The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) partially upheld that application. However, it confirmed the protection which the contested mark conferred on McDonald’s in r

Ban on visible Muslim symbols of belief in the official education system not incompatible with Article 9 of the ECHR

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In its final decision in the case of Mikyas and Others v. Belgium (application no. 50681/20) the European Court of Human Rights has, by a majority, declared the application inadmissible. The case concerned three young women who identify as Muslims.  They complained that they were unable to wear the Islamic headscarf in their secondary schools (except during religious education classes), following the prohibition on wearing any visible symbols of one’s beliefs in the official education system of the Flemish Community.  The Court stated that the concept of neutrality in the Community’s education system, understood as prohibiting, in a general manner, the wearing by pupil of visible symbols of one’s beliefs, did not in itself run counter to Article 9 of the Convention and the values underlying it.  The Court noted in the present case that the contested ban did not concern solely the Islamic veil, but applied without distinction to all visible symbols of belief. It considered that the nati

European Commission calls on Italy and Poland to correctly transpose EU rules on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest

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The European Commission calls on Italy and Poland to correctly transpose EU rules on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest. The European Commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Poland (and to send a reasoned opinion to Italy for failing to correctly transpose into their national legislation the Directive on the right of access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest ( Directive 2013/48/EU ).  The deadline for Member States to transpose the Directive was 27 November 2016.  The Directive is one of the six Directives that make up the EU's legal framework on common minimum standards for fair trials, ensuring that the rights of suspects and accused persons are sufficiently protected. It strengthens Member States' trust in each other's criminal justice systems and thus facilitates mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters. The Commission considers that certain national transposition mea

Rule of Law: EU law does not require that professional associations of judges are granted the right to challenge decisions relating to the appointment of prosecutors

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According to the Judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-53/23 (Asociaţia “Forumul Judecătorilor din România”(8.5.2024) EU law does not require that professional associations of judges are granted the right to challenge decisions relating to the appointment of prosecutors. A Romanian professional association of judges challenges the appointment of certain prosecutors responsible for conducting investigations concerning cases of corruption in Romania. They consider that the national legislation on which those appointments are based is incompatible with EU law and should not be applied. Hearing that case, the Court of Appeal of Pitești (Romania) asks the Court of Justice whether the Romanian procedural rules, which, in essence, prevent associations of judges from bringing an action against the appointment of those prosecutors, since those rules make the admissibility of such an action subject to the existence of a legitimate private interest, comply with EU law. The Romanian c

Legal Expert at the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)

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The European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs: EBA, EIOPA, ESMA) are looking for establishing a talent pool to support their oversight's mandate under the DORA regulation for the position of Legal Expert (DORA Legal and Compliance)  The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) is an independent European Union Authority established on 1 January 2011 by Regulation (EU) No. 1094/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010. EIOPA is part of the European System of Financial Supervision (ESFS) which includes the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB). Further information on EIOPA is available on EIOPA’s website:  https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/ The Digital Operational Resilience Act (i.e Regulation 2023/2554, or “DORA”) applicable from January 2025 establishes a comprehensive framework for fostering the digital operational resilience of all EU fin

EU rules on the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial: Commission calls on Bulgaria, Spain and Poland to correctly transpose the Directive

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The European Commission calls on Bulgaria, Spain and Poland to correctly transpose the EU rules on the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial. The European Commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Spain (INFR(2024)2033) and Poland (INFR(2024)2034), as well as to send an additional letter of formal notice to Bulgaria (INFR(2023)2093) for failing to correctly transpose the Directive on the strengthening of the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings ( Directive 2016/343/EU ). The Directive is one of  six Directives  adopted by the EU to create common minimum standards ensuring that the fair trial  rights of suspects and accused persons  in criminal proceedings are sufficiently protected across the EU. The Commission considers that certain national transposition measures notified by the three Member States fall short of the requirements of the Directive. The C

Automatic loss of German nationality in the event of recovery of Turkish nationality (ECJ)

