Not waving, but drowning ? : European law in the UK courts

Aidan O’Neill QC

The relationship between EU law and the municipal law of the United Kingdom seems to lend itself to allusions to water.   In Bulmer v. Bollinger [1974] Ch. 401 Lord Denning famously referred (at 418F) to the incoming tide of EU law, observing that “it flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back, Parliament has decreed that the Treaty is henceforward to be part of our law. It is equal in force to any statute.”   And the Factortame litigation, too, was all about water, and the right to fish in it – specifically the Treaty based rights of Spanish fishermen not to be subject to discrimination on grounds of nationality when seeking to exercise their free movement rights to trawl for fish in UK waters.

The long decade of Factortame litigation – which unequivocally established that national courts in the UK should treat EU law based rights as being of a higher normative level than Acts of Parliament and that the UK could be found liable by UK courts to pay damages to those who suffered loss from Parliament’s enactment of an EU law incompatible statute – might now be seen to represent the high-water mark of the influence of EU law on domestic law.   For tides ebb, as well as flow.   The complaints of those of a Eurosceptic ilk of the Member States being “swamped” by a tsunami of EU regulation, of business drowning in EU rules have been increasingly dominant in our political discourse.   Eurocracy is associated with ever growing popular distrust.   The binding of Europe into monetary union is now seen as an act of hubris (the Greeks always have a word for it).     Even among the Europhiles, ideals and ideas seem to have drained from their grand post-War European project.   Scripture says: “without vision the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he”.   Yet what law is to kept, as the happy certainties of post-sovereign supra-nationalism embodied in une certaine idée de l’Europe no longer command common assent and have become unhappy uncertainties ?

Our courts are, of course, not insensible to this shift, this seeming turning of the political tide.   Recent judgments of the UK Supreme Court, in particular, have marked an increasing turn inward, as the continental is abandoned for the insular and the primacy of national constitutional fundamentals are re-emphasised over the provisions of international Treaties. But what “constitutional fundamentals”, you might well ask ? Classically, the only constitutional fundamental which existed in the UK under the Diceyan analysis of the constitution was the sovereignty of Parliament – and that has been considered and dealt with in Factortame.   What, then, is left within the UK constitution after Factortame ?  The judicial and extra-judicial writings of Sir John Laws seem to provide the beginnings of an answer. In R v Lord Chancellor Ex p Witham [1998] QB 575 he noted (at 581) that “in the unwritten legal order of the British state” it is “the common law [which] continues to accord a legislative supremacy to Parliament”. He also observed that the courts should recognise certain fundamental rights at common law whose “existence would not be the consequence of the democratic political process but would be logically prior to it”. In Thoburn v. Sunderland Council [2003] QB 151 he noted (at 185) that “the traditional doctrine [of Parliamentary sovereignty] has in my judgment been modified. It has been done by the common law, wholly consistently with constitutional principle” by the recognition of certain statutes as “constitutional” in the sense that, while not being entrenched, their provisions were not subject to implied repeal by later “ordinary” Acts of Parliament.   Parliament could modify their terms, but only expressly.   In Jackson v. Attorney General [2006] 1 AC 262Lord Steyn went further, suggesting (at § 102), that there might be some constitutional fundamentals “which even a sovereign Parliament acting at the behest of a complaisant House of Commons cannot abolish”.   Despite some initial scepticism about the need or utility for reliance upon notions of common law constitutionalism in a post HRA/post EU Charter era (see for example Watkins v. Home Office[2006] UKHL 17 [2006] 2 AC 395 per Lord Bingham at § 29 and per Lord Rodger at §§ 59, 61) the ideas of Sir John Laws appear now to have triumphed into the new constitutional orthodoxy.     They were certainly central to the finding of the UKSC in Axa General Insurance Company Ltd v Lord Advocate [2011] UKSC 46 [2012] AC 868 that statutes of the devolved legislatures were subject to a form of common law review (for breach of the rule of law and/or fundamental common law rights).   In Kennedy v Charity Commission [2014] UKSC 20 [2014] 2 WLR 808 Lord Toulson at § 133 regretted what he saw as “a baleful and unnecessary tendency to overlook the common law. It needs to be emphasised that it was not the purpose of the Human Rights Act that the common law should become an ossuary.”   In R (Buckinghamshire County Council) v Transport Secretary [2014] UKSC 3 [2014] 1 WLR 342 Lord Neuberger and Lord Mance – in rejecting what looked like a fairly clear line of CJEU case law on the issue of what might properly be expected in and of a Strategic Environmental Assessment for large infrastructure projects (such as HS2) – suggested that there may be constitutional fundamentals which even EU law could not overcome.   As they noted (at § 207) that

“the United Kingdom has no written constitution, but we have a number of constitutional instruments. They include Magna Carta, the Petition of Right 1628, the Bill of Rights and (in Scotland) the Claim of Right Act 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union 1707. The European Communities Act 1972, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 may now be added to this list. The common law itself also recognises certain principles as fundamental to the rule of law.”

