The Rule of Law recommendation addressed to Poland

Kamil Augustyniak

 

It’s been more than six months ever since the European Commission (hereinafter referred to EC) started a dialogue with Poland on its rule of law situation but still the situation seems to be unbalanced and stands out from the European standards. The EC found some gaps and concerns which provide a threat to EU fundamental values and this is why, on 27 July 2016, it issued a new recommendation to clarify the inadequacies and proposed plenty of possible approaches how to change it properly.

Source: paszyk.pl

Source: paszyk.pl

 

Background

The unbalanced situation appeared after change of power following 2015 parliamentary elections in Poland. When the society democratically decided to give power to a new leading party, the situation concerning the Constitutional Tribunal became not only Poland’s internal issue but it escalated problems on European level due to the fact that the Commission noticed that there is a systemic threat to the rule of law in this country. To be fully objective it is worth mentioning that both previously leading party (Civic Platform) and the one currently in authority (Law and Justice) went beyond its competences while appointing new judges to mentioned tribunal. The former party appointed three new judges due to vacancy and two extra judges in advance despite the fact that their cadency will not start immediately but in couple of months (after the elections). Since this party lost a support and, consequently, the elections, the latter party decided to appoint not two judges but five claiming that all previous nominations were unlawful. For that reason not only the composition of tribunal is unclear but also the way how it works… or not.

President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński (Photo: Polska Agencja Prasowa/Paweł Supernak)

President of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, Andrzej Rzepliński (Photo: Polska Agencja Prasowa/Paweł Supernak)

Proposal from the Commission

This is the second time the EC took steps to explain and improve the issue of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland. After the Commission adopted the opinion on this situation in June this year, the situation stayed rather unchanged. This time the executive body of the EU prepared a recommendation in which clearly states its proposals. First of all to implement the judgments of 3 and 9 December 2015 which confirm the legal status of appointment of three judges by previous legislature and negate the choice of three out of five judges done by a new legislature. Secondly, to publish all Tribunal’s judgments automatically without depending on any decisions of the executive or legislative powers. Thirdly, to assure that any reforms on the law concerning the Tribunal will respect all its judgments and that the court can review the compatibility of law before it enters into force.

Status of recommendations

It is worth mentioning that recommendations are not legally binding. By these means the institutions can present its own scenario or propose proper direction to handle the situation. What is more, there are no legal obligation towards subjects to which the recommendation is addressed.

Full text of the Commission Recommendation of 27.07.2016 regarding the rule of law in Poland is available HERE.


FOR MORE UPDATES

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK COMMUNITY!

 

Reklamy

European Youth Event 2016 #2

Kamil Augustyniak

 

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

European Youth Event was a great opportunity not only for young generation to meet and share already gained experience, but also for EU authorities to understand better what ideas, concerning European matters, are hidden in students’ and pupils’ heads. Great place, great forum, great discussion with great people – this is the essence of the mentioned event. Since all meetings were held in Strasbourg, everyone could see European Parliament from inside, try to vote, hear simultaneous translations and finally decide whether this place suits them or not. Personally I was absolutely excited about the work of interpreters. When observing how this profession is essential when talking about communication and fighting its barriers, I saw numerous advantages of being one of them in the future.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

Two days of participation in discussions made me think about some matters in which my opinion was totally opposite. Before I came to Strasbourg I was convinced that Union should do all its best to guarantee payable apprenticeship at all steppingstones, no matter if someone is at the very beginning of its career or already has some professional experience. The issue concerning payments was raised by one of the participants who claimed that all internships should be paid in order to move to another country to intern and allow young generation to become independent. In response, experts said that such idealistic approach would have catastrophic consequences due to drastic decrease of trainings in Member States as well as in EU institutions. Such practice would scare off enterprises and it is not a point we all want to achieve. The solution was proposed by another clever participant who highlighted the necessity of cooperation among universities or even schools with companies, so that students could start their professional path in befriended firms. However, as long as this matter exceeds EU competences and concerns only MS’s internal management, the Union can only promote and encourage such cooperation. Though there were numerous panels to participate in, it was impossible to take part in every single one.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

The last I have picked was about robotics and its purpose in real life. Various experts were talking about how the world is rapidly changing in the sphere of computers, robots and other electronic devices. Since the meeting was interactive, students were willing to ask different questions concerning near future scenarios. Final conclusion was that even if technological progress reduces employment in some occupations, surely it will create brand new professions we cannot currently even imagine.