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According to the Judgment of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C-684/22 to C-686/22 (Stadt Duisburg), EU law does not, in principle, preclude the automatic loss of German nationality in the event of recovery of Turkish nationality. However, where that loss is also liable to entail the loss of EU citizenship, it must be possible to carry out an individual examination of the consequences of that loss for the person concerned. A number of Turkish nationals have challenged before a German court the loss of their German nationality, which they acquired by naturalisation in 1999. In order to become German, they had had to renounce their Turkish nationality. However, after their naturalisation in Germany, and more specifically after 1 January 2000, they reacquired Turkish nationality at their own request. As a result of an amendment to the German legislation which entered into force on 1 January 2000, that recovery of Turkish nationality resulted in the automatic loss [1] of German na

The name Pablo Escobar may not be registered as an EU trade mark

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According to the Judgment of the General Court in Case T-255/23 (Escobar v EUIPO) the name Pablo Escobar may not be registered as an EU trade mark. The public would associate that name with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism.  On 30 September 2021, Escobar Inc., established in Puerto Rico (United States), filed an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for registration of the word sign Pablo Escobar as an EU trade mark for a wide range of goods and services.  The Colombian national named Pablo Escobar, who was born on 1 December 1949 and died on 2 December 1993, is presumed to be a drug lord and a narco-terrorist who founded and was the sole leader of the Medellín cartel (Colombia).  EUIPO rejected the application for registration on the ground that the mark was contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of morality. It relied on the perception of the Spanish public, as it is the most familiar with Pablo Escobar due to the links between Spa

Fine of €175,000 on the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum for GDPR breaches

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Ministry of Migration and Asylum received administrative fine and GDPR compliance order following an own-initiative investigation by the  Data Protection Authority of Greece. At the end of 2021, the Greek Supervisory Authority (SA) became aware of a decision of the Greek Government regarding the development and implementation of the “Centaur” programme by the Hellenic Ministry of Migration and Asylum in order to control the reception and accommodation facilities of third country nationals on the Aegean islands.  The Greek SA also received a request for information on border surveillance technologies from the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE Committee), while a request for investigation and opinion on the procurement and implementation of the “Hyperion” and “Centaur” systems in reception and accommodation facilities for asylum seekers was submitted to the Authority by civil society organizations in February 2022. In July 2022, the

United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) seeks Senior Legal Advisor for its office in Copenhagen, Denmark

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United Nations Office for Project Services seeks Senior Legal Advisor for its office in Copenhagen, Denmark. UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services) in Copenhagen, Denmark is an operational arm of the United Nations – supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by successfully implementing its partners’ peacebuilding, humanitarian and development projects around the world. The Legal Group The Legal Group (LG) advises UNOPS management, project offices, regional offices and other specialized units within UNOPS on institutional, commercial, and administrative law matters.  Legal Advisors at UNOPS provide legal advice in the areas of public international law, dispute resolution, commercial law and administrative law.  This legal advice covers a wide range of topics, including host-country agreements and privileges and immunities, disputes with external parties, administrative/HR law matters, engagements, partnership agreements, grants, procurement

The state's failure to implement sufficient measures to combat climate change violated ECHR

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The ECHR has delivered Grand Chamber rulings in three climate change cases. In one of them the Court found that the Convention encompasses a right to effective protection by the State authorities from the serious adverse effects of climate change on lives, health, well-being and quality of life. In Grand Chamber's judgment in the case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland (application no. 53600/20) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of sixteen votes to one, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights; and, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (access to court).  The case concerned a complaint by four women and a Swiss association, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz, whose members are all older women concerned about the consequences of global warming on their living conditions and health. They consider that the Swiss authorities

Failure of an airline company to inform the data subject of completion of erasure request

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Failure of an airline company to inform the data subject of completion of erasure request and failure of transparency obligations resulted in the imposition of a fine equal to EUR 13,244. The Data Subject lodged her complaint with the Polish SA stating that she requested the data controller to erase all her personal data in the online interface provided by the data controller on 23 October 2018. In previous cases it has already been identified that the Hungarian SA is the LSA for the data controller, therefore case has been transferred.  Based on the data controller’s statement and the screenshot made by it on the relevant part of the IT system used to administer erasure requests, the data controller erased the Data Subject’s account on 23 November 2018, but failed to inform the Data Subject thereof prior to 6 March 2019.  The Hungarian SA founded that the data controller infringed Article 12(3) GDPR because it failed to inform the Data Subject of the action taken based on the reques

