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An Administrative Crack in the EU’s Rule of Law: Composite Decision-making and Nonjusticiable National Law

  • Filipe Brito Bastos

Abstract

Composite administrative procedures – Exclusive jurisdiction of Union courts to review non-binding national preparatory acts – No jurisdiction of Union courts to enforce national law – Autonomy and uniformity of EU law – No judicial control possible of violation of domestic law by national authorities – National rule of law gap – Judicial review, effective judicial protection, and principle of administrative legality

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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*

Postdoctoral researcher, Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance. I would like to thank Luis Arroyo Jiménez, Michał Krajewski, Rui Lanceiro, Xavier Arzoz Santisteban, and colleagues at ACELG for their feedback at various stages of this study. I am also grateful for the constructive criticism of the editors and anonymous peer reviewers. The usual disclaimers apply.

Footnotes

References

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1 See for instance Egeberg, M. and Trondal, J., ‘National Agencies in the European Administrative Space: Government Driven, Commission Driven or Networked?’, 87 Public Administration (2009) p. 779.

2 For many, see Curtin, D., Executive Power in the European Union: Law, Practices, and the Living Constitution (Oxford University Press 2009) at p. 65; and Trondal, J. and Bauer, M., ‘Conceptualizing the European multilevel administrative order: capturing variation in the European administrative system’, 9 European Political Science Review (2017) p. 73.

3 See Eckes, C. and Mendes, J., ‘The right to be heard in composite administrative procedures: lost in between protection?’, 36 European Law Review (2011) p. 651, and Brito Bastos, F., ‘Derivative Illegality in European Composite Administrative Procedures’, 55 Common Market Law Review (2018) p. 101 at p. 105.

4 For a classic piece, see by Hofmann, H. and Türk, A., ‘The Development of Integrated Administration in the EU and its Consequences’, 13 European Law Journal (2007) p. 253. See also Chiti, E., ‘The Governance of Compliance’, in Cremona, M. (ed.), Compliance and the Enforcement of EU Law (Oxford University Press 2012) p. 31.

5 Bach, T. and Ruffing, E., ‘The Transformative Effects of Transnational Administrative Coordination in the European Multi-level System’, in Ongaro, E. and van Thiel, S. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe (Palgrave 2018) p. 747 at p. 748-751.

6 For a typology of informational, institutional, and procedural cooperation in EU administrative law, see Schmidt-Aßmann, E., ‘Verfassungsprinzipien für den Europäischen Verwaltungsverbund’, in Hoffmann-Riem, W.et al. (eds.), Grundlagen des Verwaltungsrechts, I, 2nd ed. (C.H. Beck 2012) p. 261 at p. 279.

7 For an overview of the variety of information-sharing mechanisms in the EU, see Schneider, J.-P., ‘Basic Structures of Information Management in the European Administrative Union’, 20 European Public Law (2014) p. 89.

8 della Cananea, G., Due Process of Law beyond the State: Requirements of Administrative Procedure (Oxford University Press 2016) at p. 22.

9 See ECJ 6 December 2001, Case C-269/99, Carl Kühne, para. 57, where the Court recognised the specificity of procedures in which a domestic intermediate measure ‘constitutes a necessary step (…) for adoption of a Community measure’.

10 See for example GC 30 April 2014, Case T-17/12, Hagenmeyer, para. 136 and ECJ 13 February 2014, Case C-31/13 P, Hungary v Commission, paras. 60-61.

11 See for example Arts. 53(1) and (2) and Art. 54 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002. According to the administrative procedure established in the provisions, national authorities may adopt urgent measures such as the suspension of the sale of a potentially unsafe food item, which remain in force until confirmed or reappraised by the Commission.

12 In the sector of detergents, national authorities prepare an assessment report on their risk to human health or the environment and submit it to the Commission, which will adopt a final positive or negative decision that may totally diverge from the report (Arts. 5(3)-(4) and 6 of Regulation 648/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council of 31 March 2004).

13 For instance, see Arts. 5(2)(a) and 17(2) of Regulation 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 on genetically modified food and feed.