And in R (Osborn) v Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61 [2013] 3 WLR 1020 the UKSC emphasised (in Lord Reed’s judgment at § 62) that the starting point in fundamental rights cases should be “our own legal principles rather than the judgments of the international court”. Thus is the common law is resurrected, statutes and ancient charters deemed “constitutional”, old legal rules become fundamental principles, and rights discourse is de-Europeanised, re-patriated and re-branded as embodying the une certaine idée de l’Angleterre (or sometimes, even, de l’Ecosse). Continue reading

EU Commission President: Who and what did we actually vote for?

Christian Joerges and Florian Rödl

“How did we vote? Did we actually vote – or did the Volk simply roll the dice?”

Niklas Luhmann‘s sarcasm in the FAZ on October 22nd 1994 referred to the Bundestag elections of that same year. Back then, the black/yellow coalition narrowly won out over its red/green counterpart. Luhmann’s commentary is not only a pleasurable read – it also contains an analysis of surprising relevance for the electoral outcome of the 2014 European elections. Luhmann argued that the differences between the two coalition blocs were minimal. One reason for this was the fact that “politicians are no longer able to support political alternatives according to their preferences, due to constraints set by our economic system”. Fundamentally, this is not much different in contemporary Europe. Certainly the party landscape is larger, more diverse and more awkward than in Germany in 1994. However, even in this contested context, no party has a promising alternative when dealing for instance with the financial markets.

What was this most recent election about? One very prominent and popular manifesto from March 9th 2014 argued the election was about nothing less than the future of Europe itself. The novelty of “different candidates running for Commission President while also representing different models of Europe”, the election of so-called Spitzenkandidaten, is seen as a quantum leap for the Union.

Miguel Maduro, Bruno de Witte and Mattias Kumm, who have developed and publicly supported the idea of electing the Commission President by the European Parliament in their policy paper The Euro-Crisis and the Democratic Governance of the Euro: Legal and Political Issues of a Fiscal Crisis, put it somewhat differently. They did not speak of competing models. Instead, according to them the direct election of the Commission president would increase the political legitimacy of the Commission, thus strengthening the institution in its new role as European crisis manager. The control over national economic and fiscal policy would be democratically legitimated and thus more easily promoted and enforced. Accordingly, it would furnish functionalist technocrats with democratic legitimization.

This understanding of the Spitzenkandidaten would surely not have motivated the citizens of Europe, especially on the so-called European periphery, to participate in the election. In this respect the manifesto was both more attractive as well as more realistic. Nonetheless, the manifesto was not able to demonstrate that the leading candidates could be the personalization of its slogans. Socialist leading candidate Martin Schulz was supposed to represent the programme of an “’alternative Europe’, one in which the market is subjected to democratic rules”. When demonizing the political alternative of “’lesser Europe’, where the market subjugates democratic rules”, the manifesto had to refer to a politician not even on the ballot: David Cameron. For the manifesto, EPP candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, now Commission President-elect did not seem to stand for anything in particular. Continue reading

The sudden emergence of Charter principles in the Glatzel judgment of the CJEU

european-union-flags-at-t-0021Jasper Krommendijk

The judgment of 22 May 2014 in Glatzel is the first judgment in which the CJEU explicitly discussed article 51(1) and 52(5) of the Charter on Fundamental Rights, which distinguishes between (individual) rights and (programmatic) principles.

In Glatzel, the CJEU issued a preliminary ruling on the request of a German court about the compatibility with the Charter of Annex III to Directive 2006/126/EC (amended by Directive 2009/113/EC) laying down minimum standards relating to the physical fitness to drive a motor vehicle as regards visual acuity. The German court asked whether those physical conditions for drivers constitute discrimination on the grounds of disability and, hence, violate the principle of equal treatment (Article 20 of the Charter), and more specifically, the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of discrimination (Article 21(1)) as well as the principle of integrating of integrating persons with disabilities (Article 26). The CJEU eventually concluded that it did not have sufficient information to conclude that the Annex is invalid.

