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Internal Market: Advocate General Advises That Strikes are Legal under EU Law if Motivated by Public Interest
Contact Philip Bentley
Advocate General Mengozzi has stated in a non-binding Opinion to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that collective action by trade unions is in line with European law. The case concerned a strike by a Swedish trade union against a Latvian company that refused to sign a collective agreement. Although the Advocate General found that the right to collective action could restrict free movement of services within the EU, he considered that it would not be prohibited where it was carried out in line with legitimate public interest objectives such as the prevention of social dumping and the protection of workers’ rights. However, he tempered this statement with the condition that the action is proportionate, in that it should not go further than necessary to protect conditions of employment and result in a real advantage being conferred upon the workers concerned. Although non-binding, the Opinion will be influential upon the ECJ’s deliberation of the case (Case C-341/05 Laval).
State Aid: Draft Guidelines for State Aid for Environmental Protection
The European Commission has published its draft guidelines for State aid for environmental protection. The primary objective of State aid control in this field is to ensure that State aid measures result in a higher level of environmental protection which would not otherwise occur without the aid. The guidelines will also ensure that the positive effects of the aid outweigh its negative effects in terms of distortion of competition and that the "polluter pays" principle (requiring the polluter to pay for the environmental costs) is respected. These guidelines will enter into force on 1 January 2008 and will be applicable until 31 December 2014. Interested parties may submit their comments on the draft guidelines before 25 June 2007.
Internal Market: Political Agreement on New Audiovisual Directive
The European Parliament and Council have adopted the European Commission’s 2005 proposal revising the "Television Without Frontiers" Directive to address significant technological and market developments in audiovisual services. This was after a shorter than expected legislative process of only 18 months. The original Directive dates from 1989 and was amended in 1997. The 2005 proposal has three objectives: to reduce the regulatory burden, to modernise rules on television advertising and to grant new rights to citizens, including disabled people. The new Directive will cover all audiovisual services and remain fully based on the country of origin principle.
Competition: Court Confirms Violation of Competition Rules by German Recycling Company
The Court of First Instance (CFI) has dismissed in its entirety the appeal by Duales System Deutschland (DSD) against two decisions of the European Commission concerning its system for collection and recycling of packaging waste. In 2001 the Commission ruled that DSD had abused its dominant position by charging a fee for part of the sales packaging bearing the trade mark “the Green Dot” (der Grüne Punkt) when the take-back and recovery obligation had been fulfilled by another company. In its second decision, the Commission imposed two obligations on DSD to assure unrestricted access to the collection infrastructure for competing service providers. According to the CFI the first Commission decision has not adversely affected the proper functioning of the DSD system. The CFI also confirmed that it is economically difficult to duplicate the waste collection infrastructure near households and that the obligations imposed by the Commission were therefore justified.
Public Health: Commission Adopts White Paper on Nutrition
In an effort to halt rising rates of obesity within the EU, the European Commission has adopted a White Paper aimed at promoting and instituting measures for healthy eating and lifestyle. In the majority of Member States more than 50 per cent of the adult population is overweight or obese and it is estimated that the number of overweight children increases by 400,000 per year. The White Paper calls for the creation of a new high level group, in addition to action-orientated partnerships across the EU involving private actors, public health and consumer organisations. Within the internal market such action is likely to have an impact upon labelling requirements, health claims authorisation and food control procedures, whilst other initiatives will target areas such as education.
Institutions: EU Citizens’ Rights Concerning Use of Language
In some recent decisions the European Ombudsman has confirmed the right of every EU citizen both to request information from the EU institutions in any of the 23 official languages and to receive an answer in the official language of their choice. In one case cited by the Ombudsman, the European Commission replied in English to a question written in Irish on the EU's preparation for Irish becoming an official EU language. The Ombudsman, in a decision written in Irish, upheld the complaint. Citizens, companies or associations can bring a complaint before the European Ombudsman in cases where the EU institutions have imposed unjustified restrictions on the right of stakeholders to choose one of the official languages. In contrast, the use of all 23 official languages appears unfeasible with regard to internal communications within the EU institutions. The Ombudsman considered that it was proportionate for EU civil servants to work in one or more “common” language.
State Aid: Commission Supports Prague Municipal Wireless Network Project
The European Commission has approved an initiative by the City of Prague to create a municipal wireless communication network. The initial plan provided unrestricted free internet access to the public. However, according to Competition Commissioner Kroes, subsidies for such networks are only acceptable if they address a well-defined market failure or cohesion problem. As the initial plan would have crowded out investment from private operators, the City’s plan was modified, serving only the public sector and providing citizens with free broadband access limited to public-sector websites with non-commercial content, such as eGovernment services. Taking into account these modifications, the Commission has found that the project does not involve State aid.
Trade: WTO Begins Accession Negotiations With Iraq
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has announced that Iraq participated in multilateral negotiations concerning its application to join the WTO. These negotiations follow preliminary exchanges between Iraq and a WTO Working Party concerning Iraq’s candidacy to join the trade body, beginning in late 2004. In addition to multilateral negotiations, Iraq met on a bilateral basis with several WTO members, including the EU and US. As next steps, Iraq will provide WTO members with a general legislative plan, and also prepare documents on agriculture, services, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, and intellectual property. While WTO members welcome Iraq’s candidacy, they reportedly concede that the accession process may be lengthy due to Iraq’s current political instability.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 4 June – Friday 8 June 2007
No meetings scheduled for next week.
COURT OF JUSTICE
Joined Cases C-222/05, C-223/05, C-224/05, C-225/05 van der Weerd and Others
Approximation of laws
C-76/06 P Britannia Alloys & Chemicals v Commission
Freedom of movement for persons
C-50/06 Commission v Netherlands
Free movement of goods
C-170/04 Rosengren and Others
C-254/05 Commission v Belgium
C-156/04 Commission v Greece
C-178/05 Commission v Greece
C-335/05 Rizeni Letoveho Provozu
Freedom of movement for persons
C-301/05 P Wilfer v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-232/04 Greece v Commission
T-251/05 Mediocurso v Commission
T-425/05 Mediocurso v Commission