Schlagwort-Archive: Saar Briefs

Prof. Dr. Thomas Giegerich, LL.M., Direktor des Europa-Instituts und Inhaber eines Jean-Monnet-Lehrstuhls für Europäische Integration, Antidiskriminierung, Menschenrechte und Vielfalt an der Universität des Saarlandes lädt Interessierte ein, Texte auf Deutsch oder Englisch zur Online-Veröffentlichung auf unserem Blog Jean-Monnet-Saar einzureichen. Weitere Informationen finden Sie hier.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Giegerich, LL.M., Director of the Europa Institut and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, Antidiscrimination, Human Rights and Diversity at Saarland University, calls for papers in order to publish them on our Blog Jean-Monnet-Saar. Further information are available here.

Analyse des EGMR-Urteils „Khlaifia and others v. Italy“ (App. No. 16483/12 – „Lampedusa-Urteil“) – Update

Zur Behandlung von Flüchtlingen durch Mitgliedstaaten der EU

Ein Beitrag von Desirée Schmitt[1]

Am 01.09.15 hat der EGMR in der Rechtssache 16483/12, „Khlaifia and others v. Italy“[2], die Menschenrechte von Flüchtlingen erheblich gestärkt. Das Urteil kann im Zusammenhang mit den EGMR-Rechtssachen Saadi v. Italy[3], M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece[4], Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy[5] und dem EuGH-Urteil in der Rechtssache N.S. u.a.[6] gesehen werden.

Im Fall ging es um drei tunesische Flüchtlinge, die im Rahmen des arabischen Frühlings 2011 mit insgesamt über 50.000 weiteren Flüchtlingen auf der italienische Mittelmeerinsel Lampedusa angekommen waren. Sie wurden in Erstaufnahmeeinrichtungen untergebracht, nach einer Demonstration verhaftet und anschließend nach Tunesien abgeschoben. Der EGMR hat eine mehrfache Verletzung ihrer Menschenrechte festgestellt und hat Italien zu einer Entschädigungszahlung nach Art. 41 EMRK verurteilt. Dafür waren vor allem die folgenden Gründe ausschlaggebend:

1. Die Beschwerdeführer wurden nach der Verhaftung auf einem Schiff im Hafen Palermos eingesperrt und von der Außenwelt so abgeschnitten, dass ihnen keine Chance auf Rechtsschutz verblieb. Ferner wurden sie weder über den Grund ihrer Festnahme unterrichtet, noch einem Richter vorgeführt. Hierdurch hat Italien ihre Rechte aus Art. 5 Abs. 1, Abs. 2 und Abs. 4 EMRK verletzt (Rn. 40 ff.).

2. Des Weiteren wurden die Zustände in dem Erstaufnahmelager (nicht hingegen auf dem Schiff in Palermo) als Verletzung des Verbots erniedrigender Behandlung aus Art. 3 EMRK angesehen (Rn. 99 ff.; gemeinsame abweichende Meinung hingegen von den Richtern Sajó und Vučinić). Die Zellen waren überfüllt, sodass die Flüchtlinge größtenteils auf dem Boden schlafen mussten. Die hygienischen Bedingungen waren katastrophal. Die Einrichtung war gänzlich von der Außenwelt abgeschnitten, sodass weder Informationen nach außen, noch nach innen dringen konnten. Außerdem gaben die Flüchtlinge an, die zur Überwachung eingesetzten PolizistInnen hätten sie beleidigt und misshandelt. Am 20.09.11 kam es darüber hinaus zu einem Aufstand, woraufhin die Einrichtung teilweise abbrannte.

Diese Umstände veranlasste die Mehrheit der RichterInnen eine erniedrigende Behandlung und damit eine Verletzung von Art. 3 EMRK anzunehmen. Obwohl Italien vergebens die Situation damit zu rechtfertigen suchte, dass sehr viele Flüchtlinge in äußerst kurzer Zeit ankamen und sie hierauf nicht vorbereitet gewesen seien (Rn. 111 des Urteils: „En 2011, l’arrivée massive de migrants nord-africains avait créé une situation d’urgence humanitaire en Italie“), nahmen die Richter dies zwar zur Kenntnis (Rn.124 ff.), erkannten es jedoch nicht als Rechtfertigung an. Wie sich bereits aus Art. 15 Abs. 2 EMRK ergebe, gelte Art. 3 EMRK absolut, weswegen Krisen- und Notstandsargumente auch nicht zählen könnten:

„128. Ces facteurs ne peuvent cependant pas exonérer l’État défendeur de son obligation de garantir que toute personne qui, comme les requérants, vient à être privée de sa liberté puisse jouir de conditions compatibles avec le respect de sa dignité humaine. À cet égard, la Cour rappelle que l’article 3 doit être considéré comme l’une des clauses primordiales de la Convention consacrant l’une des valeurs fondamentales des sociétés démocratiques qui forment le Conseil de l’Europe (Soering c. Royaume-Uni, 7 juillet 1989, § 88, série A no 161). Contrastant avec les autres dispositions de la Convention, il est libellé en termes absolus, ne prévoyant ni exceptions ni limitations, et en vertu de l’article 15 de la Convention il ne souffre nulle dérogation (M.S. c. Belgique, no 50012/08, § 122, 31 janvier 2012).“

Die abweichende Meinung weist darauf hin, dass es sich nur um eine sehr kurze Zeitspanne handelte, in der die Flüchtlinge diesen Umständen ausgesetzt gewesen seien (S. 54 f.). Auch diesen Aspekt hat das Gericht in seinem Urteil berücksichtigt:

„117. Selon la jurisprudence constante de la Cour, pour tomber sous le coup de l’article 3 de la Convention, un mauvais traitement doit atteindre un minimum de gravité. L’appréciation de ce minimum est relative ; elle dépend de l’ensemble des données de la cause, notamment de la durée du traitement et de ses effets physiques ou mentaux ainsi que, parfois, du sexe, de l’âge et de l’état de santé de la victime (voir, entre autres, Price c. Royaume-Uni, no 33394/96, § 24, CEDH 2001-VII ; Mouisel c. France, no 67263/01, § 37, CEDH 2002-IX ; et Naoumenko c. Ukraine, no 42023/98, § 108, 10 février 2004).“ (Hervorhebung durch die Autorin).

In der Gesamtabwägung sprach sich jedoch die Mehrheit der RichterInnen dafür aus, trotz des nur geringen Zeitraums eine Verletzung von Art. 3 EMRK anzunehmen. Dahinter steckt der Gedanke, dass die tunesischen Bootsflüchtlinge bereits eine regelrechte Tortur hinter sich hatten, um überhaupt lebend auf Lampedusa anzukommen:

„135. Il est vrai que les requérants n’ont séjourné au CSPA que pour une courte durée, de sorte que le manque allégué de contact avec le monde extérieur ne pouvait pas avoir de conséquences graves pour la situation personnelle des intéressés (voir, mutatis mutandis, Rahimi, précité, § 84). La Cour ne perd cependant pas de vue que les requérants, qui venaient d’affronter un voyage dangereux en mer, se trouvaient dans une situation de vulnérabilité. Dès lors, leur rétention dans des conditions portant atteinte à leur dignité humaine s’analyse en un traitement dégradant contraire à l’article 3.“

3. Darüber hinaus wurden Verletzungen von Art. 4 Prot. Nr. 4 und Art. 13 EMRK i.V.m. Art. 3 EMRK und Art. 4 Prot. Nr. 4 festgestellt (Rn. 145 ff.): Die Anordnung der Abschiebung nach Tunesien wurde als Gruppendeportation eingestuft, weil die Flüchtlinge zwar individuell registriert wurden, die Anordnung jedoch zu pauschal und generell erfolgte, ohne dass die persönlichen Umstände jedes Flüchtlings angemessen bewertet wurden.

„156. La Cour est cependant d’avis que la simple mise en place d’une procédure d’identification ne suffit pas à exclure l’existence d’une expulsion collective….En particulier, les décrets de refoulement ne contiennent aucune référence à la situation personnelle des intéressés…“

Zudem stand den Flüchtlingen entgegen Art. 13 EMRK i.V.m. Art. 3 EMRK und Art. 4 Prot. Nr. 4 kein effektiver Rechtsbehelf zur Seite: Art. 13 EMRK verlangt in einem Fall wie dem vorliegenden, dass ein eingelegter Rechtsbehelf aufschiebende Wirkung hat. Demnach hätte die Abschiebung nach Tunesien bis zu der Entscheidung über den Rechtsbehelf ausgesetzt werden müssen, was jedoch nicht geschah.