There are several interesting points which could be looked at more closely, such as the way in which the CJEU used the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (para. 45, 68-72) as well as the way in which the CJEU carefully examined whether there is an objective justification of different treatment (see below). These two issues –the application of the CRPD and the elaborate justification test- have been the focus of previous judgments of the CJEU (see for example for the former, Z (Case C-363/12 [2014]).

I. The distinction between rights and principles: a background and earlier cases of the CJEU

This post will, however, scrutinise the novel feature of this judgment: the fact that the CJEU has expressed itself for the first time on Article 51(1) and Article 52(5) of the Charter. These provisions make a distinction between rights and principles in the Charter. Article 51(1) provides:

The provisions of this Charter are addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law. They shall therefore respect the rights, observe the principles and promote the application thereof in accordance with their respective powers and respecting the limits of the powers of the Union as conferred on it in the Treaties.

Article 52(5) stipulates:

The provisions of this Charter which contain principles may be implemented by legislative and executive acts taken by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, and by acts of Member States when they are implementing Union law, in the exercise of their respective powers. They shall be judicially cognisable only in the interpretation of such acts and in the ruling on their legality.

The inclusion of these provisions and this distinction between rights and principles was primarily the result of the opposition of UK, and also some other countries like the Denmark and the Netherlands, to the inclusion in the Charter of ‘social rights’ as legally enforceable claims. The UK eventually agreed with the inclusion of the Charter into the draft Constitution on the condition that the distinction between rights and principles was further clarified. The distinction was thus the result of a hard won battle and formed a crucial element in the Charter’s adoption. Continue reading

Access to the criminal case file: French example shows potential impact of Roadmap Directives

menottesJessica Finelle and Alex Tinsley

Yesterday, 2 June 2014, was the deadline for implementation of Directive 2012/13/EU on the right to information in criminal proceedings (‘the Directive’). This is the second of three directives adopted further to the 2009 Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights, the EU’s ambitious project to strengthen mutual trust between Member States’ judicial authorities by protecting criminal defence rights through EU law. The others were the Interpretation and Translation Directive, and the Access to a Lawyer Directive (together, the ‘Roadmap Directives’).

Designed to build upon the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), these measures come full of promise: the citizen gets new, directly effective rights and the criminal court becomes a frontline enforcer EU law, potentially at the expense of inadequate national laws; the criminal judge can get help from Luxembourg, while the case is still live, lessening recourse to Strasbourg with the delayed justice this entails. That is the theory. To explore the potential impact on the ground, this post looks at the ongoing discussion surrounding access to the case file during garde à vue (police custody) in France.

Accès au dossier: the back story

Wind back to 2010. The European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) had given its important judgment in Salduz v. Turkey – establishing the right of access to a lawyer at the police station as an essential guarantee of Article 6 ECHR – and the Member States were scrambling to comply. The UK Supreme Court’s Cadder judgment found the Scottish system of police custody contrary to Salduz principles. In France, the Conseil Constitutionnel’s landmark ruling of 30 July 2010 found the garde à vue regime – whereby lawyers could not attend interrogations, despite the potential for suspects’ statements to be used against them later – unconstitutional. Urgent reforms followed in both jurisdictions.

For French lawyers, this was a watershed but only a first step. From their perspective, although they can now attend police interrogations, their presence remains somewhat ornamental. The relevant provision of the criminal procedure code (as in force until 1 June) entitled them to access the procès-verbal, the written record of the suspect being informed that they are in custody, the nature and time of the alleged offence, and their rights. But the underlying materials (e.g. the complaint, phone transcripts, testimonies, etc.) are unavailable. Without these, lawyers feel unable to advise clients usefully. Lawyers in Spain, who face the same problem, share their opinion.

The ECHR has not proved helpful in challenging this. The ECtHR had stated in its Dayanan judgment, shortly after Salduz, that the lawyer’s role at the police station involved a whole gamut of advisory and practical activities, and the brief Sapan judgment seemed to suggest explicitly that a lawyer needed to see the file to advise effectively. One brave court of appeal in Agen even followed this line in 2011, but the Cour de cassation was having none of it. And in a decision of 18 November 2011, the Conseil Constitutionnel confirmed that the new garde à vue regime was fine: police station proceedings were not part of the judicial process and did not call for equality of arms.

