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“It's the Autonomy, Stupid!” A Modest Defense of Opinion 2/13 on EU Accession to the ECHR, and the Way Forward

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019

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The Court of Justice of the European Union has arrived! Gone are the days of hagiography, when in the eyes of the academy and informed observers the Court could do no wrong. The pendulum has finally swung the other way. The judicial darling, if there is one today, is Strasbourg, not Luxembourg. Not hours had passed before the Court's 258-paragraph long Opinion 2/13 on the Draft Agreement on EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights was condemned as “exceptionally poor.” Critical voices have mounted steadily ever since, leading to nothing short of widespread “outrage.”

Type
Special Section - Opinion 2/13: The E.U. and the European Convention on Human Rights
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 by German Law Journal GbR 

References

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34 See id. at paras. 242-247.Google Scholar

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44 Davis, S. Rufus, The Federal Principle: A Journey Through Time in Quest of a Meaning (1978).Google Scholar

45 Cf., e.g., Mixed Agreements Revisited: the EU and its Member States in the World (Christoph Hillion & Panos Koutrakos, eds., 2010).Google Scholar

46 View of Advocate General Kokott, supra note 5 at para. 229–235.Google Scholar

47 Id. at para. 260–265.Google Scholar

48 Id. at para. 175–179.Google Scholar

49 Id. at para. 222–228.Google Scholar

50 Id. at para. 180–184.Google Scholar

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53 E.g., View of Advocate General Kokott, supra note 5 at para. 232.Google Scholar

54 I borrow the term “internal” constitutional pluralism from Miguel Maduro. See M. Poiares Maduro, Interpreting European Law: Judicial Adjudication in the Context of Constitutional Pluralism, 2 Eur. J. Legal Stud. 1 (2007).Google Scholar

55 The revised accession agreement would best not specify who determines whether such “doubt” exists. Once the agreement specifies the institution that has ultimate authority over whether “doubt” exists, the Court will, once again, insist that this power be given to the CJEU.Google Scholar

56 TFEU art. 344 provides: “Member States undertake not to submit a dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the Treaties to any method of settlement other than those provided for therein.”Google Scholar

57 See United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1833 U.N.T.S. 397, art. 282 (Dec. 10, 1982).Google Scholar

58 View of Advocate General Kokott, supra note 5 at para. 120.Google Scholar

59 Opinion 2/13 at para. 213.Google Scholar

60 Id. at para. 208.Google Scholar

61 Id. at para. 209.Google Scholar

62 This is no far-fetched hypothetical, as the Mox Plant litigation illustrates. See Judgment in Commission v. Ireland ('Mox Plant'), CJEU Case C-459/03, EU:C:2006:345 (May 30, 2006).Google Scholar

63 See, e.g., Appellate Body Report, United States—Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products, ¶ 158, WT/DS58/AB/R (Oct. 12, 1998) (adopted Nov. 6, 1998).Google Scholar

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70 Compare European Convention on Human Rights art. 53, opened for signature Nov. 4, 1950, C.E.T.S. No. 005 [hereinafter ECHR] (“Nothing in this Convention shall be construed as limiting or derogating from any of the human rights and fundamental freedoms which may be ensured under the laws of any High Contracting Party or under any other agreement to which it is a party.”) with Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union art. 53, Dec. 18, 2000, 2000 O.J. (C 364) 1 [hereinafter CFR] (“Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognised, in their respective fields of application, by Union law and international law and by international agreements to which the Union or all the Member States are party, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and by the Member States’ constitutions.”).Google Scholar

71 See, e.g., Eckhard Kalanke v Freie Hansestadt Bremen, Case C-450/93, [1995] ECR I-03051; Hellmut Marschall v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen, Case C-409/95, [1997] ECR I-06363; Georg Badeck and Others, Case C-158/97, [2000] ECR I-01875; Katarina Abrahamsson and Leif Anderson v Elisabet Fogelqvist, Case C-407/98, [2000] ECR I-05539; H. Lommers v Minister van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij, Case C-476/99, [2002] I-02891; Serge Briheche v Ministre de l'Intérieur, Ministre de l'Éducation nationale and Ministre de la Justice, Case C-319/03, [2004]ECR I-8807; Judgment in Commission of the European Communities v Hellenic Republic, Case C-559/07, ECLI:EU:C:2009:198, 26 March 2009.Google Scholar

