The case concerns the right of importers to be heard by the Spanish authorities when they seek to recover customs duties from them. That procedural safeguard had the result of delaying payment of those duties over to the EC. That is why the Commission took Spain to the Court of Justice. Professor Bignami asked in the article, written before the judgment had been handed down, whether "Spain will come into line with Europe, or Europe with Spain...". Her prediction was that "past experience indicates that the latter outcome is more likely."
And of course, Professor Bignami's prediction was correct. At paragraph 33 of the judgment (only available in French and Spanish), the Court held that member States must grant importers the right to be heard when collecting customs duties from them.
The prediction was correct subject to one qualification. The Court still found in favor of the Commission. It held that Spain was nevertheless in breach of its obligations to enter the amount of the customs duties into the EC accounts under Article 5 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 1854/89 of June 14th 1989 on the entry in the accounts and terms of payment of the amounts of the import duties or export duties resulting from a customs debt. Thus the Court held that what the Spanish authorities do with the importers and what they must do with the EC accounts are two separate matters.
See also a previous post on the House of Lords report on human rights proofing dealing with another aspect of that problem.
The new Council Regulation on the common organisation of the markets in the sugar sector - Council Regulation n° 318/2006 - has been published.
It enters into force on March 3rd, 2006.
It aims to cure some of the major ills of the old sugar market which was highly protectionist and kept prices in the EC artificially high. Apart from that just go and read it for yourselves.... Who said EC law was easy ?
Well worth reading is the Commission's report on "Disqualifications arising from criminal convictions in the European Union". "Disqualifications" are those restrictions placed on a person from exercising certain defined rights or engaging in certain activities as a consequence of a criminal conviction. The cross-border implications are obvious : if a person is convicted in one member State and disqualified from exercising, say, a particular profession, what happens if he or she moves to another member States and tries to exercise that profession ? So, the Commission's report defines what is meant by "disqualification", gathers together and assesses all the EC legislation which deals with disqualifications and outlines some future approaches.
It is a sort of follow-on from the "green paper" on on the approximation, mutual recognition and enforcement of criminal sanctions in the European Union.
It's actually a communication from the Commission about pensions, health care, poverty and social exclusion. Worth looking at but it does bombinate on a bit at the end. For instance :
The NSRs on pensions highlight the interlinkages between the three broad objectives of
adequacy, sustainability and modernisation and the synergies and trade-offs between them. For reform strategies to be successful, notably in dealing with increases in life expectancy, all three elements must be present and considered together. Reforms should continue to remove disincentives and strengthen incentives for working longer and need to be matched by progress in how employers and labour markets treat older workers. This will make a crucial contribution to maintaining adequacy and living standards and fighting pensioner poverty.
Guess that means if old folk don't retire they will still be workers and thus they won't be poor retired people. They'll be poor old workers instead.
The Commission's DG Competition has launched a public consultation on a Draft Commission Regulation on the application of Article 81 §3 of the Treaty to certain categories of agreements and concerted practices concerning consultations on passenger tariffs on scheduled air services and slot allocation at airports.
That consultation is launched pursuant to Article 5 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 3976/87 of December 14th, 1987 on the application of Article 85 (3) (now, Art. 81 §3 of the Treaty to certain categories of agreements and concerted practices in the air transport sector
The Commission's DG Competition has made public the preliminary findings of the energy sector inquiry. By "energy sector" DG Competition means, oddly, the gas and electricity markets. Mind you, gas does not mean petroleum in this context because there is no need for an inquiry to find out about OPEC. Folks can send comments on the findings to DG Competition until May 1st, 2006.
What are the findings ? Well, guess what, the electricity and gas markets just aren't very open and competitive in Europe. And prices are high.
Remember the post back on September 26th 2005 on the use of languages (in particular) in the EC ? The Council had adopted a conclusion on "the official use of additional languages within the Council and possibly other Institutions and bodies of the European Union".
Now, the Spanish government has concluded an administrative arrangement about the use of languages other than castilian recognized by the Spanish Constitution. Article 3 §1 of the Spanish Constitution provides
"Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it."
But Article 3 §2 continues:
"The other Spanish languages shall also be official in the respective Autonomous Communities in accordance with their Statutes."
The other Spanish languages are not specified but they are in fact the basque, catalan and galician languages.
The administrative arrangement provides that a person any may write to the Council - but indirectly - in any one of those three languages and receive a response in it. That person cannot write to the Council direct but must send the letter to a body designated by the Spanish government which body then translates it into Castilian and sends it on to the Council. The Council responds in Castilian, sends the response to the designated body which then translates it into one of the language of the addressee and sends it on. Cumbersome, you think ? There are provisions in the arrangement also for oral debates in the Council to be in one of the three other Spanish languages and for measures adopted by co-decision to be translate into them. The cost of all this is borne by the Spanish government, not by the Council.
Really sorry about not pointing out before now that the Commission has issued its 22nd Annual Report on Monitoring the Application of Community Law. That is an invaluable resource describing the activities of the Commission in endeavoring to secure proper implementation of EC law by the member States. That report covers 2004.
See also the document describing the activities of the Commission departments in the different economic sectors that is annexed to the general report (only available in French) as well as the huge and curiously fascinating statistical annex (also only in French).