An dem Urteil begrüßenswert erscheint, dass das Gericht die Menschenwürde auch in Krisenzeiten zur Geltung bringt. Eine genauere Unterscheidung zwischen den unbestimmten Rechtsbegriffen „unmenschlicher“ und „erniedrigender“ Behandlung und ihre Beziehung zum Begriff der Menschenwürde (vgl. Rn. 118, 128, 135) wäre zur Unterstreichung und Klarstellung aber wünschenswert gewesen. Angesichts einer schwer möglichen Trennung dieser Tatbestandsmerkmale war dies jedoch nicht notwendig, um den Kern des Urteils, die Wahrung der Menschenwürde, zu verdeutlichen.

Auch wenn den Argumenten der abweichenden Meinung Beachtung zu schenken ist, erscheint es durchweg positiv, dass angesichts der gegenwärtigen dramatischen Flüchtlingskrise die Wahrung der Menschenwürde vom EGMR an oberste Stelle gestellt wurde und auch in Zukunft weiterhin gestellt werden sollte. Dass das Gericht die Umstände im Vorfeld der Unterkunft im Erstaufnahmelager berücksichtigt und damit die dauerhafte psychische Belastungssituation der Flüchtlinge miteinbezieht, ist hierbei ebenfalls positiv zu bewerten. Damit hat Europa zumindest ein kleines Zeichen dafür gesetzt, dass Menschlichkeit nicht „an Land gespült“ werden darf (#HumanityWashedAshore bzw. #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik).

Dem Antrag Italiens auf Verweisung der Rechtssache an die Große Kammer gemäß Art. 43 Abs. 1 EMRK wurde am 01.02.16 stattgegeben.[7]


Siehe auch:

https://derasylrechtsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/01-09-2015-egmr-zu-lampedusa-auch-in-krisenzeiten-sind-die-menschenrechte-zu-beachten/

http://www.verfassungsblog.de/strassburg-zu-lampedusa-menschenwuerde-muss-krisenfest-sein/#.VelEskz-0mM

http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2015/09/italy-judges-say-unlawfully-detained-migrants-faced-degrading-conditions-at-lampedusa-reception-centre/

[1] Desirée Schmitt ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin und Doktorandin am Jean-Monnet-Lehrstuhl für Europarecht, Völkerrecht und Öffentliches Recht von Prof. Dr. Thomas Giegerich, LL.M.

[2] EGMR, Rs. 16483/12, Urteil vom 01.09.2015, Khlaifia and others v. Italy, abrufbar unter http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-156517 (zuletzt abgefragt am 04.09.15). Das Kammerurteil wird unter den Voraussetzungen des Art. 44 Abs. 2 EMRK rechtskräftig.

[3] EGMR, Rs. 37201/06, Urteil vom 28.02.2008, Saadi v. Italy, abrufbar unter http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-85276 (zuletzt abgefragt am 04.09.15).

[4] EGMR, Rs. 30696/09, Urteil vom 21.01.2011, M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, abrufbar unter http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-103050 (zuletzt abgefragt am 04.09.15).

[5] EGMR, Rs. 27765/09, Urteil vom 23.02.12, Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy, abrufbar unter http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-109231 (zuletzt abgefragt am 04.09.15).

[6] EuGH, verb. Rs. C-411/10 und C‑493/10, ECLI:EU:C:2011:865, Slg. 2011 I-13905 – N.S. u.a., abrufbar unter http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=9ea7d2dc30ddd35e54f1a26a480b91d0bd8179e06a85.e34KaxiLc3qMb40Rch0SaxuRax10?text=&docid=117187&pageIndex=0&doclang=DE&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=306860 (zuletzt abgefragt am 04.09.15).

[7] Pressemitteilung des EGMR v. 02.02.16, abrufbar unter https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjBktrg7fvKAhUCJhoKHdSCBAEQFggcMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhudoc.echr.coe.int%2Fapp%2Fconversion%2Fpdf%3Flibrary%3DECHR%26id%3D003-5288997-6578353%26filename%3DGrand%2520Chamber%2520Panel%25u2019s%2520decisions%2520-%2520February%25202016.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHykUe2pS8gq4Sh2bkwiOKiMc74Bg (zuletzt abgefragt am 16.02.16).

Bildquelle: Sara Prestianni / noborder network

The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are finished: The Potential Impact on Progress in TTIP

Analysis of the Situation after the Conclusion of the Negotiations for a TPP Agreement

By Leif Johan Eliasson*

While many European interest groups and national governments have been obsessing about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) since 2013, the American debate has focused predominantly on the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). Now that negotiations on TPP have been completed one could expect Americans to pay greater attention to TTIP. Conversely, TPP’s conclusion puts pressure on the EU to engage on TTIP in order not to lose out on shaping and benefitting from free trade deals (FTAs) reshaping the global trading system. However, reality is more complicated, and there is no guarantee that finalizing TPP negotiations unequivocally ensure progress on the larger and more technically challenging TTIP. Among the most important questions to consider when pondering this issue is the timing and uncertainty of the ratification of TPP, the precarious nature of support for trade in the US, the geopolitical implications of a completed TPP, and the desire for consistency and compatibility in chapter and sector specific agreements across TPP and TTIP (given the much greater focus on regulations in TTIP), Furthermore, one must also consider the steadfast opposition to TTIP amongst certain European interest groups and parties; objections only indirectly tied to TPP, and where the completed negotiations are unlikely to alter opponents’ positions.

I. The ratification of TPP

There are numerous hurdles, in several countries. Though not constitutionally required to do so, former Canadian PM Harper has committed to allowing a parliamentary vote of ratification on TPP, newly elected Prime Minister Trudeau has vowed to ‘scrutinize every part of TPP’ as his Liberal Party, though inherently pro-trade, is wary of the agreement.[1] Japanese domestic opposition is growing in the wake of tightening of the rule-of-origin requirements on auto parts during the last throws of negotiations in order to gain approval from other countries.[2] In the US the Trade Promotion Authority Act signed by President Obama includes detailed requirements for any FTA where negotiations conclude prior to 1 July, 2018.[3] The President must wait 90 days after announcing his intention to sign an agreement, during which time the text is made public, public debate ensues, and consultations on the text occur between the Administration and Congress. Other actors such as the USTR advisory committee on TPP (and later TTIP) will also issue their recommendations. Though US chief negotiator Michael Froman insists TPP cannot be reopened because that threatens a delicate multilateral balance achieved in TPP, and that the agreed text will be that which is sent to Congress, the administration may need to approach treaty-partners and require modifications of the agreement in order to increase the likelihood of Congressional approval; demands for further concessions forced reopening of the last three FTAs signed by the US.[4] After a deal is signed the Administration has 60 days to prepare a list of all US domestic laws which need alteration because of the FTA, and the U.S. International Trade Commission has 105 days to analyze the FTA’s impact on the US economy. When the final implementing legislation for the FTA is introduced in Congress the House has 60 days and the Senate 30 days to hold a vote.