Being the one who is interested in working in EU structures I appreciate the effort of European Youth Event 2016 organizers. Even if I know many issues concerning creating good CV and cover letter or the idea how Union works, the others’ opinions, points of view or their stories made distant career closer and more tangible.

Click HERE to read the first part of our coverage.

FOR MORE UPDATES

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK COMMUNITY!

 

European Youth Event 2016 #1

Emil Wojtaluk

GROUP_IN_PARLIAMENT_EDITED

On 20-21 of May 2016 representatives of the European Studies Student’s Scientific Association of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, including representatives of EUROpens BLOG visited European Parliament in Strasbourg on the occasion of the European Youth Event 2016. The theme of the second edition was the exchange of experiences and proposals with European decision-makers using the motto „Together we can make a change”. Young people from Europe had an occasion to write their proposals for solving crucial problems of the European Union, or electronically – through an online application. Moreover, during numerous sessions and workshops in the EP building there was a chance to comment and propose our own solutions, which were then discussed by experts and politicians. An official EYE report containing all gathered opinions will be distributed to Members of the European Parliament and discussed in parliamentary committees this autumn. European Youth Event was accompanied by many cultural events (concerts, games etc.). The interest in EYE this year was huge, the number of all registered participants reached over 7,500 people.

All activities concerned five main themes:

  • War and Peace: Perspectives for a Peaceful Planet;
  • Apathy or Participation: Agenda for a Vibrant Democracy;
  • Exclusion or Access: Crackdown on Youth Unemployment;
  • Stagnation or Innovation: Tomorrow’s World of Work;
  • Collapse or Success: New Ways for Sustainable Europe.

IMG_6966Due to the huge interest each participant could participate in chosen activities – our group participated in those activities connected with youth unemployment and innovation. The first panel, in which we took part was entitled „Skills gap: Bridge over troubled water” and concerned a gap which exists between job qualifications of young people and the expectations of today’s labor market. The meeting had an interactive form, during which participants could have their voice on important issues. Asked „Do you think you learned sufficient skills at school or third level to prepare you for the labor market?” –  most answered, that they learned some skills but most of them was acquired in practice, by having internships or regular jobs. Special role of increasing awareness of young people towards internships and volunteering projects was also stressed, even if unpaid, they build our CV and increase our chances on the labor market – not all of us seem to be aware of that. Although, in some EU countries employers still do not understand the value of volunteering experience, but this conviction disappears very quickly and can be barely seen on the Union level. One is clear, we need to provide more information in this area, both for young people and the employers – to make students aware, that studies just for studies are the waste of time, and employers, that being a volunteer is equal the regular job experience. Among other speakers Mrs. Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility was present there.

In the Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: Vako Karchava)

In the Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: Vako Karchava)

Another and the most important session for us also concerned youth unemployment. It was the most important not only because of the topic but also the venue, in which all activity took place – we had an unique opportunity to sit in the plenary chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, exactly on the same seats, on which Members of the European Parliament sits! The meeting was titled „Youth Unemployment: Down to zero?” – it was designed to find the solution for youth unemployment, the leading question was „how can we reduce youth unemployment to close to zero within 10 years?”. Young activists were present among experts, EU institutions were represented by Marianne Thyssen (mentioned above) and Andrey Novakov, Member of the European Parliament. We’ve started with the presentations of ideas delivered by all speakers, followed by proposals from the audience, which were later commented by the experts. However,  before the meeting started for good we were trained how the voting mechanism in the European Parliament works, having great occasion to take part in a voting simulation. The question put on voting was very clear: „whether or not European Union should give more support to young people entering the labor market?” – only a few voted “no”, pushing the red button.

IMG_7125

Photo: Vako Karchava

The last activity, in which we took part was named „Science or fiction: Will robots rise to power?” and was about the discussion on the future of robotics and super-computers. One of the most crucial questions raised at the very beginning was: „will robots threaten the future of humanity?”. The experts indicated, that we will always have everything under control, because it is up to people to first program those robots to work. Another interesting discussion arose on the question if robots as super-intelligent computers will take away our jobs. If we talk about workplaces implementing new technologies will certainly have an impact on disappearing of certain professions. However, as speakers indicated, technological change always entails such consequences. It doesn’t mean a catastrophe on the market. Well-known professions will be replaced by new ones, which cannot be described at the moment. The Meeting was attended by representatives of robotics companies, and among others Gianfranco Visentin, Head of Automation and Robotics Section from the European Space Agency.  

