Despite its reputation as a champion of human rights, the European Parliament rarely takes a tough stance on including human rights conditionality clauses in its free trade agreements with third countries. Hence, many observers were baffled when the European Parliament insisted on such conditionality clauses in its negotiations over a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. Given Canada firmly opposed these clauses, why risk derailing highly salient trade negotiations if your negotiation partner has a respectable human rights record anyway? In their article “The paradox of human rights conditionality in EU trade policy: when strategic interests drive policy outcomes” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Katharina L. Meissner and Lachlan McKenzie offer an explanation to this puzzle that centres on the European Parliament’s strategic interests. Katharina and Lachlan argue that “the EP identified human rights conditionality as a ‘strategic issue’ because human rights made it appear as a unique supporter of legitimate and public interests.” In light of high-profile albeit contentious negotiations, taking risks in investing its political resources to insist on inclusion of non-commercial objectives in CETA was likely to pay off and promised to strengthen the EP’s public profile as a champion of human rights.
Within the EU’s judicial hierarchy, national courts can directly refer questions regarding the application and interpretation of EU law in member states to the European Court of Justice, creating a decentralized system of enforcing EU law. The Lisbon Treaty’s Article 267 specifies that national courts can refer cases to the ECJ to ‘specify the validity and interpretation of acts.’ Why do national courts make use of Article 267 submissions in some of the cases they hear but not in others? In her article “The decentralized enforcement of European law: national court decisions on EU directives with and without preliminary reference submissions” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Carolin Hübner argues that national courts may simply follow the letter of the Treaty. Drawing on evidence from a sample of 1,310 national court decisions on EU directives, Carolin shows that cases involving directives that have left EU member states with more room for interpretation in implementation and technically complex directives are more likely to result in an Article 267 submission by national courts. The existing academic literature generally expects courts to use the preliminary reference procedure to alert the ECJ to non-compliant member states. Qualifying this expectation, Carolin’s analysis suggests that it “may well be the case that the mechanism is much more integrated into national courts’ day-to-day consideration of legal questions than the literature assumes.”
Since 2004, the European Arrest Warrant (EWA) provides for a swift procedure for extradition between EU member states. The smooth functioning of the EWA ultimately relies on judicial authorities trusting the validity of warrants issued by their counterparts in another EU member state. This presumption of mutual trust among EU member states’ judicial authorities appears to be ill-founded, however, says Asif Efrat. In his article “Assessing mutual trust among EU members: evidence from the European Arrest Warrant” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Asif provides evidence from the United Kingdom and Ireland, indicating that British and Irish authorities “surrender considerably more individuals to those members with better-quality justice systems and a stronger respect for human rights.” Asif’s findings have implications for policy-makers interested in fostering cross-country efforts to combat crime: Unless differences in the legal standards and human rights safeguards across national judicial systems are smoothed, cross-country cooperation on supressing crime is likely to stall.