President Obama will need bipartisan support since the far-flanks of both parties oppose FTAs generally, and both TPP and TTIP in particular. The Democratic Party candidates are tripping over each other opposing the deal; two leading Republican contenders (Trump, Huckabee) have also expressed serious doubts. Interestingly, a majority of Democratic voters support trade with developed countries, as long as there are strong labor provisions, and they support TTIP, whereas the leadership remains skeptical or opposed. The Republicans are equally divided, with a strong faction of Republicans (primarily protectionist, tea-party supporters) opposed to trade agreements.[5] Thus you have the interesting coalition of far-left (trade unions) and far-right protectionists arguing for a common cause, albeit, ostensibly, for different reasons.[6] Populist slogans by isolationist Republicans and union-backed Democrats reinforce such beliefs – even though every ratified agreement, on the whole, has benefitted the US economy.[7] But even influential Republican trade advocates in Congress, like Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Paul Ryan, have expressed serious concerns since the deal was announced.[8] Absent their support TPP faces a nearly insurmountable path. We should expect a very contentious domestic debate as the ratification process overlaps with the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is much less detail known about TPP (the text will be released mid-November) than TTIP, since none of the participants have released negotiating texts, and leaks have been minimal. Although the 700 American advisers with access to the TPP text were briefed in a day long presentation on 14 October the release of the completed TPP text may still cause problems for ratification. We may see numerous American interest groups joining trade unions – the AFL/CIO launched its largest ever lobbying campaign in an attempt to defeat TPA and the completion of TPP, and remains determined to stop ratification[9] – in opposing ratification in response to sector-specific concessions made by the US administration. While the particular issues of Congressional concern may differ (adherence to labor and environmental standards will not be an issue vis-à-vis Europe) most of the aforementioned legal and political hurdles apply also to TTIP. The possible exception being the debate on TTIP ratification during the presidential race, as it remains highly unlikely that even a skeleton TTIP text will be finalized by August 2016 (when Congress recesses for the election)

II. The precarious nature of support for trade agreements in the US

One, perhaps contrarian, way in which a rapid ratification and implementation of TPP may help TTIP is that American support for free trade tends to correlate with good economic times; support sunk during the financial crisis when Americans expressed concerns of being personally worse off due to international trade. In 2002 78 % of Americans thought trade was a good thing; by 2008 it was 53%, while two-thirds expressed support for trade in 2010, as the recovery took hold. When the recovery stalled in 2014 only 57% of Americans viewed trade as an economic opportunity, while 35% saw trade as a threat to jobs, and only 29% believed trade was good for them personally.[10] Most difficult when trying to promote trade agreements is that only one in five believe trade creates jobs and 17% believe they raise wages; two-thirds are convinced that a purchase of an American company by foreigners is bad.[11] Myths about NAFTA and KORUS causing job losses and negative trade balances help explain citizens’ and unions’ lingering resistance to trade agreements. Nevertheless, if TPP is ratified in 2016, the anticipation of immediate tariff removals on some products, easier investment regulations, and future tariff reductions and tariff-rate quota increases could help spur economic growth, rendering Americans more supportive of trade deals while countering opposition arguments of a negative impact on jobs and the economy.

III. The geopolitical implications of a completed TPP

American growth will also help European exports, but more importantly, the geopolitical reality of shifting tides towards Asia will only be reinforced with TPP. This should help focus European minds on whether they wish to set the terms and principles guiding China’s continued integration and participation in the global economy. As part of the American pivot to Asia TPP will serve to expand American presence and solidify a western-originating, rules-based, international trading system. China has built its economic success on entering and slowly adapting to this system – but with modifications away from key elements, such as copyright and patent protection, rule of law and dispute settlement for investors, labor laws, and product safety. The Chinese leadership is increasingly concerned with being sidelined and subjected to standards set by its economic rivals through agreements such as the TPP, TTIP, and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).[12] During the global financial crisis China showed some willingness to assume responsibility for international stability, engaging in the G20, refraining from new protectionism, and increasing the float of its currency – even if the latter was subsequently tightened.[13] Nonetheless, China’s questionable adherence to international agreements is evidenced by WTO dispute panel rulings, especially on autos and parts,[14] and neither the US nor the EU are today independently capable of convincing China to open markets, reject protectionism, cease discriminatory practices, and protect intellectual property. As another example, more than half of American and 60% of European recalls in 2013 were Chinese products.[15]

China’s growing trade with both the US and Europe attests to their interests in “engaging China, not isolating it… [and] TTIP, TPP and related initiatives are important instruments to help frame Beijing’s choices…there is no denying that TTIP and related initiatives are injecting new movement and energy into efforts to open markets and strengthen global rules.”[16] TPP is the first step of ensuring higher quality products entering signatories’ markets, and a TTIP would further ensure that two-thirds of the global market place is covered by compatible, higher quality standards, and lower tariffs. Chinese exporters will then have to comply with western based standards, while exporters to China adhering to these standards will be so numerous as to constitute a second level of external pressure on the Chinese authorities to improve domestic rules and regulations. Stated differently, producing lower quality products only for the Chinese market will no longer be viable. Large companies such as Samsung have welcomed unified standards across the Atlantic, but if TTIP fails may go with Chinese standards as the single largest market[17] A completed TTP followed by a comprehensive TTIP signals western unity on an open international system, with high standards across all sectors.

IV. Consistency and compatibility across TPP and TTIP

The stalemate in the World Trade Organization means trade liberalization globally is occurring through megaregional and large bilateral agreements. There is a desire for consistency and compatibility in chapter and sector specific agreements across TPP and TTIP; though the latter will focus much more on regulatory compatibility vis-à-vis greater emphasis on market access and tariffs in TPP (Pascal Lamy, the former head of the World Trade Organization, called TPP “the last of big old-style trade agreements”).[18] Many of the technical, regulatory, and tariff details of TPP (as they emerge) will likely be matched or exceeded in TTIP. According to reports, in the important area of automotive vehicles TPP includes two different methods and percentages for calculating Rule-of-Origin for finished vehicles and parts.[19] One of each matches the EU-Korean (KOREU) and US-Korean (KORUS) agreements, resulting in a further global vehicle harmonization; TTIP will undoubtedly incorporate the same methods.[20] KOREU and KORUS, as well as the EU-Canadian FTA (CETA), exclude the most “contentious” agricultural products from complete tariff elimination, including beef, pork, rice, and dairy. The same applies in TPP[21], cementing global standards based on reasons of “serious domestic interests,” while virtually guaranteeing an identical outcome in TTIP.

A major obstacle to pork and beef exports (in addition to tariffs) in both TPP and TTIP appears to be resolving itself. The American National Pork Board is urging members to consider whether the benefits of using ractopamine (a muscle-producing drug banned in over 160 countries) outweigh the costs of lost market shares.[22] With increased anti-biotic, hormone free pork and beef voluntarily produced in the US, and the higher quota for tariff-free imports of such meat expected in TPP, TTIP negotiators may find a way to satisfy US Congressional concerns, the American farm lobby, and EU citizen groups and policy makers opposed to conventional American meat products by reducing tariffs and significantly raising the tariff rate quota to where American ranchers could export as much antibiotic and hormone free beef and pork the European market demands.

Progress on TTIP is largely premised on progress in two areas: geographical indicators (GIs; trademarks in the US) and an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS). Both these are included in TPP, and depending on the exact language following “legal scrubbing” (lawyers cleaning up the text) may push TTIP negotiations in the same direction. According to leaked documents and analysis of the Intellectual Property Chapter of TPP “GIs protected under a trademark regime can be used for extension of protection in TPP Parties. [GIs] can be a sign or combination of signs, not merely a word or – even more specifically – a geographic place name…the TPP language ensures that Parties must extend protection to GIs [which] may incorporate or consist solely of designs or other source-identifying signs”, and there are detailed provisions for challenging infringements of GIs.[23] The language should fall close to what Europeans desire for TTIP, but GIs have heretofore proven so contentious negotiators have not even broached the issue in a serious fashion.

The EU Commission’s September 2015 proposal for a new permanent investor-state court has thus far upset everyone and satisfied no one.[24] It was summarily dismissed by American policy makers and businesses, as well as European Business, as a proposal which will “…effectively exclude smaller companies and lead to endless appeals and erode investor protection. [and] “In reality it won’t be possible for any investor to be compensated.[25] Conversely, European and American public interest groups oppose the proposal because it fails to completely eliminate ISDS. [26] Negotiators also confirm that a revised ISDS, combining the features of the 2012 US Model BIT and the EU Commission’s proposals for reform, is included in TPP, adding pressure for an ISDS in TTIP.[27] Some scholars argue ISDS is unnecessary between two democratic regions with mature judicial systems.[28] However, leaving cases to domestic courts or establishing a state-to-state (US-EU) system of dispute settlement for investors becomes legally challenging given differing domestic obligations and benefits ascribed to nationals and foreigners. Domestic legal contexts continuously change, making it extremely difficult for courts, and resulting in further uncertainty for investors.[29] ISDS is arguably necessary in TTIP as a precedent and common model for ongoing EU and American bilateral investment treaty negotiations with China.[30] The latter has also for years sought to be classified as a market economy by the US and EU, thereby making it legally much tougher to charge China with unfair trade practices; excluding ISDS from TTIP weakens western negotiators’ positions in negotiations with China, and sets a dangerous precedent if/when China achieves its desired status but retains a weak judiciary. Yet opponents deem even a completely revised ISDS in TTIP an unacceptable “price”, and they have successfully shaped public opinion and many policy makers to this effect.[31] Though TPP appears to satisfy most of what advocates of “reform but keep ISDS” desire, much hard work and compromise will be required in both areas; participants confirm that ISDS has not even been discussed in any TTIP negotiating round since January 2014.