To sum up, taking part in European Youth Event 2016 was an unusual experience for us. We could observe how the European Parliament works from within, but among other things meet people from all over Europe and listen to their point of view. Surely, we learnt many new things. Coming to Strasburg made us even more aware, that working in EU institutions is not a fantasy, as some of you may imagine. It is certainly worth studying European Studies for acquiring such precious experiences!

We would like to thank Vice Rectors of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin: Professor Urszula Paprocka-Piotrowska and Professor Krzysztof Narecki, without whom it wouldn’t be possible to achieve.

This coverage is also available in Polish on the website of our Scientific Association: http://www.kul.pl/european-youth-event-2016-relacja,art_68086.html

See the full photo gallery HERE – photos by Vako Karchava.

FOR MORE UPDATES

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK COMMUNITY!

Multilingual Europe

Kamil Augustyniak

In the very beginning, the European Union was established in order to challenge the politics and economy, to give Europeans a field to cooperate and to unify their nations even on grounds of culture. Through all these years various mechanisms were implemented to clarify and stabilize the situation, no matter what background it had. Surely, Europe experienced a lot of conflicts but thanks to that it learned how to react in certain situations and to what focus its attention the most. Although, currently, the EU is struggling with migrants and the presence of United Kingdom within the Union is questioned, there are some issues which are not being discussed almost at all but seem to be crucial when talking about European integration.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Multilingual Europe

Europe of multitude of languages is both advantage and disadvantage. International arena is a place where not only political and economic interests intersect each other but is also a background highlighting cultural differences, especially languages. Hence international communication is difficult on any grounds, dealing with multilingualism is a first challenge of all international organizations gathering entities which speak in different languages. This is why, in order to ensure good communication within its structures, some languages are established to be official and to which all the documents, declarations or agreements are being translated. The bigger the organization is, the demand for smooth communication increases.

EU likes every language

Although the European Union does not outstand by its size among the organizations all over the world, its multilingualism policy is much more complex than any other. Along with expansion of the Communities (later the European Union) specific regulation was amended by adding a new official languages of the member states joining the Union. Starting from one official language (French), the list of them expanded to reach 24 in 2013 after last accession of Croatia. The language system of the European Union has very deep foundations based on principle preserving national identity of all member states. One of the most important act concerning this issue is EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – art. 22:

“The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.”

European Union law…Droit de l’Union européenne…Europarecht…Prawo Unii Europejskiej

Source: artelis.pl

Source: artelis.pl

Since the complexity of the rule mentioned above is crucial to preserve proper European integration, the most important goal to protect linguistic diversity is to ensure the availability of EU law to all citizens. For this reason, each EU institution has created departments dealing with language translations and 24 sections consisting of interpreters translating acts of the European Union. All official versions of documents are considered to be equivalent and authentic. What is more, every EU citizen has the right to send petitions, to address the institutions and bodies and even to obtain a reply in their own language. This right is guaranteed under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – art. 20:

Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Treaties. They shall have, inter alia: (…) (d) the right to petition the European Parliament, to apply to the European Ombudsman, and to address the institutions and advisory bodies of the Union in any of the Treaty languages and to obtain a reply in the same language. (…).

At this point the EU successes since it united in diversity. However, with so many languages and texts, it is easy to notice the danger which the EU has to face with when implementing its innovative linguistic pluralism policy. Multiple translations rise a further risk of not presenting the correct content of the message (sometimes it is a translation of a translation). Therefore, it causes some logistic and financial issues and then all these infringements can have serious consequences, e.g. conflict between member states or inconsistent application of EU law.

For what?

The Union seeks to facilitate crossing language barriers for delegates and representatives of member states, barriers that could limit full and comprehensive participation in the work of EU institutions. This is achieved by simultaneous translations which are especially important during plenary sessions of the Parliament, during which there are 800-1000 interpreters translating the text from original language into their natives. However, taking into account constraints of time and money, translation of all documents to all working languages is impossible. Therefore, the most commonly used are English, French and German.

To sum up, linguistic diversity is one of the factors that undoubtedly distinguishes the European Union but also brings many difficulties when speaking about its practical use. Since there are more than 500 language combinations within the EU working languages and all of these translations have to be done, sometimes the translated versions are not completely identical and, consequently, bring many legal issues in the process of further implementation.