14 For the example of EU structural funds, see Mento, S., ‘I poteri amministrativi della Commissione europea in materia di fondi strutturali’, Rivista Trimestrale di Diritto Pubblico (2007) p. 135 at p. 167. Some scholars refer to this formal last measure as an act whereby national administration ‘ratifies’ a previous EU decision. See Brosset, E., ‘The Prior Authorisation Procedure Adopted for the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms: the Complexities of Balancing Community and National Competences’, 10 European Law Journal (2004) p. 555 at p. 565.

15 See Art. 53(2)(a) of Regulation No. 1151/2012 of 21 November 2012. According to the relevant administrative procedure, national authorities receive applications from groups for the classification and registration of products as protected designations of origin or protected geographical indications. After they make a positive assessment of the products’ compliance with the EU requirements for registration, and if no objection is raised by any legal or natural person, national authorities support the applications and forward them to the Commission. The Commission is then obliged to register the products for EU-wide protection, without enjoying any margin of discretion.

16 Commission Regulation No. 969/2006 of 29 June 2006, opening and providing for the administration of a Community tariff quota for imports of maize from third countries. National authorities receive applications for import licences and submit to the Commission a list of those which, according to their discretionary assessment, are found eligible. The Commission only checks whether traders have not defrauded the quota mechanism by submitting their applications to the authorities of more than one member state.

17 See ECJ 11 March 1981, Case 46/81, Benvenuto and ECJ 5 October 1983, Case 142/83, Nevas.

18 ECJ 22 October 1987, Case 314/85, Foto-Frost.

19 Marchetti, B., ‘Il Sistema Integrato di Tutela’, in de Lucia, L. and Marchetti, B. (eds.), L’amministrazione europea e le sue regole (Il Mulino 2015) p. 197 at p. 198.

20 For more detail on the two-track model, see Brito Bastos, F., ‘Judicial review of composite administrative procedures in the Single Supervisory Mechanism: Berlusconi’, 55 Common Market Law Review (2019) p. 1355.

21 ECJ 3 December 1992, Case C-97/91, Borelli. For a more detailed explanation of the Borelli case law, its development, and key implications, see Brito Bastos, F., ‘The Borelli Doctrine Revisited: Three Issues of Coherence in a Landmark Ruling for EU Administrative Justice’, 8 Review of European Administrative Law (2015) p. 269 at p. 274 ff.

22 Borelli, supra n. 21, para. 10. See also GC 9 November 1999, Case T-114/99, Pampryl, para. 57 and ECJ 2 July 2009, Case C-343/07, Bavaria NV, paras. 55-57 and 64-67.

23 Borelli, supra n. 21, paras. 13-15.

24 Borelli, supra n. 21, paras. 10 and 13.

25 ECJ 19 December 2018, Case C-219/17, Berlusconi.

26 Council Regulation (EU) No. 1024/2013 of 15 October 2013. See also the more detailed implementing provisions in Arts. 85-87 of Regulation (EU) No. 468/2014 of the European Central Bank of 16 April 2014.

27 Berlusconi, supra n. 25, paras. 43 and 47.

28 Brito Bastos, supra n. 3, p. 126 ff.

29 See ECJ 28 July 2011, Case C-69/10, Diouf, paras. 55-56.

30 See GC 12 January 1995, Case T-85/94, Branco, paras. 18, 24 and 28.

31 ECJ 11 November 1981, Case 60/81, IBM.

32 See the Opinion of AG Sánchez-Bordona, para. 108, which reproduces the passage in para. 10 of the IBM ruling.

33 GC 27 November 2013, Case T-23/12, MAF, para. 33; GC 8 June 2009, Case T-498/07 P, Krcova, paras. 55-56; and GC 7 September 2010, Case T-532/08, Norilsk, para. 94.