V. European opposition to TTIP

Most businesses and consumers recognize that most products and services on either side of the Atlantic are generally of equally high quality and safety standards; the fastest growing part of trade across the Atlantic is intra-firm, with most companies having extensive representation and/or incorporation on both sides of the Atlantic.[32] The size of economic gains from an ambitious TTIP remains contested, but are estimated to boost EU and US GDP by 0.4 -0.8 percent annually, with roughly 80% of benefits stemming from removing non-tariff barriers (through e.g. mutual recognition and elimination of regulatory duplication and overlap). [33] Yet neither macroeconomic data nor models will determine the fate of TTIP. The latter is subject to a political debate anchored more in emotions and perceptions than empirics and geopolitical considerations, and anti-TTIP civil society interest groups thus far appear more successful in garnering support on key issues.

Europeans are generally more supportive of trade, and a majority supports TTIP, but significant opposition to TTIP has risen in key states such as Germany, France, Austria, and, increasingly, the UK, and the Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament is internally split on the agreement.[34] European opponents of trade agreements are enthusiastic, well organized and vocal, and TPP has not affected their strategy. Modern trade agreements focus on regulations, and where they differ between partners, coordination or various types of mutual recognition can be used by interest groups to raise salience by claiming agreements will hurt consumers in the form of lower standards (‘race to the bottom’) or perceived harmful regulations.[35] Dür and Mateo (2014) find that interest groups can increase public salience on an issue through public lobbying by arousing emotions and assigning blame for a ‘problem’ (the issue the group opposes).[36]The process of raising salience by evoking fears of threats to peoples’ food and public services is visibly invoked in TTIP.[37] The completion of TPP will do nothing to alter such perceptions; this can only occur by Europeans persuading fellow Europeans that an agreement with the US will ultimately deliver more benefits than living without one. As German Vice Chancellor Gabriel recently noted

Wenn es scheitert, werden wir uns anderen Standards anpassen müssen, vielleicht denen, die irgendwann zwischen China und den USA entwickelt werden. Da wird es weiter private Schiedsgerichte geben, keine oder nur geringe Verbraucherschutzstandards und ganz sicher keine Sozialstandards. Das sollten sich diejenigen, die jetzt „Stop TTIP rufen“ und sich jeder Verhandlung mit den USA verweigern, genau überlegen.[38]

To change European perceptions the EU Commission, the member states, and leading pro-TTIP groups must engage a better message, combining the threat of exclusion from standard-setting as TPP moves forward, with appealing stories of the benefit of TTIP.

VI. Conclusion

While concluding negotiations on TPP – keeping in mind a potential reopening due to Congressional concerns – may serve as a much needed push for TTIP negotiations by threatening to leave the EU behind in the ongoing reorganization of the international trading system, there are numerous developments, as outlined above, which may hamper a completion of TTIP. Given the timing and some controversial compromises struck in TPP (e.g. shorter patents for biopharmaceutical drugs) it faces a long and sluggish ratification process, and it remains uncertain to what extent TPP will influence the European debate on TTIP. There was a suspicion that the US was hesitant to offer extensive concessions in key areas such as agriculture in TTIP negotiations as long as TPP remained unfinished; conversations with negotiators reveal a European skepticism that anything will change. Some fear the US may have “offered what they can” in TPP; failing to gain unfettered access for pork and beef in TPP, why waste time on this with intractable Europeans? A completed TPP should spur TTIP opponents to consider TTIP a way of ensuing higher environmental, safety, regulatory, and labor standards vis-à-vis those in TPP, but this is unlikely due to widespread and deeply ingrained misperception, distortion, and myths about what these agreements entail. With a looming TPP ratification the EU needs TTIP more than the US, and it remains for Europeans advocates to convince European skeptics of the benefits of TTIP. This is a tall order.

————————————————-

*Leif Johan Eliasson (jeliasson@esu.edu) is professor of political science at East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania, USA, and the author of several articles on transatlantic trade and European integration.

[1] Ray, Althia and Maloney, Ryan “Liberals Say No Free Vote On Trans-Pacific Partnership” Hufffington Post Canada, 7.10.2015 at http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/10/07/trudeau-tpp-_n_8257950.html accessed 19.10.2015

[2] Inside US Trade “TPP rules of Origin is 45% for vehicles, with caveats’ 35-35% for auto parts”, 8.10.2015 accessed 8.10.2015.

[3] H.R. 1890/S. 995 Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 ‘To establish congressional trade negotiating objectives and enhanced consultation requirements for trade negotiations, to provide for consideration of trade agreements, and for other purposes’ 114th Congress, 1st session

[4] Cf. Aggarwal, Vinod “U.S. Free Trade Agreements and Linkages”, International Negotiation, 2013, 18, 1, p. 89–110, DOI: 10.1163/15718069-12341246

[5] A May 2015 Pew Center survey found 58% of Democrats saying trade agreements were a “good thing,” compared to 53 % of Republicans, even as most Democratic members of Congress voted against TPA in June 2015. At http://www.people-press.org/2015/05/27/free-trade-agreements-seen-as-good-for-u-s-but-concerns-persist/ accessed 15.6.2015

[6] “Support in Principle for U.S.-EU Trade Pact But some Americans and Germans Wary of TTIP Detail”, Pew Research Center in Association with the Bertelsmann Foundation, 9.4.2014 at http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/04/09/support-in-principle-for-u-s-eu-trade-pact/ accessed 15.2.2015

[7] Hufbauer , Gary Claude and Schott, Jeffrey J. “NAFTA Revisited” Policy Options, Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2007; Adam Posen, Peterson Institute for International Economics, public presentation, 2.5.2014.

[8] Norman, Brett and Karlin, Sarah “Pharma’s next step on TPP” Politico, 12.10.2015 at http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/prescription-pulse/2015/10/pharmas-next-steps-on-tpp-210674 accessed 13.10.2015

[9] Union Advocate “AFL-CIO halts PAC contributions, gears up for battle to stop fast track” 11.3.2015 at http://advocate.stpaulunions.org/2015/03/11/afl-cio-halts-pac-contributions-gears-up-for-battle-to-stop-fast-track/; personal communication July, 2015.

[10] Pew Global Attitudes Study “Faith and Skepticism about Trade, Foreign Investment” 16.9.2014 at http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/09/16/faith-and-skepticism-about-trade-foreign-investment/ accesses 27.10.2014

[11] Ibid

[12] Song, Guoyou, Yuan, Wen Jin “China’s Free Trade Agreement Strategies” Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Washington Quarterly, 2012 35 (4), p. 107-119; Layne, C. After the Fall, International Politics, U.S. Grand Strategy, and the End of the Pax Americana, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014

[13] Drezner, Daniel The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

[14] E.g. “China –Anti-dumping and countervailing duties on certain automobiles from the United States” (WT/DS440/R). WTO Dispute Settlement Report, 23.5.2014 at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds440_e.htm#bkmk440r accessed 25.8.2014

[15] European Commission – Press release “Keeping consumers safe: nearly 2500 dangerous products withdrawn from the EU market in 2014” Brussels, 23.3.2015

[16] Hamilton, Daniel “TTIP’s Geostrategic Implications” Summary Chapter p. 17, in Daniel Hamilton (ed) The Geopolitics of TTIP Repositioning the Transatlantic Relationship for a Changing World, Center for Transatlantic Relations, SAIS, Washington DC, 2014.