Check out interesting case-law related to linguistic diversity in the European Union:

Case T‑185/05: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=68778&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=936026

 

FOR MORE UPDATES

JOIN OUR FACEBOOK COMMUNITY!

 

Discovering the Universe

Kamil Augustyniak

From the space our planet appears to be a tiny blue point surrounded by endless black of the Universe. This is quite funny since from the perspective of ourselves the situation is completely opposite. We see the magnitude, diversification of species and mystery still not leaving our home. However, the essential role with challenging the difficulties, here on our planet, plays the cosmic space.

Source: spaceagenda.com

Source: spaceagenda.com

Today, the Earth is undergoing global changes. In order to react accurately we need to look for the solutions collectively and to be frank, we know how to do it in Europe. Since Europeans cooperate efficiently from the end of the II WW, they know how to change the idea into reality. The collaboration in the area of politics, economy or even environment does not surprise at all, but the investigation of cosmic space – not necessarily. One can ask why the cooperation in this field among European countries is the primary condition while the United States, Russia or China do it on their own initiative. Well… it’s all about the money. Since Europe is full of small states, separate financial capabilities are relatively limited.

ESA’s mission and structure

“ESA’s purpose shall be to provide for, and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems.”[1]

This is why, in 1975 the European Space Agency (ESA) was created bringing together at first ten European countries. Considered as an intergovernmental organization established for the implementation of a common European program of research and exploration of space in its tasks also include supporting development of a modern and competitive industry in all member states. The number of participant states increased significantly throughout years to reach 23 members this year (based on a separate agreement Canada is its participant as well). Since not every EU member state is affiliated, the ESA is not recognized as the European Union’s agency and still stands as an independent organization. However, since 2004, pursuant to the Framework Agreement[2] legal cooperation between these two organizations is tangible because for now, the EU is the largest donor to ESA’s budget.

Source: esa.int

Source: esa.int

ESA’s programs

  1. Mandatory programs: funded by contributions from the member states (their amount is proportional to the national income of individual countries). These programs include space exploration (the construction and use of the equipment for such research), scientific programs (physics of the solar system), astronomy and fundamental physics, technology research, educational programs, etc.
  2. Optional programs: financed only by countries committed to them. Participation of respective countries is determined by negotiations conducted separately for each program. The scope of such operations is not precisely specified. They include inter alia the construction of a European rocket, robotics and software techniques (telecommunication, earth observation, navigation) and more recently the Space Situational Awareness (SSA)[3].

Recent operations

Source: rosetta.est.int

Source: rosetta.est.int

There is about 500 million inhabitants in Europe nowadays. Therefore we are facing fundamental challenges having a real influence to our future. Not talking only about social, cultural or religious transformations caused for instance by current inflow of immigrants, but also technological, industrial and ecological changes. What is more, sometimes the only appropriate solutions for the Earth are hidden far away above our heads. This is why Europeans work on a milestone projects and they do it right. In 2004 the Rosetta mission was launched and is described as a key mission of ESA’s space research program Horizon 2000. In its implementation the agency cooperates with national space agencies and NASA. The purpose of the mission is to carry out necessary research to know the origins of comets, as well as to explain the relationship between cometary and interstellar matter and their significance for the formation of the solar system. In August 2014 the space probe has arrived to its target and entered its orbit being simultaneously the first probe in history landed on the surface of the comet. Polish contribution to such crucial project is essential for the success of the mission. Constructed by the methods developed at the Warsaw University of Technology, a penetrator MUPUS carries out geological research on the comet.

Source: esa.int

Source: esa.int

Another program, this time only for Europe, is Galileo – Europe’s own satellite navigation system and finally will consist of 30 satellites spread on the Earth’s orbit. The system is about to be the alternative to American GPS and Russian GLONASS but, in contrary to them, will be controlled by civil institutions. However, the navigation system is still under construction and is not going to be efficient till 2020. Satellite navigation systems are used in many areas of the economy, including the energy network monitoring, logistics, air traffic management or even live saving. It is estimated that 6-7% of the European GDP depends on satellite navigation applications. The satellite technology market itself is worth 124 billion euro. Thanks to Galileo, till 2020 this amount is expected to increase to 250 billion euro.[4]


References:

[1] Convention of establishment of a European Space Agency, Article II Purpose, SP-1317, 2010.

[2] Framework Agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency, OJ L261, 2004.