Bulgaria and Romania joined the Schengen area

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On 31 March, Bulgaria and Romania became Schengen members: the Schengen rules will apply in both Member States including on issuing Schengen visas and controls at the internal air and sea borders will be lifted. The European Commission strongly welcomes this achievement, which follows the historic Council decision of December 2023. The Schengen accession of these two Member States will make the common area more attractive by significantly expanding the world's largest common area without internal border controls. Since last December, both Member States have taken all necessary measures to ensure a smooth application of the Schengen rules as from 31 March 2024. The Cooperation Frameworks launched earlier this March by the Commission together with Bulgaria and Romania build on the successful implementation of the pilot projects for fast asylum and return procedures. With these Cooperation Frameworks, Romania and Bulgaria will further contribute to strengthening the cooperation on

The national legislation under which independent companies established in another Member State are excluded from copyright management is incompatible with EU law (ECJ)

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According to the Judgment of the European Court of Justice in Case C-10/22, the national legislation under which independent companies established in another Member State are excluded from copyright management is incompatible with EU law. The legislation constitutes a restriction on the freedom to provide services that is neither justified nor proportionate. LEA is a collective management organisation that is governed by Italian law and authorised to operate in the field of copyright intermediation in Italy. Jamendo, a company incorporated under Luxembourg law, is an independent copyright management entity which has been operating in Italy since 2004.  LEA applied to the Rome District Court for an order requiring Jamendo to cease its copyright intermediation activity in Italy. According to Italian legislation, that activity is reserved exclusively to the Italian society of authors and publishers and to the other collective management organisations listed, such as LEA, whereas independe

Sanction imposed on judge for Facebook posts concerning matters of public interest infringed his freedom of expression (ECtHR)

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In Chamber’s judgment   in the case of Danileţ v. Romania (application no. 16915/21) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority (four votes to three), that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned a disciplinary sanction imposed on a judge by the National Judicial and Legal Service Commission for posting two messages on his Facebook account. The Court found that the domestic courts had failed to give due consideration to several important factors, in particular concerning the broader context in which the applicant’s statements had been made, his participation in a debate on matters of public interest, the question whether the value judgments expressed had been sufficiently based in fact and, lastly, the potentially chilling effect of the sanction. In addition, the existence of an attack on the dignity and honour of the profession of judge had not been sufficiently demonstrated. In the

The European Commission urges Germany, Spain, Latvia and Slovenia to comply with cross-border judicial procedures on the European Arrest Warrant

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The Commission urges Germany, Spain, Latvia and Slovenia to comply with cross-border judicial procedures on the European Arrest Warrant.   The European Commission decided to send an additional letter of formal notice to Germany, Latvia and Slovenia and a reasoned opinion to Spain for failing to comply with the Framework Decision on the European Arrest Warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States ( Council Framework Decision 2002/584/JHA ). The  European arrest warrant  (EAW) is a simplified cross-border judicial procedure to surrender a requested person for the purpose of prosecution or executing a custodial sentence or detention order. Operational since 1 January 2004, the EAW has replaced the lengthy extradition procedures that existed between EU Member States. The Commission first sent a letter of formal notice to Germany in February 2021, to Spain in May 2021, to Latvia in December 2021 and to Slovenia in February 2022. On analysis of their replies, the Commissio

Six new judges sworn in at the seat of the International Criminal Court

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Six new judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) were sworn on 8 March 2024, during a ceremony held at the seat of the Court in The Hague (Netherlands). During the Ceremony, participants also bid farewell to the six outgoing ICC judges ending their terms.  Judges Mr Keebong Paek (Republic of Korea), Mr Erdenebalsuren Damdin (Mongolia), Ms Iulia Motoc (Romania), Mr Haykel Ben Mahfoudh (Tunisia), Mr Nicolas Guillou (France) and Ms Beti Hohler (Slovenia) were elected for nine-year terms during the twenty-second session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute in December 2023.  The six new judges commenced their mandates on 11 March 2024 and will subsequently be called to full-time service on the basis of the workload of the Court. The six judges made a solemn undertaking in open court before the President of the ASP, H.E. Ms Päivi Kaukoranta, stating: "I solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers as a judge of the Internati

Editorial

Editorial
George Kazoleas, Lawyer