72 For a German example, see the landmark judgment in Lüth, Bundesverfassungsgericht [BVerfG – Federal Constitutional Court], Case No. 1BvR 400/51, 7 Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts [BVerfGE] 198 (Jan. 15, 1958) (striking down defamation charge against applicant as violating his free speech rights). For a prominent U.S. example, compare Catharine MacKinnon, Pornography as Defamation and Discrimination, 71 B.Y.U. Law Rev. 793 (1991) with American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Hudnut, 771 F.2d 323 (7th Cir. 1985), aff'd, 475 U.S. 1001 (1986) (striking down local anti-pornography statute as violating free speech).Google Scholar

73 See, e.g., Mannesmannröhren-Werke, Case T-112/98, [2001] E.C.R. II-729, para. 84.Google Scholar

74 Melloni, Case C-399/11.Google Scholar

75 ECHR art. 53Google Scholar

76 I am generally puzzled by the phrase “higher” in this context, as it suggests some kind of linear metric of rights. But that seems to be the way the concern is usually formulated. A better phrase would be to speak about “additional” rights (i.e., rights not recognized as part of the Charter by the CJEU or as part of the Convention by the ECtHR) insofar as they do not conflict with the rights guaranteed in Charter (or the Convention). Whether those additional rights are “higher” in any meaningful sense of that term will likely depend on your point of view.Google Scholar

77 Opinion 2/13 at para. 189. A good argument can be made that this entire paragraph is incoherent, but there is no need to get into that here.Google Scholar

78 Id. at para. 190.Google Scholar

79 This system originated in the Dublin Convention Determining the State Responsible for Examining Applications for Asylum Lodged in One of the Member States of the European Communities, 1997 O.J. (C 254) 1 (Aug. 19, 1997), which was replaced by Council Regulation No. 343/2003 of 18 Feb. 2003, Establishing the Criteria and Mechanisms for Determining the Member State Responsible for Examining an Asylum Application Lodged in one of the Member States by a Third Country National, 2003 O.J. (L 50) (“Dublin II”), and ultimately replaced by Council and Parliament Regulation No. 604/2013 Establishing the Criteria and Mechanisms for Determining the Member State Responsible for Examining an Application for International Protection Lodge in one of the Member States by a Third-Country national or a Stateless Person (recast) (applicable from 1 January 2014). The asylum process relies on a set of complementary directives: European Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 Jan. 2003 Laying Down Minimum Standards for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, 2003 O.J. (L 31); European Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 Apr. 2004 on Minimum Standards for the Qualifications and Status of Third Country Nationals or Stateless Persons as Refugees or as Person who Otherwise Need International Protection and the Content of the Protection and the Content of the Protection Granted, 2004 O.J. (L 304) and corrigendum, 2005 O.J. (L204); European Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 Dec. 2005 on Minimum Standards and Procedures in Member States Granting and Withdrawing Refugee Status, 2006 O.J. (L 236), and corrigendum 2006 OJ (L 236).Google Scholar

80 N.S. v. Sec'y of State for the Home Dep't, Case C-411/10, EU:C:2011:865, para. 94.Google Scholar

81 Id. at para. 82.Google Scholar

82 Id. at para. 83.Google Scholar

83 Abdullahi v. Bundesasylamt, Case C-394/12, EU:C:2013:813.Google Scholar

84 Id. at para. 62.Google Scholar

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86 ECHR App. No. 30696/09 (Jan. 21, 2011), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-103050#{itemid:[“001-103050”]}.Google Scholar

87 Id. at para. 264.Google Scholar

88 Id. at para. 396.Google Scholar

89 Id. at para. 293; cf. id. at paras. 359, 365.Google Scholar

90 R (E.M.(Eritrea)) v. Sec. of State for the Home Dep't, [2014] UKSC 12 (Feb. 19, 2014).Google Scholar

91 Id. at para. 42.Google Scholar

92 Id. at para. 48.Google Scholar

93 Id. at para. 58.Google Scholar

95 ECHR App. No. 29217/12 (Nov. 4, 2014), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-148070#{itemid:[“001-148070”]}.Google Scholar

