February 2012

Commission announces its new plans for 2012-2014
Last November, the Commission presented its Annual Work Programme for 2012, containing a detailed list of planned legislative and non legislative initiatives to be proposed over the next three years. Recommended reading! See: http://bit.ly/xpAVMJ.

EU funding opportunities for projects in the justice field
The Commission has published calls for proposals for grants in the field of EU justice and fundamental rights. So if your practice area has a (training? seminar? exchange?) project in mind that might fit, and needs some funding, this is your chance.

For projects in the fundamental rights and citizenship field, the deadline is 11:00 GMT on 13 March 2012. See: http://bit.ly/AlOGMr.

In the criminal justice field, the deadline is 11:00 GMT on 20 March 2012. See: http://bit.ly/xyIQry.

In the civil justice field, the deadline for the online submission of proposals is 11:00
GMT on 3 April 2012. See: http://bit.ly/yrpqmm.

EU funding for justice projects should be more accessible from 2014
The Commission has adopted a regulation which will create two new EU funding
programmes: the Justice, and separately the Rights and Citizenship Programmes. These will simplify and consolidate the six existing funding programmes in the justice and rights field. They will run from 2014-2020 with a proposed combined budget of 803 million Euro. The UK is deciding whether or not to opt in, but UK stakeholders will not be eligible to run such projects if it does not. http://bit.ly/wlbTO7.

European Parliament hearing on EU substantive criminal law
In December, the European Parliament hosted a thought-provoking seminar on an "EU approach to criminal law", looking at the affect of the Lisbon Treaty on the balance of EU/member state competence in this area, and what we may expect to see happening in the coming months and years. I commend the background materials to you: http://bit.ly/za1PCF.

Roadmap of key criminal defence measures for suspects and defendants
The text of Measure B - the right to information, including the letter of rights (COD(2010)0215) - was agreed in November and adopted by the European Parliament in December. By the time of reading, the Council will likely have finalised the adoption. See: http://bit.ly/zBztd1.

The proposal for the crucial third roadmap measure, C1/D, on the right of access to a lawyer for suspects and defendants and to communicate with a person of the suspect's choice (Procedure reference COD(2011)0154) is progressing well in Council and the European Parliament. The Council's December summary of the state of play is recommended reading: http://bit.ly/wquxUa.

As to the remaining measures C2-F, note that the Commission's Work Programme 2012 indicates its plans to adopt a proposal for Measure E - special protection for vulnerable persons, during 2012, whereas Measure C2 - legal aid in criminal proceedings, has been postponed to 2013, along with the planned Green Paper on pre-trail detention and any consideration of whether more such safeguards are needed.

House of Lords EU Scrutiny Committee inquiry: EU criminal procedure
The Bar responded to the House of Lords' recent call for evidence into policy aspects
of EU criminal procedural law, which sought views on the impact and added value of EU law in these areas, and also posed challenging questions on the use of the UK opt in, including its policy and political implications. See: http://bit.ly/zcp1Pk.

Exchange of criminal evidence - European Investigation Order
The main principles governing the proposed European Investigation Order (EIO) in
criminal matters (Procedure Reference COD(2010)0817) have been agreed in Council, and will now form the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament under the Danish Presidency. See further: http://bit.ly/ykn7SC.

EU agreement close on the rights of victims of crime
The Council has agreed a general approach on this 2011 proposal for a directive which would establish minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and into which both the UK and Ireland have opted. See: http://bit.ly/A1wzGF.

Combating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children - final steps
This important 2010 proposal for a directive on combating the sexual abuse, sexual
exploitation of children and child pornography, (COD(2010)064) has been formally adopted, and will soon enter into force. See: http://bit.ly/ykn7SC.

European sales (contract) law - update
The Commission's landmark October 2011 proposal for a regulation creating a European sales law is the subject of much ongoing debate:

The Law Commission's advice to the Government on the proposal can be seen at: http://bit.ly/y2xuoZ.

The House of Commons reasoned opinion on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality can be seen at: http://bit.ly/zEuuv9.

The Council discussions so far have called into question the Commission's chosen legal basis, Article 114 TFEU. The Bar's own working group is looking closely at this, amongst other issues.

The Academy of European Law in Trier (ERA) is holding an event on 9 February
2012 at which the UK legal profession will be represented. See: http://bit.ly/yZhrDH.

The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) plans to hold three
workshops/hearings on the subject in the next six months, and has also asked the
Parliament's Legal Service for a report on the legal basis.

Review of the Rome II regulation to apply to rights of the personality
The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) is making progress on its own initiative move to amend Regulation 864/2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (procedure reference INI (2009)2170) so that it applies also to violations of privacy and rights relating to the personality. For the draft report, see: http://bit.ly/A5V4lE.

Brussels I regulation review update
In December, the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed political guidelines for the remainder of the negotiations on the Commission proposal dated 14 December 2010, for a recast regulation 44/2001 on recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, into which the UK and Eire have opted. See: http://bit.ly/y8fElM.

Major reform of the EU Data protection rules imminent
At the end of January 2012, the Commission should have adopted a comprehensive data protection reform, including two legislative proposals, between them setting up a one-stop-shop' for data protection matters, reducing levels of red tape, and enhancing coordination and cooperation between national data protection authorities so as to ensure that the rules are enforced consistently.

Important proposals to modernise the EU public procurement rules
Reform of the EU's public procurement legislation is the aim of the Commission's end December 2011 package of proposals. This is of interest to the wider Bar, and not only those practitioners who practice in this field, since the changes are likely directly to impact on the rules on legal aid tendering procedures going forward.

See the proposed directive on public procurement (reference COD(2011)0438
at: http://bit.ly/yWi6tA.

See the proposal on the award of concession contracts (reference COD(2011)0437) at: http://bit.ly/zzyx5o.

New ADR and ODR for business to consumer disputes
Towards the end of last year, the Commission proposed a legislative package, intended to make available throughout the EU alternative means of dispute resolution for contractual disputes between consumers and traders, arising from the sale of goods or the provision of services. The aim is to make quality out-of court alternative dispute resolutions available everywhere in the EU in the second half of 2014, with the new online dispute resolution platform accessible from early 2015. For the Communication and two legislative proposals, see: http://bit.ly/zVqHrs.

Consumer Rights Directive enters into force
This consolidating Directive, which inter alia, fully harmonises the list of information
to be given to consumers, and the right of withdrawal, for distance and off-premises
purchases, entered into force in mid December. Member states have two years to implement it. See: http://bit.ly/wc4I8A.

Modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive
The Commission has recently adopted a proposal for a Directive modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36 (new Procedure Reference
COD(2011)0435). Its application to the legal profession is largely residual as we have our own EU legislative regime, but there are nonetheless several issues that need to be followed, including the introduction of European professional ID cards, and the justification for regulation of the professions. See: http://bit.ly/zzwKGW.

Towards an EU patent - progress on the "Patent Package"?
Just before Christmas, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) adopted reports based on political agreements forged with the Council at the beginning of the month, possibly paving the way for rapid adoption of the three proposals that together form the "EU patent package" - unitary patent, language regime and unified patent court. That said, at the time of writing, the seat of the unified patent court is the subject of much political wrangling. The reports, as adopted, should be available on the JURI website at: http://bit.ly/ydqbMm.

European Parliament seeking revamp and extension of EU Insolvency laws
The European Parliament is calling on the Commission to propose measures to harmonise and/or align national insolvency law in the context of EU company law. The report has annexed to it detailed recommendations as to how this might be achieved. See: http://bit.ly/xMITAG.