34 GC 12 October 2016, Case T-41/16, Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry, para. 42.

35 See IBM, supra n. 31, para. 20. See also GC 10 July 1990, Case T-64/89, Automec, para. 46.

36 See the Opinion in Berlusconi, paras. 108-110.

37 Brito Bastos, supra n. 3, p. 134.

38 Berlusconi, supra n. 25, para. 48.

39 Berlusconi, supra n. 25, para. 49.

40 Berlusconi, supra n. 25, para. 50.

41 Berlusconi, supra n. 25, para. 47.

42 For a critical and more nuanced analysis, see Prek, M. and Lefèvre, S., ‘The EU Courts as “National” Courts: National Law in the EU Judicial Process’, 54 Common Market Law Review (2017) p. 369. The authors admit, however, that there is only one instance in the Treaties that acknowledges that national law may serve as a point of law and not of fact, namely, Art. 272 TFEU. Prek and Lefèvre also consider that the renvoi to national law in EU legislation renders that national law applicable by EU courts.

43 ECJ 4 February 1959, Case 1/58, Stork.

44 ECJ 1 March 2011, Case C-457/09, Chartry, para. 21; and ECJ 16 January 2008, Case C-361/07, Polier, para. 9 and the case law cited there.

45 GC 27 September 2012, Case T-387/09, Applied Microengineering, para. 40.

46 GC 28 May 2012, Case T-187/11, Trabelsi, para. 61.

47 See the Opinion of AG Mischo in C-6/99, Association Greenpeace France, para. 98.

48 Gaja, G., ‘Case C-6/99, Association Greenpeace France and Others v. Ministère de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche and Others. Judgment of the Full Court of 21 March 2000’, 37 Common Market Law Review (2000) p. 1427 at p. 1431.

49 ECJ 23 April 1986, Case 294/83, Parti écologiste ‘Les Verts’; and GC 8 October 2008, Case T-411/06, Sogelma.

50 ECJ 13 December 1979, Case 44/79, Hauer, para. 14.

51 ECJ 8 September 2010, C-409/06, Winner Wetten, para. 54.

52 Foto-Frost, supra n. 18, para. 15.

53 Ibid.

54 Council Regulation No. 708/2007 of 11 June 2007, concerning use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture.

55 Art. 2(2), Law No. 83/95, of 31 August.

56 See for instance Donner, A., ‘National Law and the Case Law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities’, 1 Common Market Law Review (1963) p. 8 at p. 11-12.

57 ECJ 22 June 2010, Joined Cases C-188/10 and C-189/10, Melki, para. 64.

58 ECJ 6 April 1962, Case 13-61, Bosch.

59 ECJ 15 July 1964, Case 6/64, Costa v Enel; and ECJ 5 February 1963, Case 26/62, Van Gend en Loos.

60 Barents, R., The Autonomy of Community Law (Kluwer Law International 2004) at p. 239 ff and ‘The Precedence of EU Law from the Perspective of Constitutional Pluralism’, 5 EuConst (2009) p. 421 at p. 426; and Tuori, K., European Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press 2015) p. 54.

61 ECJ 3 September 2008, Joined Cases C-402/05 P and C-415/05 P, Kadi; and ECJ 18 December 2014, Opinion 2/13.

62 Tuori, supra n. 60, p. 57.

63 Trabelsi, supra n. 46, para. 61. See also ECJ 17 December 1970, Case 11-70, Internationale Handelsgesellschaft, para. 3.

64 Opinion of the AG in Berlusconi, supra n. 31, para. 66.

65 Cf Nic Shuibhne, N., ‘What is the Autonomy of EU Law, and Why Does that Matter?’, 88 Nordic Journal of International Law (2019) p. 9.

66 Pech, L., ‘A Union Founded on the Rule of Law: Meaning and Reality of the Rule of Law as a Constitutional Principle of EU Law’, 6 EuConst (2010) p. 359 at p. 362.

67 Les Verts, supra n. 49, para. 23.

68 I. Pernice, ‘Der Beitrag Walter Hallsteins zur Zukunft Europas: Begründung und Konsolidierung der europäischen Gemeinschaft als Rechtsgemeinschaft’, Walter Hallstein-Institut Working Paper 9/01, 3 and von Bogdandy, A., ‘Ways to Frame the European Rule of Law: Rechtsgemeinschaft, Trust, Revolution, and Kantian Peace’, 14 EuConst (2018) p. 675 at p. 677-678.