[17] Reported on BBC at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-30444398 14.12.2014 accessed 2.1.2015

[18] Bangkok Post, “Trans-Pacific free-trade pact ‚old-fashioned‘: ex-WTO chief” 28.5.2014 at http://m.bangkokpost.com/business/412233 accessed 2.24.2015

[19] Supra note 1

[20] Cf. argument in Eliasson, Leif Johan “International Standards: Past Free Trade Agreements and the Prospects in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” Baltic Journal of European Studies 2015, 5 (1), p. 5-19

[21] Calms, Jackie “Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Reached, but Faces Scrutiny in Congress“ The New York Times, at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/business/trans-pacific-partnership-trade-deal-is-reached.html?_r=0 6.10.2015 accessed 8.10.2015

[22] Otto, Jeannine “Antibiotics, trade challenge pork industry” AgriNews, 3.8.2015, at http://agrinews-pubs.com/Content/News/Latest-News/Article/Antibiotics-trade-challenge-pork-industry-/8/6/13081 accessed 10.10.2015

[23] The text on both trademarks and geographical indications offers perspective and balance, treating trademarks and GIs as private intellectual property rights for all aspects of right acquisition, maintenance, challenge, and enforcement. “Trans Pacific Partnership IP chapter – trademarks, thoughts on geographical indications” IP watch 15.10.2015 at http://www.bilaterals.org/?trans-pacific-partnership-ip accessed 16.20.2014

[24] Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Trade in Services, Investments and E-Commerce, Chapter II –Investment, release 9.16.2015, at http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/september/tradoc_153807.pdf

[25] Politico .eu “Business Slams Malmström’s TTIP Pitch” 13.10.2015 at http://www.politico.eu/article/ttip-business-lobby-slams-malmstroms-arbitration-proposal-isds-businesseurope/ accessed 14.10.2015; Germak, Christopher “ A Free Trade Sop to Germany” Handelsblatt, 17.9.2015, at https://global.handelsblatt.com/edition/265/ressort/politics/article/a-free-trade-sop-to-germany’ accessed 15.10.2015

[26] “Do the Commission’s reform proposals for ISDS really solve the problem?” Stop-TTIP.Org at https://stop-ttip.org/blog/do-the-commissions-reform-proposals-for-isds-really-solve-the-problem/ accessed 13.10.2015

[27] Summary of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, USTR, 15.9.2015 at USTR.gov; 2012 Model US Bilateral Investment Treaty at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/188371.pdf accessed 14.2.2015

[28] Kleinheisterkamp, Jan “Is there a Need for Investor-State Arbitration in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?” London: LSE Working Papers 10, 2014 <http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2410188 > accessed 6.5.2014.

[29] Eliasson, Leif Johan “Fear v. Facts, the Case for ISDS in Modern Trade Agreements” Global Politics Magazine, 7.6.2015, at http://global-politics.co.uk/wp/2015/06/07/fear-v-facts-the-case-for-isds-in-modern-trade-agreements/“; Erixon, Frederick Investor-state disputes have put a spanner in the works for TTIP”, European Voice, 19.6.2014, p. 5

[30] Meunier, Sophie and Morin, Jean-Frédéric “No Agreement is an Island: Negotiating TTIP in a Dense Regime Complexchapter 14 in Jean-Frederic Morin et al (eds) The Politics of Transatlantic Trade Negotiations TTIP in a Globalized World, Publisher: Ashgate.

[31] “Europeans don’t want investor state dispute settlement in trade agreements” stop-ttip.org at

https://stop-ttip.org/europeans-dont-want-investor-state-dispute-settlement-trade-agreements/ accessed 12.10.2015; Public Citizen, “Growing European Government Opposition to Investor-State Regime Shadows This Week’s U.S.-EU Talks, New Report Takes on Obama Administration Defense of Parallel Legal System for Foreign Corporations” 2.10.2014 at http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-isds-tafta-report-october-2014.pdf accessed 10.10.2014; Aline, Robert “European Parliament backs TTIP, rejects ISDS”, EurActiv, 13.7.2015, at http://www.euractiv.com/sections/global-europe/european-parliament-backs-ttip-rejects-isds-316142?utm_source=EurActiv+Newsletter&utm_campaign=874f8bf9f3-newsletter_daily_update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bab5f0ea4e-874f8bf9f3-245748513 accessed 17.7.2015

[32] Young, Alasdair R. and Peterson, John, Parochial Global Europe 21st Century Trade Politics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014; Young, Alasdair R. “The Distinctive Politics of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations” EUSA Political Economy Bulletin, June 2015, p. 9-14.

[33] Francois, Joseph. et al, “Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment – An Economic Assessment”, Final Report for the European Commission,

Contract TRADE10/A2/A16, Center for Economic Policy Research, London, 2013.

Felbermayr, Gabriel et al Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): Who benefits from a free trade deal? Global Economic Dynamics Paper, Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2013.

Regulations, and thus acceptable compromises on mutual recognition, equivalence, compatibility, or harmonization, reflect and affect domestic legal, socioeconomic, and cultural variables, are uneasily quantified but highly important to the public’s perceptions of an acceptable outcome.

[34] 76% of Americans and 75% of Europeans in early 2014 said they desire closer regulatory integration with the EU/US respectively. Pew Global Attitudes Project, April, 2014,

http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/04/09/support-in-principle-for-u-s-eu-trade-pact accessed 9.5.2014; EU-US Negotiations on TTIP A Survey of Current Issues, European Parliamentary Research Service, June 2015 — PE 559.502 at

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2015/559502/EPRS_IDA(2015)559502_EN.pdf accessed 1.10.2015; Levy-Abegnoli, Julie, “TTIP: EU parliament vote paves way for new ISDS” The Parliament Magazine, 8.7.2015, at https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/ttip-eu-parliament-vote-paves-way-new-isds accessed 10.7.2015; personal interviews with MePs June 2015.

[35] cf. De Ville, Ferdi and Siles-Brugge, Gabriel “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Role of Computable General Equilibrium Modelling: An Exercise in Managing Fictional Expectations.” New Political Economy, 2015 20(5), p. 653-678;

  1. Young, Alasdair and Peterson, John “The EU and the new Trade Politic” Journal of European Public Policy, 2006, 13(6), p. 795-814

[36] Dür, Andreas and Mateo, Gemma, “Public Opinion and Interest Group Influence: How Citizen Groups Derailed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”, Journal of European Public Policy, 2014, 21(8), p. 1207.

[37] Eliasson, Leif Johan “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Interest groups and public opinion” European Union Studies Association’s 14th Biennial Meeting

Boston, March 5-7, 2015.

[38] Wirtschafts Woche „Wir brauchen einen Handelsgerichtshof mit den USA“ 10.10.2015 at http://www.wiwo.de/politik/deutschland/sigmar-gabriel-zu-ttip-wir-brauchen-einen-handelsgerichtshof-mit-den-usa/12422424.html accessed 11.10.2015

Image credit: Gobierno de Chile

Your Facebook Data Just Got a Lot More Secure – Case Analysis C-362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner

Dissecting the Safe Harbor Decision of the ECJ

[Note: For a broader overview on the topic look at our recently published Saar Blueprint by Oskar Josef Gstrein – Regulation of Technology in the European Union and beyond (10/15) which also covers the Schrems Case]

Kanad Bagchi[1]

Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.” Words of Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, which to the mind of the author, most aptly epitomizes the Opinion of the Court in its Schrems decision (“Opinion”), delivered on 6th October 2015. Long-standing concessions regarding data processing and transfer between the European Union (“EU”) and United States (“US”) were summarily dismissed in the face of competing claims to the right to privacy and data protection. The Court declared that Commission Decision 2000/520 (“Decision”) recognizing the equivalence of US data protection mechanisms, fails to ensure ‘an adequate level of protection’ for EU citizens, as mandated under Directive 95/46/EC (“Directive”), EU’s principle data protection law. Further, the Court reserved the powers of a Member State National Supervisory Authority to admit and examine claims against processing and transferring of data to third countries, irrespective of the European Commission (“Commission”) finding that a particular third country ensures an adequate level of protection. The Opinion is likely to derange data intensive businesses in the EU and US, compelling authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to rework existing transfer arrangement. In other words, the Opinion is arguably the strongest response to Edward Snowden’s revelations with respect to extensive surveillance and monitoring activities undertaken by US authorities in the recent past, and has already received much fanfare amongst privacy activists and the likes.

In the present post, the author dissects different aspects of the Opinion, in an attempt to produce more clarity and coherence on EU data protection rules and the Commission Decision on ‘Safe Harbor’, so as to underline the obligation of EU and member state authorities arising out of the same. The post also speculates on the immediate implications of the decision on US and EU tech firms and considers the momentous task ahead of the respective authorities.

Maximillian Schrems’s tryst with Privacy

In the backdrop of Edward Snowden’s revelations concerning mass scale Internet and phone surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency, Mr. Schrems, an Austrian national, approached the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland, insisting that Facebook Ireland be prohibited from transferring his personal data to the US. Schrems’s claim was rejected by the Commissioner on the grounds, inter alia, that the former was constrained from advancing a plea of ‘inadequacy of protection’ as the EU Commission through its Decision had concluded otherwise. On appeal however, the High Court reasoned that neither the Directive nor the Decision, when read in the light of both the Irish Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (“Charter”), prevents national supervisory authorities from examining, in limine, a claim contesting the adequacy of protection afforded to his personal data in the third country. Finding that the above enquiry involved questions relating to the interpretation of EU law, the High Court thought fit to refer the questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.