[3] http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Situational_Awareness/About_SSA

[4] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-11-717_en.htm?locale=en

Next stop: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin – European Studies! #1

It’s the last time to decide what studies fits you best! Just have a look what European Studies students from Lublin(Poland) have to say about their academic experiences!

Emil Wojtaluk

Emil Wojtaluk (European Studies, III year)

Emil Wojtaluk (European Studies, III year)

My name is Emil and I study European Studies in English at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. Have you ever wondered whether or not you’re good enough to study entirely in English? I had the same doubts, but they passed as soon as they appeared. European Studies at KUL gives you practical knowledge on legal English, that you need to “function well” at the Faculty of Law – the classes from Academic Writing or English for Law and Business helped me a lot. All I can say from my own experience is that two weeks from the time I started to study my worries gone away. It turned out I found the courage to speak in foreign language, and I was one of the few most active students. What European Studies in Lublin can give you, beside improving your language skills, are student’s organizations.

“Students’ Scientific Association of European Studies Students” associates the most organized and knowledgeable people – the ones who do not “study only to study”, but are being active beyond regular classes, e.g. by promoting the faculty or organizing interesting events. If you’re an ambitious student, you’ll certainly find it useful and it’ll become your way of self-development.

Another students’ organization is the one you’re just reading- EUROpens BLOG! Since the Editorial Board is composed of 10 persons at maximum, in order to become the editor you have to meet some requirements. Each year thousands of people read our blog and share their thoughts with us. The most important thing for us is that the number of viewers is constantly growing – from 1,472 in the initial 2012 to over 5,500 in 2014! I have an honor to be the first officially chosen Editor in Chief since 2013 🙂 My last message to you will be simple… DON’T BE AFRAID! 🙂

Anita Weprzędz

Anita Weprzędz (European Studies, III year/ Law, V year)

Anita Weprzędz (European Studies, III year/ Law, V year)

Hi. My name is Anita and I am 24 years old. I like journeys and reading books. I was struggling with myself for a very long time to take my second faculty which is European Studies. Since I was always interested in European issues, I took part in some competitions about European Union and participating in programs funded from European budget like Youth in Action. But that was before studies. Currently, my dream is to become an attorney. So after high school I stared law studies. But I missed the classes on European Union issues. After the first year, our University (John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin) opened a new faculty – European Studies conducted in English. Because I was afraid because of my English skills ;-), I took additional advanced English at Matura exam (final exam after high school in Poland). When I passed it without any problems, I decided to apply for European Studies. And that was one of the best choices of my whole life! For me, this studies supplemented my law faculty, gave additional opportunities and make me sure that this is what I would like to do always. Thanks to European Studies I got some extra internships, e.g. in insurance company which has chosen me due to my knowledge of legal English (we have some classes on it). Now being bilingual is very expected by future employers, and studies in English are very helpful to deal with it. I can talk about this for a very long time, but the point will be still the same – choose European Studies and you will get crucial experience which will ease your future life :-).

Kamil Augustyniak

Kamil Augustyniak (BA in European Studies, III year)

Kamil Augustyniak (European Studies, III year)

Hello Reader! My name is Kamil and I am proud to be a student of European Studies. This is a great opportunity to share with all of you my personal statement about this faculty and, hopefully, encourage you to join me the course. Few months ago while waiting for next class I met by accident young journalist from local radio. He came to interview university president and students due to celebration of 96 anniversary of our university. Since he waited and so did I, he asked me about few words related to studying in Lublin. I surprised him when I mentioned I study European Studies in English. He heard a lot about the idea of studying in English at KUL and took an advantage of interviewing me to ask some questions concerning this faculty.

My personal experience shows that people actually know this studies but are rather closed to it because of foreign language. I realize it is not bagatelle for everyone but there are some other benefits at our studies which surely attract young people. What interested me the most is number of extra-curricular courses which differ from each other. I do not mean only practical foreign language courses ending with certificates, currently so desired on international job market. There are numerous others. Starting from these strictly connected to European Union issues (e.g. Fundraising for international projects), through classes increasing our general confidence and real practice (e.g. Public speaking), and ending with economically directed (e.g. Introduction to economy and business). All of them and many other are free of charges thanks to European Union’s funds and provide students with valuable and practical experience which is now extremely important when looking for a job.

So many possibilities while studying European Studies made this faculty exceptional and worth trying.