Nor does the arrested person derive much assistance from Article 5 ECHR. True, Article 5(4) entitles them to effective judicial review of detention; this challenge, as the ECtHR has often stated (para 124), should ensure ‘equality of arms’ and that means key documents need disclosing. But this applies only once the person is produced in court; in the shady confines of the police station – where confessions are so easily made and the outcome of a criminal case is often determined – it has no relevance.

Article 7(1) of the Directive

unlockedEnter Article 7(1) of the Directive. The idea is familiar: it requires Member States to provide a person deprived of liberty with access to documents essential for contesting the lawfulness of detention. But crucially, it speaks of a person ‘arrested or detained at any stage in criminal proceedings’. For the Paris Bar, it is obvious that this means an arrested person (or their lawyer) needs access to the police file before interrogation, so that they can contest the allegations – the grounds for their arrest – and advise the client on the best course of action.

Mobilising the defence

As with all Roadmap provisions, whether this one has an impact depends on the use made of it in practice. The Council of the EU, worn out from negotiating the measures, has emphasised the need for training to make them bite (para 12). Fair Trials International recently launched a project with five EU partners to train 240 defence lawyers across the EU with this in mind. National bars and defence associations, like the Asociación Libre de Abogados in Spain, are also organising themselves around these directives. Among them, the Paris Bar is in the maillot jaune. Continue reading

Zambrano: Unwritten?

Dr Iyiola Solanke

National courts have continued to deal with the consequences of Zambrano. Although Dereci and MacCarthy clarified that compulsion to leave related solely to practical consequences, the scope of ‘practical consequences’ was not determined by the CJEU. While the rupture of strong emotional and psychological ties within the family would not demonstrate compulsion to leave, would the removal of the rights to welfare engage the Zambrano right?

This question was discussed in a previous post on the ‘Zambrano Amendments’[1] introduced in 2012 at the same time as changes were made to the EEA Regulations 2006 implementing Citizenship Directive 2004/38 to give effect to the Zambrano decision.[2] These ‘Zambrano Amendments’ banned Zambrano carers from all mainstream benefits under national law – employed and unemployed Zambrano carers were henceforth excluded from eligibility for social security benefits, child tax credits and housing entitlements. In HC and Sanneh, it was decided that this blanket refusal of welfare benefits was legal – it did not compel a Zambrano carer to leave the EU. The substance of the Zambrano right to reside remained intact even if the Zambrano carer was left destitute and without adequate resources to care for the EU citizen child.

LJ Elias introduced in Harrison[3] what has become the standard dicta for understanding the Zambrano principle. Dismissing a broad approach to the CJEU ruling, he stated:

‘… The right of residence is a right to reside in the territory of the EU. It is not a right to any particular quality or life or to any particular standard of living. Accordingly, there is no impediment to exercising the right to reside if residence remains possible as a matter of substance, albeit that the quality of life is diminished. Of course, to the extent that the quality or standard of life will be seriously impaired by excluding the non EU national, that is likely in practice to infringe the right of residence itself because it will effectively compel the EU citizen to give up residence and travel with the non-EU national. But in such a case the Zambrano doctrine would apply and the EU citizen’s rights would have to be protected (save for the possibility of a proportionate deprivation of rights).’

The Zambrano principle is thus limited to situations where the EU citizen is irrefutably in practice forced to leave the EU. The CJEU has not yet had an opportunity to comment on this approach and it has continued to be applied, most recently in Hines v London Borough of Lambeth[4] where the removal of one parent was found compatible with the Zambrano principle. Surprisingly, it was not applied in R (Osawemwenze) v SS Home Department[5] where both parents were told to relocate with two small children who may have been EU citizens. These cases continue the theme raised in my last post on the compatibility of rights under EU and ECHR law, in particular the rights of the child. The cases also provide further insight into the national judicial response to the Zambrano ruling.

