06 December, 2011

Silly names for EU mechanisms

The mechanism for Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT), assisting MS's under circumstances of a sudden influx of asylum seekers, have been ridiculed given its rather silly name. There is, however, another mechanism with a far more unfortunate name.

22 November, 2011

Repost from Kosmopolito: Short guide to lazy EU journalism

Just found this on Kosmopolito. Great Laugh!

Short guide to lazy EU journalism
The unofficial rulebook for lazy EU journalism. 20 invaluable tips for your career in EU journalism.
1. Not sure how the EU works or what institutions are involved? –> Just write “Brussels”.
2. Germany is generally seen as important in EU politics and journalists know how to frame it: If Germany is active in a certain policy domain just write something about  “German dominance” and if you work for British newspaper add  some subtle references to the war. If  Germany is passive in a given policy area just write that Germany abandons the EU and it clearly adopted a unilateral strategy, if you work for a British newspaper you could add something about the war.
3. Found a short reference in a paper which talks about your country? –> Is is an evil plan to undermine democracy
4. General rule: No need to distinguish between different European institutions and organisations. Who cares whether it is the Council of Europe, the European Council, the Council of the EU, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union or the European Court of Human Rights . –> Just write something about eurocrats and unelected foreign European judges interfering with your beloved country. [thanks Andrew!]
5. You are in Brussels and there are several events happening at the same time?  –> Well, this is a clear sign that the EU does not address the important issues! (Important issue = event you attend)
6. Unsure what is happening in the EU? –> Don’t bother ringing someone in Brussels. Just make something up about bananas or recycle a story you read half a year ago. If you are ambitious call the press department of one of the parties in your capital or use a recent party pamphlet.
7. Did you come across a controversial statement or an opinion of an MEP or any national MP? –> Start your article with “EU plans to…” or “Country X wants to…” Any MEP or committee must be prefaced by “senior,” “influential” or “key” as long as he/she/it says something confrontational. [thanks Tim Jones]
8. Facts are overrated. Don’t bother checking the original EU policy documents. There is no need to understand differences between white or green papers, a report or a regulation or a directive. It is much easier to write about ‘crazy ideas of EU bureaucrats’.  If you have an idea for a good EU story don’t let facts ruin it. Plus, nobody will check if a EU story is true. Everyone knows that the EU is boring and evil. Moreover, the single aim of the EU is to produce unnessary regulation (generally known as ‘red tape”).
9. Use “EU bureaucrats” or “Brussels bureaucrats” as often as possible. A more experienced lazy journalist would simply refer to ‘Eurocrats‘. (Thanks Gawain) Useful adjectives in this context include “unelected”, “unaccountable”, “corrupt”, “highly-paid”, “highly-pensioned”, “lazy”. This list is not exhaustive and be adapted to your journalistic needs. You may also use “EU official” or “EU representative” especially if you follow rule 4.
10. Don’t mention that ministers might have a veto over EU policy –> Just write about how the EU destroys national sovereignty.
11. You think that the EU is a bit too complex and everything takes a bit too long? –> Well just focus on zero sum games especially during summits.  One country wins, one country looses. That is life. That’s the EU. Simples.
12. A good headline is key. So always go for the pun or the the odd ‘eurocrats’, ‘empire’ reference. And the fight is always between europhiles and eurosceptics. Keep that in mind.
13. Symbols are more important than substance. Stories about what people had for breakfast or dinner, something about flags or anthems are great examples. Always mix personal stories about EU leaders with national prejudices. You will be surprised:  it always works.
14. EU funding is always a great story. There is corruption, waste and funny projects. However, do not mention that projects need co-financing. Also do not try to look at the positive examples, it would just spoil the story. Anyway, EU money is by definition a bad thing. So, don’t try to explain why EU funding exists in the first place.
15. The EU budget as well as the budget negotiations provide many interesting options for lazy journalists. You could write that the EU books have not been signed off for years – without mentioning the auditing rules. Or you could write something about how much money your country pays to be in the EU -  without mentioning that it may get something back. Don’t make the mistake to link to any official cost-benefit calculation. Because if they exist they are must be wrong, if they don’t exist it is generally a conspiracy.  Rather use a statement from another newspaper or dodgy think tank. Just don’t ask any questions. Never think about what the EU could do with the money, just assume that “Brussels wastes all the money it gets”.  Budget negotiations are zero sum games, so rule 11 applies. There is no such thing as the “European interest”.
16. The single market means competition which might include foreign companies winning tenders in your country. If that happens just focus on the foreign element of that company. Make some claims about corruption.  Write about how many jobs will be lost. No need to mention that new jobs will be created. If you are an ambitious lazy journalist write about how EU competition laws are made to destroy your local economy.
17. Don’t bother learning a foreign language. It is not useful in EU journalism. You can always rely on international news agencies.
18. Subscribe to all ‘think tanks’ and ‘business associations’ which are highly regarded among your collegues. From time to time, just ‘write’ (copy/paste) short articles. Don’t include links to your sources.
19. Context is overrated. Headlines are more important. Just go for the best quotes – no context needed. If you have a great quote from last week, you can still use it. No need to check whether current events have moved on.
20. A beginners mistake is to engage with the opposite side or with critics of your work. So, just don’t do it.