Kinga Hodór

Kinga Hodór (BA in European Studies, II year)

Kinga Hodór (European Studies, II year)

My name is Kinga Hodór and I am a student of the second year of European Studies in English. As I’ve always loved meeting people from different cultures and learning languages in practice, I decided to take up this particular field of studies. From the perspective of two years spent at the University, I can say that it’s been one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life! Having started with some fears connected with language barriers I used to have, I quickly adjusted to the lectures and tutorials led in English. Very soon, I found it very attractive and beneficial. Anyway, even though gaining knowledge and the above enumerated advantages are important, there is something much more appealing for me… This thing is contact with foreign students, mostly Erasmus people. I believe that the choice of the field of studies in English has been some kind of gate for me towards international friendships and experiences. Thanks to this, I’ve been broadening my horizons, shaping personality and developing language skills.

Since the beginning of this academic year, I’ve been so-called ‘guardian angel’ of one French girl who has come to Lublin on her Erasmus Exchange. We’ve become good friends and we share common interests. So far, I’ve made so many friends from different parts of Europe that I can’t simply imagine the situation of that not having happened. Thanks to these people, the time spent in Lublin has been much more interesting and funnier. I’m not only talking about attending the same lectures at the same University. It’s much more about the free time spent together, taking part in different events or going to various parties. All these elements create amazing memories.

Frankly speaking, spending time with foreign students somehow inspired me to experience Erasmus adventure on my own. And voilà, for the next semester I’m going on Erasmus Exchange to Cyprus. I’m sure it will be an amazing time. I know it will be as I’m going to enjoy every single moment!

baner_europeistyka

For more information on European Studies at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin please visit:

http://www.kul.pl/european-studies,24210.html

BA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/bachelor-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28136.html

MA in European Studies:

http://www.kul.pl/master-of-arts-in-european-studies-curriculum,art_28137.html

Admission for the year 2015/2016:

http://www.kul.pl/admission-procedure,art_34687.html

APPLY NOW!

10 years of FRONTEX in the Schengen area

Kamil Augustyniak

Emil Wojtaluk

It’s been 10 years since the FRONTEX agency has been set up with its premises in Warsaw, Poland. At this occasion on 22 April 2015, Department of European Union Law of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin together with the Rule of Law Institute Foundation organized a training seminar as a part of the project “Support for Voluntary Returns in Lublin Region II” in the form of conference entitled “10 years of FRONTEX in the Schengen area”. It was a great occasion to summarize the activities of this EU agency to this date, and analyze the achievements in the sphere of external border management. The conference was also linked with the presentation of the book “FRONTEX agency in the Schengen area. 10 years of experience”.

frontex_horizontal_logo

Source: fra.europa.eu

The way towards creating FRONTEX seems to be quite short but in fact there were many crucial factors from the history of European integration which led to creation of this significant EU agency. It all started in 1985 when five member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to create among them border-free area. Since the agreement was established outside of the European Community structures, the official Schengen Area for the EU was created on 26 March, 1995. From that time the number of members grew up to 26 European countries and the principle is currently recognized as European Union law. Increasing significance of Schengen Area forced authorities to creation of body responsible for its management and security. This is why, pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) 2007/2004, FRONTEX was created. Its main tasks are connected with maintaining EU external borders security, including from illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist activity.

©Daniel Cetlicer/ the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

©Daniel Cetlicer/ the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

During conference few interesting issues were explained. First of all, the statement that the agency cannot handle the current situation in Europe where hundreds of illegal immigrants are transported to Europe is not true. The agency rely only on member states’ equipment – it has no its own vehicles to control the borders. Since not every country is willing to take care about external border of the EU (because it has no such), instruments needed to careful control these broad areas are limited. Therefore the accusation of not fulfilling obligations is simply not fair, especially after recent results of FRONTEX activities that are better than ever. Second issue taken into consideration was related to not obeying the law by the agency and not respecting human rights. It should be said that, truly, the ability to balance legal and humanitarian perspective is a challenge but always the goodness of people is a priority. In media there are numerous information about how many people died during illicit transfer to Europe and alleged failure of rescue teams but nobody mentions that FRONTEX saved more than 30 thousand lives last year. Every single illegal immigrant is treated equally with respect of all rights. The next very important issue linked with taking care of illegal immigrants mentioned at the conference was non-refoulement principle which provides a prohibition of expulsion of any person if in country of its origin will be exposed to serious infringement of fundamental human rights, e.g. tortures. This international principle is not just a theory – every EU member state is obliged to follow it in practice.