Maureen Hines, a Jamaican citizen without permission to remain in the UK, was refused housing assistance despite being mother to a 5-year old boy, Brandon, who was born in the UK and thus an EU national. The reviewer for Lambeth decided that even if the refusal caused Hines to leave the UK, Brandon’s father, who had an EU right to permanent residence in the UK, could look after him: although his parents had separated, Brandon did spend two days and nights a week with his father. Continue reading

Case comment: Google Spain SL, Google Inc v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja González

juropean-justiceGuy Vassall-Adams, Matrix Chambers

This important judgment concerns the interpretation of Directive 95/46/EC (the Data Protection Directive) and was handed down by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice on 14 May. Although the ruling is of immediate relevance to the publication of search results by search engines such as Google, the judgment is of general relevance to the publication of information on the internet within the European Union.

The complaint was brought by Mr Gonzalez, a Spanish national living in Spain, against the publisher of a Spanish daily newspaper (La Vanguardia) and against Google Spain and Google Inc. The complaint related to the fact that when a search was undertaken on the Google search engine (“Google Search”) against the Claimant’s name the results provided links to articles in La Vanguardia from 1998 mentioning Mr Gonzalez in connection with bankruptcy proceedings. Mr Gonzalez wished to put those matters behind him and although he had failed in his complaint against the newspaper (which could benefit from the journalistic exemption under the Directive), he contended that the continued publication by Google Search of those search results breached his rights under the Directive. He sought an order requiring Google to remove or block the search results.

Continue reading

Regulating spousal reunion under EU and Convention Law

Dr Iyiola Solanke

Countries in Europe have increasingly adopted immigration rules that explicitly test an applicant’s ‘ability to be integrated’ into the host society. This controversial idea goes beyond formal citizenship acquisition to prioritise, for example, the specific level of ‘attachment’ with the host society or level of knowledge of the host country language. Such individual capacity tests, which in practice particularly affect black Europeans and third country nationals from Africa, Asia and Latin America, have recently come under legal scrutiny before the CJEU in Luxembourg and the ECtHR in Strasbourg. In Dogan v Germany national authorities in Germany refused family reunion to a migrant Turkish worker on the ground that his wife could not speak German; in Biao v Denmark the Danish authorities refused the application of a Danish citizen for family reunion on the basis that he and his wife had stronger attachments to Ghana than Denmark. The judicial evaluation of these tests has also differed – the Danish rules were upheld in Strasbourg (albeit by a narrow majority of 4:3) but in Luxembourg Advocate General Mengozzi has suggested that the German decision be declared incompatible with EU law by the CJEU. The reasons for these decisions will be discussed below. The cases provide an opportunity to assess the approach to immigration rules and family reunion under these two systems of law and raise again a central question about accession: while the EU may formally accede to the Convention, can and will the CJEU see issues in the same way as the ECtHR?

The Facts

In 1998 Mr Dogan, a Turkish national, had exercised rights provided in the 1963 EU-Turkey Association Agreement to establish himself as a company director in Germany. In 2002 he was granted permanent residence in Germany. In 2007 he married the mother of his four children, an illiterate Turkish woman. In 2011, Mrs Dogan applied for a visa for the purpose of reunification of the whole family with her husband in Germany. At her interview, she said nothing beyond repeating three memorised sentences. Her application was refused due to no basic knowledge of the German language as per Article 2(8) of the Aufenthaltssgesetz 2008. A second application requesting a visa for herself alone was also rejected for the same reason. The second refusal was challenged and the court in Berlin stayed the case to send two questions to the CJEU concerning first, the interaction of this new German rule with the Association Agreement and secondly, its compatibility with Article 7(2)(1) of Directive 2003/86 on the right to family reunification.

Mr Biao was born in 1971 in Togo, where he lived until the age of 6. However, he spent many years living with an uncle in Ghana and completed his schooling there. At the age of 22, in 1993, he unsuccessfully applied for asylum in Denmark. In 1994 he married a Danish woman, and under the Danish Aliens Act thereby became eligible for a residence permit; this permit became permanent in 1997. He divorced his wife in 1998 and in 2002 at the age of 31 became a Danish citizen. In 2003 he married a 24 year old Ghanaian woman – she applied for a residence permit for Denmark, which was refused on the basis that neither Mr Biao or his wife could prove that their ‘aggregate’ ties were stronger to Denmark than to any other country ie. Ghana, as required under the Aliens Act. Mrs Biao appealed the decision but as it had immediate effect, the couple moved to Sweden where in 2004 they had a son. The son acquired Danish nationality from his father. The Biaos complained to the Strasbourg Court that the refusal by the Danish authorities to grant them family reunion in Denmark breached Article 8 of the Convention, alone and in conjunction with Article 14. Continue reading