EU Safe Harbor rules and its context

Directive 95/46/EC has a twin set of objectives underpinning data protection within the EU and beyond. First, it provides a framework for the processing of personal data by member states of the EU and lays down certain safeguards pertaining to the same. Second, in the interest of international trade and business, it acknowledges and prescribes for a mechanism to ensure cross border free flow of personal data between EU member states and third countries. For the purposes of its second objective, and with which the author is most acutely concerned, the Directive prescribes for certain core principles (“safe harbor principles”) that ought to govern MS discretion in the transfer of personal data beyond EU borders. Article 25 of the Directive, inter alia, provides that a member state in approving such transfer of personal data is to satisfy herself that “…the third country in question ensures an adequate level of protection…” after considering all “…the circumstances surrounding a data transfer…” In this regard, if the Commission gathers that a third country falls short of providing for an ‘adequate level of protection’, member states ought to implement measures “…necessary to prevent any transfer of data of the same type to the third country in question…” Likewise, if the Commission finds that a third country ensures an ‘adequate level of protection’, member states are to similarly take measures in pursuance of the same.

To ensure the proper implementation of the above-mentioned principles, the Directive calls for the establishment of independent National Supervisory Authorities (“supervisory authorities”) within each member state, endowed with an extensive set of powers. For instance, MS are to consult their respective supervisory authorities while formulating internal measures to give effect to the Directive. Further, such authorities have the power to investigate and access data pertaining to processing and transfer, deliver opinions with respect to processing operations, and also the power, if not the obligation, to agitate through legal means before national courts, the incorrect or improper implementation of the Directive by member state authorities. EU citizens may approach supervisory authorities and lodge claims “…concerning the protection of his rights and freedoms in regard to the processing of personal data…”, and have the right to be informed of the outcome of their claim. In essence, a whole gamut of responsibilities relating to supervision and monitoring the implementation of the Directive has been conferred on national supervisory authorities.

In pursuance of its powers under the Directive, the Commission adopted Decision 2000/520 certifying that processes and mechanisms established by the US authorities ‘ensures’ an adequate level of protection of personal data transferred from the EU. In this regard, the Commission relied on a system of self-certification and public disclosure by organizations within the US, of their intent and willingness to abide by the safe harbor principles. The framework for the above mentioned process was implemented in accordance with the guidance provided by the US Department of Commerce through frequently asked questions. By way of derogation however, the applicability of the safe harbor principles to US organizations could be circumscribed so far as it is “…necessary to meet national security, public interest, or law enforcement requirements…”. It is important to note that the Decision was adopted in the year 2000, representing a state of affair dating back fifteen years and has remained unaffected since.

Ruling of the Court

The Court decided two sets of questions, namely, first, whether the powers of National Supervisory Authorities were constrained as a result of the Commission Decision on adequacy levels in the US and second, whether the Commission Decision was valid under extant rules of EU law.

At the outset, the Court observed that the Directive and its provisions ought to be interpreted in the light of Charter, especially Article 7 (privacy) and 8 (data protection), in as much as processing and transferring of data is liable to intrude into the Charter rights. Art. 28 (1) of the Directive therefore required member states to establish independent supervisory authorities tasked with the mandate to monitor the former’s compliance with EU law. Towards that end, the Court noted, supervisory authorities derive their power and competence directly from “…primary law of the European Union…” and operate independently to that of the Commission Decision. In the same breath, the Court determined that a Commission Decision adopted in pursuance of the Directive does not foreclose the power of the supervisory authority from examining claims relating to processing of personal data. If upon such examination, it appears that claims relating to the violation of Art. 7 & 8 of the Charter or the principles stated in the Directive are plausible, the supervisory authority ought be in a position to challenge the same in the courts of the member states, which in turn ought to refer the question to the ECJ through the preliminary reference procedure. Thus, in effect, the Court ruled that a determination by the Commission of the adequacy or inadequacy of a third country regime in protecting the rights of the individual does not prevent supervisory authorities from entertaining claims pleading to the contrary.

Although the High Court did not specifically raise the question of validity of the Commission Decision, the ECJ after perusing through the scheme of the safe harbor regime, concluded that “…until such time as the Commission decision is declared invalid by the Court, the Member States and their organs, which include their independent supervisory authorities, admittedly cannot adopt measures contrary to that decision…” Hence, it became imperative for the Court to examine the validity of the Commission Decision as against both the requirements of the Directive and the Charter.

While the Directive allows the Commission to conclude that “…a third country ensures an adequate level of protection within the meaning of paragraph 2 of this Article, by reason of its domestic law or of the international commitments…” it admittedly does not define either the content or the standard in determining the adequacy of protection afforded by the third country’s regime. Under such circumstances, the Court reasoned that ‘adequate protection’ ought to mean ‘essentially equivalent’ if not ‘identical’ to the protection afforded to citizens in the EU.

In this regard, the Court found that the system of self-certification could only constitute a reliable measure of adequacy if the same was backed by mechanisms to identify and punish errant US organizations. The Commission Decision however, to the mind of the Court, did not contain “sufficient findings” with respect to any such mechanism employed by the US to ensure an adequate level of protection. Moreover, a turning point for the Court was its finding that the safe harbor principles were to govern, albeit voluntarily, the conduct of US organizations only, without having a consequent binding effect on the US public authorities. Therefore, the Decision admitted of the possibility of the safe harbor principles and its applicability being limited by state authorities in the interest of national security or public interest. Consequently, the Court examined that the Decision was silent with respect to specifying either any limits to such state interference or to the existence of effective legal protection against the same. While EU law, interpreted in the light of the Charter and the Court’s prior rulings, limit state interference to what is “strictly necessary”, the Decision allows US authorities to store all personal data on a “generalized basis”. Such general collection and processing of data, without the possibility of an effective remedy, the Court declared, constitutes an infraction of the rights guaranteed under the Charter, including Articles 7, 8 and 47 (effective judicial protection), thereby affecting the validity of the Commission Decision.

In addition, the Court declared invalid Article 3 of the Decision in so far as it restricted the powers of the national supervisory authorities to entertain claims relating to the adequacy of protection enshrined under third country rules on data protection.

Further Comments

The Schrems decision mirrors Advocate General Bot’s opinion in most parts, barring however, some minor deviations (for a fuller enquiry here). In essence, the ECJ ruled that the present standard of protection afforded by the US does not match up to that of the EU and hence, US companies cannot be trusted with personal data belonging to EU citizens. Whether good wisdom prevailed on the Court, depends on which side of the debate one finds oneself on. Indeed, the Court conveniently assumed certain regulatory and administrative artifacts of the US system, without having provided US officials with the opportunity to be heard on the matter. Moreover, as pointed out, incessant reliance was placed by the Court, on outdated Commission reports suggesting a less rigorous approach towards the preservation of individual liberties in the US. Therefore extreme criticism has been leveled against the Court in condemning an entire system of rules and regulations on the basis of presumptuous evidence. Also the Court’s insistence on a standard of ‘adequacy’ resting on “essentially equivalent” rather than “identical” is neither precise nor helpful, leaving much to judicial oversight and less to bureaucratic discretion. While the Court did not find the process of ‘self-certification’ to be inherently repulsive to the idea of equivalent protection, it nonetheless emphasized that such certification alone was inadequate in the absence of consequent enforcement of the same. It begs the question as to whether the US authorities will now have to commission independent bodies much like the national supervisory authorities in the EU, to constantly monitor the implementation of the safe harbor principles.

Where has the decision left State authorities and Private corporations?

The EU and the US were already undergoing negotiations for a review of the Decision in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, and it is reasonable to suggest that the Commission will have to seek more far reaching commitments from the US authorities than were previously estimated. Considering the differing standard of protection afforded to privacy rights in the EU and the US, a new agreement on the subject is likely to be long drawn and tiresome. In the meanwhile, personal data transfer for US companies is definitely going to get more cumbersome and costly, as the process of transfer would be largely governed by 28 different national rules on the subject, with each displaying varying degrees of bureaucratic skirmishes. Although there are reports suggesting that certain companies in anticipation of the decision, had already started reviewing their transfer policies, including considering moving to options like model contract clauses and binding corporate rules, the situation is a far cry from ‘business as usual’, especially for small and medium enterprises.