Piotr Malinowski, Service Development Team Coordinator (Frontex Situation Centre) ©Daniel Cetlicer

Piotr Malinowski, Service Development Team Coordinator (Frontex Situation Centre) ©Daniel Cetlicer

Another worth mentioning issue was that FRONTEX does not have its own “risk management system”. It uses for example what was created by the SIS (Schengen Information System). The agency coordinates activities of EU member states in securing their borders. Risk management is composed of: defined objective – optimization of functioning of the external borders of the EU, trainings of border officers, preparing reports, means of communication (community based on intelligence and the exchange of information). All of that combined is called “Smart Border Management”.

From the point of terminology, there is an existing dispute whether we have irregular or maybe illegal migrants. There is a growing tendency to use irregular migrant term more often, and this is how we should call a person who crossed the border illegally. Let’s think, how any human being can be illegal?

©Daniel Cetlicer/the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

©Daniel Cetlicer/the Rule of Law Institute Foundation

Thirty years of Schengen Agreement, twenty years of Schengen Area and ten years of existence of FRONTEX was a perfect opportunity to prepare a sum-up conference that showed how unification, following common principles and helping refugees changed Europe. Although there are issues which need increased engagement and better coordination of all EU member states, the idea of open and fair European Union succeeded.

European Commission at work

Kamil Augustyniak

Every serious entity, e.g. international organization, state, council  university etc., was founded and based on law and order. Since in the case of educational institution such establishment is relatively easy to accomplish, the nature of state or international organization is more complicated. There are various factors which make an agreement difficult to conclude. The best example of entity struggling with difficulties in a name of a common profit is the European Union which had to challenge its legal system in order to  bring nations closer and introduced, almost impossible for many regions in the world, unified legal order for all Member States.

Headquarters of the European Commission Brussels©EUROpens BLOG

Headquarters of the European Commission, Brussels©EUROpens BLOG

Enforcing European law

The European Union gathers diverse communities into one coherent body. By establishing comprehensive system of legal protection it is able to ensure security of its citizens and allow them to fully enjoy their rights. Since mentioned diversity occurs, sometimes there are problems with enforcing EU law. In order to come across Member States’ infringements the European Commission is on duty to act as “guardian of the treaties”. It means that, together with the Court of Justice of the European Union, they are responsible for making sure EU law is properly applied in all Member States. If it finds a failure to fulfill obligations (therefore not meeting its legal provisions), the Commission takes steps to make the situation right. First of all, it launches a legal process called the “infringement procedure” which involves sending to the government an official letter with explanation why the Commission considers this country is infringing EU law. If this procedure fails (after exceeding given deadline) the Commission refers the issue to the Court of Justice, which has power to impose penalties.

Infringement package – main decisions

Let’s put theory aside and move to practice. The European Commission, in its monthly package of infringement decisions, has summarized February 2015 actions against Member States which failed to fulfill obligations under EU law. It gave several important decisions to ensure proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and economies in Europe.

European Commission refers Italy to the Court of Justice due to avoiding paying levies for overproduction of milk.[1] The Commission found infringement in Italian agriculture system and finally channeled the problem to the Court of Justice. In the period from 1995 to 2009 the situation in Italy remained unchanged – every year producers of milk exceeded given amount of milk and caused overproduction which forced the Italian state to paid the Commission supplementary due (EUR 2.305 billion). However, Italian authorities did not take any appropriate measures in order to exact fees from producers. According to the Commission, such situation threaten the market competitiveness and violates EU law, which clearly states that charges should be paid by producers who exceeded their individual milk quotas.

The Commission calls Germany to comply with the reference period when calculating the average weekly working time in German civil service. The European Commission has called Germany to comply the period referred to in Directive (2003/88/EC) on working time in the calculation of the average maximum weekly working time, in the case of civil servants. Under this Directive, employees are entitled to a reduction of average weekly working time to 48 hours in reference period up to four months. It means that employees can be required to work more than 48 hours in some weeks. However, German law provides such system for 12 month period. The Directive allows Member States to establish longer reference period in certain situations but even in such cases the period should not exceed 6 months. The only exception that allows to extend this period to 12 months is a collective consent. As long as German public service does not provide such, German law is in contrary to the directive on working time. The current request takes a form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedure. Germany has two months to inform the Commission of the measures taken to adapt national legislation to EU law. Otherwise, the Commission can decide to refer Member State before the Court of Justice.