19 November, 2011

The RIO Trip - Part 3: Brussels, the (unofficial) capital of Europe

Finally on wednesday evening we arrived in the city of Brussels, a city well suited for housing the core of the EU executive and legislature considering its diversity. Four visits were on the agenda in brussels: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Netherlands permanent representation and the Council of Ministers and Eurocontrol. Adding to the visit at the CJEU the previous day, we would thereby tick off four out of five of the Unions main institutions. In light of the course that we all took at Leiden University, the visits would give an interesting insight into the institutional balance between these bodies.

13 November, 2011

Pfleiderer II? - New GWB may prohibit private access to leniency applications

The overhaul of the German GWB (Law against Restriction of Competition) may also react to the CJEU's recent judgement in Pfleiderer. The draft proposes a new section that would prohibit the access to leniency applications of the German Competition Authority. The reason for this is that the effectiveness of the leniency programme may be endangered if these files may later be opened for private parties, who the bring actions for damages against parties to a cartel.
If such a solution proves to be effective remains to be seen. Also, is there a Pfleiderer II case at the horizon for the CJEU?

07 November, 2011

Interesting note on the current patent system [Follow-up on the Smartphone Wars]

In this article by James Temple, a lawyer representing Google gives his view on the problems with contemporary software patent protection. Very interesting reading about how undertakings use their patent portfolios to maintain market dominance.

29 October, 2011

The RIO Trip - Part 2: The Imperial Palace of the EU Judiciary

On tuesday evening we moved on from Strasbourg, leaving the Council of Europe behind, and travelled to the center of the EU judiciary: the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU, formerly and still popularly referred to as the ECJ) in the city of Luxembourg. We only had one evening to spend in Luxembourg, but luckily we got a quick look at the city before it started becoming too late. The city is built in and around a valley so it provides for some spectacular scenery and indeed the city is beautiful. My former professor in EU constitutional law, however, had a theory that they put the CJEU in Luxembourg because of the city state being so dull that the only thing that the judges could occupy themselves with was solving cases. I stayed way to short in Luxembourg to give a reasoned opinion on the city itself, so this post will focus more on the Court itself.

27 October, 2011

"Solvay" - Violation of Rights of Defense in Competition Case

The Court of Justice (CJEU) has decided on Tuesday that the Commission's decision to fine Solvay for violations of Art. 101 TFEU is invalid, because Solvay's rights of defense were violated. This story dates back to 1990 when the first decision was adopted. This decision was later declared invalid by the CJEU because of procedural errors. In 2000 the Commission basically adopted the same decision again, which was again contested by Solvay. This time, they alleged that their rights of defense had been breached because the Commission had not provided access to all files that their decision was based on.

The slightly funny part of this story is that the Commission was apparently willing to give Solvay access to all files to prepare their defense - but could not because parts of the file had been lost. The Commission was not even able to produce a table of contents of the lost file.

23 October, 2011

The RIO Trip - Part 1: A journey to the heartland of European integration

Last Friday we returned from the RIO-trip, an annual study trip arranged by Leiden University, where master students from the European Law Programme are invited to travel to the three centres of European institutions: Strasbourg; Luxembourg and Brussels.

11 October, 2011

The International Cocoa Agreement

Today the International Cocoa Agreement  (ICCO) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Despite its rather comic name, the treaty is an important international instrument which seeks to promote sustainable growth and fair renumeration for cocoa and cocoa-related products.

Nevertheless, one cannot but help to snicker a bit when reading the preamble, where the contracting parties recognize: "that close international cooperation on cocoa matters and continuing dialogue between all stakeholders in the cocoa value chain may contribute to the sustainable development of the world cocoa economy [...]" (Preamble).

25 September, 2011

Russia's take on the territorial application of the ECHR

It is very rare for Contracting States of the European Convention (ECHR) to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by other Contracting States. The case of Georgia v Russia (no. 2) is one of those rare occasions.

18 September, 2011

What's the problem with the "Like" button?

Just found this (slightly funny) bit:

German minister against Facebook 'like' button

German consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner has said that social networking site Facebook's 'like' button is in breach of EU and German data privacy laws, reports Handelsblatt newspaper. Data protections officers fear that companies can use the information about which consumers click on 'like' buttons for advertising purposes.
So no more like button? Wouldn't that be annoying? Then we'd actually have to think of something to write on our friends' status instead of just (lazy as we are) clicking the like button...