96 Switzerland is bound by the Dublin System by virtue of the association agreement of 26 October 2004 between the Swiss Confederation and the European Community regarding criteria and mechanisms for establishing the State responsible for examining a request for asylum lodged in a Member State or in Switzerland (O.J. (L 53) Feb. 27, 2008). The Dublin III Regulation was passed into law by the Swiss Federal Council on 7 March 2014.Google Scholar

97 Tarakhel, ECHR App. No. 29217/12 at paras. 9–19.Google Scholar

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99 Id. at para. 104 (emphasis added).Google Scholar

100 Id. (citing the U.K. Supreme Court's judgment in E.M.).Google Scholar

101 Id. at para. 105.Google Scholar

102 To be sure, some might argue that this is already the case since Article 53 CFR refers to the Convention. Therefore, some might say that the Charter of Fundamental Rights already today requires application of the “real risk” standard. Currently, however, the CJEU is ultimately in charge of interpreting the Charter, including the extent to which the Charter imports the ECHR's standards. The clash today, then, is legally a rather indirect tension between the two standards. After accession, any difference would transform into a clear violation of the EU's legal obligations under the Charter.Google Scholar

103 Cf., e.g., Peers, supra note 3 (describing the CJEU's resistance to Member States’ imposition of higher fundamental rights standards as “shocking” from a human rights perspective, and especially in the light of the Court's ruling on mutual trust).Google Scholar

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105 Cf. Bosphorus v. Ireland, ECHR App. No. 45036/98, para. 152 (June 30, 2005), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-69564#{itemid:[“001-69564”]}.Google Scholar

106 See generally, id. See also Matthews v. the United Kingdom, ECHR App. No. 24833/94 (Feb. 18, 1999); SEGI and others v. 15 Member States (SEGI and Gestoras Pro-Amnistia v. Germany and others), ECHR App. No. 6422/02, decision of inadmissibility of May 23, 2002.Google Scholar

107 See, e.g., Bosphorus, ECHR App. No. 45036/98 at para. 155.Google Scholar

108 Id. at para. 156.Google Scholar

109 This is, indeed, the posture of many of the recent asylum cases in Strasbourg. States in those cases could, legally under EU law, have invoked the so-called “sovereignty” clause and chosen to keep the asylum seeker. The decision to send the asylum seeker back to the state of first entry was, therefore, fully attributable to that Member State.Google Scholar

110 Bundesverfassungsgericht [BVerfG – Federal Constitutional Court], Case No. 2 BvR 197/83, 73 Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts [BVerfGE] 339, 374, 387 (Oct. 22, 1986); cf. Bundesverfassungsgericht [BVerfG – Federal Constitutional Court], Case No. 2 BvL 1/97, 102 Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts [BVerfGE] 147, 164 (June 7, 2000).Google Scholar

111 BVerfG, Case No. 2 BvR 197/83 at para. 132.Google Scholar

112 For a comprehensive discussion of the margin of appreciation, see, e.g., Yutaka Arai-Takahashi, The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine and the Principle of Proportionality in the Jurisprudence of the ECHR (2001).Google Scholar

113 Much like a wholesaler, who does not deal with individual customers but sells goods only in bulk (or en gros), so, too, the German high court refuses to deal with individuals’ case-by-case fundamental rights complaints, considering only a claim that the EU has generally violated fundamental rights.Google Scholar

114 BVerfG, Case No. 2 BvR 197/83 at para. 132.Google Scholar

115 Cf. generally Arai-Takahashi, supra note 112; Yourow, Howard Charles, The Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Dynamics of European Human Rights Jurisprudence (1996); Greer, Steven, The Margin of Appreciation: interpretation and Discretion under the European Convention of Human Rights (2000); Merrills, J.G., The Development of International Law by the European Court of Human Rights (1993). For a recent critical assessment, see Federico Fabbrini, The Margin of Appreciation and the Principle of Subsidiarity: A Comparison, in A Future for the Margin of Appreciation? (Mads Andenas, Eirik Bjorge & Giuseppe Bianco, eds., forthcoming, 2015), available on SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2552542.Google Scholar