That apart, the Opinion has received a favorable response from privacy activists and human rights groups, especially in the light of the Court’s insistence that mass surveillance and indiscriminate sourcing of personal data constitutes a violation of the Charter rights. Further, as a result of the Opinion, supervisory authorities are likely to exercise a more active role in accessing the cross border transfer of data, which only adds yet another layer of protection to personal data. Privacy advocates are already anticipating that in the long run, European citizens may be able to contend that their data be stored and processed only within the borders of EU, much like the recent Russian agenda. Nonetheless, as things stand today, the clock has been turned back several years and much has been left to chance and uncertainty.

[1] Kanad Bagchi (kanad.bagchi@gmail.com) is an MSc Candidate in Law and Finance at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, UK. Formerly, he was a research assistant at Europa-Institut, Universität des Saarlandes, Germany.

Case analysis of the ECtHR judgment in Delfi AS v. Estonia (app. No. 64569/09)

The difficulties of information management for intermediaries

By Oskar Josef Gstrein[1]

 A. Introduction

“The medium is the message”.[2] This phrase coined by the Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan in the 1960s seems to be nowhere as true as when it comes to the processing and distribution of information on the internet. The philosophy of media has boomed with the start of the new millennium and also other less “speculative” sciences such as law have to deal more and more with the aspects of information processing.

Since the collection of personal data has become a lucrative business model[3] there is a need for more and better regulation. However, not only the sheer content of data is important. Also aspects of accessibility and possibilities for contextualization define the “value” of data.

Recently, not only private actors try to design the future of the internal market of the European Union in that regard.[4] Regional authorities also seem to become more and more proactive in the field. The European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Butarelli is talking about “a defining moment for digital rights in Europe and beyond.”[5] The European Commission has declared the “Digital Single Market” one of its top priorities for the coming years.[6] National politicians like Angela Merkel warn their countries and the entire continent of falling behind in the technological arms race,[7] hence not being able to shape the future of the world. And ultimately, the regional courts keep continuing to deliver judgments which aim at redefining law and its application in the digital landscape.

It could very well be argued that especially the actors last mentioned have a constantly underestimated impact when it comes to shaping the future of cyberspace and the concept of privacy in the digital age. By now the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has delivered numerous judgments with ground-breaking character.

In the year 2014 it not only struck down the EU’s data retention directive 2006/24/EC on the 8th of April.[8] On the 13th of May it also established the right to delist information from the index of a search engine via its controversial “Google Spain” decision.[9] And it looks like with cases such as Max Schrems’ and his Europe v. Facebook campaign[10] pending before the court[11] the list will not come to an end soon.

What all of these judgments have in common is that their main legal problems are not connected with the content of the information that is being processed. What is crucial is the question of how accessibility and transferability of data is organized and evaluated from a legal perspective.

This can also be seen in the SABAM vs. Netlog judgment[12] and the UPC Telekabel Wien case.[13] Like the already mentioned decisions these cases clearly point to the fact that modern information management and its regulation is not only a matter of the content of information, but especially of the role of the so-called “intermediaries”. The regulation of intermediaries becomes an ever more important aspect when considering the future development of the digital space.[14] Their business practices and conduct is crucial for the accessibility, presentation and contextualization of information. When it comes to understanding the conditionality of liability of such service providers the Articles 12 to 14 of Directive 2000/31/EC can be helpful.[15]

However, regulation of the activities of intermediaries takes not only place within the EU. The Grand Chamber decision in the case Delfi AS v. Estonia[16] from the 16th of June 2015 the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECtHR) has delivered another important judgment which tries to strike the right balance between the fundamental rights to privacy and the freedom of expression and information.

B. The decision in Delfi AS v. Estonia

I. The background of the case

Delfi AS runs an online newsportal of national importance in the country of Estonia.[17] On the 24th of January 2006 an article with the title “SLK Destroyed Planned Ice Road”[18] was published. The report suggested that AS Saaremaa Laevakompanii (Saaremaa Shipping Company, a public limited liability company) made it impossible to use several ice roads. The latter temporarily connect the Estonian mainland to several islands in the region which SLK normally connects by offering ferry services.

The content of the report was not challenged as such. But Delfi also offered the possibility to comment on the article, which received 185 comments until the 25th of January 2006.[19] Some of them were directly relating to “L” who was a member of the supervisory board of SLK and the most visible public figure of SLK at the material time.[20] The ECtHR gave some examples of the comments under the article in his judgment:[21]

  1.  „(1) there are currents in [V]äinameri
    (2) open water is closer to the places you referred to, and the ice is thinner.
    Proposal – let’s do as in 1905, let’s go to [K]uressaare with sticks and put [L.] and [Le.] in a bag“
  2. „bloody shitheads…they bathe in money anyway thanks to that monopoly and State subsidies and have now started to fear that cars may drive to the islands for a couple of days without anything filling their purses. burn in your own ship, sick Jew!“
  3. „good that [La.’s] initiative has not broken down the lines of the web flamers. go ahead, guys, [L.] into the oven!“
  4. „[little L.] go and drown yourself […]”

L. wanted not only these comments to be removed from the website, but also asked for compensation for non-pecuniary damage. Delfi removed the comments six weeks after the publication.[22] However, when it came to compensation, the publisher denied any responsibility for the content of the comments and claimed it was only acting as intermediary service provider in that regard. Several procedures were conducted in the national courts. Finally, the last instance court in Estonia (the Supreme Court) came to the conclusion that Delfi had a responsibility to protect L from the consequences of the unlawful comments and therefore should have prevented the publication in the first place.[23] Subsequently, in October 2009, Delfi set up a more sophisticated monitoring system for the comments involving a review procedure by a set of moderators who look at any comment before it is published.[24]

II. The proceedings in Strasbourg

After all national remedies had been exhausted Delfi made an application to the ECtHR on the 4th of December 2009. The much discussed judgment[25] of the First Section of the ECtHR from the 10th of October 2013 turned down Delfi’s complaint that there was a violation of the freedom of expression by Estonia whose courts demanded from the company to manage the comments under the article more actively. However, on the 17th of February 2014 the judgment was accepted to be reviewed by the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg court.

In the proceedings before the Grand Chamber the argumentation of the parties basically stayed the same. Delfi claimed that any responsibility of the company to prevent damage regarding the reputation of L infringed its freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.[26] The court thus summarizes the position of Delfi with the words:

„The applicant company called on the Grand Chamber to look at the case as a whole, including the question whether the applicant company was to be characterised as a traditional publisher or an intermediary. A publisher was liable for all content published by it regardless of the authorship of the particular content. However, the applicant company insisted that it should be regarded as an intermediary and it had as such been entitled to follow the specific and foreseeable law limiting the obligation to monitor third-party comments. It argued that intermediaries were not best suited to decide upon the legality of user-generated content. This was especially so in respect of defamatory content since the victim alone could assess what caused damage to his reputation.“[27]

Nevertheless, the Grand Chamber basically confirmed the Chamber and national courts’ judgments by coming to the conclusion:

„In connection with the question whether the liability of the actual authors of the comments could serve as a sensible alternative to the liability of the Internet news portal in a case like the present one, the Court is mindful of the interest of Internet users in not disclosing their identity. Anonymity has long been a means of avoiding reprisals or unwanted attention. As such, it is capable of promoting the free flow of ideas and information in an important manner, including, notably, on the Internet. At the same time, the Court does not lose sight of the ease, scope and speed of the dissemination of information on the Internet, and the persistence of the information once disclosed, which may considerably aggravate the effects of unlawful speech on the Internet compared to traditional media. It also refers in this connection to a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of Google Spain and Google, in which that court, albeit in a different context, dealt with the problem of the availability on the Internet of information seriously interfering with a person’s private life over an extended period of time, and found that the individual’s fundamental rights, as a rule, overrode the economic interests of the search engine operator and the interests of other Internet users […].“[28]

And

„[f]inally, turning to the question of what consequences resulted from the domestic proceedings for the applicant company, the Court notes that the company was obliged to pay the injured person the equivalent of EUR 320 in compensation for non-pecuniary damage. It agrees with the finding of the Chamber that this sum, also taking into account the fact that the applicant company was a professional operator of one of the largest Internet news portals in Estonia, can by no means be considered disproportionate to the breach established by the domestic courts […].“[29]

C. Interpretation and Context

Considering its institutional aspect the numerous and close references of the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR to EU law and CJEU jurisprudence indicates that at least in the digital space there exists a single space of human rights protection in Europe. Keeping in mind the cumbersome negotiation process concerning the EU’s accession to the ECHR this leaves some hope for a more integration-friendly future which is more strongly oriented at practical necessities than institutional battle.[30]

Materially, the Delfi case refers to the question of “self-censorship” and asks if we have to fear a future where “chilling effects” become part of the everyday experience in the online world.[31] The fact that modern information processing makes surveillance much easier than in the past results in new challenges. The concepts of liberty and freedom have to be emphasized more strongly and updated in the modern context in order to remain intact. Our societies have to create new spaces where it can be expected that no one interferes in the private sphere and where not having to show an expected status quo at any point in time is necessary. Put simply: There needs to be a part in everybody’s life where polarizing – not illegal ­ behavior is possible and accepted.