14 September, 2011

To cut up a subject matter in two...

...might be the best way to tell you about starting my Masters in European Law at Leiden University.

08 September, 2011

Austerity Measures vs. Sovereignty

The eternal discussion of national sovereignty contra unification (or federalism) is highlighted as the pressure of austerity measures on member states of the Eurozone lead to increasing popular unrest. To add a little extra spice to the discussion, the Dutch government has proposed that Eurozone members who do not implement sufficient measures to tackle economic problems should be appointed a European commissioner who, temporarily, will take control of spending decisions. Refusal to such an appointment should, according to the Government, lead to expulsion from the Eurozone.

24 August, 2011

Update on recent Mergers in the Digital World: Concers over Microsoft's Aquisition of Skype

Just a quick update on the recent merger-mania among the computer/cell-phone/web 2.0 giants: After Google's bid for Motorola's mobile section we forgot all about the fact that Microsoft is trying to buy Skype. This merger seems to be stuck with the European Commission. Remembering that Skype also offers cell and landline telephone services these days, the Google deal may be looked upon in a new light. Do we really want these companies controlling our telephony services? Or are we just to choose between pest and cholera?
Read also here...

18 August, 2011

The Free Movement on Suspension?

The Free Movement of Persons, being one of the core principles in EU-law, has come under strain from economic and political difficulties within the EU. This became apparent first when France in March unilaterally decided to suspend Schengen-rules and reintroduced border checks in order to prevent refugees fleeing from the conflicts in North Africa. This was accepted by the European Commission despite criticism. A few weeks later, Denmark, under pressure from their far right-wing Danish Peoples Party, (Dansk Folkeparti) reintroduced their border checks towards Germany and Sweden. This move caused Hessian Minister for Justice, Integration and European Affairs, Joerg-Uwe Hahn's, to call for Germans to spend their holiday in other places but Denmark.

17 August, 2011

Update on E-Books - Copy-Paste suits

Apparently the e-book class action came with a tail: Four more complaints have been lodged since Hagens Bergman filed their complaint on the 9th of August.

15 August, 2011

Don't post too much information on your facebook wall - or the police might come knocking at your door

Regarding possible restrictions of using social media in order to quell riots; the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, stated the following today:

“Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

11 August, 2011

Antitrust Cases involving Google, Apple and other Giants: I'm getting confused here....

So, following the news these days (and I don't mean the stock markets crashing all over the place), one can get a bit confused about which internet/media/electronics giant is suing which and who is being investigated. So lets recap:

10 August, 2011

Price-fixing for E-Books!?

As anyone surfing around in the digital world probably is aware of, there has been quite some discussion over e-books, which you can could read on a mobile device such as the iPad or Amazon's kindle. I honestly don't know anyone who does, but I must admit I have occasionally seen people on the train doing it. Personally, I like the look and feel of a book, of turning the page and of having a shelf full of books in my home. That said, I have considered getting a kindle (very shortly). What has driven me away from that idea is that books cost the same, regardless of the format. Economically speaking that makes no sense whatsoever.

09 August, 2011

10th Complaint against Google to the European Commission

The French "daily deal" site Deal du Jour complained to the European Commission, because Google allegedly removed the site from the web index and also blocks them from using Google’s Adsense advertising service.

08 August, 2011

Avoiding Horizontal Information "Exchange" - Mission Impossible? (with translation)

So we had a discussion about this one in Johannes Zöttel's blog:
"Kollege Bach berichtet von einer Frage, die in einem Spring Meeting-Panel zum Thema Informationsaustausch aufkam:
Wettbewerber ruft an und gibt eine Preiserhöhung in Höhe von X zum Termin Y bekannt.

C-360/09 Pfleiderer vs Bundeskartellamt

A case I have recently been following is the Pfleiderer Case. This one started out unusually as a "simple" case before the Local Court (Amtsgericht) Bonn, Germany. The "simple" question was: Can a company (rather: their attorney) look into the file of an application for leniency in a cartel case of the German competition authority in order to prepare a private claim for damages? So this is what happened so far:

Leiden Law School

So, for all those who didn't know, Leiden University is the oldest University in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1575.

Moving to Leiden, The Netherlands

So, as anyone who is reading this blog at the moment most likely knows, I will be moving to Leiden soon, to attend Leiden University and do my LL.M. in European Law. Leiden is situated south of Amsterdam and north of The Hague and Rotterdam. It is also just 10 km away from th sea - perfect location, I'd say! I will miss Lüneburg, but I'm looking forward to a new city and new impressions!