69 Hallstein, W., Die Europäische Gemeinschaft (ECON 1979) p. 33.

70 von Danwitz, T., ‘The Rule of Law in the Recent Jurisprudence of the ECJ’, 37 Fordham International Law Journal (2014) p. 1311 at p. 1313.

71 For a comparative overview of the meaning of the rule of law, see Loughlin, M., The Foundations of Public Law (Oxford 2010) at p. 312.

72 Tamanaha, B., On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory (Cambridge University Press 2004) at p. 91.

73 Waldron, J., ‘The Rule of Law and the Importance of Procedure’, in Fleming, J. (ed.), Getting to the Rule of Law (New York University Press 2011) p. 3.

74 Raz, J., ‘The Rule of Law and its Virtue’, in Raz, J. (ed.), The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality (Clarendon 1979) p. 210 at p. 214-218; and Tamanaha, B., ‘A Concise Guide to the Rule of Law’, in Palombella, G. and Walker, N. (eds.), Relocating the Rule of Law (Hart Publishing 2009) p. 3 at p. 3-6.

75 J. Waldron, ‘The Rule of Law in Public Law’, New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers (2014) at p. 12.

76 See Avbelj, M., The European Union under Transnational Law: A Pluralist Appraisal (Hart Publishing 2018) at p. 62; and von Danwitz, supra n. 70, at p. 1315.

77 Implicitly, Lenaerts, K., ‘The Rule of Law and the Coherence of the Judicial System of the European Union’, 44 Common Market Law Review (2007) p. 1625 at p. 1626.

78 ECJ 15 October 1987, Case 222/86, Heylens.

79 ECJ 28 March 2017, Case C-72/15, Rosneft, para. 73.

80 ECJ 27 February 2018, Case C-64/16, Associação Sindical dos Juízes Portugueses; and ECJ 24 June 2019, Case C-619/18, Commission v Poland. On the first case, see Bonelli, M. and Claes, M., ‘Judicial serendipity: how Portuguese judges came to the rescue of the Polish judiciary’, 14 EuConst (2018) p. 622.

81 See the Explanations Relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Art. 47) and ECJ 13 March 2007, Case C-432/05, Unibet, para. 37.

82 ECtHR 17 December 1996, No. 20641/92, Terra Woningen v The Netherlands, at para. 52.

83 See the AG’s Opinion in ECJ 27 March 2012, Case C-530/12 P, National Lottery Commission, para. 71.

84 H. Hofmann, ‘The Right to an “Effective Judicial Remedy” and the Changing Conditions of Implementing EU Law’, Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance of the University of Luxembourg – Law Working Paper 2013-2, at p. 17.

85 For a distinction between objective and subjective purposes of judicial control, see Beljin, S., ‘Rights in EU Law’, in Prechal, S. and van Roermund, B., The Coherence of EU Law: The Search for Unity in Divergent Concepts (Oxford University Press 2008) p. 91.

86 Barents, R., ‘EU Procedural Law and Effective Judicial Protection’, 51 Common Market Law Review (2014) p. 1437.

87 Klecatsky, H., ‘Reflections on the Rule of Law and in Particular the Principle of Legality of Administrative Action’, 4 International Commission of Jurists (1963) p. 205 at p. 209.

88 Cfr. D’Alberti, M., Lezioni di Diritto Amministrativo, 4th edn. (Giappichelli 2019) at p. 3738.

89 See della Cananea, G., Franchini, C., and Macchia, M., I Principi dell’Amministrazione Europea, 3rd edn. (Giappichelli 2017) at p. 87.

90 Cf the analysis in Azoulai, L., ‘Le Principe de Légalité’, in Auby, J.-B. and de la Rochère, J.e Dutheil (eds.), Droit Administratif Européen (Bruylant 2007) p. 393.