116 Bosphorus, ECHR App. No. 45036/98.Google Scholar

117 Cf., e.g., Michaud v. France, ECHR. App. No. 12323/11 (Dec. 6, 2012), http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-115377#{itemid:[“001-115377”]}.Google Scholar

118 To be sure, even Germany has since developed additional retail checks on EU law, such as ultra vires and identity actions. See, e.g., Franz C. Mayer, Rebels Without a Cause? A Critical Analysis of the German Constitutional Court's OMT Reference, 15 German L.J. 111 (2014); Bast, Jürgen, Don't Act Beyond Your Powers: The Perils and Pitfalls of the German Constitutional Court's Ultra Vires Review, 15 German L.J. 168 (2014); Kumm, Mattias, Rebel Without a Good Cause: Karlsruhe's Misguided Attempt to Draw the CJEU into a Game of “Chicken” and What the CJEU Might do About It, 15 German Law Journal 204 (2014); Armin von Bogdandy and Stephan Schill, Overcoming absolute primacy: Respect for national identity under the Lisbon Treaty, 48 Comm. Mkt. L. Rev. 1417 (2011); Kumm, Mattias, The Jurisprudence of Constitutional Conflict: Supremacy Before and After the Constitutional Treaty, 11 Eur. L. J. 262, 302–03 (2005). But the scope of these threats would likely pale in comparison to what would be unleashed if the German Constitutional Court would step back into the retail business of fundamental rights adjudication.Google Scholar

119 As Olivier de Schutter further points out, the ECtHR would have little reason to grant the EU special Bosphorus-type deference after accession. See Olivier de Schutter, Bosphorus Post-Accession: Redefining the Relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and the Parties to the Convention, in The EU Accession to the ECHR 177 (Vasiliki Kosta, Nikos Skoutaris & Vassilis P. Tzevelekos eds., 2014).Google Scholar

120 For arguments in favor of expansive EU powers on this score, see, e.g., K.L. Scheppele, EU Commission v. Hungary: The Case for the “Systemic Infringement Action”, VerfBlog, (Nov. 22, 2013), http://www.verfassungsblog.de/en/eu-commission-v-hungary-the-case-for-the-systemic-infringement-action/ (suggesting EU systemic infringement action against Member States). Compare further Daniel Halberstam, Constitutional Heterarchy: The Centrality of Conflict in the European Union and the United States, in Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law, and Global Governance 326, 351353 (Jeffrey L. Dunoff & Joel P. Trachtman eds., 2009) (suggesting reverse-Solange review to protect citizens’ fundamental rights), with Armin von Bogdandy et al, Reverse Solange–Protecting the essence of fundamental rights against EU Member States, 49 Comm. Mkt. L. Rev. 489 (2012) (fleshing out same).Google Scholar

121 Regulation No. 343/2003, art. 3(2). Indeed, this is the posture of the current cases in Strasbourg. In the cases discussed earlier in the text, Strasbourg held that Member States bore full responsibility for the transfer because they could have allowed the individual applicant to remain in their territory pursuant to the “sovereignty” clause. The Strasbourg court then held that the Member State has an obligation under the Convention to exercise this option as a way to protect the individual's rights under the Convention. See, e.g., Tarakhel, ECHR App. No. 29217/12.Google Scholar

122 M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, ECHR App. No. 30696/09 (Jan. 21, 2011), para. 293, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-103050#{itemid:[“001-103050”]}; cf. Tarakhel, ECHR App. No. 29217/12 at paras. 359, 365.Google Scholar

123 See, e.g., Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, with Commentaries, [2001] 2 Y.B. Int'l L. Comm'n 2, ¶ 77, U.N. Doc. A/CN.4/SER.A/2001/Add.1 (Part 2).Google Scholar

124 Peers, Steve, The CJEU and the EU's Accession to the ECHR: A Clear and Present Danger to Human Rights Protection, EU Law Analysis Blog (Dec. 18, 2014), http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.it/2014/12/the-cjeu-and-eus-accession-to-echr.html?utm_source=Weekly+Legal+Update&utm_campaign=b9719ea1b3-WLU_19_12_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7176f0fc3d-b9719ea1b3-422285509.Google Scholar