Taxing Times: the UK’s Challenge to the Financial Transaction Tax

KAProf Kenneth Armstrong, University of Cambridge

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Just over a year since the United Kingdom (UK) commenced legal proceedings against the Council of the EU challenging its decision to authorise the use of enhanced cooperation for the adoption of the proposed Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), the Court of Justice has, as anticipated, dismissed the UK’s application (Case C-209/13, United Kingdom v Council). This is another defeat for the UK following on from its unsuccessful challenge to the powers of the European Securities and Markets Authority to control ‘short-selling’. Whether the UK will have more success in the third of its triptych of legal challenges to measures adopted in the wake of the financial crisis – the cap of ‘bankers’ bonuses’ – is yet to be determined. However, in the lead up to the European Parliament elections, with the United Kingdom Independence Party riding high in the polls and the UK prime minister declaring that he will not act as prime minister following the 2015 general election unless there will be a referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the EU, it is clear that these defeats before the Luxembourg court have both political and legal saliency.

 

Continue reading

Making Infringement Procedures More Effective: A Comment on Commission v. Hungary, Case C-288/12 (8 April 2014) (Grand Chamber)

scheppele, kimKim Lane Scheppele, Princeton University 

On 8 April, Hungary lost again at the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ). The European Commission had alleged that that Hungary violated the independence of its data protection officer and the ECJ agreed. The case broke little new legal ground.   But it is important nonetheless because it signals serious trouble within the EU.   The case exposes Hungary’s ongoing challenge to the EU’s fundamental principles. And it exposes the limitations of ordinary infringement proceedings for bringing a Member State back into line.

 The Commission may have won this particular battle, but it is losing the war to keep Hungary from becoming a state in which all formerly independent institutions are under the control of Fidesz, the governing party.   The Commission clearly sees the danger of one-party domination and it has attempted to challenge the Hungarian government before. But the Commission has so far not picked its battles wisely or framed its challenges well. It could do better. The case of the data protection officer is a case in point.  

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Adieu and Farewell to the Data Retention Directive

Anita PicAnita Davies

The European Union is all too often portrayed as a creature defined by over-regulation – be it the infamous “bendy banana” rules or the great chocolate debate. It is easy (and sometimes politically convenient) to forget that the EU and CJEU can serve to protect individuals from overt (and covert) state regulation. As of a CJEU decision this week to annul the Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), it will be very difficult for the Home Secretary, Teresa May, to push through the Communications Data Bill (also known as the “Snooper’s Charter”).

The bill was abandoned in May 2013 following opposition from the Lib Dems, but has shown signs of resurfacing. The bill would give police and security services access, without a warrant, to details of all online communication in the UK – such as the time, duration, originator and recipient, and the location of the device from which it was made. The bill depends however, on operators being obliged to store customers’ details and records. The data retention directive obliged companies to retain data and information of citizens using electronic communications networks – but now that it has been annulled the responsibility of operators to retain data is far more ambiguous.

The CJEU decision resulted from proceedings taking place in Ireland and Austria – where challenges had been mounted regarding the legality of national legislative and administrative measures concerning the retention of data. The Court ruled on Wednesday that the purpose of the Data Retention Directive, i.e. ensuring that communications data was available in order to investigate and fight serious crime, was compatible with the European Rights framework. However, the Directive itself entailed a wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data (Articles 7 and 8 of the CFREU), without that interference being limited to what was strictly necessary.

The Court noted that the data being retained enabled:

“very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained, such as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, the activities carried out, the social relationships of those persons and the social environments frequented by them” [§27].

Given the potential conclusions the Court found that:

“The EU legislation in question must lay down clear and precise rules governing the scope and application of the measure in question and imposing minimum safeguards so that the persons whose data have been retained have sufficient guarantees to effectively protect their personal data against the risk of abuse and against any unlawful access and use of that data” [§54].

The Directive lacked such precise rules and appropriate safeguards.

In particular the Court objected to the fact that the Directive did not discriminate between individuals. The Directive covers all individuals, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any differentiation, limitation or exception being made in the light of the objective of fighting against serious crime. The Directive also fails (somewhat surprisingly given its purpose) to define the notion of “serious crime”. The Court found that the data retention period (6 to 24 months) was too generic and that the Directive did not require that the data be retained within the EU itself. Continue reading