91 ECJ 21 September 1989, Joined Cases 46/87 and 227/88, Hoechst.

92 For many, see ECJ 17 March 2016, Case C-161/15 Benallal, para. 24.

93 In the same vein, see de Lucia, L., Amministrazione Transnazionale e Ordinamento Europeo: saggio sul pluralismo amministrativo (Giappichelli 2009) p. 135.

94 di Pretis, D., ‘Procedimenti amministrativi nazionali e procedimenti amministrativi europei’, in Falcon, G. (ed.), Il procedimento amministrativo nei diritti europei e nel diritto comunitario (CEDAM 2008) p. 49 at p. 68.

95 See Art. 5 of Regulation No. 708/2007 of 11 June 2007.

96 Art. 4(3) SSMR. See also Coman-Kund, F. and Amtenbrink, F., ‘On the Scope and Limits of the Application of National Law by the European Central Bank within the Single Supervisory Mechanism’, 33 Banking & Finance Law Review (2018) p. 133.

97 Wissink, L., ‘Challenges to an Efficient European Centralised Banking Supervision (SSM): Single Rulebook, Joint Supervisory Teams and Split Supervisory Tasks’, 18 European Business Organisation Law Review (2017) p. 431 at p. 454.

98 See the Opinion of the AG in Berlusconi, supra n. 31, para. 114.

99 See for instance GC 13 December 2017, Case T-52/16, Arkéa, para. 131 ff.

100 Franchini, C., ‘European Principles Covering National Administrative Proceedings’, 68 Law and Contemporary Problems (2004-2005) p. 183.

101 See the case law in Brito Bastos, supra n. 3, at p. 126-132.

102 Nehl, H.P., ‘Legal Protection in the Field of EU Funds’, European State Aid Law Quarterly (2011) p. 629.

103 ECJ 26 February 2013, Case C-399/11, Melloni, paras. 56-60; and ECJ 29 July 2019, Case C-516/17, Spiegel Online, para. 21.

104 GC 23 October 2008, Case T-256/07, Organisation des Modjahedines du Peuple d’Iran (OMPI) I, paras. 144-145. See also GC 9 September 2010, Case T-348/07, Al-Aqsa, para. 89 and GC 16 October 2014, Joined Cases T-208/11 and T-508/11, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), para. 106.

105 For many, see ECJ 16 December 2008, Case C-210/06, Cartesio, para. 55 and ECJ 16 February 2017, C-503/15, Panicello, para. 27.

106 See for instance ECJ 29 November 2001, Case C-17/00, Coster, paras. 10-12.

107 Alexy, R., ‘On the Structure of Legal Principles’, 13 Ratio Juris (2000) p. 294 at p. 295.

108 Sordi, B., ‘Révolution, Rechtsstaat and the Rule of Law: historical reflections on the emergence of administrative law in Europe’, in Rose-Ackerman, S. and Lindseth, P. (eds.), Comparative Administrative Law (Edward Elgar 2010) p. 23.

109 Vermeule, A., Law’s Abnegation: from Law’s Empire to the Administrative State (Harvard 2016).

110 Hofmann, H., ‘Composite decision making procedures in EU administrative law’, in Hofmann, H. and Türk, A. (eds.), Legal Challenges in EU Administrative Law: Towards an Integrated Administration (Edward Elgar 2009) p. 136.

111 Art. 197(2) TFEU.

112 For a brilliant case in favour of non-judicial review in the EU already delivering a kind of justice comparable to judicial review, see M. Krajewski, Relative Justice: The Judicial and Non-Judicial Review of European Union Legal Acts (unpublished EUI thesis 2020).

* Postdoctoral researcher, Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance. I would like to thank Luis Arroyo Jiménez, Michał Krajewski, Rui Lanceiro, Xavier Arzoz Santisteban, and colleagues at ACELG for their feedback at various stages of this study. I am also grateful for the constructive criticism of the editors and anonymous peer reviewers. The usual disclaimers apply.

An Administrative Crack in the EU’s Rule of Law: Composite Decision-making and Nonjusticiable National Law

  • Filipe Brito Bastos

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