However, it is also important to emphasize that information networks now are strongly integrated into the lives of their users. With more power comes more responsibility. The fact that a news portal of national importance can be run through the internet also means that it has to be able to live up to the same standards of accountability as traditional media. This is probably the strongest argument why the judgment of the ECtHR was essentially right. The professionalism of Delfi combined with the moderate and proportionate punishment leave the impression of a sound overall evaluation of the situation.

Ultimately, the question remains what Delfi v. Estonia will or should be remembered for. Considering the special circumstances of the case involving much more resources and professionalism than when it comes to the exchange of views via the Internet it seems unlikely that it will set a precedent outside of the world of professional journalism. It would be surprising if the ECtHR and even national courts would had decided in the same way if not a medium of national importance was the place where the unlawful comments were posted. If Delfi had, for example, been a small private weblog of a person or a social community or forum things would have been different. The impact of the comments would not have been that serious.

The actual lesson to be learned from this case is that we live in an age where it is not only important whether (sensitive) data is accessible or not. The question is more and more how easily and through which means it is accessible. This aspect is largely determined by the fact how intermediaries are positioned to process the relevant piece of data and under which regulatory circumstances they are required to interfere. In which scenarios will their social responsibility to protect privacy and the dignity of a person be more important than their duty to enable the free movement of data, thoughts and speech? In order to find the right answer to this question a complex balancing process is needed which can only be successfully concluded by looking at the potential scenarios and concrete cases. There is a strong need for differentiation between the different contexts of data processing.

————————————————-

[1] Oskar Josef Gstrein (gstrein@europainstitut.de) is a research assistant of Prof. Thomas Giegerich, LLM at the Jean-Monnet Chair for European Integration at the Europa-Institut of the Saarland University. He is author of several articles in the field of European institutional law, European human rights protection and privacy issues. His PhD-Thesis is on the topic “The Right to be Forgotten as a Human Right”.

[2] McLuhan, Understanding Media: The extensions of Man, Mentor, 1964, New York, Chapter 1, p. 1: “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”

[3] Rashid, Surveillance is the Business Model of the Internet: Bruce Schneier, via: https://www.schneier.com/news/archives/2014/04/surveillance_is_the.html – accessed 24.07.2015.

[4] Cf. Microsoft Digital Single Market Communication Response, via: http://mscorp.blob.core.windows.net/mscorpmedia/2015/07/Microsoft-Digital-Single-Market-Communication-Response-FINAL-17-July-2015.pdf – accessed 24.07.2015.

[5] EDPS, Opinion 3/2015, Europe’s big opportunity, p. 9, via: http://bit.ly/1SJrGSq – accessed 28.07.2015.

[6] http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/digital-single-market/ – accessed 24.07.2015.

[7] Merkel said: „Europa – hier spreche ich für ganz Europa, das im Augenblick weder Google, Apple, Facebook noch andere solche Unternehmen hat – darf sich nicht nur auf seine industrielle Wertschöpfung konzentrieren, sondern muss auch darauf achten, geeignete Rahmenbedingungen zu schaffen, um große Datenmengen so zu verarbeiten, dass die Individualität geschützt ist. Darüber wird zurzeit in Europa diskutiert. Deshalb sollten wir nicht nur ablehnen, sondern wir sollten uns auch überlegen, wie wir im Konsumentenbereich noch mehr eigene europäische Unternehmen bekommen und Start-ups fördern können. Denn wir sind hierbei im Augenblick im weltweiten Vergleich nicht vorne dran.“ Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel zum Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchentag am 5. Juni 2015, via: http://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/Content/DE/Rede/2015/06/2015-06-05-rede-merkel-kirchentag.html – accessed 24.07.2015.

[8] CJEU, C‑293/12 and C‑594/12, Digital Rights Ireland, Kärntner Landesregierung, ECLI:EU:C:2014:238, cf. my Blog Post in German via: http://jean-monnet-saar.eu/?p=314 – accessed 24.07.2015.

[9] Media often wrongly refers to this as the „right to be forgotten“ judgement. However, the right to delist information is not about the deletion or erasure of information. It only limits access. Cf. CJEU, C-131/12, Google Spain SL and Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González, ECLI:EU:C:2014:317. Also compare the Art 29 working group guidelines on the implementation accessible via: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/documentation/opinion-recommendation/files/2014/wp225_en.pdf – accessed 24.07.2015. And finally a report on the success of the right to delist information from the 18.06.2015 via: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/press-material/press-release/art29_press_material/20150618_wp29_press_release_on_delisting.pdf – accessed 24.07.2015.

[10] http://www.europe-v-facebook.org/ – accessed 24.07.2015.

[11] CJEU, C-362/14, Reference for a preliminary ruling from High Court of Ireland (Ireland) made on 25.06.2014 – Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner.

[12] CJEU, C-360/10, Belgische Vereniging van Auteurs, Componisten en Uitgevers CVBA (SABAM) v Netlog NV, ECLI:EU:C:2012:85.

[13] CJEU, C-314/12, UPC Telekabel Wien GmbH, ECLI:EU:C:2014:192.

[14] Cf. Gasser, Schulz (editors), Governance of Online Intermediaries: Observations from a Series of National Case Studies, Berkman Center Research Publication No. 2015-5, via: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2566364 – accessed 24.07.2015.

[15] Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (‚Directive on electronic commerce‘), Official Journal L 178 , 17/07/2000 P. 0001 – 0016, via: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000L0031:en:HTML – accessed 28.07.2015. Cf. Woods, Delfi v Estonia: Curtailing online freedom of expression?, via: http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.de/2015/06/delfi-v-estonia-curtailing-online.html – accessed 28.07.2015.

[16] ECtHR, Delfi AS v Estonia, App. No. 64569/09, 16.06.2015.

[17] http://www.delfi.ee/ – accessed 28.07.2015.

[18] ECtHR, Delfi AS v Estonia, Mn 16.

[19] Ibidem, Mn 17.

[20] Ibid., Mn 16.

[21] Ibid., Mn 18.

[22] Ibid., Mn 19.

[23] Ibid., Mn 31.

[24] Ibid., Mn 32.

[25] ECtHR, Delfi AS v Estonia, App. No. 64569/09, 10.10.2013. via: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-126635 – accessed 28.07.2015; Cf. Synodinou, Intermediaries‘ liability for online copyright infringement in the EU: evolutions and confusions, Computer Law & Security Review, 2015, 31(1), p. 57 – 67; McCarthy, Is the writing on the wall for online service providers? Liability for hosting defamatory user-generated content under European and Irish law, Hibernian Law Journal, 2015, 14, p. 16 – 55.

[26] ECtHR, Delfi AS v Estonia, App. No. 64569/09, 16.06.2015, Mn 68.

[27] Ibid., Mn 66.

[28] Ibid., Mn 147.

[29] Ibid. Mn 160.

[30] Cf. the Blog posts on the topic: https://jean-monnet-saar.eu/?p=690 – accessed 28.07.2015; https://jean-monnet-saar.eu/?p=745 – accessed 28.07.2015.

[31] Cf. Cox, Delfi v. Estonia: Privacy Protection and Chilling Effect, via: http://www.verfassungsblog.de/en/delfi-v-estonia-privacy-protection-and-chilling-effect/ – accessed 28.07.2015.