The Commission requests Greece, Portugal and Slovenia to comply with EU rules on Energy Efficiency Directive. Under the Directive (2012/27/EU) Member States are in duty to achieve energy savings in period from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2020. The Directive had to be transposed into national law by 5 June 2014 and this is why a reasoned opinion has been sent to Greece and Portugal with request to notify the Commission of all their transposition measures for the Directive.

If the EU law will not be properly adapted, the Commission can ask for financial sanctions for those Member States before the Court of Justice. What is more, Slovenia which has already transposed the Directive into national order is asked to submit a National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and long-term strategy for renovation of buildings in order to diminish wasting energy. Since Slovenia did not do meet a given deadline, the Commission’s request takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If Slovenia will not follow legal obligations within two months, the Commission can decide to refer it to the Court of Justice.

The Commission withdraws case against Poland for failing to transpose EU provisions.[2] In January 2011, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Polish government in order to clarify the situation in Polish law concerning the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC). The Directive goal is to ensure 20% share in renewable energy in the EU by 2020 and had to be fully transposed by Member States by 5 December 2010. Later on, in March 2012, the same institution delivered a reasoned opinion due to lack of sufficient measures done by Poland but the situation did not changed. As a result, in March 2013, the Commission referred the case to the Court of Justice for complete absence of transposition and charged Poland to EUR 133.228,80  for every day of delay. Since Poland notified the full transposition of the Directive on 29 January 2015, the Commission withdrew the case from the court.

Additional materials:

europa.eu/rapid/attachment/MEMO-15-4489/en/annex_table%20of%20February%20infringement%20package%20by%20country.pdf

[1] Read more: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4490_en.htm
[2] Read more: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4499_en.htm

Welcome to Eurozone, Lithuania!

Kamil Augustyniak

Since 1st January 2015 Lithuania is considered as the nineteenth member of Eurozone in the European Union and can finally fully enjoy its position in the European Central Bank.

Lithuania on the way towards euro adoption

From 1922 to 1940 and then, continuously, from 1993, Lithuania had its own currency – Lithuanian litas (LTL). The change of currency was planned from more than decade when the agreement between Lithuania and the European Central Bank was concluded. Pursuant to the new document, signed in 2002, the litas was pegged to the euro at the rate of 3.4528 to 1.

Although Lithuania still couldn’t be an active participant in meetings related to ECB monetary policy, the benefits of such enlargement were economically and politically based First of all, it has allowed the economy to be more predictable and balanced. Secondly, this was the first step toward adopting euro.

The first attempt at establishing euro in this country came in 2007 but it was less than successful. The European Commission did not give a green light to Lithuania to adopt the euro currency because of a high inflation and economic crisis. All these factors delayed the change which a lot of Lithuanian citizens support[1]. Fortunately, the delay suited Lithuania because it didn’t have to financially support weaker countries when the crisis came to the Eurozone, considering her unbalanced internal economic situation. Now, when Lithuania finally meets all legal and economic requirements (e.g. price stability, sound and sustainable public finances, exchange rate stability), it can officially benefit from EU’s common currency.

Eurozone members (source: pl.wikipedia.org)

Eurozone members (source: pl.wikipedia.org)

Opportunity to thrive

The most important advantage of adopting euro in Lithuania is coming nearer to the European Union. For any European country, being a member of the EU is significant, but being a member of the EU and Eurozone at once opens great possibilities and give stronger position on the international arena. Attractiveness of the region increases – new investors will not come across any obstacles of currency exchange. What is more, market competitiveness grows in comparison to other Baltic countries which have already adopted euro. This factor means a lot for Lithuania which, very often, occurs with Estonia and Latvia that are in Eurozone from 2011 and 2014 respectively. The risk of omission of Lithuania is now quite small. Change of currency is only a new beginning for reforms which will have the desired result in investments and more integrated trade with the EU. For a new member of Eurozone this can be considered as a crucial point in near development due to a new Russian policy which imposed embargo on foodstuff from the EU. In result, the forecast of economic growth of Lithuania for 2015 has dropped from 4.3 to 3.3%.

What about prices?

The Lithuanian government assures its citizens that they will not feel the appreciation of prices thanks to a special agreements between state administration and entrepreneurs all around the country. Those who will try to seize an opportunity of such a big change will be punished.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_400_sum_en.pdf