125 See, e.g., TEU arts. 22, 24, 31(1).Google Scholar

126 See, e.g., TEU arts. 24(1), 31(1).Google Scholar

127 TEU art. 24(1), TFEU art. 275.Google Scholar

128 Judgment Criminal Proceedings Against Maria Pupino, Case C-105/03, EU:C:2005:386.Google Scholar

129 Id. at paras. 25–26Google Scholar

130 Cf. Christophe Hillion & Ramses Wessel, Restraining External Competences of EU Member States under CFSP, in EU Foreign Relations Law: Constitutional Fundamentals 79 (Marise Cremona & Bruno de Witte eds., 2008).Google Scholar

131 Cf. Christophe Hillion, A Powerless Court? The European Court of Justice and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, in The European Court of Justice and External Relations Law: Constitutional Challenges 47, 4951 (Marise Cremona & Anne Thies, eds., 2014).Google Scholar

132 See TEU art. 24 (1); TFEU art. 275.Google Scholar

133 See generally Opinion of Advocate General Mengozzi, Gestoras Pro Amnistía and Others v. Council, C- 354/04 P and C- 355/04 P, EU:C:2006:667 (Oct. 26, 2006) (albeit predating the Treaty of Lisbon).Google Scholar

134 TFEU art. 274.Google Scholar

135 Opinion 2/13 at para. 101.Google Scholar

136 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Collected Legal Papers, 295–296 (1921).Google Scholar

137 The 19th Century U.S. episodes of nullification and interposition were in part based not on unreviewable component state laws, but on component states’ assertion of their authority to interpret the national constitution. See H. Jefferson Powell, Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution: A Belated Review, 94 Yale L.J. 1285, 1292 (1985).Google Scholar

138 TFEU art. 275.Google Scholar

139 TEU art. 19(1).Google Scholar

140 See, e.g., Al Jedda v. United Kingdom, ECHR App. No. 27021/08 (July 7, 2011). Cf. Marko Milanovic, Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda in Strasbourg, 23 Eur. J. Int'l L. 121 (2012).Google Scholar

141 Behrami and Behrami v. France and Saramati v. France, Germany and Norway, ECHR App. Nos. 71412/01, 78166/01 (May 2, 2007).Google Scholar

142 See Judgment in Haegeman, Case 181/73 at para. 5. For brief reflections, see Bruno de Witte, Beyond the Accession Agreement: Five Items for the European Union's Human Rights Agenda, in The EU Accession to the ECHR 349 (Vasiliki Kosta, Nikos Skoutaris & Vassilis P. Tzevelokos eds., 2014).Google Scholar

143 Cf. Giuseppe Martinico, Two Worlds (Still) Apart? ECHR and EU Law before National Judges, in The EU Accession to the ECHR 141 (Vasiliki Kosta, Nikos Skoutaris & Vassilis P. Tzevelokos eds., 2014).Google Scholar

144 Given the ECHR's substance as a fundamental rights catalogue and its deep structural incorporation by reference and, after accession, as binding international agreement into the core of fundamental rights protection in the EU, the ECHR will, after accession, undoubtedly have quite more than the usual legal effect of an ordinary international agreement to which the EU is a party.Google Scholar

145 See Protocol No. 16 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Feb. 2013, C.E.T.S. No. 214, arts. 1, 10.Google Scholar

146 See, e.g., Douglas-Scott, supra note 3 (“in the light of the ECJ Opinion, those who value human rights no longer have any reason to pursue EU accession to the ECHR.”).Google Scholar

147 Comm'n of the European Cmtys. v. Council of the European Cmty., Case C-22/70 (21 Mar. 1971). For an early seminal discussion, see Joseph Weiler, The External Relations of Non-Unitary Actors: Mixity and the Federal Principle, in Mixed Agreements (David O'Keefe & Henry G. Schermers eds., 1983).Google Scholar

148 Kadi, Case C-402/05 P, C-415/05 P.Google Scholar